Oct
08

Signs of life in the Rangers front office

October 8, 2016, by

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Preseason is over and the 2016-17 NHL regular season is under a week away. At this point we’ve got a decent look at what this year’s Rangers squad might look like and how they’ll perform on ice. Almost as important however is that we’ve got a decent look at what new General Manager Jeff Gorton’s philosophy behind the scenes will mean on-ice for this team.

Let’s start with the biggest move he made all summer. Gorton waited until shortly after the draft to make a one-for-one swap with the Ottawa Senators, sending fan favorite Derick Brassard up north in exchange for Mika Zibanejad. With this move the Rangers got younger and faster, in addition to opening up some much needed salary cap room. On the ice, we’ve already seen this move pay off, with Zibanejad’s speed and one-timer being much needed additions to the Rangers’ toolbox, in addition to the fact tat Chris Kreider looks like he’s finally got the freedom to be the player he should be on Zibanejad’s wing.

Then there was the surprise signing of Jimmy Vesey, who most fans likely did not expect to sign with the Rangers. This too made the Rangers younger and faster, and similar to the Zibanejad deal was a savvy cap move in that it added a skill player on a cheap contract to help subsidize larger deals. Gorton making a concerted effort to sign Vesey shows us what kind of player he values, and given that Vesey recently won the Lars-Erik Sjoberg Award for best camp rookie it’s safe to say he’s got a bright future ahead of him.

Next we’ve got the signing of Adam Clendening, who’s turned out to be something of a surprise this preseason. Clendening was signed as a free agent after bouncing around to several teams without finding a permanent home. He’s shown that he has the potential and skill set to be a real asset to this team with his smooth skating and deft passing ability, particularly on the power play. Here we saw Gorton make the same kind of move that saw Anton Stralman come to New York – taking a flyer on a guy who’s shown promise but never really stuck anywhere in the hope that he can become something in New York. While it’s yet to be seen if he turns out as well as Stralman did, the kind of philosophy behind the signing is a welcome change from the policy of signing older defensemen to large contracts.

Lastly there’s yesterday’s surprise on the waiver wire: Tanner Glass. At the risk of beating a dead horse, Tanner Glass has been a disaster for the Rangers, taking up valuable cap space with his inflated, three year contract and often causing AV to bump more skilled players from the lineup in favor of his alleged grit and jam. Yesterday however, we saw the Rangers make a savvy move, with Gorton evidently realizing that there’s simply too much talent on this roster to carry a player like Glass anymore and prioritizing on ice contributions over the ephemeral quality of being “good in the room”. While some might recall that Glass was sent down once before only to be called right back up, I think this time will be different, with Gorton’s philosophy of playing the most skilled roster possible being evident in this move and likely holding throughout the season.

At the risk of reading too much into relatively minor moves, I think it’s safe to say that there’s good evidence that Jeff Gorton will be a new kind of GM for the Rangers. While he hasn’t publicly embraced hockey analytics like some (including myself) would like to see, he has proven so far that he’s a progressive, forward thinking GM who values youth, skill, and puck moving ability over qualities that are harder to pin down and contribute less to winning games on ice. The Rangers aren’t completely out of the woods yet in terms of roster composition, but it’s not a stretch to say that they’ve got the right guy at the helm to help them get there.

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Categories : Preseason

58 comments

  1. Stevesse says:

    The Rangers major problem is who clears the zone with aggressive speedy forechecking teams like Pitt, NJ, and Philly? The answer will decide if this team is capable at another run at the Cup or a pretender.

    • kevin mccarthy says:

      Michael Grabner should fill the roll you speak of. His slot was secured when he signed. He had limited preseason games . Was held over Gerbe who I feel showed better and it a locker room boost.

  2. richsomma says:

    With the emergence of wings — Buch and Vesey and Pirri ….. and the realization that JT Millers best position is center ….and with Jooris and Lindberg and eventually Nieves also at center I would like to see us look to acquire Evander Kane and trade Fast and Stepan ….. and do nothing else except replace Girardi as soon as possible……

    • Bobby B says:

      Richsomma, great minds think alike, I was all in for Milan Lucic or Matt Martin, Gorton did not have the $$$ flexibility to do it. By all means lets go after Evander Kane of the Buffalo Sabres , I would settle for Ryan Reeves of the St Louis Blues. We need a couple of more rugged players on this team, Especially with Tanner Glass gone. We need to be a team that others feel uncomfortable playing against, and a team that will not be taken advantage of!!.Mcllrath can not do it ALONE!!!

      • Chris72 says:

        Oh Bobby, Bobby, Bobby……. where to begin lol. I’m not gonna even touch the McIlrath doing it by himself thing. I love 90’s hockey bro. Skating through center ice with a Sher-Wood blade in your gut trying to slow you down….. good times! But they are long gone. The NHL has succeeded in speeding the game up, allowing the skilled players to shine and creating open ice. These are facts. In order to make the game more marketable, they have essentially made fighting a very costly proposition for the team and the player. I too miss the days when the teams policed the game but it doesn’t exist anymore. Like it or not, there are certain aspects of the game that are gone. I’ve made no attempt to hide my distaste for fancy stats but they are a part of the game. Enforcers are like wood blades and cooperalls……. in a glass display case in Toronto with the rest of the relics in the Hockey HOF.

      • HARLEMBLUES says:

        I agree but the price has to be right. Kane as I remember has Hugh numbers left on his deal. They’re to many nice guys on this team. When your 5’6 guy has more BALLS (in my best Italian) than all your forwards that’s a problem. Yes unleash the undertaker and also Krieder and JT. I e seen CK look to AV on the bench like should jump in or what. To many nice guys on this team not enough edge.

    • pavel_bureto says:

      oh please no. Why would you even think Kane would be a good idea?

      So he can show Vesey and Buch, and the rest of the younglings how to show up late for practices, tweet moronic photos, party instead of practice, and get involved in law suits?

      Yes, exactly the missing piece we need. Sigh

      • Bobby B says:

        Pavel, U got it all wrong. I will admit Evander Kane is no saint, what he can be is intimadating presence who can put the puck in the net. We need a rugged forward, like a Kane or a Ryan Reeves to keep the opposition honest , to give the young kids peace of mind. Mcllrath can not do it alone. A little history, go back to 1993 , we had a young Russian superstar in the making by the name of Alex Kovalev, ( very similar player to Bush ) In one of his 1st games, he was being abused by a Florida Panther D man by the name of Paul Laus. On his next shift, coach Roger Neilson put Joe Kocur to send a message to Mr Laus. Needless to say not many people ever abused Alex Kovalev again,.The message was sent. I do not care how much the sport has changed in 25 years, it’s still a physical sport. There will always be a need for an Enforcer or 2 on each club.

        • pavel_bureto says:

          Those are all good points, and I agree that we need someone like that. Just not E. Kane. Also, I don’t think he’s going to live up to his potential.
          Reeves, on the other hand, yes please. And I remember the Kovy story, and Joe Kocur. But Kane is no Kocur, or even Glass for that matter. He might be rugged, but I don’t see him as a quality teammate.

        • Chris72 says:

          Oh Bobby, Bobby, Bobby……. where to begin lol. I’m not gonna even touch the McIlrath doing it by himself thing. I love 90’s hockey bro. Skating through center ice with a Sher-Wood blade in your gut trying to slow you down….. good times! But they are long gone. The NHL has succeeded in speeding the game up, allowing the skilled players to shine and creating open ice. These are facts. In order to make the game more marketable, they have essentially made fighting a very costly proposition for the team and the player. I too miss the days when the teams policed the game but it doesn’t exist anymore. Like it or not, there are certain aspects of the game that are gone. I’ve made no attempt to hide my distaste for fancy stats but they are a part of the game. Enforcers are like wood blades and cooperalls……. in a glass display case in Toronto with the rest of the relics in the Hockey HOF.

          • Chris72 says:

            My bad Bobby, don’t know what happened, didn’t mean to repost

            • Bobby B says:

              Chris 72, this makes the site what it is . Your reply did bring a smile to my face. I will admit I am old school. it’s all good. Let’s go Rangers.

        • richsomma says:

          Bobby B……..Great Line said by you …..
          ‘We need to be a team that others feel uncomfortable playing against’
          It is naive to think players like Gudas and Letang and Simmonds wont take advantage of the Veseys and Buchs and McDonaghs when they KNOW they can get away with it…….
          Turn the other cheek doesn’t work in hockey……
          Nothing wrong with having players,Kane, Reeves etc who can play and ‘take care of business’
          Too many naive fans on this site obviously dont understand or never played hockey…….

        • HARLEMBLUES says:

          You are so right Bobby B this team needs more edge, toughness more power. No enforcers just tough hard to play against players. That would put your ass thru the boards take the puck and score with speed and skill. The game as gotten faster but the nasty is still there and the Rangers don’t have enough of it .

    • HARLEMBLUES says:

      I’m all for trading Stepan because of all the above. But not for Kane with his contract because its the D.

  3. Arisrules says:

    This Rangers GM willingly made a mediocre defense into a bottom 5 defense. Maybe we make a trade. Maybe we don’t. Even if we get Trouba, we are still a bottom third defense. Right now we are sending out there:

    1 Elite dman in McD
    1 second/third pairing dman in Klein
    1 promising rookie who isn’t ready for a top four role but was sold as such by the FO (Gorton was quoted as saying Skjei can step in for Yandle) in Skjei
    4 average to mediocre third pairing d-men in Holden, Staal, McIlrath, and Clendeling
    1 AHLer who is playing high leverage minutes because AV loves him in Girardi

    That is complete garbage and why we are a playoff bubble team despite our great forwards and league MVP goalie in Hank.

    • Andrei Petrovitch says:

      Willingly? Why do you think this? All reports had Gorton trying to trade both Staal and Girardi. We can’t just override the CPU, EA sports style, to get other teams to take our garbage.

      • Arisrules says:

        Because they could have resigned Yandle, they could have waived Girardi or Staal, they could have signed Demers, etc. They did not. They decided to stand pay and downgrade the defense. That is willingly flushing the season down the toilet.

        And this is the same FO that made a trade deadline push for E.Staal instead of fixing the mediocre defense.

    • Jamie says:

      Slats destroyed our defense, not Gorton. All the worst moves were made before Gorton got the job.

      • Arisrules says:

        Again this off-season was with Gorton at the helm. He could have made tough decisions regarding Girardi and Staal, but he passed on it. He also made a trade deadline move that involved moving for E.Staal to play center when we were already stacked at that position. Of course our legendary coach then somehow mismanaged E. Staal.

  4. Richter1994 says:

    This is all well and good, and I am big Gorton advocate, but until there’s something done with the top pair, meaning getting a legit top pair righty, the rest is window dressing.

    The Lindholm situation is getting interesting just like Trouba. Ducks need a scoring forward. I know they’re trying to dump Fowler on someone so they can sign their RFAs but maybe something else can be worked out.

    • Swarty says:

      I would prefer Lindholm over Trouba – The Ducks have been rumored to have a liking to Mr. Nash….

      • Reenavipul says:

        Another internal budget team that couldn’t afford Nash straight up, would have to add pucks to make it happen.

        • Richter1994 says:

          Ducks have $8.5M in cap space right now and the Rangers $2.9M. Trade Nash and take back $3M for Lindholm as the Ducks need a LW desperately (Silverberg is the only legit LW there).

          The Ducks also need players as they only have 19 under the cap right now. Add Nash -$5M in cap space puts them at $3.5M and then they can sign Rakell which would then give them 21 players.

          For the Rangers, they would now have almost $8M in cap space to sign Lindholm to whatever deal they agree on, either bridge term or long term. Miller moves up to top 6 and Pirri moves to the third line:

          Kreider-Zib-Buch
          Miller-Stepan-Zuc
          Vesey-Hayes-Pirri
          Fast-Jooris-Grabner

          McD-Skjei
          Lindholm-KK
          Staal-G

        • Bobby B says:

          Harlem/RichS,/Fotiu/Walt, I think we all agree that this team, is constructed in the mold of its coach, We are a finesse orientated team, I will go as far as to say SOFT..The need for a rugged presence up front is essential, Thumbs up anyone??

          • Richter1994 says:

            What “thugs” did the Stanley Cup champ Penguins have on their line up? And what is it that the Pens beat the Sharks with? I will answer for you: speed.

          • Walt says:

            Bobby

            I for one don’t want a team of Metrosexual guys out there, give me men !!!!!!!!!!!

            • Richter1994 says:

              This isn’t the 70s, 80s, 90s, or even 2000s. it’s a different style of play and getting guys with #grit that can’t skate will be a sure way of failing. I would like to make the playoffs.

              Kreider can play physically. Miller can play physically. Even Zuc plays physically. And these players can also play the modern game.

              • Walt says:

                My call is for players who can play the game first, and stated so on many occasions. I also called for players with back bone, who will defend themselves as well. You state that Chris, or JT can play physical, but the pus*y whipped coach won’t let them, he’d rather see our guys get hurt, or so it appears. Bottom line, the game has changed, and it should be played by men, not pee-holes !!!!!!!!!!!

      • Richter1994 says:

        Funny but I have actually heard this as well. Lindholm is on the Ekblad level and maybe even better. This would be a coup for the Rangers.

      • Bobby B says:

        AHH, the plot thickens, Ducks like Nash,as does Ken Hitchcock, coach of the St Louis Blues.

        • Richter1994 says:

          and people reporting that Rangers still in on Trouba with Rangers trying to get a 3rd team involved to get Jets the proper return.

  5. Larry says:

    Nice article, really like it.

  6. Tony D says:

    Make a package for Truba, Hayes , Fast and a D man, Hayes lost 20 lbs and still no jump no corner work.

    • Chris72 says:

      After that glowing scouting report on Hayes, I can’t see how Winnipeg doesn’t jump at the offer. I wish it were that easy Tony. I would love to see Trouba here but I believe the price would be much much higher than that.

  7. Jerry says:

    As to Rich, Pavel and Bobby’s comments. I am against the Ranger’s acquiring any Evander Kane type malcontent. All the Glass haters can say what they will about him. Yep I agree he possessed limited skills, but he was a team first player and from all I have read, a VERY positive locker room presence. The Ranger’s will be an easy team to play against as presently constructed. This is exactly the type of team AV likes. I’m sure other coaches in the division didn’t miss the fact AV didn’t dress McIlrath for the last preseason game against the Flyers. I am in favor of a team with at least one forward and one D-man who can and will stick up for the more “skilled” players. That said the days of a team being able to carry someone who is strictly enforcer are gone. The tough players need to be able to play. McIlrath is a serviceable D-man (not to mention a righty and salary friendly defenseman), who is willing and ready to stand up for his team mates. My fear is that McIlrath will see lots of pressbox duty. It’s ‘gonna’ be an interesting season………..

    • Jamie says:

      Glass isn’t an NHL talent. we were losing every time he was on the ice. If you want fighters, they have to be able to play. Glass can’t.

  8. Leetchie Nut says:

    2 points:
    It’s presesason.
    Led the team in hits last year by far.

    • Jamie says:

      Hitting is an important part of hockey, no doubt, but leading in the “Hits” stat is kind of a booby prize.

      It means you don’t have the puck.

      there is no relationship to the “Hits” stat and winning hockey games.

      • Paulronty says:

        A hit means you got the puck so you do have the puck and isn’t that the object of the game, to get the puck back when you don’t have it. That argument you are espousing is and always has been a false narrative.

        • Jamie says:

          A hit doesn’t mean you got the puck.

          Many of Tanner Glass’s hits come after the puck carrier moves the puck to someone else.

          Seriously, there is no relationship between “hits” (as recorded by the league) and winning hockey games.

          Leading in “hits” doesn’t mean a player is doing something positive.

          • Paulronty says:

            I believe a hit is recorded when the players physical action results in a turnover of the puck. THere are many factors when considered alone don’t relate to winning games. The gold standard in any statistical analysis is a multivariate approach, which would take into account the interaction of several variables on outcome. Looking at it the way you’ve expressed it is too simplistic to be meaningful. Even regression analysis of Corsi reveals little causal relarion to outcome.

            • Jamie says:

              A turnover is not required for a “hit” to be registered in the stats sheet – only “loss of possession” by the puck carrier himself. If the puck carrier’s team maintains possession – if he moves the puck to his teammate – it can still be counted as a “hit.” Glass’s famous “after the puck is gone” hits can be counted, because the player did indeed give up possession.

              The simple relationship between wins and hits is better than no evidence at all.

              Glass gets a lot of hits. We usually get beaten on shots when he is on ice. OTOH, the Blackhawks don’t get credited with a lot of hits. Yet they win all the time.

              It’s not a meaningful stat. In Glass’s case, he gets “hits” because we don’t have the puck when he’s out there. Which is a big problem.

            • Chris A says:

              Hitting and board work are very important, but the hit stat is relatively meaningless.

              A hit is not an official NHL stat. It’s not defined by the league and can be awarded at the discretion of the official scorer (hired by the home team) that is attending that night’s game.

              In other words, hits are very subjective, and some buildings are notorious for being very generous with awarding hits. There’s a reason the Islanders are at the top of the hit list every year, their scorer is very loose with the definition of a hit. Now that Matt Martin is in Toronto, there is a decent chance that he plays exactly the same game but sees a significant drop in his hits total. For further proof, you can look at the hit leaders for the past few seasons, Martin always leads the list, and he always has a lead of more than at least 50 hits over the next player.

            • Pootie Tang Jr. says:

              Hits and turnovers are separate stats, as well as completely separate actions. High hit totals for a team on a consistent basis reflect lack of puck possession–it doesn’t always equate to physicality….it indicates that the team doing the hitting is chasing the puck more than holding onto it.

          • Jerry says:

            At least to some extent, hitting matters. If it didn’t, Canada and the US would never win an International Tournament. Jamie, you’re absolutely correct, that many hits come after the ‘hittee’ has gotten rid of the puck. However, he very well might have made a pass he didn’t want to make, or sooner than he wanted.
            Hitting is still an intrical part of North American Hockey. And I for one hope that never changes.

            • Jamie says:

              Yes, hitting matters.

              My point is that leading in the “hits” stat doesn’t mean you are playing well.

              • Jerry says:

                Conversely, it doesn’t mean you’re playing poorly either.

              • Jamie says:

                basically, it’s a meaningless stat.

                One could combine it with Corsi to see whether a) the team is hitting because they can’t possess the puck (i.e., Glass hits), or b) the team is effectively using hits to possess the puck.

                That could reveal useful info.

                But as it stands now, “Hits” by itself says little. It’s a poor argument for whether a player is helping the team or not.

  9. Chris72 says:

    Does anyone think Gorton, AV and Beukeboom aren’t aware of the issues on the blueline? There is only so much you are able to do with the cap, contracts that existed before he became GM and the reality that no other GM’s are in the business of taking the Rangers bad contracts in lop-sided trade proposals. You have to dance with the girl you brought. He can’t overhaul the complete roster in one off season, it’s just not realistic

  10. jdon48 says:

    Girardi is a sunk cost. If so many on hte roster are better why does he HAVE to play? Just makes no sense. Sit him.

  11. edred51 says:

    Remember that this was the GM who traded two second round draft picks to rent Eric Staal, a player everybody else knew was floundering.

    • Jerry says:

      So far that is the only glaring mistake I think he has made. Considering the cap restraints and some horrible contracts with NMC’s, I think Gorton has done the best possible job he could have done.

  12. Jon says:

    On top of the qualities you mentioned Gorton possessing, he’s a numbers guy. He’s good at managing the salary cap. Something that Sather was not very good at. After the cap was implemented, Sather’s philosophy of signing older expensive players and mortgaging the future to do it was simply obsolete.

  13. lv says:

    The 2 mistakes Gorton made were
    1) not overriding the Sather decision to trade DuClair + picks to get Yandle and 2) the horrific giveaway of assets to aquire aging Eric Staal. Hope he has learned his lessons