The Rangers have a deployment problem

ryan mcdonagh

The Rangers have had a myriad of problems to start the season. Jeff Gorton put together a flawed roster that was weak up front. Alain Vigneault isn’t doing anything to minimize those issues. The players have been inconsistent and not scoring. They’ve been a rare combination of bad and unlucky.

There is more to the issue though. As AV continues to tinker with his lineup choices, his in-game deployment strategy suffers mightily. For better or for worse, AV relies on one defense pairing to shoulder the load of defensive zone starts, giving his offensive guys more opportunities to put points on the board. This year, though, he hasn’t identified who his shutdown pair is and who is offensive pair is, and that’s a problem.

In the past, it’s been Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi who served as the shutdown pair. That left guys like Brady Skjei open to more offensive zone starts to put up numbers. Personnel aside for the moment, the strategy worked for AV. However this year, with his go-to guy now in Tampa, AV has struggled to find his shutdown pair, and it’s to the detriment of everyone involved.

G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6
McDonagh 42.86% 46.67% 22.22% 80.00% 30.77% 85.71%
Shattenkirk 75.00% 66.67% 40.00% 78.57% 38.46% 75.00%
Smith 33.33% 71.43% N/A N/A 46.15% 100.00%
Skjei 44.44% 61.11% 45.45% 71.43% 54.55% 100.00%
Staal 66.67% 50.00% 22.22% 28.57% 23.08% 50.00%
Holden N/A N/A 37.50% 40.00% 30.77% 33.33%
Kampfer N/A N/A 28.57% 63.64% N/A N/A
DeAngelo 90.00% 100.00% 100.00% N/A N/A 83.33%

Here is the offensive zone start deployment for all six games for the defense so far. There is no rhyme or reason to it right now. The only players with consistent are Tony DeAngelo, who is getting mostly offensive zone starts (good deployment for his skill set), and Nick Holden, who is getting mostly defensive zone starts (uh, sure).

The main gripe I have right now is with Kevin Shattenkirk’s deployment. Two games of 40% OZ deployment or under out of six (one-third of his games) is borderline inexcusable. Sure, Shatty hasn’t done much at even strength to merit more offensive zone starts, but given that skill set and his vision, you kind of have to give him the zone starts and assume he figures it out.

And then there’s Brendan Smith, who for some reason got 100% OZ starts against the Devils this weekend. Smith is a good puck mover, but he’s no offensive juggernaut. He’s good in his own zone and good at transitioning to offense. Maybe it’s because he was paired with Brady Skjei, who should be getting some offensive zone starts? It’s not like Skjei is a slouch in the DZ, but he has an offensive touch.

Perhaps the worst is the deployment of Ryan McDonagh. If he’s the shutdown guy, then use him as the shutdown guy. A pair of games with over 80% OZ starts is just weird.

The deployment issue impacts the game. Guys like Shatty and DeAngelo should really be getting those huge OZ starts. They have the skill set to put pucks in the net, why not leverage that? It’s why they were acquired in the first place.

As for the rest of the guys, I’m not going to nitpick too much on usage from a game to game standpoint, however show some consistency. It’s almost impossible to build chemistry with someone when your partner changes regularly and your usage changes even more frequently. Comfort is key, and the Rangers don’t have that right now.

"The Rangers have a deployment problem", 5 out of 5 based on 6 ratings.

35 thoughts on “The Rangers have a deployment problem

  • Oct 16, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    So, Dave, instead of per cents, can you say how many of these deployments actually occurred? How many followed a pattern where the OZ or DZ stoppage was that group needing a change?

    I think these start stats are absolutely worthless without context as to who proceeded the changed pair onto the ice and how many actually occurred.

    And, most of the changes occur on the fly in a game anyhow, and follow a usage pattern.

    • Oct 16, 2017 at 12:54 pm

      also, Dave, based on your analysis, how would you pair your top six D’s to maximize proper O/D zone deployment? Would you be sure to use right/left shot parings?

    • Oct 16, 2017 at 5:11 pm

      Al, they are called Zone Starts … so the deployment chart only indicates where a player starts at the drop of the puck. i.e.: You hop on the ice during a line change, the deployment chart doesn’t move.

      I hope that helps!

      • Oct 16, 2017 at 6:35 pm

        I totally understand what a Zone start is. I would like to know numbers instead of percents because I think we are talking about a handful of starts.

        And the circumstances of the start. What happened before a ZS?

        All in all ZS are pretty worthless over the life of a game.

  • Oct 16, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    better this starts now than later but the rangers need wins tomorrow night the pens and then the isles on Thursday and Nashville Saturday afternoon will they wake up and respond

  • Oct 16, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    So what you’re saying is that Mcdonagh and Shatty have skill sets that are best served if they aren’t paired together………

    • Oct 16, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      My hope was that they could/would be paired together too Spozo. Teams today are always looking for turnovers at their defensive blue line so why can’t Shatty be paired with Mac as the shutdown pair? Shatty has the vision to move the puck up ice and Mac can fly the zone with his skating ability.
      I think just as much offense can be created by your shutdown guys. I wanted to see at least one solid pair.

  • Oct 16, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    You cant play McD and Shatty together and get Shatty with high OZ Starts bc that means McD will not be out there in the D-Zone…SCIENCE

    • Oct 16, 2017 at 1:41 pm

      I’ve been ringing that bell since August. No one really has a good response to it.

      • Oct 16, 2017 at 2:25 pm

        And yet just about everybody has been SCREAMING….play Shatty and McD together…they will have tremendous chemistry and McD will finally be liberated from that “anchor” known as Girardi.

        Well, as I said when Shatty was signed, he’s a real good player and it was a good move. BUT, we have NO idea if those two will have any chemistry, so let’s pump the breaks on that. AND, Shatty to the best of my knowledge as NEVER been a top pair defenseman. But of course, we make these wild leaps anyway and then kill AV when the inevitable happens and it doesn’t work out.

        • Oct 16, 2017 at 2:33 pm

          Shatty is just another Yandle/Redden which we dropped way to much money on …. ok the market dictated the salary but let some other team drop the cash on him

          • Oct 16, 2017 at 2:39 pm

            Not really good comparisons. It is fair to argue that all were overrated, but there the similarity ends. Yandle and Shattenkirk are top offensive players. From an offensive perspective, Redden was just a delusion. OTOH, Redden wasn’t too bad in his own end.

            Also, Yandle never got a big Ranger contract.

          • Oct 16, 2017 at 3:50 pm

            You do know that Shatty left a lot of money & years on the table to come here just like I thought he would since the trade deadline when he still had a year on his contract.
            The guy is a NYer at heart and wants to be here. Give me 23 of those guys on my roster any day.
            Even when Shatty played in STL, his Twitter account read “NY proud” or something to that effect. That is a guy I want on my team. A guy that wants to be a Ranger and a guy that wants to be in NY.

            • Oct 16, 2017 at 4:33 pm

              lotta good that’s doing us … yay

              • Oct 16, 2017 at 4:35 pm

                It’s 6 games into the season. Do you really think this is a 1-5 team? They have start slow before and picked it up in the long run. Six games does not a season make.

              • Oct 16, 2017 at 7:31 pm


                Last season when others were ready to give away the shop for Shatty, I may have been the lone voice saying that he was a defensive liability, and everyone poo pooed my post. Who’s right, just asking…………

              • Oct 16, 2017 at 7:33 pm


                I believe in our history we never started a season with a 1-6 record, one game shy from that record. Shatty’s heart is in the right place, but I stated before on many occasions that he was a defensive liability, and that’s what wins games my friend!!!!!!!!!

            • Oct 16, 2017 at 6:02 pm

              he wasn’t much in st louis and certainly didn’t help wash … so you think he’s gonna magically change his game cause he left yrs and $$$ on the table ?

              • Oct 16, 2017 at 8:15 pm

                He wasn’t much is St. Louis???? One of the best offensive defensemen in the league. Admittedly, he struggled in DC but that’s not unusual when you join a team late in the season. I think you are being a little harsh here. It’s 5 games. He’s already made our PP better. He has to get used to the Rangers and the Rangers have to get used to him. New team, new teammates, new system.

        • Oct 16, 2017 at 7:28 pm


          Last season when others were ready to give away the shop for Shatty, I may have been the lone voice saying that he was a defensive liability, and everyone poo pooed my post. Who’s right, just asking…………

          • Oct 16, 2017 at 7:38 pm

            sorry for the double post

          • Oct 16, 2017 at 7:40 pm

            sorry for the double post…….

          • Oct 16, 2017 at 7:49 pm


            No doubt, I certainly recall you expressing your concern about Shatty. I think though, in fairness, we can’t accurately judge after 5 games if this was a good move or not. I feel that, for the term and dollars they gave him, it certainly made sense. He has, so far anyway, instantly made our PP more dangerous. Indeed, that may be the only thing offensively that’s working for us. Without that we might be 0-5 and completely neutered offensively.

            The Rangers as a team have been better defensively in recent games. Still not good enough, but that’s not really the big issue right now. It’s the 5 x 5 offensive play of our forwards, which has been horrendous, that’s been the biggest issue. Can’t really pin that on Shatty.

            You will also recall that I said that anyone who thinks it will be simply “addition by subtraction” and we will be a better team by dumping Stepan is seriously underestimating what he brought to the table. We have no one to matchup vs the opponents best centers. Our lines are out of whack and our center depth is awful. Our PK has gotten even worse than it was last year. If Stepan was on the team, I suspect we’d be a game or two better at the moment.

            Not saying we shouldn’t have moved on from him because of the NMC, I get that. But right now, IMO, we REALLY miss your boy Stepan because Gorton failed to address that HUGE hole down the middle. That’s the biggest issue on the team IMO, and no coaching change fixes that glaring problem.

            Do you think perhaps you might have been a little harsh on your critique of “Daisy”? 🙂

            • Oct 16, 2017 at 8:21 pm

              I don’t blame all the faults on Shatty at all, I was pointing out that there are no magic pills that can correct what ails this team. AV should give the players a few games to see if they jell, that is, was, and always be my biggest gripe about the man.

              As for Daisy, the feelings haven’t changed at all. The guy is too expensive, soft, slow, couldn’t skate, and will fall flat on his face this year. Good riddance. I can wait for the two kids we drafted to be playing soon enough, while Daisy will still be skating with his trainer skates for the desert dogs.
              That deal I’d make a thousand times over………

              • Oct 16, 2017 at 8:29 pm

                I would too, but my point is that with no corresponding move to compensate, we are a far weaker team now without him—and that’s on Gorton, not AV.

    • Oct 16, 2017 at 3:45 pm

      I agree. That’s why I think Mac & Shatty should be the shutdown pair and both get the bulk of the Dzone starts. Both get PP mins so the Ozone starts come from 5 on 4 time.
      A lot of the offense is generated from the Dzone so why not let Shatty use his skills as a puck mover and allow Mac a little room to use his skating ability to join the rush? He’s a great skater but he’s only used for defensive purposes.

      • Oct 16, 2017 at 5:09 pm

        Could you imagine the outrage that would cause???
        “That moron is turning one of the best offensive defenseman in the game in to a shutdown defender?”

        “What?!?? Shatty has 4 less points this season than his career average? That’s a shocker considering that moron isn’t letting the guy play to his strengths!!!!”

  • Oct 16, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    “The main gripe I have right now is with Kevin Shattenkirk’s deployment. Two games of 40% OZ deployment or under out of six (one-third of his games) is borderline inexcusable.”

    And in both of these games he had the 3rd highest OZ deployment in the game. Perhaps his numbers are so low because the Rangers were starting too many shifts in their defensive zone these games?

  • Oct 16, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    A crucial fact not mentioned is that the team as a whole has a widely varied percentage of offensive zone starts. Contrast games 3 and 6. In G 3, you may as well ignore DeAngelo – he played 3-4 minutes IIRC and some of that was at wing. Then Skjei at 45% tops the list and Shatty is second at 40%. In G 6, by contrast, only Holden was under 50%. So it is only a tiny exaggeration to say that everyone had more OZ starts in Game 6 than anyone in Game 3.

    In G 5, Shatty was third in OZ starts. Oddly, only in G 6 was Shatty not in the top three in OZ deployment and he got 75% there.

    In the case of McDonagh, well he was a shutdown guy in four of the first five games and the game 6 numbers are so squirrelly, they reveal little about deployment (pretty much all OZ starts).

  • Oct 16, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    I would once again bring attention to Kreider (AKA The Head Case) We need to trade him while he still has value. I have been saying this for over 2 years. He can be outstanding and then disappear for many games. I’m am so tired of his inconsistent play and hearing about his great potential. In my opinion there is nothing worse then a player who has all the talent in the world but can’t put it together.

    PLEASE Jeff Gorton trade him while he has the value. I’m sure we can get a decent center for him.

    • Oct 16, 2017 at 5:12 pm

      Agreed about enough already with CK.

      But what about a player who has no talent and can’t put it together? 🙂

  • Oct 16, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    Excellent analysis and accurate conclusions drawn from it.

    Yet despite all the mention of D pairings and usage, none whatsoever of the actual D coach.

    • Oct 16, 2017 at 7:36 pm

      who was hand selected by AV if I recall correctly??????

      • Oct 16, 2017 at 7:52 pm

        That’s true…hard to argue with that. Ruff was Arniel’s recommendation and AV green lighted it. But again, defense has been ok other than the Toronto debacle. No great but ok. The issue is the offense or lack thereof much more so than the defense.

        • Oct 17, 2017 at 6:53 am


          Then why the musical chairs with the defensive pairing.
          First Shatty, then Staal, Holdeon, Tony D, why not bring back Beuk as our top pair right d-man!!!!!!

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