Mid-Season Report Card: The Defense

Welcome to this special place, Kevin

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.

41 thoughts on “Mid-Season Report Card: The Defense

  • Jan 14, 2018 at 12:33 pm


  • Jan 14, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    Shatty gets a C. He had a great October, worse November and has 6 points since December 1st. And yes I’m grading him solely on his offensive numbers since he is awful defensively.

    I also don’t think Staal has been awful this year. He also gets a C.

    • Jan 14, 2018 at 1:30 pm

      Shatty doesn’t deserve a C or a B+ …come on what world are you living in?

      The guy is our Plus\Minus leader for a defenseman. And he is a negative corsi…I mean come on with that logic he is a unequivocally an A+++!!!!!!!!!! He so should be on the ALLSTAR TEAM@!!@#!@

      The guy is the man!

      He is leading the D in shots on goal all while shooting a 5.5 %. which 2nd on the team for defensemen. Only the likes of Holdem has out done this great player.

      Second on the team in PIM’s despite never throwing a single punch.
      No need to get any 5 minute majors for this awesome guy! He can lead the team in penalty minutes just you wait and see!!!!! And he’ll do it without getting into one single scrap all season!!! YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT!

      Since 11/2 He has put up 1 goal and 4 assists on the Power play which in his defense he put up 1 goal and 5 assists in the month of october alone on the power play. I mean that just shows you how hard he is trying to be captain of this team.

      Only Zippy has more ice time on the power play then him. The guy can just play awesome power play minutes. He really shows AV his skills.

      Becky I will hand it to you! You got me…I don’t know what i was thinking. Shattenturd is the best 6mil defender I ever have seen.

    • Jan 14, 2018 at 2:57 pm

      The entire team has scored 34 5×5 goals since December 1st. In 19 games. Every single NYR up and down the lineup has produced minimal points since Dec 1. In fact, the only defenseman with more points, with 7 is McDonagh.

      Staal has been awful, Kampfer has been awful. They are saved by having the highest save percentage by the goalies at 94%. When that comes down, but let’s continue the #narrative.

      • Jan 14, 2018 at 3:01 pm

        So since the rest of the team has sucked at offense the last 2 months we are going to look the other way that Shatty has too?

        The guy was brought here to drive the offense and help out the PP. He did that in October and November. He flat out has not the last 2 months. How do we give him a B+ as a grade?

        • Jan 14, 2018 at 3:09 pm

          So your theory is, because Shattenkirk isn’t a one man show doing it all, he’s performed badly?

          The entire team has spent most of the past 19 games in their own zone of the ice with the forwards unable to mount any sustained offensive zone pressure for any Rangers defenseman to drive offense.

          • Jan 14, 2018 at 3:18 pm

            No that’s not my theory. The entire team has been bad recently. So has Shatty. He does not get a B+.

            He’s a defenseman who is suspect at playing defense but produces really well in the offensive zone. He has not been doing the latter for the last 2 months. Therefore he has been underperforming. And no I’m not discounting the ready of the teams problems. The defense has been a disaster for most of the season. But he happens to be the shiny new toy the rangers bought this season for 6 million and year. And BSB has shoved down our throats about how his defensive deficiency’s aren’t as bad as advertised and how he is a first pairing defender. I can look past the ocassional defensive lapse if he is producing points. For half of the season he hasn’t been producing at nearly a pace to warrant his salary or for me to overlook how truly lost he can sometimes be in his own end.

    • Jan 15, 2018 at 3:48 pm

      We can’t be watching the same team given the grades…First, McDonough has never recovered from his injuries and is a shadow of the D-man all-star he was…his skating has diminished and he is truly lost in space…
      Shattenkirk (or Shitty as we call him) is one of the worst d-men in the modern history of the Rangers. He is also lost in the defensive zone and his net coverage is embarrassing….he has done very little to rate his salary and AV is stuck with playing him. Where is his great pp presence? He looks slow when he was supposed to be a good skater. Horrible signing and we are stuck with this turkey for many years…
      Staal has been much better than advertised, but is too slow to keep up with o-zone speedsters…
      Skjei has moments of greatness and moments of bad decisions leading to goals…not physical enough
      Smith is another waste despite shifts when we all have hope for him…He too is awful in net coverage. Another bad signing and overrated by management.
      Holden is the brightest bulb in the batch..he does make glaring mistakes once in a while, but overall has played consistent solid all-around hockey…stuck covering up for Mac frequently
      I would love to see Kampfer as a regular…he is an old school stay at home d-man most of the time. Prefer him to Smith, Shitty or Staal
      Overall, it is a shameful excuse for a defense with nothing exciting in the farm system.
      Knew weeks ago that making the playoffs would truly be a miracle on ice

      • Jan 15, 2018 at 4:31 pm

        Your “solutions” are beyond idiotic, anyone who considers Kampfer an NHL regular knows nothing about hockey.

  • Jan 14, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    If we’re gonna bench Smith (which I don’t agree with), I’d prefer to get a young RHD such as Pionk or DeAngelo ice time over an AHL lifer like Kampfer.

  • Jan 14, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    I think when a narrative is established here (e.g. Staal and AV are terrible, Buch and Shattenkirk are great), there is no moving the needle.

    I want Shattenkirk to succeed…..local and good guy, but his first half has been awful. B+ because he got some (mostly early) PP points? Wow. I know +/- can be deceiving if a team is either great or terrible, but within a team’s stats, it can be telling. Having a -12 on a team whose next lowest regular D-man is a -1 is very telling. And that’s not taking into account 42 penalty minutes, and not being a physical D-man (where majors would take someone else off with him), that’s a lot of PK time from his penalties.

    And is it time to stop the Girardi mentions in analyses of the current team (and GIFs of his giveaway goal)? But before we (hopefully) do….it’s low to keep trashing a D-man who gave up his body every night for the team and never complained. Speaking of +/-, he’s 5th on TB (+17) with only 10 PIM, 1st on the team in blocks (8th in the league). McD’s “albatross” allowed him to join the rush more while always having a D-man back….no one could honestly say he’s been better the first half with a new partner.

    I agreed with getting Shattenkirk, and his hometown discount made it cap friendly and close to what they got off the books. I think he will play better and he’ll have important moments where his strengths will greatly help us. Just don’t be unfair and overglorify what he’s doing.

    • Jan 14, 2018 at 2:59 pm

      +/- is a completely worthless stat. To cite it in any capacity to justify anything renders the entire theory irrelevant

      • Jan 14, 2018 at 4:02 pm

        Great to have all those cogent talking points to support your +/- worthless thing.

        I agree it can be overrated for a few reasons: PP players will get minuses for SHGs and PK will get pluses for theirs (if the Rangers ever get a SHG); shutdown F/D can have a great game and be an even player, etc. But there are a lot of things not measured in any stat. Understanding those, a +/- within the same team is very relevant.

        If you don’t agree, fine. We can then both agree we never see Shattenkirk standing around when a goal is scored after missing an assignment. But hey, he gets 90% of his shots through (as someone wrote last week, though they mentioned on the broadcast yesterday because he’s not getting his shots through).

        • Jan 14, 2018 at 5:09 pm

          Wow I learned something today. I used to think that PP and PK Stats don’t affect +/- …realized just now they do.

          But it is confusing so I will entertain the thought further.

          So shorthanded goal adds to the Plus of that group of players. And that same shorthanded goal minus the pp team 1. But that is it. The power play goal while on the Powerplay doesn’t give the player a plus.

          So in order to gain a plus …just so everyone is clear…you have to score at even strength or on the penalty kill. Powerplay goals for have no affect for either team.

          And if you allow a shorthanded goal or a even strength goal against while on the ice your line gets a -1.

          Huh why would you want that as a stat? Seems like a real pointless stat like Save Percentage or WIns and losses on a goalie. How could that tell the overall story of a particular player? It doesn’t matter how many goals against a player is on for in even strength or on the pp. Why would I want to know that this player is on for the most even strength and shorthanded goals against on the entire team and by a landslide? What was I thinking? And all of his points really come off the power play. Which makes his stats useless since the guy can’t be on the power play for more then 4 min a game.

          Hockey is a 60 minute game right? So 4 minutes total pp time right? 10% of 60 is 6 if I am not mistaken again. So that 4 is right around 7% of the game is spent on the PP with this offensive juggernaut on it.

          GOD +/- WHAT A STUPID STAT…good thing Stralman, Hedman, Giardi, are not leading the league in that stat. That would prove nothing. Giradi in 830 games in the nhl is a plus 71. totally overrated stat. That guy is a bag of rocks on the ice. We all know that for a fact.

          • Jan 14, 2018 at 6:47 pm

            Being on the ice for a SHG is correct to be a minus, but my concession is it’s not a minus a non-offensive player like Girardi will get (but could happen to Shattenkirk). Same with empty net goals against for an offensive D-man like KS. Understood. The 7% or 10%….not understood.

            There are issues with any stat in any sport, and they usually have more value when given some context (example: Ekman-Larsson is a -40 but he’s on ice more for a very bad team). That was my thought with citing a wide disparity within the same team.

            That’s more about stats than I hope I ever have to write again. I watch the games with a positive hope that KS settles in. I have an appreciation for the athleticism and preparedness of Hank, the drive and possession in the O-Zone with Nash even when I want him to score more, the selflessness of Zuc and Hayes, the anticipation of McD to step up on long passes….all that and more. I just haven’t yet worked up the negativity that seems to be required of many who post, so for now I’ll still remember the shots Girardi willingly put himself in front of, while some (Staal, Zuc, etc) have had near career-ending injuries from shots.

          • Jan 14, 2018 at 6:49 pm

            P.S. we don’t all know he’s a bag of rocks, as is obvious by being in the league for 830 games. Not always true that bloggers and commenters know more than GMs and coaches.

            • Jan 14, 2018 at 10:30 pm

              Aw come on. Girardi is a bag of rocks. The CORSI numbers say so, so it must be true. Playing on the best team in the league is just a mirage. His CORSI numbers say he is a bag of rocks. And that is all that matters. Doesn’t matter that his teams wins games. The final score is meaningless. Only the CORSI numbers are important.

  • Jan 14, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    What was the strength of this team for years, is now the laughing stock of the NHL. The entire defense sucks donkey dick, thats about it folks!!!!! Grade D

  • Jan 14, 2018 at 3:01 pm

    I’m being censored for speaking the truth……..

  • Jan 14, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Becky, Dave, et al;

    Zone starts don’t matter. Other than that, pretty much no argument. Least Bumble is better than Tinder or PoF

  • Jan 14, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    I’d keep it simple here: F for McDonagh, Staal, Kampfer; D+ for Skjei, Shatty, Holden, Smith. The most resounding F on this report card is for McDonagh, his awful play has had a cascading effect throughout the D pairings.

  • Jan 14, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    I know that the defensemen are problematic. But the defensive play of most of the forwards has been pretty horrid most of the season. Team defense overall is awful most nights.

  • Jan 14, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    Becky, I have liked very much that youy have written here over the years. But I think monkeys at typewriters could turn out Hamlet faster than they could turn out a report card that misses the mark as much as this one does.

    Observation 1. The Ranger forward corps is pretty crappy and the defense is forced to play most of the game in their own end.

    Observation 2. Ryan McDonagh leads the team in +/- at +10 while Kevin Shattenkirk is the caboose at -14. [OK, Kampfer is actually worse per game played.] Admittedly, +/- can be deceiving. It does not correct for the fact that McDonagh plays against the top opposing scorers whereas Shattenkirk is protected and mostly plays against guys who shouldn’t score anyway. And bizarrely, Shat makes more than McD.

    I expect two years from now that Girardi and Staal will still be better than Shattenkirk will ever be as a defenseman. Maybe he can be valuable as a fourth line forward and PP specialist.

    The guy who has really disappointed me this year though is Skjei. I thought he would reach a higher level, become a star. Instead he seems better only than Shattenkirk.

    Observation 3. Hartford is a horrid team. If guys like DeAngelo and Pionk were really top flight dmen, they would win more.

    • Jan 14, 2018 at 6:00 pm

      I largely agree with you. I love how we consistently overrate our young “stars” in the minor league when, in fact, they are not even “stars” playing on that level. Yet somehow, they should be playing in the NHL? Sounds like the same suspect arguments for playing Minor League McIlrath and Adam (I live out of a suitcase since I know I will be traded again at any moment) Clendening.

      As usual, Staal gets way too much abuse out here. He’s been the least of our problems and IMO has been solid enough. Not great, but to me, he is better than last year.

      Holden, our other piñata, has been fine. Skjei has been mostly good but is young and is still learning, as yesterday’s game reminds us.

      Kampfer is Kampfer. Has had some decent moments but he’s not a needle mover. Fine for a 7D.

      Now, to the real problems….

      McDonagh…….D- He avoids an F because I suspect he’s dealing with lingering injury issues. So much for the ridiculous theory that Girardi (the “anchor” who, if only we had a different coach, certainly would have banished a long time ago for all of our sterling minor league options—just ask Jon Cooper!) was dragging him down. I actually think we miss his intangibles and Klein’s more than the fancy stats crowd would ever be willing to admit. He’s been a huge, huge disappointment, and sorry, I’m not buying into the nonsense that he would be shining if he was paired with Shatty.

      Shatty…..First quarter of the season, A. Second quarter of the season, D+. When the PP was clicking, he was a beast. Since then, he’s been a non-contributor. Without big time contributions from him and McDonagh, this team is going nowhere.

      Smith……F-, or worse. No, that’s an emotional response. Guy comes to camp out of shape (according to reports), and I say shame on him. For the term and money paid, yes, he is an F-. Reality, he’s probably been a C-/D+. Some good things but not nearly enough. It’s early, but so far, his contract and his play make him Brendan the Bust.

      So, back in the summer, the totally overblown narrative out here was by getting rid of Girardi and Klein, by adding Shatty and resigning Smith, we would have the best four defensemen in the NHL. So far, only Skjei has come anywhere close to living up to expectations.

      And the ultimate irony is….Girardi is playing well for the presumptive favorite to win the Cup, while the guys who were supposed to be better options are toiling away in the AHL.

      We haven’t gotten outcoached as much as we have gotten “out-GMed”.

      • Jan 14, 2018 at 7:04 pm

        Well said and agree with about everything you wrote. I think Smith provides about the only physicality on the D (and maybe the whole team, with Kreider out), but he needs to do more.

      • Jan 15, 2018 at 6:57 am

        Idiot!Idiot!Idiot! – I thought you were in witness protection with your hero AV running the team out of the playoffs.

  • Jan 14, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    Hayes out tonight with the contusion issue.. McD about 50/50.. dealing with supposedly something unrelated to his last injury. Lord help us all

  • Jan 14, 2018 at 5:42 pm

    McD should be traded at the deadline for young fast skilled talent with an edge or 1st round pick and more. Staal should be traded for best deal possible. I would prefer a pick mid to late round. Use it to pick a player in Europe or Russia. Bring up and play the kids in Hartford on D. Stop with patchwork it’s because of the patchwork we don’t have a McDavid or Matthews or Sid.

  • Jan 14, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    McDonagh has not been himself this year and I doubt it has anything to with the captaincy or not having a consistent partner since he’s played with Holden for quite some time now. But a D+? That’s absurd. B- is more like it or C+ if you want to stretch it a bit. It sounds like you’re trying to bash AV by giving McDonagh a much lower grade than he deserves.

    Hodlen’s B- is actually one I don’t disagree that much with. He has made some glaring mistakes (who hasn’t on this team?) but for the most part he’s been serviceable if perhaps miscast in the role of a top-pairing guy.

    Skjei ‘s B+ is one I only have minor disagreement with. Skjei hasn’t been bad at all but B- is as high as I would go. He still has some defensive warts (see yesterday) and his offensive production, while passable, is hardly outstanding. He makes a lot of flashy rushes, but often tries (unsuccessfully) to stick handle through 3 or 4 guys and is another Ranger who seems to be constitutionally unable to lift the puck over a goalie’s pads. I think he’s still a work in progress and I think he will be really good but there’s still room for improvement.

    Shattenkirk started off well but has been pretty bad for the last month or so, and no, its not due to AV. Its due to Shattenkirk not getting it done. His defense ranges from barely passable to awful (as awful as most of the things Staal, Kampfer and Holden get excoriated for) and his offensive production has really trailed off. Also, the early boost he gave to the PP has been missing for a while now. Yes, some of that was due to Mika’s absence but that’s not the whole story. I would give him a B- for the first half but I expect much better from him the rest of the way.

    Marc Staal doesn’t deserve an F. He’s clearly not the player he was but he hasn’t been worse than a C-. Again, I think you’re trying to make a point about your hockey philosophy as opposed to the coaching staff’s by giving a lower grade than is warranted by the player’s actual performance.

    Brendan Smith gets a D- from me. He reported out of shape, played like crap, got benched and when he did get back in the lineup he hasn’t been all that good. Besides his defensive gaffes and minimal contribution to the offense he takes a lot of bad, undisciplined penalties as you pointed out. I’m not sure I see a bounce back for him and he could be dealt at the trade deadline.

    I know Kampfer bashing is a popular sport on this blog, but saying he’s “not actually an NHL player” is a bit over the top. Another case of bashing the coach and front office by denigrating the player. Kampfer is what he is, a 7th defense man who plays in case of injury or someone needing a rest. He’s serviceable in that role and while I don’t want to see him playing more than necessary but he’s hardly the worst option to have in that defined role. Yes, it would be nice to have a younger player with more upside but that guy is much better off getting regular minutes in Hartford. So, a C for Steven.

    Anthony D’Angelo shouldn’t even be mentioned here because he’s not actually on the team. You only mentioned him to take another gratuitous swipe at the team management (not that they’re above criticism but if you want to do that give that subject its own post). I don’t give a rat’s ass about his personality or Twitter feed (I don’t have an Twitter account or read tweets). He was awful in his brief trial with the Rangers and for a while, wasn’t much better with Hartford. He does seem to have a skill set that the Rangers could use but unless he can demonstrate that he’s not going to let more goals in through the back door than he accounts for through the front door then he needs to stay in the AHL and work on his game.

    Yes, it was a bad idea to trade Stepan for a guy who couldn’t stick with the big club and a draft pick who needed another year in Sweden but its not “incompetent management” to make D’Angelo earn his way back to the NHL. Despite the “grass is always greener” philosophy that many here have concerning prospects they often can be worse than the guy currently holding the job.

    • Jan 14, 2018 at 6:40 pm

      I largely agree with you, but I tend to base my grade based on expectations. Yes, you are right that McDonagh, relative to the other guys you’ve graded lower, has been better than them. No argument. But I base my grades on expectations. McDonagh is supposed to be one of the better defensemen in the league. He hasn’t been anywhere close to that, so on that level, he’s been a major disappointment relative to expectations.

      That’s my grade disclaimer, for whatever it is worth.

      • Jan 14, 2018 at 8:12 pm

        I think (but don’t know for sure) that he’s playing with a chronic, nagging injury which is part of the reason I gave him the grade I did.

        Also I take into consideration that he’s out there against the opposition’s top lines.

        But yeah, he has been disappointing.

  • Jan 14, 2018 at 5:52 pm

    I’m willing to bet that if you somehow get Ken Hitchcock or Barry Trotz coaching this team, the entire defense goes from D- to B+. Something about AV’s system that just doesn’t work.

    • Jan 14, 2018 at 6:41 pm

      Thoroughly 100% disagree. You are putting way too much on the coaches here. This is mostly on the players.

      • Jan 14, 2018 at 8:16 pm

        100% disagree with you E3. It is the coaches. It is the system. It is the stubbornness of an arrogant man hammering square pegs into round holes, blaming the hammer when it’s the carpenter’s fault.

        • Jan 14, 2018 at 8:25 pm

          Great coaches put their players in the best possible position to succeed. They don’t force a system on players that aren’t right for that system. Take Pat Riley showtime but bump and grind with the Knicks. Different players different systems. AV must go.

          • Jan 14, 2018 at 8:27 pm

            Showtime in LA it should read.

        • Jan 14, 2018 at 10:28 pm

          I think you guys have watched the movie “Miracle” a few too many times. 🙂

          • Jan 15, 2018 at 4:34 pm

            Never seen it. Movies are terrible, for the most part—I don’t waste my time with them.

      • Jan 15, 2018 at 7:01 am

        Looks like AV posting under his screen name again.

  • Jan 14, 2018 at 7:38 pm

    there you go Becky, Smith back in. wonder no longer!

  • Jan 15, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    D is lacking, but time to change the Coach. They are supposed to play based on quickness and Grabner and Skjei are the only really good skaters. Time to adjust!

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