We’ve saved our best (worst) report card for last: the stellar defensive corps of the New York Rangers. I’ve been searching for the best string of analogies to explain how bad this defense has been. It’s similar to the DirecTV ad campaign… some people really just enjoy being in pain. And that’s us, wishing the Rangers would play well.
We’ll take a look at the seven gentlemen who defend our goaltenders through the 43 games played. Oh yes, 43, including the disaster that took place at the Garden yesterday. Keep in mind that this season started with the promise of a new day in the form of Kevin Shattenkirk supposedly playing with Ryan McDonagh. Lol.
Ryan McDonagh — Once upon a time, I wrote a post about whether or not the captaincy is hurting McDonagh, a post that I hate to have written because it’s an intangible and those make me ragey. I have to say, sadly, that I don’t think he’s a great captain, and he’s becoming a not-so-great defenseman, too. McDonagh looks lost on the ice, something we can attribute to him not having a steady partner, or having the pressure of the whole team on him, or maybe he just doesn’t sleep well at night. Whatever it is, 18 points and a sub-50% Corsi are not working out. And we can’t blame the corpse of Dan Girardi this year. Grade: D+.
Nick Holden — Oh Nicholas… somehow, this year, you’re not a glaring problem. Not sure if that is necessarily a good thing, as it’s more indicative of the level of play from the team as a whole, but good job. Holden’s relative Corsi is 0.0%… he’s fine. He’s getting starts mostly in the defensive zone, and doing fine. A vague upgrade for McDonagh from Girardi, and that’s fine. He’s just fine. Grade: B-.
Brady Skjei — Though not the greatest season for the 23-year-old, Skjei still possesses a ton of qualities that give me life, especially in the face of a first-pairing Steven Kampfer. Skjei flies on the ice and is a brief bright light in the depths of the Rangers defense. With a 1.8% relative Corsi to his teammates, he almost negates Marc Staal mathematically. Skjei averaging 20 minutes per game is a positive, despite recently being shoved in the doghouse. Grade: B.
Kevin Shattenkirk — Let me begin by telling you that July 1 was my favorite day of the year in 2017 when Shatty signed. The prospect of him playing alongside Ryan McDonagh, getting solid power play minutes, it was just bliss. But the pro-cess and system seem to be meshing poorly with Kevin. He’s so smart with the puck as far as seeing a play through, with 23 points (18 assists), but with very sheltered zone starts he’s still in the 47% Corsi range. We knew that was part of the package when signing him, though, and he’s mostly delivering what we’d expect. Grade: B+.
Marc Staal — Some things in life are inevitable: you’re going to have days that everything seems to go against you, where you miss your train and are late for a super important meeting. Unfortunately, every day, Marc Staal is a defenseman on your team averaging 18 minutes per game. We’ve documented that the Rangers’ possession numbers are Not Good, and he’s two percent worse than the rest of the team. I don’t even know how that’s possible. The Ghost of What Might Have Been has been romanticized over the past few seasons, but enough of that. He just isn’t good. Please give him fewer minutes per game. Grade: F.
Brendan Smith — Brendan Smith is such an intriguing player, because he’s usually competent, but then, for no reason whatsoever, he’ll just do something stupid. He’s an enigma wrapped in a mystery. He isn’t actually bad, with 7 points this season when he has played and a +2% relative Corsi, it’s just what’s happening when he’s on the ice. He’ll make a great defensive play, generate an opportunity, and then take a really stupid penalty in the offensive zone. Excited to see if he ever plays again. Grade: C+.
Steven Kampfer — A fun fact about Steven Kampfer is that he’s not actually a NHL player. Instead of discussing his “play,” let’s talk fun facts about Kampfer: he met his fiancée on Bumble, and she was previously on The Bachelor for about five minutes. Grade: NA because he should never actually play.
Anthony DeAngelo — Putting DeAngelo here because we traded Derek Effing Stepan for him and he’s in the A effing H L. Sure, his personality sucks and his Twitter feed makes me want to gouge my eyes out, but why can’t we play the kid? And I mean for more than three games. Grade: NA because we have incompetent management.