Per Brett Cyrgalis, winger Tanner Glass –out with the mumps– skated with the team today at practice, rotating with Anthony Duclair on the fourth defense pairing with John Moore. Glass won’t play tomorrow, and it looks like Alain Vigneault won’t be making any lineup changes either.
I had contemplated writing this post a few weeks ago when the Rangers dropped several shootouts in quick succession, but I decided to hold out for the sake of objectivity. I think after almost ten (crazy, right?) seasons of sampling the utility of the shootout, it’s time to examine whether or not it is still a viable method for determining the winners of NHL games.
When the shootout was implemented in the 2005-2006 season, I’ll be honest; I was sick of ties. They were irritating. We didn’t get any sense of closure and half the time you weren’t sure what the prevailing emotion was. Did your team play well enough to win? Were they lucky to grab a point? There was just no satisfaction to it. Running the risk of being tarred and feathered, I’ll admit: I was on board with the shootout.
In case you missed it yesterday, I was asked why the Rangers kept Dan Girardi over Anton Stralman. After going into qualitative (eye test) and quantitative (#fancystats) analysis, comparing Girardi to Stralman, it was clear to see that Stralman was always the better choice. However, one thing that was not as clear was whether the Rangers actually chose Girardi over Stralman. It’s something I noted in the last line of that post:
It’s worth noting that I think the Rangers chose Boyle over Stralman, and wanted to keep Girardi regardless.
It makes sense that the Rangers didn’t want to deal their captain (Ryan Callahan) and another leader in Girardi that would be given the ‘A’ following the eventual buyout of Brad Richards. So, keeping Girardi was always, in my eyes, in their plan. However, keeping Girardi did not address the obvious need for a defenseman that could run the powerplay. With Dan Boyle on his way out in San Jose, the fit was obvious.
The Rangers have had a relatively light week which gives us some time to reflect on the Rangers’ play this year including some statistical insight. No fancy stats, just numbers.
Reflecting on players’ performances to this point in the season, how many Rangers have justified their cap hit this season? Rick Nash, Martin St Louis, Derick Brassard and Derick Stepan have all justified their deals to this point. Brassard and Nash in particular have been good if not great while St Louis has torn it up the past couple weeks to cast aside the indifferent games he had as a center.
After that? Carl Hagelin represents good value, Lee Stempniak could flirt with 15-20 goals if he stays in the line-up, Dom Moore has been as advertised (reliable) and Matt Hunwick – the occasional gaffe aside – has certainly been worth a 600k commitment. Kevin Klein’s contract has become more and more acceptable as his game has improved. That makes nine for those counting.
I received one question this week in the mailbag, and it was a doozy, so this entire post is dedicated to it. As always, email me if you have any questions, and I’ll be sure to address each one.
BV, this is a loaded question, to which we can break it down into several parts. Addressing the first part is the easy part: Keeping Girardi over Stralman had a lot to do with perceived value versus market value, and the writing was on the wall when Stralman rejected the Rangers offer of three years, $9 million. The Rangers valued him at $4 million, which is what Larry Brooks reported. That was $500,000 less than what he got from Tampa Bay over five years. The Rangers didn’t want to go that long or that high.
Henrik Lundqvist isn’t turning in consistent Vezina worthy performances this season, something that’s being well documented, however it’s reasonable to expect Lundqvist to rebound. When someone delivers the type of consistent excellence Lundqvist has done for the best part of a decade it’s fair to expect a return to form. A bigger concern for the Rangers right now is the lack of consistent, secondary scoring the team is receiving.
The Rangers are hovering around the playoff positions almost exclusively because of the contributions of Rick Nash, Marty St Louis and Derick Brassard. The trio have 34 of the Rangers 71 goals, accounting for over 47% of the Rangers total. After those three, production falls of a cliff. The return of Derek Stepan has given the Rangers an added dimension but the team is getting far too little out of players who they were counting on for big contributions and the Rangers season threatens to get worse if that lack of production continues.
Per Dan Rosen, the New York Rangers have saved Anton Stralman’s life. Stralman had been battling lung infections during his time with Columbus, and it caused the Devils to pass on him after signing him to a PTO in 2011. Since the Rangers have access to some of the best doctors, they were able to get him to a pulmonologist, who was able to treat Stralman for his ailments. This led to his successful sting in New York and his pay-day in Tampa Bay.
It’s a great article that you should read, and it’s a feel-good story about a very good and very underrated defenseman.
New York’s problems down the middle began when the team failed to bring in a replacement for Brad Richards and were exacerbated when Derek Stepan broke his fibula during training camp.
But since Stepan’s return to the lineup on November 8th, a bit of normalcy has returned to the Blueshirts. Their 5-5-2 record over that span looks a lot worse thanks to three recent losses to the impressive Tampa Bay Lightning, but Stepan has been a godsend since the moment he rejoined the team.
As per Marc Brophy, via Sportsnet.ca, the Rangers and restricted free agent Marc Staal are closing in on a deal. The “saga” has dragged out all summer, and has been the biggest concern amongst Ranger fans. General Manager Glen Sather has been relatively outspoken on the negotiations, saying that the difference was “a chasm” and that the Rangers would match any potential offer sheet presented to the young, star defenseman. Staal is clearly the Rangers best defenseman, and it would serve them well to have him signed when camp opens next week.
There aren’t many details in the Brophy article, but it’s safe to assume Staal will be at least the third highest paid defenseman on the team (Wade Redden, Michal Rozsival). Hopefully there will be an official signing announcement soon.
Update: Andrew Gross is reporting that a second source has confirmed talks. Nothing is imminent, but this is good news.
Alessandro Rosso over at HockeysFuture did a Q&A with Ranger prospect-extraordinaire Evgeny Grachev, and it’s definitely worth the read. Some highlights:
HF: The last couple of seasons are seeing some tension between the NHL and Russia because of some questionable moves from one country to another. What do you think about the current relationships between NHL and KHL regarding players’ transfers?
EG: I haven’t got the faintest idea about how the ties are going. And I have to say that I’m not interested in this argument since my plan is to play in America.
It’s good that his plan is to stay in the States, but I guess you have to expect them to say that for now.
HF: Can you compare your game last season and now?
EG: I can’t really do such a comparison. But I can say that I’ve added a lot of confidence and of course you don’t play around 100 games in a season for nothing. Every year I learn more and more about playing as a forward. After all I’ve played as forward only since I was 14.
I didn’t realize he had only been a forward for a few years. Considering how he tore up the OHL last year, things can only get better for him. Confidence is a huge thing too.
As of now, it looks like the Rangers struck gold with their third round pick last year, let’s hope his development continues. I still don’t see him making the team next season.
h/t to Mika Axisa for sending me this.