Feb
22

The pressure is on Jeff Gorton

February 22, 2017, by

Jeff Gorton has the unenviable task of fixing the defense this week

Jeff Gorton has done a masterful job remaking the Rangers’ forward corps and deserves full credit for that.

But as the trade deadline closes in without any apparent blueline solutions on the horizon that don’t cost an arm and a leg, it’s fair to ask – what was the plan on defense?

The decision to let Keith Yandle walk was puzzling, but with Yandle having a poor year and his not insignificant contract, we’ve largely given Gorton a pass on that.

And indeed, the acquisition of Nick Holden has worked out marvelously. Paying a mere fourth-round pick for arguably New York’s second-best D-man was a coup.

But here’s the key question: was that it?

The issues on defense were glaring heading into the summer and have only become more magnified. Gorton’s lone move for Holden was clearly not enough to propel this team into contention and everyone knew it at the time.

Maybe, just maybe, Gorton was right to have faith in Marc Staal and Dan Girardi – believing they might have more left than all their harsh critics thought and were capable of contributing for one more run.

And if that didn’t work out, a number of intriguing players churned through the rumor mill as training camp began – from Hampus Lindholm to Dougie Hamilton to Jacob Trouba. Perhaps those never were realistic possibilities, but they at least gave Ranger fans faith that Gorton had a contingency plan in case the house of cards came crashing down.

But now here we are. One week until the trade deadline, with no savior in sight. Sure, Kevin Shattenkirk looms large. But the Blueshirts would be fools to meet the Blues’ asking price when they know Shattenkirk is interested in joining them this summer and dealing for him now would cost them at least one untouchable asset like Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider or Pavel Buchnevich – plus much more.

Beyond that, the Rangers could attempt to patch their sinking ship with Scotch tape in the form of rentals like Dennis Wideman, Cody Franson, Michael Stone (traded since this post was written) or Dmitry Kulikov. Acquiring one isn’t out of the realm of possibility, and the latter two might really be decent players. But no one in that group is nearly enough to propel New York into that upper echelon of contenders.

So what now?

It’s another lost season of Henrik Lundqvist’s prime – or perhaps the first of his twilight years.

Looking at the apparent plan from all angles – it just wasn’t good enough. Perhaps Gorton will pull a rabbit out of his hat this week, but it’s hard to envision.

Instead, this traffic cone defense is doomed to be embarrassed. And it’s not as if we all didn’t see it coming.

90 comments

  1. amy says:

    i see little trades taking place pirri leaving and maybe pumpel

  2. supermaz says:

    The season’s not over, and all other teams in contention have their own flaws. I’ll wait till the season concludes to gather together my opinion on Gorton.

  3. 43 says:

    This season’s likely a wash. It’s better not to waste assets for a run this year (like last season’s awful deadline trade), and to just be patient, sign Shattenkirk and improve next year.

    • Ray says:

      Actually, one shouldn’t be so pessimistic. The Rangers have the fifth best record in the NHL despite having a slightly below average starting goaltender (rated on 2016-17 performance). Maybe all they need is to replace their current tender with a HOFer – and maybe that can happen without any change at all.

      • 43 says:

        You’re not wrong. Based off of playoff experience alone, we can take Columbus, and we can get past Montreal. But I just don’t see us getting through Pitt or Washington in the playoffs this year.

        By “wash,” I mean I wouldn’t, like we did last year, give up assets just for this one year’s playoff run, especially since the odds are stacked pretty obviously against a move like that paying off.

        But of course, you never truly know.

        • sherrane says:

          The Rangers will beat Washington. The only problem team for the Rangers are the Penguins, who will likely be the team the Rangers face in the first round.

    • Stranger Nation says:

      Shatty for $7M per? Where do you slot that contract into the mix on the backline? No thanks

  4. Ray says:

    The Rangers can win the Cup without making a move and they probably won’t win it if they do (odds are against every team frankly). A beneficial trade just moves the needle a little bit, gives them a little better chance.

    A deal makes the fans feel better – does that really matter? A deal maybe inspires the team – and if they need that, maybe they need a new coach.

    People may talk about how Gaborik helped the Kings, but really all of the contenders add players, so the eventual winner is just one of many and we only talk about the successes.

    • pas44 says:

      I’m gonna go ahead and disagree.

      “The Rangers can win the Cup without making a move and they probably won’t win it if they do”

      so if we stay at the deadline, we lift the cup… that’s what I am reading here?

      do you hear that? the sound of the dutchie… cuz you gotta be smoking babe!

      • Ray says:

        I didn’t say that. Without seriously considering the correct numbers, I’ll say that the Rangers have a 12% chance of lifting the Cup if they stand pat and a 17% chance if they make a really nice move. Deadline deals don’t win the Cup; they just improve the odds.

        • 43 says:

          I think it’s actually like a 5% chance of winning the cup. Washington has like a 16% and Pitt is 11%.

          17% is a pretty huge number considering the 20 or so teams still in the race make up the total 100%.

          • Ray says:

            I wasn’t really trying to get the numbers right, just making the point that deadline deals just raise the numbers a tad, nothing more.

  5. avsucks says:

    they have one simple solution right here. Play Adam Clendening. AV hasnt given him a chance. He may not be the answer, but deserves more playing time.

    • Chris A says:

      Clendening has played in 20 games this year. That’s a third of the season. He’s had ample opportunity. He is simply not very good.

      • avsucks says:

        Stall and giradi arent very good either, but he keeps putting then out there night after night. he needs to break it up atleast try something different. those two are the blue line problem.

        • BL94 says:

          Yeah. They are solely responsible for the teams record lately. Wait, the Rangers have only lost like one game in regulation in FEB.

      • Blueshirts94 says:

        And in the 20 games, he has outplayed Girardi and Klein, yet when everyone is healthy AV has shown he doesn’t trust him.

        I’d like to see, just for a game or two, a McDonagh/Clendening top pairing, just to see what happens.

        • paulronty says:

          Sorry to disagree, but Clendening hasn’t outplayed anyone.

          • John B says:

            Clendening has far outplayed Girardi, Klein and Staal.

            Just want to go with points? Ok.
            Clendening 1G 5A for a P60 of 1.27
            Girardi 1G 6A for a P60 of .5
            Klein 2G 7A for a P60 of .64
            Staal 3G 3A for a P60 .43

            Defensively? Ok
            Clendening SA60 of 23.61 and xGA60 of 2.13
            Girardi SA60 of 31,67 and xGA60 of 2.57
            Klein SA60 of 30.01 and a xGA60 of 2.64
            Staal SA60 of 30.53 and a xGA60 of 2.63

            What you mean possession? Ok
            Clendening on ice CF% 54.74. Team when he’s off ice 48.07
            Girardi CF% 44.59 OCF% 49.03
            Klein CF% 48.45, OCF% 46.97
            Staal CF% 46.21, OCF% 48.19

            Clendening is not Nick Lidstrom. But he’s a hell of a better option than those 3

            • Blueshirts94 says:

              Exactly. Thanks for finding the numbers to back me up. Clendening isn’t great, but he’s at the very worst a replacement level defender. Girardi and Klein haven’t been, and Staal has been close.

            • Ray says:

              AV doesn’t trust Clendening really. That means Clendening plays against weaker opposition and gets fewer defensive zone starts. Of course, his numbers are better.

              • John B says:

                Debunked by Dave here on this site. You want to throw out Girardi and Staal, fine.

                Usage, quality of competition, zone starts are all equal between Klein and Clendening.

                Next?

          • Bloomer says:

            Thanks a lot paulronty now you got John B started again with his fancy stats,

            • paulronty says:

              How many times do you have to tell these guys that these numbers mean Shite, eh Bloomer? People think because they flash some numbers it denotes true objectivity. Then you mention that without significance tests applied, the numbers are meaningless & they don’t know what in hell you are talking about. Here’s an example of a study by a trained statistician:

              http://www.hockeyanalytics.com/Research_files/Regression_Based_Plus_Minus.pdf

              • John B says:

                I’ll be more than happy to show you the adjusted numbers for Zone, Venue and Score.

                Individual scoring doesn’t change, so despite playing WAY less minutes, Clendening is still scoring BETTER than the other three.

                Defensively.
                Clendening SA60 25.01 xGA60 2.34
                Girardi 31.93 / 2.59
                Klein 30.76 3.09
                Staal 30.31 / 2.53

                Possession:
                Clendening CF% 53.16 OCF% 49.47
                Girardi 45.62 / 49.48
                Klein 49.09 / 47.48
                Staal 47.2 / 48.31

        • Ranger 11 says:

          You’re dreaming if you think Clendening could play on the top line. For all the stats fans post here’s one. The Rangers are 11-10 with him in the line up. I agree he shoulda been played to rest Klein n Girardi more which woulda given him more time to see what he has or to even get more comfortable n possibly be better. But if Clendening was that good he wouldn’t be bounced from team to team so easily either.

          • John B says:

            Who said he had to play on the top line? There are four other defense positions out there.

            Secondly, we KNOW Girardi is bad. We KNOW Klein is bad, Klein just doesn’t have a high shooting % to mask his issues anymore. These players don’t need rest. They’re done. Kaput. Girardi finally had a game against Montreal where he looked like an NHL defenseman. First time that’s happened in over two months.

            Its a moving goal post to say that anyone who can look and see that he’s playing better wants him on the first pair. There are other options, and why all of us have said obtaining ONE defensemen is not going to solve the problem. Girardi and Klein will continue to play. We need to add one and remove two.

            Again, he’s NOT the second coming of Brian Leetch or Sergei Zubov. He CAN be that quiet Third pair, spot second pair defenseman, ala Karpostsev, that can drive the bottom pairings. Pitt won last year with ONE solid defensemen and 5 NHL caliber defenseman. We’re going to battle with ONE great defenseman, one rookie, and 4 anchors.

      • John B says:

        Been underway and just got back today.

        Do you have proof that Clendening is “just not good”?

        I can provide ample evidence that he is, in fact, an NHL level defenseman and that the people playing before him, are barely NHL level defenseman.

        • Richter1994 says:

          You have excellent posts John, thank you for the info that you give us here.

      • Richter1994 says:

        Chris, Girardi hasn’t been good for 3 years, doesn’t stop the coach from not only playing him, but playing him on the top pair no less.

        There are many, many in game stats that show clearly that he shouldn’t even be in the league. But yet, he’s playing big minutes here.

        I love being an optimistic Ranger fan but seeing what I see at the games does not result in optimistic possibilities for them in the playoffs.

      • Ike says:

        Maybe its time to bring up the kid from the wolfpack and put a little pressure on the vets and see what shakes out

    • 43 says:

      Zach Hyman.

  6. Chris A says:

    You know who I’d like to see brought back as a rental? Michael Del Zotto.

    He more than fits under the cap for the rest of the year, would likely not cost more than a mid round pick, and he is an upgrade over most of the D already on the Rangers. I’d even go so far as to say under AV and playing with this skilled group of forwards his game would improve.

    The only catch is if Philly believes they are out of it

    • Blueshirts94 says:

      He’s a lefty, while he is what we need IDK about him playing his off side, or AV playing him given his love for Klein/Girardi.

      I’d do Klein for Franson and a 3rd or 4th rounder, simply because Franson is a righty and moving Klein will force AV to play him.

      • Chris A says:

        The L/R thing is a non issue. AV has gotten over that mental crutch. He’s played Holden on the right side virtually all year and Skjei and Clendening have both logged plenty of minutes playing on their off-side.

        Why would Buffalo take that offer? And why would you want Franson on the Rangers? Franson is slooooow, he’d be no better than Staal/Girardi/Klein.

        • Blueshirts94 says:

          Because Franson can move the puck and add offense to the back end unlike any defender we have (outside of Clendening who doesn’t play).

    • 43 says:

      The guy’s nickname throughout the league is Del Zaster. You wanna bring that back?

    • BL94 says:

      As Arte Johnson would say: Interesting, very interesting. But…hmm, maybe not so stupid.

  7. Frank McSweeney says:

    With all we have given up at the trade deadline over the last few years to acquire St.Louis, Yandle and Staal, have any of them succeeded in the season they were acquired? The coach does not seem too good or maybe is uncomfortable at integrating new acquisitions. St. Louis was not too useful until after his mother’s death during the playoffs and Yandle until the next year. Staal was never useful for us. This coach is not going to make significant change in his lineup until he has a year to figure how to use the addition so rentals are a waste. I would hate to see Trouba as a healthy scratch so he can play G and KK.

    • Ryne Muller says:

      Hahahaha!

    • paulronty says:

      I too have mention before how trade deadline acquisitions often don’t play their best until the following year. These guys have to uproot & leave their families behind, come to a new coach, new system, new teamates, which is very, very stressful.

  8. Kris says:

    Contender or pretender, what are they? If Girardi is our first pair defenseman then I go pretender. Can they get a partner for Mac, without touching our 10 forwards probably not. Then comes protecting that player in the expansion draft.

    Price for Shatty is high, but is St louis really able to lose him for nothing? The suggestion of players like Miller/Hayes are the price of the younger controllable RHD like Trouba/Vaatanen/Hamilton. If they plan on moving him and he still there at 2pm this is my offer. Raanta, Clendening and a first for Shatty and Hutton. They get a goaltending boost, a third pair defenseman for Parayko to move up.

    I know the first overall pick, “the future” for a guy that wants to come here anyway. Again make sure fits before signing him and strike while is hot. Right now we are third in the league in wins, first is one more than we have. Will they be in the same spot next year, I dont know. What I do know is solid offense, hank looking back to normal as opposed to earlier. Mac/Shatty Staal/Holden Skjei/Girardi looks alot better than our current 6. AVs trust in Klein will allow Girardi to take a game or two off down the stretch. If Shatty isnt the answer Id rather lose a first and not resign him, then get stuck with another unmovable contract.

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      Raanta, Clendening and a first for Shatty and Hutton?

      That’s like the kind of trade I would make when playing GM mode in NHL 98 as a kid.

      • Kris says:

        A first a goaltending upgrade with a throw 6/7 defenseman for a rental. Shatty with term is a completely different story. Yandle deal included duclair cause he had term and salary was retained. Shatty is a rental.

        • paulronty says:

          Exactly & then maybe gone in the expansion draft.

          • John B says:

            Even if we would “lose” a Shattenkirk in the expansion draft, he’s still a UFA and under no obligation to sign with Vegas. He could then still sign with us on July 1

            I will double check that when I get home

            • paulronty says:

              Really?

              • Kris says:

                You dont resign Shatty until after the draft. Therefor you dont have to protect him and Vegas wont take a guy thats a UFA in 2 weeks.

              • John B says:

                Las Vegas can in fact draft up to 10 UFA’s, however they do NOT count towards their minimum salary unless the player is signed during the expansion draft.

                So yes, Vegas could take any player the Rangers acquire at the trade deadline that is a pending UFA, and unless that player signs with Vegas, they will still be a UFA

    • Richter1994 says:

      I have to agree with your first statement kris, no way they are a contender with Girardi on the first pair. And what’s really scary is that the coach honestly and truly believes that G belongs there.

      Hence my issues with the coach. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the NHL is all about speed, skill, and youth, 3 things that Girardi does not possess. Bless his heart for all he’s done for the Rangers and the fans but it’s enough already.

      • paulronty says:

        Hey Richter, Jaromir Jagr just called me & said that you are making stuff up. He says he can still dangle & will play till he’s fifty.

        • Richter1994 says:

          LOL, how are you Pablo my friend?

          I am hearing NOTHING with regards to the Rangers. I get the feeling that unless other teams would accept the Rangers’ low ball offers then they may not do anything big. I keep hearing that Gorton does not want to trade a top 9 forward.

          Notice how the Rangers’ D are playing lately? Like the Devs used to. Collapsing in their D zone, knowing that they can’t play man to man. They should have been doing this a long time ago. Keeping opponents to the outside even though the opponents have the puck. Maybe that’s how they will play in the playoffs knowing this is the group that they will have.

          P.S. I never wanted Jagr to leave here and the Rangers have been trying to replace him ever since he left.

          • paulronty says:

            Playing man to man was absolute stupidity from AV. With these guys, collapsing zone is absolutely the way to go, and you are right, that is why the D looks better, even Girardi & Klein. I know it’s the same old, but AV just leaves me shaking my head. Maybe Beuke got through to him on the D stategy? Who knows? As for how I am Tony, I’m walking like a ? today because I abused my body at the fitness studio yesterday. As my wife says. I’m in a state of denial, thinking I’m still 20 LOL!

            • Richter1994 says:

              I’m with you bro. This is why I have a hard time calling AV a great coach. I mean the obvious changes that need to be made either never happen or they take forever to be put in place. What is he seeing that we are not?

      • Kris says:

        Richter,

        Whos going there Klein or Clendenning they get lost on the third pair. If Skjei goes there third line becomes Girardi Klein, thats scary. Cant blame the coach for not having the horses. Theyve won 2/3 of their games with Girardi on the first pair. Thats why Id offer real rental price for Shatty, as what I originally posted.

        • Richter1994 says:

          Hey kris, it can be ANYONE on the top pair. I’ve wanted Skjei there with McD for a long time. Skjei played right side in Hartford with this possibility in mind. My pairs?

          McD-Skjei
          Holden-Clendening
          Staal-G/KK

          • paulronty says:

            If you want Skjei on the first pair, then leave him on the left & put McDonagh on the right. He’s the best guy to change sides & he did it well before, I believe.

  9. Walt says:

    If I’m Gorton I stand pat, unless I can unload any of the three bad ones!!!!

    This off season, if we can possibly unload any of the three we have issues with, and see how we can incorporate Graves on the left, in place of Staal. If Shatty isn’t going to cost a fortune, I’d sign him, and buy out Girardi. Try to trade Klein for picks, and see about a trade after the expansion draft for another right D.

    I don’t think a single player will turn this team around, so why give away assets for nothing!!!!!!!! Go with what got you here……….

    • BL94 says:

      I’m with you Walt. I recall folks saying a while back “beware the Ides of JAN”. Well it is now FEB and the anticipated collapse, by some, has not happened. It is time to back this squad for a run.

  10. Richter1994 says:

    Franson for a 2nd round pick.

    Ranger fans rejoice.

    Girardi still plays top pair.

    Franson plays 3rd pair.

    Nothing accomplished other than giving up a 2nd round pick.

    If Jeff can’t get the “big fish” for a reasonable trade cost then don’t bother and address it in the offseason.

  11. joe K says:

    Sorry Kevin I do not agree with you at all. Gorton is under no pressure from anybody. We have an expansion coming up, some real good defensemen are free agents this summer, so I am not losing or overpaying for anybody.

  12. craig says:

    Paul Ladue is a decent young right side defenseman with offensive potential. Have a feeling the Kings may consider dealing him. Rangers have been scouting the Kings a lot lately. They need scoring. Stepan for Ladue and a second round pick.

  13. Douglas Peters says:

    Do nothing this trade deadline unless a jaw dropper!

    One RD is not going propel NYR deep into playoffs this year.

  14. Chris F says:

    *yawn*

    Another predictably morose evaluation of a team that’s surpassed all expectations.

    And, as for Gorton not doing enough to bolster the defense, I feel like a broken record, but the expansion draft makes this a unique situation. His hands are somewhat tied in that his 3 protected defensemen are already set in stone, one (McDonagh) by choice, the other two (Staal and Girardi) by contract NMCs.

    Unless either has agreed to waive the NMC for the draft, the only way to truly bolster the D is to offload either in a trade, a proposition with few suitors I’m sure, and again, one that requires waiving the NMC.

    Not much Gorton can do here unilaterally.

    • Ranger 11 says:

      I agree. What gets me about all the AV haters is we all agree the D is in some real bad shape and they’re all complaining about Girardi, Staal and this year Klein too. But if they’re so bad and the coach is so bad then how are the Rangers only one win in regulation behind the top team? We’ve had all this success with such a bad d but the coach can’t possibly get any credit. The other thing I wonder about is if Girardi shouldn’t be on the top line then who should? I’m not saying he is still a top line D man either. I’m just wondering what does everyone think the pairings should be with this group of lousy to mediocre D men.

      • Walt says:

        Ranger

        So based on your post, you must think that the three d-men in question are good, because we’re doing well in the standings, and that we shouldn’t make any moves to replace them given a chance to do so.

        There are plenty who disagree with your assessment, and would do anything to change the line up as far as the defense is concerned. That’s what makes this site so much fun to read, and write on. I’m in the camp that disagrees with your assesment big time !!!!!!

      • John B says:

        Richter has answered that above.

        McDonagh/Holden could work, though Skjei would be ideal
        Skjei/Clendening, played well together but Clendening might need time to get to 2nd pairing level and is not ideal
        Or
        McDonagh/Skjei
        Holden/Clendening

        Staal/rotate Klein and Girardi far from ideal but we have to have a third pair

        Acquire a solid 2nd pairing defenseman and bump Clendening back down to 3rd pair offers us a far better chance than

        • Walt says:

          John

          Based on his post, he makes it sound that we shouldn’t have any complaints due to our standings, I disagree, that is the point……

  15. Bloomer says:

    The reason Av doesn’t play Clendening is the same reason why a lot of Nhl coaches didn’t play him. He forces low percentage passes and turns the puck over too often. The game is the teacher and over time his puck management could improve. But his coach is running out of patience and obviously not influence by his complementary fancy stats.

    • Walt says:

      And the fact that Girardi is so skilled at puck handling, especially under pressure. NOT!!!!!!!!

    • John B says:

      Wanna take a gander at who leads Rangers defenseman in turnovers? Answer might shock you.

      • Walt says:

        Who???????

        • John B says:

          Ryan McDonagh.

          Brett Burns leads the entire NHL in giveaways with 117. That’s just per NHL stat keeping.

          If you drive offense you’re going to turn the puck over. Leetch did it. Zubov did it. Coffey did it. Lidstorm did it. EVERY defenseman does it.

          It’s completely 100% hypocritical to hold Clendening to a “he’s turned it over a few times” standard and blatantly ignore the turnover and unforced icing machines that are Girardi, Staal and Klein.

          • paulronty says:

            But last year when DMACs numbers were good, bloggers would demean it by stating “ya, but he’s playing sheltrered minutes.” Wouldn’t that same rationale apply to Clendening?

            • John B says:

              Again, as even Dave here pointed out in his article on the topic.

              Usage wise, zone starts etc make a Clendening/Klein comparison equal. As their usage has been comparable.

              I’m not introducing Mcllarth into this. I’m not going backwards. Adam Clendening has played as well, if not better than people he’s sitting for.

  16. George Spafford says:

    Anyone think they could make a surprise deadline deal for Alex edler? He’s a left handed shot with a manageable contract. Seems like an upgrade in many ways

  17. John B says:

    I’ll probably get destroyed for this, but the idea not to resign Yandle was in no way puzzling. His stats points are more than sufficiently being replaced by Holden + Skjei. And “he’s having a poor year…so we’re giving Gorton a pass” is crazy. His “down year” with the Panthers (3g, 28a thru 59 games) is only on pace to be 1g and 3a worse than his season last year with the Rangers.
    And granted the offense is more skilled this year, but our PP % has improved since Yandle left.

    • Richter1994 says:

      John, I think it simply came down to not paying an over 30 year old for a 6-7 year contract was not happening under a Gorton regime.

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