What a strange ride this 2015-2016 season has been so far. After last night’s victory over the eminently talented St. Louis Blues, the Rangers sit just two points behind the mighty Montreal Canadiens for the best record in the entire NHL. However, it has not been a stream of endless adulation and bold championship predictions on Broadway. In fact, most pundits expect the Rangers to take a severe step back due to their unsustainable combination of low possession and high PDO.
Be sure to check out our “Metrics we use” tab for useful information on possession statistics, but PDO is much simpler. Basically it creates a “normalized” statistic by combining shooting percentage and save percentage and theorizing they will both regress to a league average of 100. The theory is that over time, unsustainably high or low shooting and save percentages will regress to the mean, and performance can be predicted to improve or decline as regression takes place. It’s hockey best attempt at quantifying “luck”.
It has been a strange start to the young season for the New York Rangers. It has been wildly varied in fan and media attitudes toward the talent level, personnel and performance of the team. I have been thinking more and more recently about the intersection between many of these concepts, and I’m going to try to keep my thoughts as organized as possible, so they don’t devolve into a jumbled mess.
The Rangers have now past the ten game mark of the new season, and will be taking on the cellar-dwelling Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at Madison Square Garden in search of a 7-2-2 start. There has been much to analyze in the early going, so naturally I have some thoughts…
1. Mainstream media analysis, especially in the early goings of a season, is especially broad. Good starts, slow starts and unexpected performers litter the narrative landscape. Reading publications like The Hockey News or ESPN, the assumption is that the Canadiens are invincible and the Ducks and Blue Jackets are toast. You dig a little deeper into the individual teams and you find that each club has it own sources of consternation and optimism.
Last night in Montreal, Emerson Etem made his New York Rangers debut. It was rather unceremonious, as he played a grand total of 7:09 on fourth line duty, and was buried for 86% DZ starts. Not exactly the ideal deployment of a guy who is lauded for his offensive skillset.
Personally, I am not a huge fan of Etem’s game. I will be the first one to admit that he is a tremendously gifted offensive player. He has great hands, shot and skating agility. Decision-making, effort level and one-dimensional skillset are the critical concerns I have with Etem. The Rangers traded an extremely versatile player in Carl Hagelin for the young winger, and while I am not here to lament the merits of that trade, it does create something of a roster imbalance. Read More→
Isn’t everyone in a much better mood now that hockey is back? It doesn’t hurt that the Rangers won their opener against the defending champs and rained on their obnoxious banner-raising ceremony. Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for the Blackhawks organization, but my god, that was a little much. The Blueshirts are back at it tonight against Columbus, so I figured I would share some thoughts on game day…
In the interest of keeping this in some semblance of order, I’m going to try and compartmentalize these bullets into ‘Hawks thoughts and then Blue Jackets thoughts.
Happy Friday, BSB’ers! The preseason is officially over and we are only five days away from the 2015-2016 opener in Chicago. There are still some cuts looming and possibly a roster move or two. Naturally, I have some thoughts…
1. The more I think about the concept, the more I like the idea of eight defenseman. The Rangers have a pretty diverse skill set amongst their backliners, so I think using some sort of rotation to keep certain guys (Boyle, Girardi) fresh and to take advantage of matchups is a good idea.
2. Kevin Klein is a difficult call for me. On one hand, he is overpriced for his place on this roster. I think he is a bargain for teams of lesser defensive depth, but he is a luxury for us. His presence makes for waiver exposure to cost-effective guys that are useful to the roster. Read More→
When Henrik Lundqvist went down with a fluke vascular injury last season, all eyes turned to Cam Talbot. A very short time after inking a very reasonable one year, $1.45 million extension, Talbot was thrust into starting duty. After his impressive rookie season as backup to the King, this was his first big test. Long story short, Talbot delivered and the focus began to shift to the ultimate offseason return for the former University of Alabama-Huntsville keeper. Whatever we may think of the value he brought in hindsight, his departure to Edmonton left the Rangers without a reliable backup in the system. Especially in light of Mackenzie Skapski’s injury.
On the very same day Talbot was shipped out to western Canada, the front office turned Ryan Haggerty into Antti Raanta. While a somewhat under-the-radar move, I think everyone assumed the Rangers had found their backup. Raanta had a very short NHL track record (39 career games), but had put up excellent number this past season. At 26 years-old, he was an ideal backup with some upside.
During the Alain Vigneault era, the Rangers have had a tendency to get off to slow starts to the regular season. In fairness, it really isn’t his fault, per say. For the start of the 2013-2014 season, AV had to completely undo five years of John Tortorella’s collapse and cycle system. The transition to the uptempo, transition-focused system the Rangers employ today was hardly seamless. Combine that with a difficult road trip during MSG renovations and we had a recipe for serious growing pains. As a result, the Rangers limped to a 3-8 start to the season, and had many questioning if the coaching change was the right decision, after all. Read More→
Finally. September. The ridiculous 90+ degree heat hasn’t seemed to stop, but at least hockey is not only weeks, instead of months, away. There has been a summer full of great off-season analysis, and Traverse City is right around the corner. As we move at break-neck speed back toward hockey season, I have some thoughts…
There have been several slightly off-topic articles written over the past few weeks that I wanted to throw my .02 in, at least just conceptually. Read More→
Happy Friday, BSB faithful! Welcome to the final installment of the 4th Annual Top 30 Goaltenders List. It’s been a wild ride, but here we are. The first two editions of the rankings can be found here and here, and the first post will outline the format if you are late to the party. A few readers have reached out looking for a write up on the guys who were left off the list from last season, since there was a ton of turnover this time around. If there is interest in that, I can definitely put a post like that together. You can think of it as a spin-off to the original.
Without any further delay, here are your Top 10. Read More→