Apr
05

Zibanejad and Buchnevich show future value despite semi-lost season

April 5, 2017, by

Mika Zibanejad has just four fewer points than Derick Brassard despite missing 25 games with a broken fibula

For Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich, the 2016-2017 season did not go according to plan.

Zibanejad missed 25 games with a broken fibula suffered on November 20th and Buchnevich was removed from the lineup to undergo a midseason strengthening plan devised by the Rangers coaching staff.

But despite their lengthy absences, both players exhibited early signs of what they can bring to the table. Zibanejad was New York’s most dominant forward in the preseason other than Chris Kreider and quickly demonstrated the creativity and two-way play that attracted the Rangers to him this summer.

Buchnevich took a bit longer to flash as he adapted to the North American game, but he racked up goals in four straight games before going on the shelf.

Since their returns in January, Zibanejad and Buchnevich have had mixed results. Zibanejad has assimilated back into the lineup more easily and has really been coming on of late, but he’s disappeared for long stretches. Meanwhile, Buchnevich has been in and out of the lineup – at times benched in favor of Tanner Glass and Matt Puempel.

And yet, despite what’s been something of a lost year for both, Zibanejad and Buchnevich have cemented their status as Blueshirts building blocks.

The acquisition of Zibanejad and a second-round pick for Derick Brassard looks like more of a coup with each passing week. Even despite the missed time, Zibanejad has just four fewer points than Brassard.

Being five-and-a-half years Brassard’s junior is the icing on the cake. Now the challenge for the Rangers is to ink Zibanejad to a long-term contract as a restricted free agent this summer when his value isn’t quite as high as expected – and reap the rewards later.

For Buchnevich, the learning curve is clearly going to be steeper. Judging by the paths of similar young projects in the past like Kreider, J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes, it might not even be next season that Buchnevich really breaks out.

But his supreme skill and playmaking ability has been awe-inspiring even with so much development still to come. A top-six role in the future seems assured, with the potential for much more.

Along with Kreider, Hayes and Miller, these two will be the foundation for the future in New York. With Rick Nash set to be a free agent after next season, expansion looming in June and the potential to shed Derek Stepan’s salary, these five players will carry the torch forward in the immediate future.

So though neither player had the season that the Rangers hoped for, they’ve still been bright spots in the big picture.

"Zibanejad and Buchnevich show future value despite semi-lost season", 4 out of 5 based on 20 ratings.

30 comments

  1. Pas44 says:

    The way Hayes and Miller improved is a solid tell towards this duo’s future, totally agree.

    Zibanejad also brings those face offs skills we’ve needed in past years, nice to win some important FO’s too….

    LGR!!!!!

  2. SalMerc says:

    While their future is bright, the present is what concerns me. Not so much with Buch, but with Zinbad. After a strong start, he never bounced back after that injury. Does it nag at him or is it playing mind games? In a year or two it might be old news but as the playoffs start, I hope I don’t miss Brassard too much.

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      Breaking a leg early in the season will really set you back. Most players come to camp near peak physical form after summer workouts, develop game legs in the first 20 games or so and take it from there. If you break you leg right around that point, lose all of your strength and conditioning and then come back mid season- don’t expect to not lose a beat.

      It’s unfair to expect someone to make up lost ground in season. While you can make up the conditioning fairly quickly, strength training in-season is a whole different story. Doing squats/ deadlifts / weighted lunges a day or two before gameday = trouble. I think we have to give him the benefit of the doubt. Given what he showed us early on, in conjunction with his frame and skill, I still think he is one of our main building blocks. If I pick one center on this team to build around- he’s our guy.

      • SalMerc says:

        We tend to always give players the “benefit of the doubt”. Well it is playoff time, and while they are humans, the puck drops next week and the second season waits for no man. Next year is months away, and both Buch and Zinbad will be great next year, but my focus is April. Can both these fine men provide some much needed fire power next week? There were plenty of off days for both to do some conditioning to ready themselves for next week. Zinbad himself says he has only 1 or 2 moves for penalty shots. How about we stay late after practice and hang with Zucc to learn another move?

        All I am saying is while the future is bright, my sights are on Montreal and we need 12 forwards to contribute.

  3. Walt says:

    Z has shown before he came to us, that he could play the game very well. I believe that come next year, he will have a nice rebound season, and will prove that the trade was a very good one for the Rangers long term. Because of his injury, and Z not having a great season, it may be a blessing for the team. His contract demands should be manageable, and this allows the team to spend the money in other areas, defense, where the need is so much greater………..

    Now to Buch, the kid has an enormous amount of potential, but needs to still develop his game, to a more physical style, aka North American game. His biggest problem, as stated by me on a number of occasions, is he needs to add muscle mass on his twiggy frame. He is a kid, and will mature with age, so that shouldn’t be an issue. He has to get into some sort of strength program, maybe work out with Kreider, and put some weight on his body. The kid may need a few years, but I’ll be willing to wait for the time necessary, I believe he is a keeper!!!!

  4. Bobby B says:

    Z and Bush, nice to have 2 future potential NHL stars on your team. Gorton has an excellent plan, he knows what he is doing. The following players need to be relocated next year, Girardi, Stephan, Nash, Klein. We need to get more players who have an edge to their game and who will keep the opposition honest, Matthew Tkachuk, Josh Mason, Evander Kane, and a D nan who hits with bad intentions, Gudas/Dion Panuff?

    • Walt says:

      Bobby

      Do we need another slow defenseman like Dion? Do we need a cancer like Kane? The rest is OK for the most part, even Gudas, who I think is a dirty, cheap shot artist, but when he wears the Ranger blue, one can overlook his faults!!!!!!!! Your point is valid, we need an edge, with skill, enough being shoved around like we do!!!!!!!!! Time will tell though…………..

      • Bobby B says:

        Walt, your valued opinions go a long way with me, perhaps its just that I am still haunted by the history of the Rangers having great teams but ALWAYS getting pushed around. The 74 team was a CUP worthy team, they got mugged and beat up by the Bully Flyers. This current team reminds me of the 74 team, finesse players, talented group who can skate stride for stride with anyone, they can put the puck in the net, they have a Franchise Goalie. They are also the SOFTEST, play nice, team in the NHL, which I feel will be their down fall in this playoff run. Yes Dion is slow/dirty, but he forces the opposition to keep their chins up, thus taking them off their game. Evander Kane can be on my team any day , a 30 goal scorer for 2 different teams , who commands respect ( no one wants to fight him, he was named after the boxer Evander Holyfield) thus making the entire team play bigger/badder/no fear.. He reminds me of Kreider on steroids.. Gorton has put the pieces in play, a little tinkering here and there and look out!!!!

        • jeff says:

          Agree with you and Walt. Still, AV is putting players out, not you, me and a bunch of others who contribute here. I’ve got to remember whoever the team gets needs to satisfy AV or he won’t be played or more accurately…played where and how he should be played.It gets hard to see other teams playing the game and realize that dump the puck, crash the D and mess with the goalie is a successful formula against the NYR. Sigh!

        • Walt says:

          I agree to a certain extent. We are the softest team, or at least one of the softest team in the NHL. Having said that, Dion is so overrated, and Kane will be too much of a disruption, that we could lose the chemistry in the locker room. If push turns to shove, and we get a Kane, well he has to conform to our team standards, and not pull the BS he did with the Jets!!!!!!!!!

    • Pas44 says:

      I’d take Gudas but pass on the aging Dion, we dont need another player to come to the Big Apple to die….

      LGR!!!

    • Rich S says:

      I blame the 74 loss on emile francis…..we got pushed around by the bruins for years and he responded by trading his young physical players [ steve durbano. battleship kelly, moose dupont etc ] …..flyers simply beat rangers up!!!!…..Sound familiar????????
      As far as Panuff…I would take him but his salary is maybe too high unless girardi, stall , klein and stepan are gone……boy he can hit!!!!!ask michael sauer…….
      Matthew Tkachuk, Josh Mason, ….Yes …but will cost a lot……
      Still think a player, leader, physical center like Dubinsky is exactly what we need……

      • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

        The Rangers lost to the Bruins in the 1970 and 1972 Finals because they had Bobby Orr and we didnt. And in ’72, we had an injured Jean Ratelle which hampered us further.

        The Rangers lost to the Flyers in 1974, yet they beat the Flyers in all three games at MSG. If the Flyers “beat the Rangers up”, then how do you explain a seven game series? We lost that series because despite the fact that the Flyers CONSTANTLY were in the penalty box in that series, the Rangers were pitiful on the PP and Parent stood on his head.

        And then of course, all those who are still obsessed about how the physicality was the deciding factor conveniently forget that the Big Bad Bruins you just talked about did even worse against Philly in the ’74 SCF (losing in 6) than the supposedly lightweight Rangers did in the Semi-Finals (losing in 7).

        But of course, we will always double down on the false narrative that we’ve been pushed around for 40+ years, and that is the primary reason we’ve only won one Cup–when in reality it was (and remains) about the fact that the teams that beat us were simply more talented than we were. Plain and simple.

        • Bobby B says:

          Eddie, we agree to disagree. If Nick Fotiu was on either the 72 or the 74 Ranger teams, we win the Cup.

          • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

            Sorry my friend. ZERO chance of that. Loved Nicky but you are totally overrating his value. He barely played in the 1979 post season and we went to the Cup Finals.

            • Rich S says:

              Fotiu was a major reason [ along with hospodar ] that we started beating the flyers…..
              Team rallied when fotiu beat up holmgren then wilson……started to hit back and it really changed the games….
              Hockey teams need a physical player or two or three , just the nature of the game…..
              Look at what Bob probert meant to the red wings ,
              schultz to the flyers, nystrom and howatt to the islanders……..

              • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

                I’m not denying that Fotiu and Hospodar brought a physical edge to those Rangers teams of the early 80s. I was covering the team then and saw it first hand. So I agree, they brought value, especially since those were the “Smurf” years and that was the way the game was played then.

                But the fact is, when the Rangers were good enough to make a run in 1979, Shero of all people concluded that they were better off making a deep run with only a minimal contribution Nicky. And he was right.

                In 1980, we LOST to the Flyers with Hospodar in the lineup (Nicky had been claimed by the Whalers so wasn’t on the team for a few seasons). In fact, Hospodar was never on a Rangers team that beat the Flyers in the playoffs.

                Nicky returned in ’81, and together with Box Car, helped the Rangers beat the Kings and Blues, before being blown out of the post season by the Islanders because simply put, the Isles were BETTER than we were, not tougher than we were.

                In ’82, Hospodar didnt play (I think he was hurt), but no doubt Nicky played a huge role in helping the Rangers beat the Flyers. But the Flyers were not a very good team that year. In ’83, Hospodar was gone, and yes Nicky was again an important contributor in a big upset of a very good Flyers team. But again, out vs the more highly skilled Islanders.

                So not denying their impact, but I also think at times it is overstated.

              • Stevesse says:

                Who are the two or three physical players on the Blackhawks or Penguins? 4 cups this decade.

          • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

            Fotiu played in four games in the 1979 playoffs. Four out of eighteen. He was bumped out the lineup when the Rangers added the more skilled Bobby Sheehan to the lineup. Shhehan was a key cog in the post season and was part of the reason why the Rangers went to the SCF that year.

            Fotiu was an entertaining player and a fan favorite. he was one of the few reasons to watch during the dismal and short lived Ferguson Era. But come playoff time, Shero, who obviously understood the value of toughness better than any coach ever, opted to go with Sheehan over Nicky. What does that tell you?

            It reinforces that even back then, skill, especially veteran skill, trumps size all day every day in the SC Playoffs.

        • Rich S says:

          EEE,
          Do you remember when Clarke elbowed Tchuck to the head basically making him worthless for the game and rest of the series…..?????
          Major tilting of the scales between teams who were close in talent but far away in physicality…….
          That hit changed the outcome of the series…..IMHO
          Bottom line…….Rangers lost because they were afraid of the flyers……
          Bruins were just better than us……espo and orr were better than ratelle and park…..

          • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

            I don’t remember that specific hit. What game was that?

            Again, if the Rangers were SO intimidated, then how is it that they won every game at MSG, and dominated them in Game 6 when the Rangers backs were against the wall?

            The famous fight between Rolfe and Schultz happpened midway through the first period. If the Rangers were cowering in their skates after that, then how is it possible that they responded less than two minutes later by scoring the game’s first goal (the primary assist going to the supposedly “worthless” Tkaczuk, btw!).

            What turned the game around was not the fight. It was a poorly timed penalty by Tkaczuk that resulted in a PP goal which tied the game, and swung the momentum to Philly late in the first period and into the second.

            The “cowering” Rangers responded with a big goal early in the third…again, the primary assist going to that worthless Tkaczuk guy again. Assisted on two of the three Rangers goals that day. Other than the penalty, not a bad game for someone who was supposedly a non-factor. 🙂

            The Flyers played a rough and tumble game, and they were a handful, no doubt. But they also gave the Rangers SIX PP chances that game. Rangers were 0 for 6 on the PP and 2 for 47 in the series! They score just a few more goals on the PP and they win that series. THAT was the reason they lost.

            The fight was the convenient excuse for the fans and has taken on mythical status to this day that goes far beyond the reality of what actually occurred.

            Again, not saying the fight or the Flyers physicality was a non factor. But I do think it’s been dramatically overblown.

            • Rich S says:

              Agree the ‘fight’ was no big deal although it looked really bad for rolfe…..schultz and the gutless referees should have been the ones who were embarrassed……
              I dont remember the exact game tchuck was elbowed but it was at the garden and it was not penalized, of course, and it was reported tchuck was in la la land the rest of the game and playoffs…..definitely concussion…..went unnoticed…..

              • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

                Could be. In looking at the box score, Tkaczuk had five assists in that series. Two assists in Game 3, then the primary assist on Gilbert’s game winner in OT in Game 4, then the two assists in Game 7. Was he compromised in Games 5 and 6? I have no idea. But he obviously was productive in Game 7.

                Thoroughly enjoy debating the old days with you and Bobby!

            • Bobby B says:

              WOW, MEMORY LANE!! EDDIE/RICH S, I do remember the Emile the Cat Francis sending Ron Harris over the boards to line up against Schultz in game 6 of the 74 series after Schultz tried to rough up Rod Gilbert, Schultz hid behind Moose Dupont to avoid Harris. He got his revenge against Dale Rolfe in game 7. Eddie, lets fast forward to 1976, The Flyers had won back to back Stanley cups with their Bully approach, their opponent in the finals that year were the skilled and polished Montreal Canadians. Game 1 in Montreal had Bobby Clarke swinging his stick at a Montreal D-man I think his name was Bouchard? as the 1st period ended, the benches emptied and Schultz was trying to influence his mark on the series by being his usually Bully Self. Unfortunately for him his dance partner was a young D-man by the name of Larry Robinson, who destroyed him, gave him a beating. Robinson then pointed his finger at Moose Dupont and said you are next, THE FLYERS dominance of playing bully hockey ended right there and then. The Canadians won the CUP, SWEPT THEM IN 4 STRAIGHT GAMES. Please tell me how you can not point to Larry Robinson standing up to the bully’s did not set the tone for the rest of the series???. If the Rangers had a player in 72 or 74 who would have let the Bruins or Flyers know they would not be intimidated, the Cup would have been ours!!!

  5. Andy says:

    Agree with all your points. Buch reminds me of where JT was in 2013-14 season. No question in my mind Zibanejad is going to be a top tier player. I also believe Buch will be too, but Z is further along the path. These guys are solutions for the future.

    • Pas44 says:

      I am hoping that Buch may be further along then we think next year. I am banking on him also having to deal with an entire new league, new type of play, new team, new city, country, all of it…

      I am hopeful he had a few things keeping him further back in ways that will be remedied more fully for his next full season, thus pushing him along more…

      LGR!!!

  6. Rich S says:

    Kris Letang neck surgery out 4 -6 months……Couldn’t happen to a nicer cheap shot artist…..pens now beatable …..

    • Pas44 says:

      not to mention a real petty look cheap frenchman!

      I hope that Columbus cancels their ticket.

      And of course because I am one of this Rangers fans, cancels Washington’s while we beat the Habs then the Leafs, then the BJ’s on our way to downing the winner of the west and lifting the cup…

      Zzzzzzz Zzzzzzz

      oh man, I must have slept typed all that too…..

      • SalMerc says:

        They still have Crosby and we still have to beat Carey Price. How about we play our best hockey of the season in April, May and June and let the chips fall where they may.