A Plea for Stability

Please pair this man with Shattenkirk!

The New York Rangers are officially in an early-season crisis, with just three points earned from their first seven games.  While many are pointing to a similar start in 2013-2014 as reason to keep calm, there’s enough statistical precedent to be concerned.

When a team finds itself in a downward spiral like this, there is never just one singular problem, but a combination of factors.  In addition to the intangibles (lack of confidence, bad luck) the Rangers have not managed their personnel well to this point.  There are curious lineup choices across the board, exacerbated by the nightly shuffling of players in and out of, and up and down the lineup.

This is common practice among most NHL coaches, especially early in the year.  During his time with the Rangers, Alain Vigneault has preferred to use the first six weeks of a season to experiment before settling (for the most part) on his top three lines and defense pairs around Christmas.  This season however, the Rangers are not handling the coach’s experimentation well and its led to a slow start that has already put their playoff chances in jeopardy.

While I don’t expect Vigneault (or any coach) to handle a professional hockey team like a kid playing a video game, the bench boss would be wise to at least commit to the following:

Regarding the forwards: keep the KZB line together, forever.  It was the only line that was consistently good through the first six games of the season, and has now displayed real, meaningful chemistry over the course of multiple seasons.  Secondly, give Kevin Hayes a fighting chance to be a true #2 center between the team’s two best all-around forwards.  Stop trying to use Rick Nash as a super-utility third line player and please stop elevating David Desharnais to a top six role.

Regarding the defense: treat Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Shattenkirk like the elite defensemen they are.  Yes, the Rangers have some deficiencies on defense (what else is new?), but moving Shattenkirk down to the third pair to try and cover up for Marc Staal is extremely wasteful of Shattenkirk’s ability.  McDonagh and Shattenkirk are veterans who should be trusted to play big minutes in all situations.  The way to hide your weaker defensemen is to play them less.  Pretty much every team in the NHL does this, and there’s a good reason for it.

Lastly on McDonagh and Shattenkirk: they need more than a game and a half together to develop chemistry.  They’ve both earned more than enough rope during their careers to make some mistakes, and neither should be subject to a quick hook from the coach.  Let them play together for at least 8-10 games and if it really doesn’t work, then move on.

None of what I wrote above guarantees that the Rangers will turn this around, but it seems like a better plan than just plugging names into the Alain Vigneault line generator, right?

"A Plea for Stability", 5 out of 5 based on 15 ratings.

63 thoughts on “A Plea for Stability

  • Oct 19, 2017 at 8:27 am

    No argument with your commentary, but what do you do when your top 6 don’t produce and your top pair is struggling? How long do you wait? If 2 games is too short then is 10 games too long?

    Very easy to run your team like a video game, but people react differently. I think McD misses the comfort of having Girardi (yes that Girardi) playing along side of him. He knew his role which better defined his own.

    The offense is a mess, and I do not attribute it to loss of Stepan. I do not think many of the guys in your top 6 come to play every game and if AV had better options, they should take a seat. How long are we going to wait for Krieder to reach his potential? Did Zucc get 5 years older this off-season?

    Guys on the ice have to produce. It is chemistry, talent and effort. So far this year, you can’t build chemistry when you only play 2 games with the same 3-some. Let’s assume they all have talent, so where is the effort? I only see Nash and Zib on a daily basis playing every shift like it matters. I think this group needs a leader in the clubhouse, which currently has a vacancy sign hanging in front.

    • Oct 19, 2017 at 8:59 am

      Appreciate your thoughts, Sal. Dave, the Suit and I are all different people with different opinions. To me, the whole point of acquiring Shattenkirk was to fill this team’s overwhelming need for an upper echelon, right-handed defenseman. Shattenkirk is exactly that.

      Whether or not it works with McDonagh, I don’t think we can say yet, since they’ve barely seen the ice together. Thats my whole point. Further, if a 27-22 top pair doesn’t work, I’d still like to see Shattenkirk with either Skjei or Smith, getting too 4 minutes. Bringing Kevin Shattenkirk in to only play him third pair minutes at 5v5 is preposterous.

      • Oct 19, 2017 at 2:26 pm

        Lt. Comdr. Challee: Do you know how many years Lt. Cmdr. Queeg served at sea?
        Lt. Keith: No.
        Lt. Comdr. Challee: As a matter of fact, Lt. Cmdr. Queeg has served over eight years. I ask you: which of you is better qualified to judge if a ship is foundering?
        Lt. Keith: Myself, sir, when I’m in possession of my faculties. Cmdr. Queeg was not.
        Lt. Comdr. Challee: Tell me, Mr. Keith, how would you describe this loss of faculty? Did the captain rave or make insane gestures?
        Lt. Keith: Well, no sir.
        Lt. Comdr. Challee: After being relieved, did the captain go violently crazy?
        Lt. Keith: Well, the captain was never crazy either before or after being relieved. There are other forms of mental illness.
        Lt. Comdr. Challee: Thank you for your expert opinion. Are you aware that the captain has been pronounced completely rational by three qualified psychiatrists?
        Lt. Keith: They weren’t on the bridge of the Caine during that typhoon, sir.

        -The Caine Mutiny, 1954

    • Oct 19, 2017 at 9:05 am

      With the defense in shambles I’m wondering why pionk hasn’t been given a shot

      • Oct 19, 2017 at 11:34 am

        not only pionk but letteirri for offence. they both showed me a lot of desire and hustle in pre-season. OR does that go away when you have av for coach, (because of the confusion) ?

    • Oct 19, 2017 at 12:31 pm

      How about a coach like Tortorella to light a fire under their butts?

      • Oct 19, 2017 at 2:15 pm

        Yeah…that worked REAL well last time he was here. I thought the idea was to get better, not regress.

  • Oct 19, 2017 at 8:42 am

    I’ve brought this up since August and NO ONE can give me a solid answer.

    Over the summer Suit wrote an article stating Shatty needs to be deployed in the offensive zone to maximize his skills. Earlier this week Dave wrote an article complaining about deployments. Namely complaining that Mcdonagh was not being deployed as a shutdown defender in several games and that Shatty was not being deployed in the offensive zone enough in some games.

    So please explain to me how pairing them makes sense? Dave you literally brought up that they should be deployed mirror opposites. Yet today you want them to deploy together?

    Please some explain to me how this works?????

    • Oct 19, 2017 at 9:00 am

      Sorry, meant to reply to you and not Sal. See above!

    • Oct 19, 2017 at 9:44 am

      I think you misunderstood my point on deployment. I’m a big proponent of the new “shutdown” pair being a pair that can pin the opposition in the offensive zone. It’s the new age of the NHL. The traditional Volchenkov/Girardi guys that collapse and block shots are useful, but not ideal. I spoke about this at length on the podcast, actually.

      My point, and Rob’s, is to find stability and consistency. If AV wants to use McDonagh in DZ starts and Shatty in OZ starts, fine, but be consistent. But before that happens, you need to give them more than 2 games together as the top pair to see how they do. If it doesn’t work, fine. But let’s not pretend that Shatty isn’t a top pairing defenseman. In the new NHL, where your best pair is one that pins the opposition in the DZ, they are.

      • Oct 19, 2017 at 10:07 am

        I’m not looking for the definition of a 1st pairing defender.

        Your article focused on OZ starts. You blasted AV for giving Mcdonagh too many o-zone starts. You blasted AV for giving Shatty too little o-zone starts. Put them together, and one of them will see more of what you blasted the coach for.

        How does that work?

        • Oct 19, 2017 at 10:32 am

          For starters, two different authors. We can have different opinions.

          More to the point, this is the line you’re referring to: “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.”

          Don’t know if that is “blasting” someone. In context, that was to AV’s usage of a shutdown pairing, which is DZ starts. He’s stated he wants McDonagh to be on that pair. So he’s being inconsistent with the deployment.

          As Rob said, stability and consistency.

        • Oct 19, 2017 at 12:14 pm

          Spozo, the truth is that you and Dave are somewhat on the same page here I think. On one hand, Dave wants a McD-Shatty pair, but on the other, Dave is uncomfortable with the deployment consequences. Rob OTOH knows that all of his opinions are correct.

          • Oct 19, 2017 at 1:03 pm

            My whole argument is that when Ovechkin is on the ice in our defensive zone I want Mcdonagh out there. I don’t want Shatty out there. If you pair them and give them preferential o-zone starts that leaves the heavy defensive assignments in the D-zone to the likes of Smith/Skjei/Staal/Deangelo. I’m not a huge fan of that.

            On paper I actually think Mcdonagh/Smith would be a good pair but that was before Smith started the season with his head up his @ss.

            And for the record I don’t think Mac/Deangelo good for anything but making Deangelo as good as possible.

            • Oct 19, 2017 at 1:23 pm

              JFTR, I basically agree with you. Honestly, I think players like Yandle and Shattenkirk have the talent to be stellar all around defensemen. However, having achieved success without developing defensive skills, they see no need to do this at this point. That’s why coaching DeAngelo is so important.

  • Oct 19, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Simple stuff. Why AV needs to be fired.

    • Oct 19, 2017 at 3:35 pm

      Hallelujah. Praise onto Pony.

      Not that I want to run down the salience of Original Rob’s post, but man, c’mon.

      Can we not walk all this back to the bench-boss, the tragic consequences of his line calling and decision making brought to the fore six months ago?

      The ship’s rudderless, Rob: from the egregious muddle and dither that is AV’s mindset to a seemingly non-existent leadership core.

      Forasmuch, if you don’t right it soon these daily musings need to drastically reorient: To the draft, and who we sell at the Trade Deadline.

  • Oct 19, 2017 at 8:57 am

    Shattenkirk did not get moved down to the 3rd pair to cover up for Marc Staal. Marc Staal has been the Rangers best defenseman this season. Shattenkirk has great puck skill but has never been a first pair shutdown defenceman in the NHL.

    I agree that DD is not suited for a top six role. However the team lacks forward but again that should of been addressed in July during the free agent frenzy.

    • Oct 19, 2017 at 9:00 am

      At least I’m not the only one that can look past a players name and realize Staal has been the best and most consistent Ranger this season!

      • Oct 19, 2017 at 9:08 am

        Most consistent d man

        • Oct 19, 2017 at 9:13 am

          Consistently awful, you mean–so far this year he’s got an impossibly bad 41.4 Corsi with an astoundingly bad minus 13.2 relative Corsi. How can you watch him play and consider him good? He’s blind in one eye, so he can’t stickhandle or receive or make passes smoothly; his skating is labored & slow; he’s useless offensively; and due to concussions he’s one-tenth as physical as he used to be. Add in the fact that he is one of the most grossly overpaid players in the entire NHL, and you’ve got literally a bottom 10 defender in this league. He is the single biggest problem in the NYR lineup.

          • Oct 19, 2017 at 2:01 pm


      • Oct 19, 2017 at 9:15 am

        There is nowhere in the universe that a defender with a 41.4 Corsi/-13.2 relative Corsi should be considered to be a good hockey player. Add in contract/injury diminishment and general lack of hockey skill and one could make a case that Staal is the worst defenseman taking regular shifts in the whole division.

    • Oct 19, 2017 at 10:32 am

      Smith sucking so hard helps make Staal look okay for now but in my estimation this team needs another bottom 4 D like a Kevin Klein use to be for the team. The DD thing could have worked out as a sheltered 3rd line that sees alot of offensive opportunity’s but right now the 4th line is used more to show who is in AV’s doghouse than a shutdown 4th line.

  • Oct 19, 2017 at 9:52 am

    I disagree with your comment on Shattenkirk and Staal. IMO. Staal have been the best and most reliable defenseman so far this season and AV moved Shattenkirk down with Staal to have Staal cover for Shattenkirk mistakes and that’s a fact.

    • Oct 19, 2017 at 10:02 am

      No, the fact is that Kevin Shattenkirk is by far a better hockey player than Marc Staal. Please explain the horrific possession numbers posted by Staal (since he’s so good, this should be easy, right?) this season. Please explain how a guy who’s a mediocre skater, soft physically, and can’t make a good pass is worthy of a regular shift. Staal’s defensive positioning is awful to boot. He is not an NHL player anymore, and that’s a fact.

      As bad as everybody else has been on the D this year, it’s astounding to me that people cannot see how terrible a player Marc Staal has become.

      • Oct 19, 2017 at 11:11 am

        I agree that Shattenkirk is a better player than Staal, but it is also true that Staal has played better defensively than Shattenkirk. There was a reason why he was a 3rd paring blueliner in St. Louis and Washington while being a lights-out QB on the first PP unit. It isn’t as if his brainfart in the final minute against Pittsburgh was an isolated incident this year. His offensive ability makes up for his defensive lapses.

        • Oct 19, 2017 at 11:51 am

          It’s been said a lot that Shattenkirk isn’t a first pair dman. And that may be a fair assessment of his game. But he’s certainly a better player on the first pair than Marc Staal or Nick Holden or Anthony DeAngelo. Even with his terrible play at the end of the Pittsburgh game, Shattenkirk still had an assist. When Staal has a poor game defensively he offers nothing to counteract it because he’s completely one-dimensional. And again, as badly as Shattenkirk has played defensively, his underlying numbers are way better than Staal’s (48.1 Corsi, -1.1 relative Corsi). Obviously if you’re a plus-minus believer Staal is trouncing Shattenkirk in that department (Staal is even, Shatty a -6). Arguably there’s been some bad luck involved for Shatty when on the ice, and plus-minus doesn’t give credit for power play goals. So for me it’s pretty clear who the better player is for this team, and as Shattenkirk adjusts to his new situation this point will be repeatedly proven on the ice as well.

          • Oct 19, 2017 at 12:32 pm

            Seriously, who do you think is a better hockey player, Sidney Crosby or Antti Niemi? This may seem obvious, but Niemi played goal for a Cup winner. I sincerely doubt that Chicago could have won the Cup in 2010 with Crosby in goal.

            Usually one player is not better than another in an absolute sense. Two players have different skill sets with one player better at some things and one better at others. Kevin Shattenkirk is probably on a pace to be the best Ranger PP quarterback ever. That’s small sample size, but he is likely really the best since Brian Leetch. Marc Staal has never been good on the PP. So obviously you give Shatty PP time and not Staal. However, ES and PK are different games and there is no reason to assume that the PP star is better there as well. In fact, history suggests that Shatty is just a third pair guy.

            Honestly though, deployment decisions are made by the coach. Is AV pairing Shatty with Staal so that Staal covers up for Shatty or vice versa? Anyone who has watched AV knows that it is the former.

          • Oct 19, 2017 at 2:28 pm

            Well said, I don’t think anyone wants to see Marc Staal on the first pair. I don’t think anyone would disagree with you here, its just that Marc Staal is certainly an upgrade over Graves/Bereglazov and most likely over Holden. So the issue isn’t “Does Marc Staal suck or not?” The issue is “Does Marc Staal suck more than the replacement?”

        • Oct 19, 2017 at 3:29 pm

          “There was a reason why he was a 3rd paring blueliner in St. Louis and Washington while being a lights-out QB on the first PP unit”

          This would be 100% completely false as pointed out numerous times.

          Kevin Shattenkirk played the 3rd and 4th most 5×5 TOI for St Louis and Was.

          So unless two teams were playing their “3rd” pair more often than their “2nd” pair; which would make the “3rd” pair the second pair but whatever, then this is completely false.

          But please don’t allow that to ruin your narrative.

      • Oct 19, 2017 at 2:06 pm

        “Please explain the horrific possession numbers posted by Staal (since he’s so good, this should be easy, right?) this season.”

        67.9% defensive zone starts, that’s how.

        • Oct 19, 2017 at 3:21 pm

          What if I told you zone starts don’t matter?

          • Oct 19, 2017 at 3:31 pm

            Then I would disagree without actually having any facts to back it up, but I would imagine that would be completely wrong. So, please prove me wrong and show me the error in my ways.

            • Oct 19, 2017 at 3:44 pm

              From Jeremy Davis

              “There are several different adjustments out there, though many of them rely on the same methods: determine the amount of shots that occur in shifts starting in various zones, and use the varying totals to apply coefficients to individual shots. Matt Cane did this in his article on the subject, as did Micah McCurdy.

              When Micah adjusted the Corsi-for percentages of all players from the 2014-15 season, he found that for the vast majority, there was almost no difference:

              Of all the players in the league in 2014-2015 with 100 minutes played at 5v5, only 5% of them them see their on-ice shot percentage move more than one percentage point.

              This would indicate that variations in zone starts have a rather unimpressive effect on shot metrics as a whole. The explanation for the discrepancy between this and individual effects noted above is that”

              “The largest single season increase in CF% by Score, Zone and Venue adjustment over the last three years is Paul Gastad’s 2015-16 campaign, worth 7.57 percentage points. This represents an increase from 38.38% to 45.95%. Gaustad was deployed in only 31 offensive zone face-offs to 418 in the defensive zone at 5v5.”

              “Let that sink in: Paul Gaustad, who took 387 more faceoffs in the defensive end than the offensive zone had the Corsi-For percentage of his entire 2015-16 adjusted up by just seven and a half percent. That is why claims like “Sure, Horvat’s CF% is only 44 percent, but look at his zone starts!’ don’t hold much water. The difference between Horvat’s score adjusted CF% and score and zone adjusted CF% in October was just 0.78. Horvat, who took 17 more defensive faceoffs than offensive faceoffs in October, has a long way to go to reach Gaustad levels.”

              “The explanation for the discrepancy is the sample size problem that I noted in Part I: offensive and defensive zone starts make up only a small portion of all players’ shifts – the rest of them, neutral zone faceoffs and on-the-fly changes, regress the personal metrics back towards the individual player’s natural capabilities.”


  • Oct 19, 2017 at 10:06 am

    E3 let me explain to you that the whole conversation is about AV and how he uses his lineup. We know you don’t want to fix the problem because the whole premise is about coaching and deployment.
    We know you will blame the players even if the deployment is assinine.

    • Oct 19, 2017 at 1:51 pm

      AV’s deployment strategies, prior to this season, have resulted in three consecutive 100+ point season and more playoff series wins than any other Rangers coach in 80+ years. And for a career, 615 wins. So obviously, he has more than proven that he knows what he is doing.

      That being said, sure, when the team is losing as the team is right now, everything is going to be questioned—as it should be. But it is more than reasonable for a coach to try things when it’s not working.

      I said this yesterday. The players as a whole have been terrible. The GM failed to address the glaring holes at center. And the coach, at the moment anyway, has no answers to fix it. To me though, even if you change coaches, the first two issues will still be there, and then we can all bellyache about the next coaches use of personnel. So what really will have changed?

      Take a look at Joe Fortunato’s article today on Blueshirt Banter, It was a critique of AV. I don’t agree with it fully, in fact I don’t agree with most of it. But in fairness, he pointed out that everyone had pretty much the same issues with Torts when he was here. Poor usage of talent. Played favorites. Not good with young players. Same exact complaints. I’d bet anything this blog and other blogs within a year or less will be taking AV’s successor to task as well. Nature of the business.

      I’ve said all along. It’s not about whether AV should or should not be replaced. Just like it’s not about whether Kreider, Miller, Hayes, McDonagh or whoever should be traded or not traded, re-signed when their time comes or not. It’s not about change for change sake. That’s about the worst thing an organization can do, and fortunately recent history says that’s not the way the Rangers under Sather/Gorton operate.

      The singular question when discussing whether to change out a player or coach is simple—can I upgrade? And if so, with whom? I’m all in favor of giving AV his walking papers—when and if there is an opportunity to find a better coach. Obviously, at this point, Gorton does not feel a coaching change is warranted, and/or there is no move to be made that makes the team better, which is the only consideration.

      That can change tomorrow of course. But that’s where we are today.

      • Oct 19, 2017 at 2:58 pm

        Zibanejad, Hayes, Andersson, Chityl. 2-3 years from now, this could very well be among the top three groups of centers in the NHL. The problem at center was addressed, just not for this year. Yes, I believe that JG could have done more for this season, creating a first round exit team instead of a lottery team, but does it matter that much?

        Look Eddie, the Rangers were greatly limited last year by the poor coaching of AV and the poor play of Girardi, Staal, Holden, Klein, Stepan, and Glass. Now Stepan, Glass, Girardi, and Klein are gone, but unfortunately things have gotten even worse. Obviously AV, Staal, and Holden have gone even further downhill. And when Staal and Holden are gone, AV will no doubt get even dumber.

      • Oct 19, 2017 at 3:17 pm

        Yes, AV does have great track record (no cups, but still). And the players and management seem to like him. Fine.

        Still, it’s the stubborn use of the favorites and, what appears completely random line and pairing combinations that are driving the fans nuts.

        This has been beaten to death, but playing Holden on the top pairing? What did he show last year to merit this. The guy didn’t even make the team out of camp (or did, but as a scratch). Kemfer? He’s an AHL defense-man anywhere else.

        AV has great track record, but now appears to smoke his own dope, and might have lost the touch or understanding how to use this team.

        Yes, a lot of team construction falls on the GM, but GM does not decide to bench Smith in favor of Kaemfer, or to move Buch to the 4th line, etc. I still have hope that he has an AHA moment, but the trend indicates otherwise.

        • Oct 19, 2017 at 3:46 pm

          Actually Kampfer is better than an AHL defenseman. He is sort of like last year’s Kevin Klein – plays for a good team, not that bad, but somebody who gets supplanted at the trade deadline as the team readies for the playoffs.

          • Oct 19, 2017 at 4:13 pm

            That’s a good point.

      • Oct 19, 2017 at 3:19 pm

        I don’t know. Is it my reading comprehension or is it yours? The conversation is about AV’s deployment. What is your comment? Or you just don’t discuss the coach at all?
        We are not discussing points in the year or if you should replace the coach or not.
        Line combinations? Good bad indifferent?
        How long should players play together? How long?
        Your lying eyes don’t tell you who should go with whom?
        Or it doesn’t matter?
        Can’t stay on topic? Are We qualified enough to think about that?

  • Oct 19, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Staal is a tough guy with a lot of heart. He just is not the player he once was and there is no doubt about that. As pointed out above, he does not pass the puck like he once did. At best, he should be a third pair guy playing sheltered minutes most of the time. It is unfortunate, but I think this is a realistic assessment.

    Maybe he has not fumbled the puck like a few of the others have in the early going, but he is not able to move it like the team needs in order to do better offensively. Being a defenseman is not all about shutting down the other team in your own zone. It is also moving the puck out of the zone and springing your forwards. That is where Staal’s play is lacking.

    Skjei and DeAngelo need to get better in their own zone, and both players admit it. However, both have the tools to develop into good defensemen who can move the puck and jump into the play. It is going to take some hard work to improve their defensive zone play and Skjei is farther along in doing that. Maybe Tony needs some time in Hartford to work on it. But overall, the team will be better in the long run if it develops young defenders like DeAngelo, Pionk, Graves and Day.

    • Oct 19, 2017 at 12:55 pm

      “At best, he should be a third pair guy playing sheltered minutes most of the time.”

      I don’t agree. To be overly simplistic, there are vulnerable and sheltered minutes. Everyone looks bad playing vulnerable minutes and everyone looks good playing sheltered minutes. And so possession stats tell us that the guys who play sheltered minutes are better. Staal’s biggest weakness, IMO, is that he really is no longer capable of taking advantage of sheltered minutes when he gets them. For vulnerable minutes, however, at this point he is certainly better than Shattenkirk, DeAngelo, Pionk and presumably Holden and Kampfer as well. He should not be as good as Smith at this stage (but has been so far of course) and Skjei should surpass him (or already has).

      But when the day comes that Staal needs to be sheltered, he is no longer useful.

      But overall, the team will be better in the long run if it develops young defenders like DeAngelo, Pionk, Graves and Day.

      Of course. But that is what they are doing. Rightly or wrongly, the Rangers think the best place to develop them is where they have them now. Sadly, these are almost certainly not four stars. DeAngelo and Day seem to have great talent; the other two are less clear. And of course, not all players get to the point they should. At this point, I doubt Graves will match Kampfer’s career numbers.

      • Oct 19, 2017 at 2:19 pm

        Very good points, and the reason why advanced statistics need to be applied with the understanding that not all deployments are created equal. The Ranger’s farm system has come a long way since 3-4 years ago, I think we all can appreciate that.

      • Oct 19, 2017 at 2:46 pm

        Interesting take, thank you Ray. Hey it is still early in the season, we’ll see how things develop.

        I think that part of the problem, especially for DeAngelo, and to some extent Shattenkirk, is that it seems that they are being asked to make a pass out of the defensive zone, and to avoid carrying it into the neutral zone or offensive zone. DeAngelo, when he was with Arizona, carried the puck a lot, but now seems tentative and almost timid and is trying to pass out of the zone, and that was not the way he played with his prior team or even in the pre-season. He looked a little better, and played a lot more minutes against Pittsburgh. For him, I think it is getting the work in and learning whether here or in Hartford. For Shatty it might just be a matter of getting used to his new team.

        I am wondering, however, whether the way they want the defenders to break out is right for their offensive scheme.

        • Oct 19, 2017 at 3:07 pm

          With DeAngelo, I am not concerned with what is possible. There will be growing pains of course, but I think AV, Ruff, and DeAngelo working together can mold him into a defensemen that will be effective in the system the Rangers choose to play, whatever that is.

          I opposed the DeAngelo acquisition for attitude reasons. I saw him as someone who would know better than the coaches. However, that was speculation on my part. AV seems to be treating him as someone who is sincerely trying – and he has first hand information that I don’t.

  • Oct 19, 2017 at 10:47 am

    I would assume for now that DD is safe and would most likely move back to 1a sheltered 3rd line role soon. Hayes is getting screwed over here, he has no backup to help him shutdown other teams top lines. Stepan had Dubi, Boyle, Moore as defensive centers in the past, that’s a rich list that would have all 3 of those names still apart of the better shutdown centers of the league. I would even add the 16-17 Hayes who saw the tougher D deployments while putting up above average 3c production as depth. Stepan even had the better defensive core and a prime Hank in his corner. I’ve enjoyed reading any piece that came out from the NYR headquarters stating that Kevin Hayes was why Stepan got delt from names like JG to AV but give the kid a break. I think it’s time to make another line a defensive one so Hayes can start taking advantage.

  • Oct 19, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    Shattenkirk has been a turnstile so please no defensive zone starts for him. Then again he looks worse when defending forwards on the rush. Staal at the moment is the least of their concerns. Mental gaffs from other defenders are making him look like a Legend’s All Star at the moment. I think they first need to determine whether Mac or Skjei should be Shattenkirk’s partner. Whoever that is, that pair gets a majority of O starts. That means Mac and his partner get the majority of D starts. As bad as Smith has been, I would stick Smith with Mac and have Jerry D give Smith the 11 season abridged version of Girardi’s ‘Mac & His Cheese’ (video series). Do that for more than 1 game (preferably 3-5) to see if they can build some chemistry. Otherwise go get a Defensemen ASAP. And for god’s sake, Cranky Hanky needs to get his game together! Moments of brilliance in minimizing damage but noticeable mental lapses. Give Pavelec a couple starts in a row and see whether that smacks some reality into him.

  • Oct 19, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    I don’t agree that AV is just picking names out of a hat. However, I would contend that the plan advanced here is not nearly as good as the hat trick.

    This team does not need stability. It needs to find combinations that work. Rob has posited exactly what the top two lines should be – one is the vaunted KZB, which has achieved one ES goal so far and did little the second half of last season. Success over multiple seasons – bah.

    Reality: Stepan, Girardi, Lindberg are gone. Shattenkirk, Desharnais, DeAngelo are here.

    On the PP, this should make the Rangers better and they are. The change augurs well for the future as DeAngelo is young and talented and the Rangers also got Andersson.

    However, even strength, arguably not a single one of the new additions is as good as a single one of the departed. And no one influenced by real hockey knowledge would prefer the new trio as a group. Yet the ridiculous narrative that getting rid of Stepan and Girardi is addition by subtraction leads to the absurd idea that the team should be better, not worse. And rather than admit that you were wrong, let’s blame the coach for not using the assets properly.

    Here’s the thing. If you keep getting surprised by what happens, maybe your assumptions are just wrong. If AV is as bad as some here think, he could not have won the President’s Trophy with the Gretzky led Oilers, much less the mortal teams he had to work with.

  • Oct 19, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    Very well thought out and written piece. You make some very compelling points whether one agrees or disagrees they certainly foster discussion……especially keeping the top 6 in the top 6………
    And I agree that we should put mcdonagh and shatty together for the year and give them as many offensive zone starts as possible and put smith and sjkel together and give them as many defensive zone starts as possible……..
    If stall is playing as well defensively as many here think he is, and is that from watching at home or being at the game, them pair him with deangelo and keep your fingers crossed………
    I will add that we sorely miss lindberg and that terrific 4th line form last spring!

  • Oct 19, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    This is really a fascinating discussion, and shows the “divisions” among hockey fans. There are knowledgeable fans like Mancurian and John B, and many of those who run this blog, who believe strongly in the validity of advanced metrics—so much so that they will say flat out—Staal and Girardi stink and should NOT be playing over supposedly better options—simply because the advanced metrics say it is so. And if a coach plays that player, he’s a moron and should be fired.

    Then there are others, like myself, that are perhaps a little more skeptical of the advanced metrics, see the game a different way, (I call it more of the “Heartbeat” approach to the game) and see Staal as having been solid enough (relatively speaking considering how bad we’ve been overall).

    I’m not here to judge it. It’s part of the reason I come here—to learn from smart people. I’m just saying, using my reporter’s “skepticism” instinct, that I’m not sure that the NHL community—the folks who make these decisions for a living, see the absolutes of these arguments the way the advanced metrics crowd sees them. And when you look at recent examples—Girardi, Clendo, McIlrath…maybe even Glass—it doesnt seem to me that smart GMs and coaches making millions to make critical decisions fully embrace this logic either. Are we REALLY sure that hockey players and teams can be accurately measured in this way?

    My eye test says Staal has been among the least of our concerns thus far. Not great, but there are way, way bigger issues at the moment.

    Question for John, Man and others in the AS (Advanced Stats) crowd. How do these stats correlate with actual results on ice? I honestly have no idea.

    • Oct 19, 2017 at 3:41 pm

      How do these stats correlate with actual results on ice? I honestly have no idea.

      Eddie, I suspect no one else does either. There is an outdated study from a number of years back. The idea was to divide the season into quarters and try to predict the result of one quarter from what happened in the others. What it found was that if you knew GF/GA and possession stats for one quarter, you had a better chance of predicting GF/GA for a different quarter if you knew the possession stats than if you knew GF/GA. This “suggests” that possession stats capture how good teams are and GF/GA is just a mixture of possession stats and luck.

      I tried to do my own analysis two years back when Washington was the best team in the league and Toronto the worst. Possession stats said that Toronto should have made the playoffs and the Caps not. So whether the old study remains valid is unclear.

      Now, it should be noted that team +/- really does decide who wins and who loses, but many argue that individual +/- is worthless because it is so usage-contaminated. Yet these same people think individual possession stats are informative (with AFAIK no evidence).

      Finally, how can a study be dated? The reason is that one of the best ways to win is to excel in something that is undervalued. Goaltending is actually not very important in the NHL because everyone thinks it is. Everyone understands that if your starting goaltender is Magnus Hellberg, you will lose. So we end up with 31 teams, all of whom have quality goaltenders. The result is that from top to bottom, you don’t have such a great difference and games are decided by other factors. Likewise, if teams only play defensemen who are responsible in their own end (which has mostly been true), this trait is neutralized and the best defensemen are those that can move the puck.

      What the old study shows (and this echoes something baseball stat guru Bill James said years ago), if coaches and general managers use the decision-making processes they used in 2008, teams with the best possession stats will generally win – basically because Ryan McDonagh is better than Dan Girardi. However, if teams abandon their instincts to maximize possession stats, the old studies are worthless.

      • Oct 19, 2017 at 4:08 pm


        I don’t know how much easier this is to break down. Teams that have high puck possession numbers, have a significantly greater chance to make the NHL playoffs and go far, as evidence since 2005-2006. Teams that have weak/poor possession numbers have a much more difficult time, or do not make the NHL playoffs. The main weak possession team to regularly make the Playoffs is the NY Rangers, and what have the NY Rangers relied upon the most during all of that time? Goaltending.

        It’s a pretty simple easy to understand concept. If you maintain possession of the puck at even strength where the majority of the game is played, you maximize your ability to score while completely neutralizing the opponents chance to do the same. Those that have the greater ability to score, generally win more. Winning more means you go to the playoffs.

        Are there oddball games here and there? Yes, case in point Game 1 this season. Colorado won yes, but in 2 of their 3 losses they were heavily out possessed and in the third loss it was even. Meanwhile in their wins, 2 of the 4 the Avalanche heavily controlled play and shots, the third they were again nearly 50/50, and then the win against us.

        • Oct 19, 2017 at 5:57 pm

          Obviously getting more shots is good and so there should be some correlation between possession stats and winning. Also, since marquee players tend to chose distinctive high numbers, there is no doubt a positive correlation between average number on the backs of the players and wins. That doesn’t mean that you choose players with high numbers or with high possession stats.

          As for studies, I have no interest in studies that predate say 2012. They are irrelevant. As I pointed out, Toronto was a better possession team than Washington in 2014-2015. If you can’t reliably distinguish between the best and worst team in the league, geesh.

          Incidentally, what poor possession teams like Washington and NY have in common is stay at home goaltenders who are focused on keeping the puck out of the net and don’t help with possession at all.

          There are different ways to excel. Possession stats actually said Dan Girardi was terrible BECAUSE he blocked a lot of shots.

          Consider: You are a defenseman. You have a chance to make a cross ice pass that four times in five clears the zone. The fifth time will be intercepted and leads to an odd man rush against. Do you make the pass? Possession stats tell us that it is the right thing to do. Old-fashioned hockey wisdom says it is not.

          • Oct 19, 2017 at 6:54 pm

            Not sure where you got that Tor was a better possession team than Wash. In 14-15 Tor had a 46%CF and Wash had a 51%CF. In fact that year Chi was the 2nd best CF% team and TB was the 4th. We played the deepest with the lowest CF%, with all the others bowing out in either 1st or 2nd rounds.

            Washington has decidedly not been a poor possession team. We have been. Washington runs 50+% in CF%, while ours is normally in the 48% range or lower. We have a negative shot differential, where the Caps have a positive one.

            I have no idea where your going with rest of that. Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are terrible defenseman because when they’re on the ice the other team is in our zone taking shot attempt after shot attempt against us and they have neither the talent nor ability to make a controlled zone exit. That places extra burden on the goalie. Case in point, while Shattenkirk should not have touched that puck the other night the inconvient truth of the matter is that they were on the ice BECAUSE Marc Staal had just iced the puck because he was unable to adequately clear the puck. They weren’t terrible people or human beings, they provide nothing that enables the puck to be put into the other teams goal.

    • Oct 19, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      “I’m not here to judge it. It’s part of the reason I come here—to learn from smart people. I’m just saying, using my reporter’s “skepticism” instinct, that I’m not sure that the NHL community—the folks who make these decisions for a living, see the absolutes of these arguments the way the advanced metrics crowd sees them. And when you look at recent examples—Girardi, Clendo, McIlrath…maybe even Glass—it doesnt seem to me that smart GMs and coaches making millions to make critical decisions fully embrace this logic either. Are we REALLY sure that hockey players and teams can be accurately measured in this way?”

      Your not here to judge? You judge everyone and everything except AV!
      using my reporter’s “skepticism” instinct,
      I think that’s your problem. Open your eyes to see how the players are being used!
      You fool no one, you only see 1/2 of the equation because you refuse to see what the coach is doing. That’s why the news media is wrong too, you people are so biased it’s pathetic and unnatural. Someone must have cut out half your brain, that’s why arguing with you is useless but fun.
      E3 = 1/2 is a true equasion.
      Your also a good lier. I’m not here to judge… You’re wicked!

      • Oct 19, 2017 at 6:11 pm

        I’m not here to judge either and I still judge everyone to a certain extent. There is no contradiction in that.

        And for the record, the news media is so UNBIASED it is pathetic and unnatural. Anybody who deals in information either develops opinions or is an idiot. And there comes a point where the evidence in support of your opinion is so overwhelming that the pretense that there are multiple sides is absurd.

        • Oct 19, 2017 at 6:32 pm

          I’m not here to judge either and I still judge everyone to a certain extent. There is no contradiction in that.


          • Oct 19, 2017 at 6:50 pm

            I am here to learn about what is happening in Ranger world and to exchange points of view. I am not looking to put people down or to feel superior to anyone here, just looking for nuggets and ideas — and I also try to enlighten when I can.

            However, I also size people up. In fact, it seems unnatural not to do so. One can see who has actual information and who has just opinions, who has an open mind and who doesn’t, who is worth reading and who is not. Also, how I react to what you say is influenced by what I think your perspective is. Praise for a defenseman from reenavipul for example means something entirely different than praise from someone who thinks advanced stats are the be all and end all. And that does not necessarily mean one is more important than the other — but certainly praise from two people who think differently is more valuable than praise from two who think the same way.

      • Oct 19, 2017 at 7:01 pm

        Honestly why not drop it?

        Eddie has his point of view. It isn’t right or wrong.

        He’s right on some things wrong on others just like all of us. I think the “personal” crap like “liar” or attempts to categorize a persons personality you’ve never met should be excluded.

  • Oct 19, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    I am thinking we should have a “Coach for a Day” scenario, as all here could easily stand behind the bench and make better decisions that AV and his staff.

    None of us know the full picture, and the results (wins/losses) may have much more to do with issues other than talent.

  • Oct 19, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    Agree 10000000% with this thread. For years now, since AV arrived, my biggest bitch has been what your writing about, and I’ll bet you a dollar to donuts, he will continue this crap until hell freezes over, unless they show him the door!!!!

    Musical chairs is fun for kids, but not a way to run a professional hockey team…………..

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