Apr
05

Can the Rangers manage without Ryan McDonagh?

April 5, 2016, by
Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, the Rangers and their fans held their collective breaths as captain Ryan McDonagh, the anchor of their blue line, blocked a shot by Brandon Dubinsky with his hand, and immediately left the game. McDonagh did not return, and will be re-evaluated today, per Alain Vigneault.

While a recall of a defenseman –likely Brady Skjei– is all but confirmed at this point (Update: written before the Skjei recall), the major issue will be how the Rangers deal with the injury in the playoffs. McDonagh and Keith Yandle are without a doubt the two best Rangers defensemen, and perhaps the only two skaters that the Rangers couldn’t lose for a serious playoff run.

The injury is compounded not by Skjei’s recall, but by the minutes that will be given to Marc Staal. While Yandle has proven time and time again to be capable of handling top-four minutes, Staal –who has played two solid games in a row– has struggled all year, especially with the puck.

What makes McDonagh so good isn’t just that he’s solid in his own end with positioning, assignments, and physicality, in which Staal is also capable. It’s that McDonagh is also capable of making that short, quick, smart pass to break out of the zone. That is not Staal’s strong suit, which is putting it lightly.

There will be two factors that determine the Rangers’ success if McDonagh is out long-term: Skjei’s performance, and Vigneault’s deployment of his left defensemen. This in and of itself poses a major risk to the Rangers’ hopes at making another run this year.

Thinking out loud, let’s assume that the Yandle-Dan Girardi pairing now gets the top assignments. That means Staal and Kevin Klein get second pair minutes (these two pairs can be switched, it really depends on matchup). Skjei would be paired with Dan Boyle. Looking at these pairings, the downgrade isn’t in the top pair, it’s in the second pair. Remember that Staal was a third pairing defenseman prior to the injury. Personally, assuming Skjei shows he’s capable, I prefer him on the second pair.

It’s not all doom-and-gloom for the Rangers. They can survive this injury, as they have survived other injuries in the past. But it requires proper deployment and recognition by the coaching staff that name brand deteriorates over time. If that means trusting a rookie that has played well over a veteran who has struggled, so be it. Sometimes the unproven rookie is better than the known quantity.

"Can the Rangers manage without Ryan McDonagh?", 5 out of 5 based on 5 ratings.
Categories : Injuries

52 comments

  1. Chris A says:

    I’m as optimistic as it gets, but if McD is gone long term, this team is one and done in the playoffs.

    The fact AV was chuckling about it in the postgame presser and that Marc Staal didn’t look like someone shot his dog when he was asked about it, gives me hope that McD left early to start treatment and nothing is broken.

  2. Roger Domal says:

    If Klein keeps playing like he’s playing, then no.
    If Skjei plays like a scared kid, then no.
    I would increase Yandle’s ice time to 24-26 per game. If we can get the puck out of the zone quicker, all the better.
    Staal has been slightly better, G has been sloooower.
    #6 has a lot to prove. Big chance for him next few games.

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      Klein’s deterioration the past several games is not being discussed, but is another factor complicating this injury.

      The Rangers just aren’t strong enough at that position to weather a long term injury.

      Crossing my fingers.

    • Marc Weissman says:

      Guess who had their best games of the season? Marc Staal on Monday, Klein on Tuesday. End of discussion…

  3. 43 says:

    Is The Undertaker still hurt?

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      No, he’s been practicing with the team full contact.

      McIlrath would be in the line up if Klein, Girardi or Boyle we’re injured.

      Skjei is the LD call up when McDonagh, Yandle or Staal get injured.

      LD / RD thing…

  4. Mr. Moose says:

    Why not also play McIlrath in final three games so he gets his game legs back…he isn’t that bad and overworking the d-horses is a doom and gloom approach…all hands on deck.
    Also, the so-called 4th line has been our most consistent and the lack of net front presence is embarrassing; I really am a Kevin Klein fan, but he has really tanked the last few weeks (like last year + playoffs)…hope he is able to bounce back or we are in worse shape…
    Finally, the coaching staff should be culpable for lousy starts and finishes…something is very wrong when the players spout garbage in their interviews (Hank, McD, Step, Stall the younger) about their play

  5. RangerMom says:

    No, no we can’t.

  6. Fotiu is God says:

    Superb work, David.

    To your cue: My bleeding-blue heart tells me Brady Skjei will exhibit some big league poise. That we’ll finish with two Ws and all the momentum of a yellow Peruvian municipal bus grinding its way into The Andes.

    I also see hopeful signs from Marc Staal, who seems to have summoned his occasionally nasty predisposition. Thank Jehovah. Or Yahweh. I’m thinking Bobby B. sat him down before last night’s tilt, shot him The Messier Staredown.

    And hell yes, echoing Mr Moose, et al., why the freaking hell not give The Undertaker some minutes?

    That said, I get the R-L thing. I also get a fatigued and overworked and rapidly aging R-L thing.

    • Bobby B says:

      Fotiu. , appreciate being mentioned in your post. The Messier legend of intimidation runs deep and it was not limited to the opposition. When he became captain of the Oilers, I remember reading he would not tolerate lack of hustle or being a prima donna . I believe he got in the face of Peter klima after practice one day and had him up against a locker room wall, fist ready to fly. Ahhh if only that type of leadership was on this current group.
      .

      • Fotiu is God says:

        Gombah, my best/oldest friend from Catholic School, Doc Chet ultimately became The Kings’ emergency-on call ENT surgeon for a number of years.

        He was told Messier once grabbed a hold of, then threatened to throw Jimmy Carson from a team flight for Carson’s slack-ass play after joining the Oilers.

        Having watched too much of Jimmy Carson I tend to believe the story. Then again, I bought into The Gong Show’s Chuck Barris as a moonlighting CIA operative/assassin.

        • BOBBY B says:

          Brother Fotiu, I heard that story too! Carson was the prize catch for the Oilers in the Gretzky trade. So I guess Mess did not like him from the get go??, although he did have 2 productive years with the team. Many do not recall that the Messier we obtained in 1992 was a calmer version of The Edmonton Moose. His classic battles with Joel Otto and the Calgary flames are stuff of legend. Google game 6 of the 1990 semi finals ( Edmonton Oilers vs Chicago Blackhawks ) Messier single handily won that game on his very first shift. Oilers were down 3-2 in that series, game 6 was in Chicago, He sent 2 Blackhawks to the dressing room with vicious checks, he also scored 2 goals, assisted on another. He spent the morning of the game sitting in the stands watching the Blackhawks skate, gave them his famous 1000 yard stare, while rocking back and forth, THE GUY WAS A LEGEND.

    • Dave says:

      Thank you, much appreciated.

  7. Mattstake says:

    Mcilrath should be playing…i don’t get the not playing these young guys. up until last night they played horribly anyway.

  8. Mattstake says:

    i’m not a hockey player, just a fan of 40 yrs, but why would you block a shot with your hand knowing / seeing how many others have broken bones doing this in the past…

    • Dave says:

      Instinct. Tough to program that out of guys.

    • sherrane says:

      I don’t think he intended to block the shot with his hand. To me, it appeared he was going down to block it with his body (leg) and his hand ended up being in front of the shot.

      • Marc Weissman says:

        U right. But he should’ve still made an effort to protect his hand. Esp with the shooter so far away. Poor decision.

  9. amy says:

    what else could happen?

    • Fotiu is God says:

      … earthquake?

      tsunami?

      Mayan End-Times Prophesy realized?

      a sale at Penny’s?…

      • paulronty says:

        Donald Trump elected President? In that case we up here in Canada will start laying bricks on that wall, lol!

  10. Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

    I’m always an optimist, especially when it comes to my Rangers, and especially with this group given their accomplishments the last two seasons in particular. But my confidence would take a major hit if McDonagh is done for the playoffs.

    However, if it is a short term injury, or something he could play through, AND we can tank and get the first wild card and swim in the stench known as the Atlantic, then I think we can survive. If it’s the Pens, we’re likely one and done with McDonagh out.

    Btw, anyone looking for an omen will remember that it was Tort’s Canucks two years ago that injured McDonagh just prior to the playoffs. McDonagh played through it, but really was ineffective until the second round. It all worked out in the end for a spectacular run to the Cup Finals, so maybe history repeats? It also confirms that Torts has a McDonagh voodoo doll, but that’s a different story. Maybe he’s still pissed at McDonagh for that delay of game penalty in the playoffs vs the Caps a few years ago? 🙂

    The one X-factor of course is Skjei. Everyone says he’s a McDonagh clone. So he’s the logical guy to replace him. Can we expect a raw rookie to come up and be effective in the SC Playoffs? Well, again, if it’s the Pens and the firepower they bring, I’d say not likely. Against the flawed Panthers or Bolts, with some sheltered minutes, quite possibly. Obviously, with a raw rookie, it’s a total unknown.

    As for the McIlrath vs Skjei debate, there’s really nothing to debate. I would NOT substitute the RH McIlrath in for the LH McDonagh. That just creates even more issues going into the playoffs. I believe we will see McIlrath play in two or possibly all three of the remaining games, spelling Boyle, Girardi and/or Klein depending on who needs a break. Both of the young defensemen should play regardless.

    • Fotiu is God says:

      Gospel, Amish Eddie.

      I think the kids will be alright.

      • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

        I love my new nickname, btw! I told my old Lancaster friends about it! 🙂

        • Fotiu is God says:

          To your quid about Skjei, Amish Eddie, “a raw rookie… a total unknown” I offer this pro quo, borrowed from Dr. Strangelove, er, I mean Don Rumsfeld:

          “As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

          Gabba gabba hey! Make way for Brady Skjei.

    • Rangers Rock says:

      Now you have an excuse why the Rangers wont win and it would not be AV. Its like last year Zucc got hurt and thats why we could not win. Excuses Excuses but not the real reason we might not win.

      • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

        Oh no….you’re right. It’s all AVs fault. The players are 44-0. The coach is 0-26-9. Of course!

        • Rangers Rock says:

          If you have the fastest car in the world and don’t know how to shift gears you will not win a race.

          • Chris A says:

            To run this idiotic analogy in to the ground, if all your best cars are banged up and in the garage, are you still a bad driver because you didn’t win the race?

            Injuries are always a legitimate excuse, to say otherwise is ignorant. The players and coaches say injuries aren’t an excuse because they are professionals and are going to fight and battle until the clock says 0:00, regardless. As fans, we should be intelligent enough to understand that when the best players are out of the lineup and the team comes short, it’s not the team’s or the coach’s fault, it’s just shitty luck.

          • Fotiu is God says:

            … unless that car is a Trabant, and your name is Steve “Bullitt” McQueen.

          • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

            But again, you overrate the talent and underrate the coach. He isn’t driving the fastest (or better put most talented) car in the race. It’s a good solid car that has proven that it can compete and be right there (specifically, more so under this driver than the previous one, which suggests he’s a very good driver). The other cars have HOF caliber components that we don’t have in abundance. That being said, the other cars are having breakdowns at the moment. So certainly, there is a chance for a deep run…if all goes well.

            I’m just curious, is John Cooper to blame for the Bolts sub-standard play this season? Should he be similarly skewered if they get bounced early? What about the Panthers? Or the Caps? Or the Pens? Or the Isles? Or if Boston or Detroit fail to make the playoffs? Is AV the only one on your mythical hot seat? Or should he have a whole bunch of company on the unemployment line?

            And of course, it wasn’t just Zuc last year. AV guided the team through that. It was Zuc, McDonagh, Girardi and Staal in the ECF. But that shouldn’t matter at all, right? Not with the high end, elite, all-star level, future HOF talent we have throughout this roster (other than the goalie).

            I just want to clarify if this is simply an AV thing, or if, in your opinion, all the coaches of the above teams should be canned if they don’t win it all, which seems to be the only way AV should keep his job, if I’m understanding you correctly.

            • Rangers Rock says:

              I don’t care about the Caps or any other team. Every team get banged up during the playoffs. What I care about is the coach should put the best players in and with the right players. If you put your checking line on an offensive draw, you don’t want to win. If you play with 1 arm tied behind your back you don’t want to win. If you play someone that hurt and don’t call up the best available player you don’t want to win. If your name is AV You don’t want to win. If you think Glass will save your career you don’t want to win. If your too stubborn to think you don’t want to win. The Rangers play better without MCDonough we saw when he got hurt. We played great with out Nash too. We would play great without Glass.
              I don’t care about other coaches. I care about the one who is trying to screw us up. Throughout the whole season the coach has coached like shit doesn’t know when to call a time out and plays the wrong players together for long periods of time. Plays Fast on the 1st and 2nd lines. Doesn’t play Yandle right. I criticize Stupid and you defend it. You defend stubbornness.
              Thank you for listening.

              • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

                You are most welcome. Your illogical rants always make my day! 🙂

    • Bobby B says:

      Eddie, is their official word on McD’s injury? Is it a broKen hand?? . The rest of your comments are spot on.. let’s go Rangers

      • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

        Hasn’t been announced yet. AV addresses the press in an hour. We should know soon.

        • Chris A says:

          I thought they were going to reevaluate the injury tomorrow, in other words no news until tomorrow.

          • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

            I thought tomorrow was today, since it was said yesterday. 🙂

            I wouldn’t think it would be hard to evaluate a hand. Anyway, we will know within the hour if we will know within the hour…if you get my drift. 🙂

  11. SallyW. says:

    You know, the playoffs are a totally different animal from the regular season. Your team needs to be on the upswing, not too many injuries and a whole lot of puck luck. Whatever team hoists that cup deserves it because the playoffs are brutal.

  12. 43 says:

    No captain is gonna let a hand injury keep him out of the playoffs.

    • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

      Well, we know McDonagh is tough as nails and can play through almost anything. But obviously, it depends on the severity. If he can’t grip the stick at all, he would be useless, guts or not.

  13. Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

    From the Rangers…..

    “Ryan McDonagh will be sidelined indefinitely with an upper body injury. He will not dress in any of the 3 remaining regular season games.”

    Assume he’s going to be out for awhile. How long? Unknown.

  14. Walt says:

    It’s not time to panic just yet, we don’t know the extent of the injury. If, and when it’s announced, and there is a broken bone, then we can start to sweat, not until then. Keep a stiff upper lip, don’t forget we’re British!!!!!!! That just sounds like the right thing to say at this point????????????

    • 43 says:

      Don’t teams keep these things hush-hush during the playoffs? As was done with Zuc’s skull fracture last year.

      • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

        They do and they did. We may not learn anything more. One day if we’re lucky we will see him in practice. Until then, we plan on life without him for the as long as the run goes.