Jan
11

Midseason report cards: goaltending and the front office

January 11, 2017, by

antti raanta henrik lundqvist

Continuing our midseason grades (defense here), next up is the front office and goaltending. Grading both is a little tricky, as the front office is just ramping up their efforts for the trade deadline, while the goaltending has been a bit inconsistent.

When grading the front office, I had to look at the offseason body of work in addition to the moves made in season. Considering the injuries, the front office has been a little busy lately. As for the goaltending, well I’m taking a different approach this year. Instead of looking at each player individually, I’ll be looking at both Hank and Raanta as a single entity.

Front office

This is a tricky one. On the one hand, GM Jeff Gorton and co. did a masterful job in the offseason transforming the forward corps and loading up on youth, speed and skill that have set New York up for the next decade. On the other, Gorton allowed Keith Yandle to depart for next to nothing and added only Nick Holden to an ailing blueline that desperately needed an injection of new blood.

Gorton scored some of the biggest coups of the offseason when he landed PK ace and elite goal scorer(!?) Michael Grabner for two years, $3.3 million, beat out a horde of suitors to ink highly coveted UFA prospect Jimmy Vesey, and stole Mika Zibanejad (plus a second-round pick) from Ottawa in exchange for Derick Brassard.

Gorton also has demonstrated a revised philosophy focused on talent above all while accumulating a stable of depth forwards including Brandon Pirri over the summer and Matt Puempel off the waiver wire.

And yet….

Gorton’s season will be defined by his ability to fortify the defense before the trade deadline. If he’s successful, this team may have a Cup run in it. If he’s not, yet another year of Henrik Lundqvist’s twilight will flicker out and the Blueshirts will again be staring at a tricky offseason with expansion looming large and a wholesale makeover on defense necessary.

Grade: B

Goaltending

What choice do we have but to grade the Blueshirts against a curve?

For a full decade Lundqvist has set the bar league-wide for the gold standard in net. The fact is – he has not been able to meet that level this season.

Certainly a good amount of the blame can be placed on a porous defense that might ruin the careers of most mortal goalies. But throughout his career Lundqvist has overcome whatever challenges have been thrown his way and he’s had a much harder time doing that this season.

The good news is that backup Antti Raanta has picked up the slack and been marvelous in Lundqvist’s absence, whether that be due to performance, illness or rest.

The Finnish netminder has played so well that he sparked a brief goalie controversy and has moved to the front of the line for possible Las Vegas expansion draft selections.

This duo hasn’t been infallible this season as in years past, but collectively they remain in they’re still in the top 10 in goals against. Given the issues in front of them, that’s pretty remarkable.

Grade: B+

"Midseason report cards: goaltending and the front office", 4 out of 5 based on 7 ratings.

35 comments

  1. Richter1994 says:

    Pretty fair Dave.

    I don’t know if Gorton can do anything about the D this year unless you consider a minor move like for Franson or Stone “fixing” the D. The trade cost for the biggies might be too high. I feel like Gorton addressed the forwards this year and will address the D this offseason in a big way.

    Raanta has been excellent for his role, no question, very fortunate to have him (or is it Benoit Allaire?).

    Lundqvist is worn out mentally from the lousy play from his D for years. It shows during the games and in his body language. He’s still the best in the world IMO and if they give him any kind of help then that in itself gives the Rangers a chance in the playoffs. Problem is when things start to go bad then it’s a domino effect during that particular game, though the Columbus game was a good comeback game.

    • Dave says:

      Kevin wrote this.

    • sherrane says:

      Agreed with Gordon. Especially when you consider the expansion draft. He needs to protect 7 F and 3 D (because protecting only 8 skaters would expose players we don’t want to lose) and unless any NMC are waived, he has to protect McDonagh, Girardi, and Staal as I recall. Any deal for a D-man that isn’t a rental will have to include either Girardi or Staal or else risk exposing the new guy to the expansion draft. (Please correct me if I am incorrect in my knowledge / assumption of the situation.) I think he has done an outstanding job based on his options, so my grade is a B+ or A-.

      • Ray says:

        It isn’t true that Girardi and Staal must be protected. Either can be bought out before the draft. Also, there is a consent issue. They can be exposed with their consent.

        Scenario: The Rangers acquire new hot shot defenseman X and choose to protect Staal, mcD, and X. Gorton approaches Girardi with two options. (A) I buy you out. (B) You consent to being exposed in the draft. Presumably you won’t get picked anyway with your expensive contract, so it costs you nothing and helps the Rangers field the best team going forward – which of course is to your benefit.

        Wouldn’t surprise me if G chose (B).

        • Hatrick Swayze says:

          In theory, yes… but a lot of assumptions here. Why would Girardi accept this and change his 0 risk situation. Right now there is 0 risk he and his family end up in LV. If he complies with your scenario, then there is a risk he and his family must relocate to LV. This is probably undesirable to him, so he has a lot of reason to say no thanks.

          • Ray says:

            As you note, there are reasons why he would say no. However, I point out that there are two reasons to say yes.

            1. Presumably Girardi not only wants to play for the 2017-2018 Rangers; he wants to win the Cup. That means anything which strengthens the Rangers benefits Girardi. Protecting someone else would be a plus for him – provided he were convinced he wouldn’t be grabbed.

            2. If Gorton acquires a dman who must be protected, he cannot protect both G and Staal. Gorton can solve his problem by buying one of them out. If Girardi does not want to relocate, a buyout is more onerous than a slight risk of being taken in the draft.

            Granted, the notion that Girardi will be guided more by common sense than by pride is perhaps unrealistic. And it may be that a buyout is not unpleasant for him.

    • John B says:

      “Lundqvist is worn out mentally from the lousy play from his D for years. It shows during the games and in his body language.”

      I sometimes wonder to myself what is really going through his mind as he watches a defenseman glide stomach first on the ice by on a 2 on 1, well 2 on Hank once they hit the ice….

      I’m sorry, but the single BEST moment of the NY Ranger season this far, is when Hank intentionally tripped Klein in that Philly game. I laughed so hard and can only imagine how good that might have felt for him.

    • paulronty says:

      The same thing happened to Mike Richter in his last few years. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the D in front of Ricky was exponentially worse than the current group in front of Hank.

  2. Walt says:

    I agree with Richter’s remark above, and the grades given seem on target.

    Gorton’s hands were tied for the most part, and he did the best he could. I for one am glad he let Yandle go, although I would have traded him for anything we could have gotten in return. This is another example of the quick fix, looking for instant gratification. Some of the other deals were great, and I look forward to this upcoming summer when he can address the defense, and all the issues associated with it.

  3. SalMerc says:

    I agree on the assessment, but do think a deal can be made. Removing Klein and adding even a second pair defenseman is an upgrade. Using Clendening more and giving Raanta more starts could bode well for a second half surge. These tweaks and getting healthy could prime us for a playoff run.

  4. Peter says:

    I tend to think that Gorton’s most likely moves this season may be for help at the blue line that do not cost much. I believe that the larger issues regarding the defenseman will be addressed in the offseason. Too many issues plus the looming expansion draft make major upgrades difficult.

    I disagree on Gorton’s grade. I’d give him an A- or B+ for stellar work upgrading the forwards. The defense corps problems and contracts tied his hands, yet he managed to inject Nick Holden, and he has turned out to be a decent acquisition. Landing Mika, Vesey and Grabner and bringing along Buch, slotting in Pirri and Peumple, all for very low cost, is just plain excellent work.

    Not sure what he will do at the deadline, but he is one smart front office man.

  5. ranger17 says:

    Groton is hamstrung with the contracts to G and Staal , only thing he can do is buy them out at the end of the year and that is not a good thing going forward . When will teams ever learn to not give out NMC contracts . Pitts D is a tire fire also but the big thing is that they are all young and fast we are old and slow . Don,t know how we get out of those contracts with out B/Os.What team would trade for them just to get to the cap floor .The teams that traded for Pronger ,Horton , and Savard did so only to get to the floor and are not playing any one of them you just can.t take Gs contract on and put him on LTIR if he can play the CBA would not allow it .

  6. Tim B says:

    This is probably a very stupid question but Theoretically is there a chance Raanta be traded before the expansion draft so we get some kind of return for him? Then expose Magnus Hellberg to Las Vegas? I know they are aiming for a cup run so Raanta likely wouldnt be traded but I still had to ask.

    • Dave says:

      Nope. Need to expose a goalie that has NHL experience.

    • John B says:

      As Dave pointed out the first one, it’d be far easier to do a deal with Las Vegas that they don’t take someone at this point.

    • Ray says:

      It’s also true that the Rangers are going to lose someone for nothing in the draft. Get a minimal return for Raanta, only to lose Lindberg instead for example. One can get too cute.

  7. Andy says:

    I think the grades are fair. But on the D he inherited 2 terrible contracts. He was assistant GM, so maybe he had a role in those contracts, but they take up a lot of cap space, have bad buy out implications, and run way too long. Part of the D problem is getting rid of one or two of the folks holding us back to make room for anyone new player. That’s a tall order. The asking price for top 4 D men is also huge. We know we can sign Shattenkirk next year and give up nothing. What would he sacrifice to get him before the deadline? Tough situation. As for Yandle walking. We did not have the cap space and I think that was a reality we all knew.( you would not have the forward depth, in particular Grabner, had you signed Yandle) But look at Holden’s numbers(22 pts and +20) and Yandle’s numbers(19 pts -6) and for the cap hit difference it’s hard to hate this scenario so far this season. Yandle is a much better puck mover, but not a better defender than Holden. Holden my be playing over his head, but those are the facts. Skjei in place of Dan Boyle was also not such a big lose for the team either. I will point out without Yandle and Boyle our PP is actually much better. One other plus is we actually have cap space to do something at the trade deadline. I am happy with what he has done considering the circumstances.

    • John B says:

      Our power play is better, but bear in mind that Yandle did not get 1PP time until McD went down with injury. After Yandle got elevated up last year late, the power play clicked far better.

      I won’t break down the numbers too much, but bear in mind: you stated Holden is a “better defender”, yet he gives up SCA60 of 9.38 vice Yandle’s is 8.81 as well, Yandle is carrying a higher CF% of 52.83 to Holden’s 48.03.

      Lastly, Holden is riding a very very high PDO of 104.85. Yandle is riding a very low PDO of 97.97. Holden is going to regress quite a bit while Yandle can be expected to produce better.

      We don’t have Yandle, but wouldn’t it be nice to have at least half your defenseman being able to move the puck and move themselves at the NHL level vice the usual only two?

      • supermaz says:

        Yandle sucks, always has, always will. Just my opinion.

        • Walt says:

          grossly over rated !!!!!!!!!!

        • Richter1994 says:

          He didn’t “suck.” Yandle had the most assists by a Rangers’ D man since Leetch. He served a purpose and should have been put on the Rangers’ PP AND KEPT THERE the second he got here.

          But his age didn’t warrant a 6 year deal and there was no way that the Rangers were going to do that.

  8. Original 6 says:

    My thought about Gorton is that it was just too much to fix in one off-season. He has to know the D is lacking and the prospects of Girardi and Staal bouncing back or being moved were slim. Top 4 D were going to cost the Rangers cap space or assets, both in low supply. The cheapest approach to improve was building Forward depth. Gorton took advantage of the market and rebuilt his bottom lines on the cheap. Extremely impressed with this additions so far and look forward to how he rebuilds the D corp.

  9. Ray says:

    Letting Yandle go was a disaster. Signing him converted
    Florida from a team that couldn’t even make the playoffs to a division winner.

    • Chris A says:

      I think you have that backwards … or my sarcasm detector is broken.

    • John B says:

      You’re right. Had nothing to do with the injuries to key forwards or the regression of Ekbald and Barkov. Or that their goaltending has been below the level of last year.

      It was all the signing of Keith Yandle, who’s hurting them so bad, he’s right behind our best defenseman in points and metrics.

      I definitely hold him responsible for the Coyotes too. I mean, gee, 3 years later they’re still bad. Are we holding Yandle to account for the ice time allocations in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015? I definitely hold him accountable for the ECHL level of play of Girardi and Staal on the ice against the Penguins last year in the playoffs, even though he was sitting on the bench while they were roasted I still think we need to blame Yandle for that.

  10. billiebibo says:

    I agree with the posts above that there is little that can be done at this point that would make much improvement in the Rangers defense. I was, and still am disappointed that they failed to address the problem when they had the opportunity. How they decided that waiting to see if Girardi, Staal, and Klein were going to bring their games up to an acceptable level was the way to go, just baffles me. I give Staal credit he has been better for the most part, but Girardi and Klien, have dekleined. Girardy to the point of barely being engaged in the play a lot of the time. Klein is brain dead about half the time it would seem. I guess Gorton has to take most of the responsibility for the lack of fore thought. So I guess I would not give him a very high mark. As far as how far the Rangers can go with this defense. It will depend on the health of the team and and same with the competition. That and how much time and space they give and take. That is the problem with this defense they give way to much, and take away little.

    • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

      When you say “lack of fore thought”, what exactly was he supposed to do? Girardi and Staal have NMCs. Could he have moved on Klein last year or over the summer? In retrospect, possibly, but was there a quality defenseman to replace him with?

      I give the front office very high marks thus far. This was supposed to be a borderline playoff team at best. They’ve injected youth and speed into the lineup, primarily upfront, they’ve been injured, and yet they are on pace for a totally unexpected 110 point campaign. Gorton will be a candidate for GM of the year. His mid-season grade should be an A- thus far.

      If there is a deal to be had prior to the deadline to fortify the defense, then I am sure Gorton will do what he can to make it happen. If not, Klein and probably Girardi will be goners this summer.

      Mostly agree on the goaltending. I’d give it a B. Raanta I’d give an A, as he has dramatically exceeded expectations. I’d give Hank a B-. He’s been good by most mortal standards but ordinary by his own standards. He can and will be better in the second half.

      • billiebibo says:

        I don’t like that Girardi is still there and being used in situations he is unable handle. If they couldn’t buy him out then sit him. They have had defensemen sitting while G play poorly .Klein could have been traded for late round picks for all I care. The guys a train wreck. They wouldn’t have to look very hard to find someone that is at least a little better. Those two guys are hurting this team on a regular basis, and sooner than later it’ll cost the Rangers. I don’t know who’s fault it is, I am assuming it’s Gortons.

    • Rangers_Underscore says:

      I give Gorton an F for AV! We are going nowhere fast. Possible first round loss. We could have 150 points but still lose with this coach. If you like math the odds are I am right and history will repeat itself. I am taking bets.

  11. paulronty says:

    All this angst over the expansion draft baffles me. The Rangers are destined to lose ONE player, be it Raanta,Grabner,Fast or Lindberg. That’s not the end of the world, is it? The core of the team will still remain.

    • billiebibo says:

      I didn’t realize that it was just one player. Still though I would hate to see Raanta go. Good backup goaltenders are hard to find I think, and Raanta has been very good.