Gameday musings: Rookies, playing time, holiday roster freeze

December 18, 2013, by
Photo: AP

Photo: AP

A lot has been made about the coach’s apparent decision to sit Dylan McIlrath tonight against the Penguins. I understand both sides of the argument. If the kid is up in the NHL, he should play. But the kid has some glaring holes in his game, and putting him up against the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Crosby’s isn’t exactly the best matchup for someone who has trouble skating. Then again, neither is Justin Falk.

My thought on this: If the kid isn’t going to play 8-10 minutes a night, then send him back to the AHL. AV is a fan of having kids sit in the press box to get a bird’s-eye view of the system he runs, but McIlrath has less than 100 pro games under his belt. He needs to develop the raw parts of his game in the AHL with top minutes. If he is going to play 8-10 minutes a night, then keep him here, because Falk sure isn’t getting the job done.

One more bit on McIlrath: He is far from NHL ready. I understand the need for a bruiser and a right-handed shot, but the kid has a few glaring holes that need to be fixed by Jeff Beukeboom in Hartford. The kid has made tremendous strides this year after a gruesome knee injury ruined last season. I’m big on this kid, but rushing him to fit a need doesn’t help in the long-term.

In the second point, I touched on playing time. Something that is missed among the constant complaining about playing the kids is that playing time is earned, not given. Chris Kreider is the best example under AV. He didn’t earn his time in camp, he didn’t earn his time with his first call up. He earned it with this call up, and he has now earned a permanent spot on the top-six. J.T. Miller has not earned that time yet. The kid can’t even legally drink, so maybe having him spend time in Hartford isn’t a bad thing. McIlrath is in the same boat, except he can buy a Guinness if he wants.

Photo credit: Christopher Pasatieri

Photo credit: Christopher Pasatieri

The holiday roster freeze hits on Friday, and while there may not be a flurry of movement (that usually comes before the Olympics), the rumors are starting to flow. The biggest target right now is Michael Del Zotto, but that’s no big surprise. There are two rumors that had legs at some point: Jake Gardiner from Toronto and Raphael Diaz from Montreal.

The Gardiner swap would be a “change of scenery” deal for both teams. Gardiner has more defensive value, but MDZ will put up more offensive numbers. It’s a sideways move for both teams, which is why that rumor has cooled off considerably over the past few weeks. Gardiner’s recent play has also made the Leafs a bit more reluctant to deal.

On paper, a deal around Diaz (a right-handed shot) for MDZ isn’t that far-fetched. The problem is that Diaz doesn’t address two things: Solid defensive zone coverage and physical play. MDZ outclasses Diaz in pretty much every category, so the Habs would need to add. Since Montreal is pretty much guaranteed a playoff spot at this point, adding a roster player seems far-fetched. The Rangers are likely headed to the playoffs –mostly because the Metropolitan Division is an unmitigated tire fire– so dealing MDZ for Diaz and a prospect likely doesn’t whet the palate.

I’d  be remiss if I didn’t touch on the “anonymous player quote” from Larry Brooks’ article today:

I asked one player this week whether he had been shown video relating to a specific play on the ice. The response, not offered as a criticism but in a matter-of-fact manner, was, “He says what he says and then expects you to figure it out.”

First thing is that these are professional hockey players, and picking up a new system isn’t a novel concept for them. They’ve done it their entire lives. We do it in the workplace as well: You constantly learn and adapt. If you don’t, you get fired. I don’t see how that is different for hockey players. Second, it wouldn’t shock me if this was taken out of context. People are jumping on this saying that AV doesn’t coach, which is probably the most untrue statement you could make. People are saying that he doesn’t use video, which is another fallacy. At this point, people are using that quote to hate on the coach, and it’s honestly irrational. He’s not perfect, but he’s a good coach.

One non-player note: The Rangers took baby steps in their win against Calgary. It wasn’t pretty but they did some things right, and it’s something they can hopefully build on. Getting out of a bad slump doesn’t happen overnight. You take baby steps until you hit your stride. The Penguins are beaten and battered, so there’s a chance for confidence  building tonight. It’s a very big game for New York.

"Gameday musings: Rookies, playing time, holiday roster freeze", 5 out of 5 based on 2 ratings.


  1. phil says:


  2. phil says:


  3. Spozo says:

    Wasn’t Mclrath quoted as saying after his first game that he watched tape with Ulf Samuelson? Yup sounds like AV throws his players to the wolves and doesn’t consider any type of video breakdown.

    Way to bring in relevant reporting Mr Brooks.

    • Dave says:

      It’s why I always take quotes like that with a grain of salt. Reporting nowadays has a big bias towards personal agenda.

  4. paulronty says:

    You are probably right that Diesel is not ready but it’s not because he can’t skate, that is preposterous! Kreider never should have been sent down because he was more NHL ready than Fast who was kept us. He was not ready for the NHL. As for J.T. Miller he’s completely ready, he just needs to get confidence like Kreider. See that goal he scored in the AHL the other night. Power move to the net, just what the Rangers need.

    • Dave says:

      I don’t really think we can argue with Kreider being sent down this year, it worked. He’s playing well now.

      Miller can’t play without the puck. It’s tough to see on TV because the cameras only follow the puck, but he runs around like a chicken with his head cut off.

  5. Hatrick Swayze says:

    At this point, what I’m waiting for AV to do is adapt. Every good team/player/coach faces adversity at some point in the season. It’s inevitable. It’s what weeds out those who can’t compete. And I think it’s fair to say that our Rangers have faced their fair share thus far. They aren’t where we want them to be. The silver lining is that there was a stint somewhere in between their embarrassing start and current awful home-stand where, for the most part, they all seemed to get it. From an advanced stat perspective, we looked good. Not much goal support, but we controlled the play more often than not and won more often than not. Despite a few defensive zone malfunctions each game, it really looked like the players were dialed in with AV’s system. We hit the skids again on this home-stand and now it is time for AV to step in and right the ship. We won’t blow the doors off this league this year (Sather’s fault with middling personnel) but we absolutely have no excuses to miss the playoffs in the Meh-tro. It is on AV to get us there. Let’s see how he stands up to the test.

    DISCLAIMER: No matter what happens this year, playoffs or not, this season will be like a year in junior high. In that the org is stuck between coaching regimes, player personnel, etc. To truly judge AV we will have to see how the team, culture and success carry over the next 2 full seasons. But in the meantime, it will be a short term fail if we don’t get invited to the Junior High Prom (2013-14 playoffs).

  6. SalMerc says:

    So if translate correctly, let rookies learn how to be NHLers for a long time at our farm club or with other NHL teams, until we think they are ready. If we were the top team or the bottom team, both can afford to play a rookie, but we can’t?

    Is 2014/2015 going to better with JT and Big Mac at Hartford or at MSG? We are not making waves in the playoffs this year so let the kids play!

    • Jackson says:

      “We are not making waves in the playoffs this year…”

      Call me an optimist, but I’m not ready to trash the season with ~50 games left and only 2 points out of a spot.

      • Seahorse says:

        optimism isn’t allowed here. can’t you see those well thought out and catchy hash tags?

      • Dave says:

        No one who thinks rationally is thinking this season is over.

        For all we know, McIlrath goes back to the AHL for 5 games, it all clicks, and he gets called up and earns his spot.

        • SalMerc says:

          No one said the season is over, but can you see us beating Pittsburgh in a long series? Hmmm, not when we score 2.3 goals a game

          • Dave says:

            They scored 2.75 GPG in 2011-2012. Not that far off this year. And the 2011-2012 roster over achieved big time, while this year’s roster is under achieving.

            Anything is possible with Hank in net.

            • SalMerc says:

              True, but Hank sees a lot more shots this year. fluke goals and injuries rise when that happens.

              I would love a playoff run, but cmon, is this years bunch more than 2 lines deep?

            • Walt says:

              When is the real Hank going to show up, I can’t wait???

          • Kevin says:

            Better goaltender and better defense. We could have beaten them last year, the year before that and this year

  7. Pete says:

    This was always going to be a process, whoever thought transitioning over from Torts to AV was going to be simple was kidding themselves, the team simply doesnt have the right personnel. Yet.

    The roster needs changes, thats no secret and with all the FA’s and RFA’s next year the moves made this year will be that much more critical…

    One thing I really do wonder about, how much did Torts system play up our defense? Girardi so far has looked average at best, the same for Staal, and Stralman and lets not even get in MDZ (im starting to wonder if Moore has plateaued). What once looked like one of the best D-corps in the NHL now looks, ummmm, average at best? If it wasnt for McMonster things would be dire.

    And then there’s the obvious, Hank and Nash. When will these two guys round into form, cuz I have no doubt that if those two played anywhere near their capabilities it would trickle down the entire roster and make the team so much better.

    Moral of the rant, the team is not as bad as it looks and with the right move or two could make some waves. I dont see a cup this year but with the increasing cap and the right moves 2014-15 might be actually fun again…

    • Dave says:

      “You are never as bad as you are at your worst, and never as good as you are at your best.” – I forgot who said that, but it’s true.

    • Walt says:


      Your wrong on one count, it’s more than a move, or two, it’s going to require more than that my friend!

      And let’s hope the clown in the top office doesn’t start dishing out money again, that really doesn’t work at all!!

      • Pete says:

        Walt, you’re probably right but I dont see an overhaul either. Some size and character would be a big help. A Clowe type would be an excellent start…

        • Walt says:

          The way AV reacted to McIlrath’s fight the other night, whatever size we bring in will have splinters in his rump from sitting out the rest of a game after he may have been involved in a fight!!

  8. AD says:

    Let the rookies play, make their mistakes, and learn. OR, send them to Hartford. The Rangers did not suffer from letting Miller play 26 games last season, and he is a better player today (not to mention the fact it was intended for him to get playoff minutes had it not been for an injury). I cannot be convinced Pouliot is a better option — on camera, let alone in person, that guy is scary on the ice; not at all trustworthy to be out there.

    What we are doing now is exactly what the Rangers of old used to do; and that earned us the reputation as an organization that doesn’t develop its prospects.

    Then again, this is the record left over in Vancouver.

  9. Hatrick Swayze says:

    Awesome article on matchups. Heavily dissects Tort’s line up match up in a recent VAN v BOS game. Article get’s into how AV used to handle his VAN line match ups in the past.

    Since everything around here (comment section) usually turns into AV vs Torts, I figured this would be a good read for most.

    Dave and co… any interest in using shift charts like these to see how players are deployed (McDonagh) or shielded (Faulk, McIlrath) vs other team’s personnel?

  10. Mikeyyy says:

    An ancient lyric describes this quandary

    you gotta know when to hold em
    know when to fold em
    know when to walk away
    know when to hide

  11. TxRanger says:

    Raphael Diaz sucks!

  12. bernmeister says:

    Do the smart thing.

    McD Stralman
    MDZ Moore
    Staal McIlrath

    McIlrath needs minutes. 3rd NHL min is enough if he gets direct tutoring also in between games.

    Del Zotto on left only, give him enuf mins to keep him sharp

    Staal, lesser minutes to heal up a bit, and provide a great general partner for McIl, who can try and prevent Marc from getting railroaded.

    Stralman may not do 20+ full mins of McDonagh, but those few extra mins can be filled by Moore and McIl