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Fenwick Close: Putting a stat to the compete level of the Rangers

December 13, 2013, by
We feel the same way Hank (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

We feel the same way Hank (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard a lot about the Rangers and their compete level. The coach has said there is no compete level. We’ve said this team has no compete level. Your next door neighbor said this team has no compete level. It’s a fairly common phrase. The term, obviously, is used to describe how the Rangers just don’t seem willing to do what it takes to win. We’ve seen it on the ice in every aspect of the game: hitting, defense, backchecking, board work, cycling, moving to tough areas, generating offense, etc.

You know we here love our #fancystats, and compete level is something that we can use #fancystats to quantify. If you are unfamiliar with Fenwick, read our Metrics We Use page for a refresher. Thanks to ExtraSkater, we have a visual representation of how the Rangers compete (using Fenwick) when the score is close (+/- 2 goal differential). This shows us how the Rangers play when the score is close, and if they are able to meet the challenges presented while the game is close. The graph below shows the results, and they are not pretty.

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Note: This does not include last night’s game.

I broke the season down into three sections, each with a different colored box. The gray box is the first 11 games of the season, and I’m calling that the “learning” phase. The Rangers were banged up, had a new coach, and barely had any time to really play as a cohesive unit. I generally give them a pass here, but the results aren’t something to brag about. This matches what we saw on the ice: a product that was rough to watch. On a bit of the funny side, I’m sure you can pick out the San Jose and Anaheim games.

The black box is the “we finally get it” phase. The team was getting healthy. They ended a very long road trip. The systems were starting to sink in. This is when the Rangers went on their 7-3 run to get back to .500. They were skating, moving, hitting high traffic areas, finishing checks, etc. You can see the positive Fenwick Close here. Even when the Rangers lost games in this phase, they were doing the right things on the ice. If they continued to play this way, their luck would eventually come back and they would start winning games in droves.

The red box is the state we are in now. It is the “what is going on here?” phase. Seven of nine games in the negatives for Fenwick Close. That sounds about accurate, considering what we’ve seen so far. The right things mentioned in the “we finally get it” phase? Those disappeared. The Rangers have been getting outworked in every facet of the game, and their compete level plummeted to the point where they don’t want to play if the score is close.

Is Fenwick Close something that we can use on its own to tell if the team is competing? Not by a long shot. This is actually a very nice coincidence. That said, for a puck possession team like the Rangers, we can use it as supporting evidence to what we see on the ice: This team just hasn’t matched their compete level from early November. The fact that they are still in the playoff mix is some cause for optimism, but this compete level problem needs to be fixed.

Categories : Analysis


  1. BobM says:

    The conclusions of this chart can be skewed by a number of factors

    1)the teams that we have played
    2)under normal circumstances, not to be confused with this year, whether we are home or away
    3)injuries to key players
    4)the types of systems employed by the teams that we play and how they work either for or against our system

    I am an accountant by trade, I have watched the Rangers since I was 7 years old and I am 60, so I have seen quite a few games in my time, besides being a season ticket holder before I moved to Florida.

    Folks seem to focus on one thing or another, whether that be statistics, charts, or players, we are looking at the forest from the trees.

    Charts do not show pride, effort, determination, leadership, professionalism. These are all intangibles that this team lacks.

    What happened since last year.

    New coach and new system
    Everyone got one year older
    Some got new contracts

    Personally, defense was always our strong point, as was goaltending. I would have stressed these and eased the transition to offense instead of starting from scratch.

    What do they say, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

    • Centerman21 says:

      I agree with you Bob. (My name is Robert as well)! I agree that AV could have maybe gone about installing his systems a little differently. Many of these players played Torts hockey from the time they made it to Hartford. IMO one of the Rangers biggest problems (Tho there’s many others) has been the forecheck. This system is like all the others in that turnovers lead to offense. I think that AV should use a different forecheck in different situations. He might be better served by sending 2 guys in on the forecheck when playing with a lead. I know a lead but in 5 on 5 close this forecheck fails to turn the puck over. Very rare.
      Basically it seems like AV likes to create offense while in possession of the puck unlike what the NYR players are used to. Which is manufacturing offense by turning the puck over or offense without the puck! For the most part the Rangers don’t yet have the personnel for this puck possession system. They need a few more players that can make a contribution in this kind of game or they need to try to comprimise. I personally think that how heavily left handed this team is hurts them in the offensive zone. So add 2 right handed forwards that can hit and chip in on the top 9.

  2. SalMerc says:

    Chart Translation:
    We suck lately!

    • Dave says:

      Well, yea.

      The chart was a good visualization about how they haven’t really competed or dominated games when the score is close. That is what we mean by compete level.

      • Centerman21 says:

        Dave I don’t know what is going on with this team because I’m neither an expert in hockey analysis nor am I in the locker room. However, this team is a good solid hockey club. Somewhere around what we saw when they were on a 7-3 run in November. Not perfect but they are formidable. Need a few role players in some secondary areas.
        Now tho, we see a bunch of beer league guys skating around instead of an NHL hockey club in the 2nd largest market in the NHL.
        We saw the wrong players go to the wrong areas. Just looks like they want to be elsewhere. Get us out of here.
        I don’t think this team should be in 1st but they certainly have a lack of a voice in the locker room. Some pride in themselves. When Torts was coach, this team at least would come out swinging in the 2nd or 3rd after a bad period. Not this team. No one seems to care. They get paid win lose or draw! That’s what it looks like to me. Especially when they go down a goal. The final buzzer might as well go off after the 1st goal of the game. Lately that goal has been against.

  3. Spozo says:

    O a positive note. Marc Staal has been doing off ice conditioning for the last three days. With his first concussion he wasn’t able to workout for months so let’s hope he’s back soon.

    • Walt says:

      Now that is good news!!

      You see Spozo, we agreed on three things this week, whats going on??????

  4. Bloomer says:

    Positive news on Marc Staal thanks for that Sponzo. Maybe the rational for the 3rd phase on the charts are that the Rangers players have adopted their coaches system and that system sucks. In their quest to become a “possession” hockey team, they have become a turnover machine. They give up way too many odd man rushes.

    Attempting low percentage passes, getting caught out of position, skating away from the puck carrier hoping for a hail mary pass, and leaving players wide open in the wheelhouse are bad habits. This team has a lot to work on and I don’t believe the man behind the bench has the answers to improve this team.

  5. agentsmith says:

    Compete is a very generalistic word.

    why dont we analyze WHY it appears were getting outworked and not in fact “competing”.

    its because we physically CANT outwork some teams. every team seems to be much bigger than us – and they are.

    make no mistake about it. this is a personnel issue – which sather completely ignored.

  6. @Centerman21 says:

    That to me has to fall on the coach. He needs to be able to rally the troops. He’s a new coach in NY. That shouldn’t be very hard. It’s not like he’s been here for 5 years and the players tune him out now. I blame the millionaire players for dogging
    It but that can’t fly with AV. He can lie to the media that his players are working hard but I know what I see in game. Players way out of position and players going where his line mate should be. Something needs to happen. A shake up maybe.

  7. AD says:

    I think teams often reflect the personality of their coach. Torts wears his heart on his sleeve and is outwardly and visually very passionate. His team played a physical, in-your-face type of game, reflective of their coach.

    AV is very cerebral; little emotion. I was shocked he did not call a timeout in last night’s first period when the team was down 3-0. He did nothing to try and motivate the players beyond what he normally does beyond the bench. How many times did we see Tortorella call early timeouts in games and rip the team, which then responded.

    We play with lack of passion. And let’s face it — Richards and Stepan know they will never be dropped to 4th line under this coach. In 31 games so far, and with all the poor defense, this coach has never gone with 5 defenseman to make a statement to one defenseman and have him sit for a few periods. The caoch’s personality is one reason wanted AV here; he did not think of what would be removed by doing so. there is minimal ntra-game accountability, and it shows right now. The burden is on the players to be professionals and play at a high level consistently; so they need to adjust to this coach as well. But there are reasons why Vancouver was considered a soft team. Replace the Sedins which consistently put up 85-105 points each season and replace them with Nash and another 70pt scorer, and no way AV makes it to the Stanley Cup or as many play-off rounds as Vancouver did. Unless I am missing something, we don’t have the equivalent of the Sedin twins on the team now or on the horizon.

    Again, wrong coach selection made by Sather. Prepare for 2-3 years of mediocre-to-good hockey performance, with little playoff success.

    • Bloomer says:

      Got to agree with your AD, living here on the west coast and watching the Canucks, AV is not the guy I want behind the bench on my hockey team. Ranger fans are going to go through a world of disappointment until they figure that out. Meanwhile I get to watch the Rangers old coach on a regular basis and his team is on a 5 game winning steak. They playing sound discipline hockey and are a lot of fun to watch, as they put out a honest effort every night they step on the ice. Reminds me of the good old days.

  8. Mr. Snrub says:

    Would’ve thought Corsi would be better for small sample sizes us has individual games because it includes more events (blocked shots), but it appears Fenwick has relevance here.

    Sad to see how puck possession has went to shit. Playing Falk so much recently doesn’t help

  9. Mikeyyy says:

    I don’t think av makes it past this season.

    And the roster, blowed up.