Last night, the Rangers lost a disappointing game to the rival Islanders in Brooklyn. The loss snapped a six game winning streak in which the Blueshirts were able to move into a temporary three-way tie for second place in the Metro. Since it’s Friday and we are all looking to kill some time at work, I have some thoughts…
1. I am not a big believer in picking your preferred playoff matchups. I generally find it to be a fool’s errand, but this season, I really can’t see any upside in trying to vie for position in the stacked Metro division. Nothing good can come from the meat grinder of potentially playing the Penguins, Blue Jackets and/or Capitals in the first two rounds.
A big problem the Rangers have had over their past few playoff runs have been too many grueling series, too early. They completely ran out of gas in the conference finals against New Jersey and did not have enough left in the tank for the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final a few years back. Now, I’m not saying that the Habs/Sens/Leafs/B’s would be pushovers in the playoffs, but considering the talent on the Metro side of the bracket, I would be very willing to take my chances in the Atlantic.
2. Henrik Lundqvist has come back to life since that brutal loss in Dallas. Since the calendar flipped to February, Hank has put up a 2.17 GAA and a .937 save percentage with two shutouts. His play up until recently has been subpar, but if you had to pick a time of year for him to catch fire, this is the time.
3. This team has been very exciting to watch offensively, but I find a certain aspect of analyzing them this year to be horribly boring. The flaws have been what they are the entire season and haven’t changed one bit. Gifted offense and a defense that gets pinned in their zone and can’t transition. Game after game after game. It’s maddening. The only thing more maddening is that there is really nothing they can do about it but put Adam Clendening in the lineup more. That’s it. Too much of the team’s value is tied up in the forward depth to pay the price of a defensive upgrade. To do something meaningful with the defense is robbing Peter to pay Paul.
4. I agree with Dave in that the lineup tinkering isn’t anything to get worked up over. I understand and agree that AV’s rigidity with the blue line is immensely irritating, but they aren’t really related issues. The rotation of forwards is a good thing to keep some guys fresh and try out different combinations while the team is playing well. I don’t understand why he prefers the current crop of defensemen over Clendening, but that just is what it is. The forward group tinkering should be looked at in a vacuum.
5. When the salary cap was implemented following the lockout in 2005, there were certain growth assumptions that I am sure both the league and the NHLPA were using to make their decisions. If you look at the growth between the original cap implementation and the 2012-2013 lockout, and then the growth between the last lockout and the present, the figures are a bit staggering. Between 2005-2012, the average year over year growth of the salary cap was 8%. The growth between 2013-present? 4%. The weak Canadian dollar has a lot to do with this, but the stagnant salary cap has put quite the strain on big market clubs, especially in the trade market.
Obviously, there have been fluctuations on a year-to-year basis during the actual growth of the cap, but if you apply a straight 8% growth curve onto the cap figure from its inception, the 2016-2017 salary cap should have been $90.93m. Next year’s cap should be $98.2m. This is a far cry from the $74m we are staring at today. I think many organizations made tough contract calls based on the assumption that the cap would be steadily pacing revenue as the game grew. Dan Girardi and Marc Staal’s contracts would look a lot less gruesome if each team had $15-20m more in cap space. I’m not going anywhere specific with this, it’s just disappointing that the cap has stagnated the way it has.
That’s it for me this week; the Rangers have a bit of a tough stretch over the next two weeks getting Washington and Montreal twice, in addition to the Blue Jackets and Leafs. Enjoy your weekend everyone!"Friday afternoon thoughts",