In life, sometimes it is the simplest of decisions that can put you in a position to succeed or fail. Hockey is no different. Being in the right position at the right time usually doesn’t happen by chance. It’s a decision or a chain of decisions that can set you up with a Goal For or a Goal Against.
Perhaps there isn’t a more critical time to get that decision making process right then when you are on the backcheck. For the Rangers, executing their backchecking system is crucial to their counter game, which you all know has been the bread and butter of AV’s system during his time in New York.
For today’s post, we’ll breakout the different ways teams execute backchecking systems and discuss whether or not the Rangers are excelling at this aspect of the game. Then maybe if we have some time later in the comments, we’ll discuss what kind of seasonal fabrics everyone should be buying for the holidays!
You know it’s time to dust off your laptop and write a post for Blue Seat Blogs when there are jokes on the Internet about your location, your health, or doubts as to if you ever existed at all. Truth be told, I am not an alter ego for Dave Shapiro.
For new readers of Blue Seat Blogs, allow me to re-introduce myself, my name is HOV, H to the O V, The Suit. I like bourbon, matters related to bespoke tailoring, and hockey. I use a pseudonym for various reasons. I (sort of) invented blogging about Hockey Systems. Now Steve Valiquette has far surpassed me and did so with an air of Greenwich snobbery that even I can’t replicate (jk love you Vally).
Anyway, it’s been a while since I created internet, so I have decided to share a few views on things related specifically to our defense, because defense wins championships or something.
For those of you who have been following Blue Seat Blogs for several years, or perhaps follow me on Twitter @thehockeysuit (shameless plug), know that I’m an eternal centrist. I try to see multiple sides of an argument no matter how extreme. Since the Rangers laid an egg to Pittsburgh – and probably even before that – fans have been asking whether or not the hourglass has run out on AV. The reactions to this question have been obviously polarizing.
Rather than give you my opinion and back it up with pretty gifs, or advanced stats, etc., I’ll share with you what the thought process likely is inside the walls of 2 Penn Plaza under different scenarios. From there, you all can form your own opinion on what the Rangers front office will likely do with AV. As always, please feel free to sound off in the comments.
For many years now on this site we’ve talked about the Rangers mediocre power play, what’s wrong with it, and what we’d do to fix it. Fortunately for the Rangers, recently history suggests that you can win a Stanley Cup without an elite power play. The LA Kings proved this twice (sad face), as have the Bruins and the Penguins.
The penalty kill is a different story. None of the clubs mentioned above had a PK rate under 83% in their Cup winning seasons; same goes for the Chicago Blackhawks and their runs.
This season the Rangers are only killing off 77% of their penalties, which is good for 26th in the NHL. That does not bode well for any team trying to compete for a Cup, let alone one currently in the top half of the League in minor penalties. And no, Eric Staal doesn’t help you there.
In order for the Rangers to have a fighting chance this postseason, the PK needs to get fix. Here’s three issues the Rangers need to address to fix the kill.
With the All-Star break in full swing, GMs from around the NHL will go on overdrive trying to find that missing piece. The goal is always the same this time of year. Improve now, improve for the future or for some teams, do a combination of both.
The Rangers needs are well documented at this point. To quickly recap, they could use another defensemen, a top 9 winger and perhaps some of their draft picks back. After all, they haven’t had a 1st rounder since 2012 and won’t have one till 2017, which is insane.
Anyway, with those goals in mind, below are some targets I would consider as the trade deadline approaches. As always, I’m happy to debate these ideas (civilly) in the comments.
It is often said in the sports business that the third season in a coach’s tenure is sometimes their most difficult. Players tend to tire from the same voice. A coach’s tendencies with x’s and o’s tend to become a little stagnant and predictable for the opposition. Players end up unhappy with their roles and can sometimes lose hope in gaining more responsibilities. The list goes on.
It is at this critical juncture, coaches need to find ways to make adjustments to their system and how they manage their bench.
The Rangers seem to be hitting that lull. Their scoring chance differential at even strength is a -128. That’s by far the worst differential this organization has had since they started tracking the stat 10 years ago. Whether this is due to players tiring of AV or not is anyone’s guess. Regardless, the roster is what it is and adjustments have not been made.
Part of my enjoyment of watching hockey goes so much further than whether or not the Rangers win or lose on any given night. Obviously, the goal every year is to win the Cup, as it should be. However, as I always say, for me it’s not just about the end results, but admiration for the process took to get there.
Mats Zuccarello is a great example of the process the Rangers took in putting together a team that has more or less been in contention for the last four to five years. Unlike others, he wasn’t a big money signing, where the Rangers just out-resourced a smaller market team for his services. Nor was he a shoe-in first round draft pick.
Signing Zuccarello was a gamble and his rise from an obscure Norwegian national teamer to a top six forward on a contending team wasn’t guaranteed. What Mats Zuccarello exemplifies is one way you can develop a skill player.
You can only ignore text messages and tweets from Dave Shapiro for so long. I knew if I didn’t get off my rear, dust off my laptop, and start typing again, next thing I’d know Dave would be lurking outside my window Quagmire style.
Anyhow, the Blueshirts season is three games old and already narratives are being expounded about the Rangers defense, mostly in the form of demeaning Dan Girardi and pleading for Dylan McIlrath. And while the defense is certainly the area of the roster to keep tabs on while the season unfolds, the player I’ll be zoning in on is Keith Yandle.
The Rangers haven’t had an elite offensive defensemen since Brian Leetch. Many have tried to fill his skates over the last 15 years (e.g., Tom Poti, Wade Redden, Michael Del Zotto, etc.), but none have succeeded. While Yandle isn’t Leetch, having a d-man with his pedigree shouldn’t be overlooked for several reasons.
1) He’s A Potential Long-term Solution For The Power Play
Back by popular demand, we’ve decided to kick-start our annual player, coaching, and management report cards. As a reminder, these grades aren’t just based on stats, but also the execution of each personnel or player’s respective role within the organization. Obviously there’s some subjectivity here, but that’s what makes these interesting and conversational.
As always, feel free to post your own grades in the comments section below.
There’s no way to spin it. Girardi did not have a good season. While his effort was undeniably at a maximum, unfortunately his output was still a career low. This year was his worst statistical (scoring chance differential) season on record. What made matters worse was this came after a subpar performance in the 2014 playoffs.
It’s fair to point out that he may have the team’s toughest task with shutting down opposing stars and getting buried with defensive zone starts (after a whistle). However, he’s paid to break up those dangerous plays in the slot and this year he didn’t do that with any regularity. In general, I thought he just looked a step slower.
It’s almost unfair. Every article I read about coach of the year candidates, Alain Vigneault barely gets any ink. As beloved as AV is by the NY beat, outside of the metro, he might as well be a ghost.
Deciding who should be the coach of the year is almost an impossible exercise. No one really knows what goes on during film sessions, private meetings with players, etc. Despite years of detailing hockey tactics and systems, most who cover this game still can’t explain which coaches employ an overload and why. Instead, postseason wins and losses are unfairly the only metric.
Make no mistake though. Alain Vigneault is a very good coach. If it weren’t for Roberto Luongo becoming allergic to pucks in 2011 or matching up against one of the deepest NHL teams in recent memory last summer, AV would share more ink with Mike Babcock and Joel Quenneville.