Category: Analysis

Re-configuring the Rangers power play

Spot the righty (AP Photo/Kathy Willens).

Spot the righty (AP Photo/Kathy Willens).

With the exception of a few depth signings, it appears Glen Sather will keep the Rangers roster mostly intact for the 2013-14 season. Rather than take a shot at Jarome Iginla, Derek Roy, or Daniel Alfredsson (all of whom signed one year deals), the organization has instead decided to keep Brad Richards around for at least one more season. Barring a trade, it looks as though AV will have to work with what he’s got.

Getting the Rangers back to being one of the best 5-on-5 hockey teams shouldn’t be an issue for this staff. Even if there hadn’t been a coaching change, the underlying numbers suggest even-strength goals scored should theoretically rebound. The Rangers after all were one of the better puck possession teams in the league last season. However, as we’ve learned since the ’05 lockout, solid 5-on-5 hockey can only get you so far.

Ultimately, Alain Vigneault and assistant coach Scott Arniel will have to reconfigure the power play and get the boys clicking at an acceptable rate if we want to go the distance.

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New Rangers round out much-needed depth

Pouliot is one of those signings people will love (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images).

Pouliot is one of those signings people will love (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images).

During the free agent frenzy, the Rangers added just three depth players, and spent less than $3 million in the process. All the big names went elsewhere for a significant amount of money, so it was refreshing that the organization decided to fill depth holes and not chase big money guys. After acquiring Justin Falk, Danny Syrvet, and Danny Kristo in trades, the Rangers signed Dominic Moore, Aaron Johnson, and Benoit Pouliot.

Pouliot and Moore –who sat out last season while tending to his late-wife’s cancer– are both on cheap deals to help address the fact that the Rangers really haven’t been able to roll four lines that much. With Arron Asham and Darroll Powe on waivers, the two new additions will likely slide into a bottom-six role with the club. On paper, they appear to be upgrades, and address the tertiary scoring needs.

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Rangers watch from sidelines as UFA circus begins

As the window to Free Agency opens in a few hours, it got me thinking about the post-lockout economic landscape and how it will affect the Rangers.  I actually think it will be a blessing in disguise that the Blueshirts have almost no cap space to work with in the UFA market, with most available resources going to re-sign our own (very talented) RFA’s.  Even if another team decides to take Darrell Powe and Arron Asham off our hands, there will likely still be less than three million to play with, and some of that needs to be saved for the deadline.

The biggest wild card GM’s are dealing with is the salary cap in subsequent seasons.  All signs point to that cap meeting, or even exceeding the current $70.3 million cap of this past season.  With six outdoor games planned for this coming year, revenue seems to be increasing at a rapid rate.  The general effect of this type of revenue spike in pro sports (and especially under the new revenue sharing provisions) is that more teams find themselves competing for higher-end assets.  Basic law of supply and demand will tell you that this will drive up UFA prices in the future. Read more »

Falk an upgrade on Eminger; Syvret means the end of Gilroy, Hamrlik

So long Emmy, it's been fun (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images).

So long Emmy, it’s been fun (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images).

Over the past two days, Glen Sather has made two minor trades to acquire much-needed depth defensemen in Justin Falk from Minnesota and Danny Syvret from Philadelphia. Defensive depth was clearly an issue, as the Rangers were exploited against the Bruins without Marc Staal, and hopeless once Anton Stralman went down. They needed to address this, and they have done just that.

In Falk and Syvret, the Rangers get two young(ish) defensemen –both left-handed shots– who are on the cusp of cracking an NHL lineup. Falk has more NHL games under his belt, but both are capable of dressing in a pinch and holding their own. Neither is going to wow you, but they are certainly better than what we saw from Roman Hamrlik (or what we didn’t see from Matt Gilroy). It is likely that Falk and Syvret will mean the end of Hamrlik and Gilroy on Broadway. However, Steve Eminger is a curious case.

Warning: #fancystats coming up.

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Keeping Richards is risky, but smart

He's in New York for at least one more year (USATSI).

He’s in New York for at least one more year (USATSI).

Rangerland is divided on Brad Richards. Half wanted the Rangers to use their second compliance buyout on the struggling center, while the other half wanted to see what one more year would look like. There were pros and cons of both decisions, but this humble (humble loosely defined) blogger believes Slats made the right call. Justin and I are the only two here that wanted another year of Richards, and we got our wish.

Everyone knows the riskiness of this move. If Richards gets hurt at the end of the season, and remains hurt during next year’s compliance buyout period, then the Rangers are stuck with his contract for the six subsequent seasons at a $6.6 million cap hit. If he retires before the end of the contract, then the Rangers get nailed with the new cap recapture clause, where the Rangers would be penalized with the following cap hits should he retire before his contract expires

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Taking a look at a possible Henrik Lundqvist contract extension

Henrik Lundqvist’s contract situation has been quite the hot topic since the season ended.  Prior to his non-committal remarks as to his future, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Hank would remain in New York long-term.  Since extension-gate and the coaching change, combined with news that Lundqvist’s camp and the Rangers are commencing negotiations at the Draft in a few days, there has been much speculation about what a possible extension would look like.  Many pundits have theorized a possible max-contract to keep The King in his kingdom, but there hasn’t been much in the way of analysis.  Let’s change that, shall we?

For those who aren’t CBA geeks, the max-contract under the current collective bargaining agreement (for a player re-signing with his current club) is 8 years/$80 million.  For a UFA changing destinations it is 7 years/$70 million.  Hank is currently entering the final year of his 6 year/$41.45 million contract, signed in 2008.  If he were to receive a max-deal, the massive cap hit of $10 million would be approximately a $3.125 million increase from his current contract.  Even with the cap increasing again based on the HRR (Hockey Related Revenue) calculation in 2014-2015, the cap hit is staggering.

The implementation of the new CBA has changed the landscape of long-term extensions for superstar players.  Gone are the cap-circumventing 12-14 year deals and the suppressed cap values that came with them.   This alone makes forecasting an elite free agent contract all the more difficult. Not to mention that goalies are generally priced differently than players are, anyway.  Read more »

Richards, Clowe set for bounce-back seasons

Both poised for bounce-back years. Will they do it? (Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

Both poised for bounce-back years. Will they do it? (Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s no secret: Brad Richards and Ryane Clowe had disastrous seasons. Richards was a non-factor for the Rangers on the powerplay –something he was brought in to help bring back to respectability– and was even a healthy scratch for the last few games of the postseason. Clowe didn’t score a goal until he arrived in New York before suffering what is rumored to be two concussions over the span of the last week of the season and his two playoff games.

What we do know is that they were both awful. What we don’t know is whether or not these were off-years or the sign of a complete downward spiral for both players. However, handy-dandy puck possession metrics and shooting percentages can give us a bit of insight into what to expect from them next year, be it in New York or elsewhere. Yesterday I looked at the puck possession leaders for the Rangers, and both Richards and Clowe were among the top five for the Rangers, which may allude to the fact that there’s still gas in the tank.  Insert “watch the game nerd” joke here.

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Sather needs to buyout Richards or risk being a mouse forever

(Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

(Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

Glen Sather doesn’t speak to the press much anymore. Other than his recent quasi compliments/critiques of Tortorella, or his professed love for Sean Avery, I can’t really think of anything he has said in recent seasons that was quite remarkable.

Pre-lockout Sather (the original lockout), had a quite different communication plan. Whether it was referring to Malakhov as a “superstar” or predicting Tom Poti would be “one of the top players in this league,” it seemed every acquisition he made back then was generally followed by some sort of over the top statement.

Perhaps my favorite Sather quote of all time was the one he dropped after acquiring Eric Lindros where he said, “if you don’t make this deal, you’re a mouse forever.” If there was ever any sort of insight into his thought process, that line pretty much gave you all you ever needed to know.

Which brings us to today’s exercise…

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2013 Rangers puck possession leaders

Anton Stralman: Rangers leading puck possession player this season.

Anton Stralman: Rangers leading puck possession player this season.

As the Rangers look to move beyond the John Tortorella era and into the Alain Vigneault era, they are going to need to lean on their puck possession monsters to ensure a smooth transition into a more creative offensive flow. This means more reliance on their top offensive guys to maintain offensive pressure and keep the puck in the offensive zone. If you are unfamiliar with Corsi, read up here.

Among the forwards, we all know that Carl Hagelin is a puck possession monster, and truly jump-started the Rangers offense with his call up last season. Hagelin’s 11.73 CorsiON (Corsi/60) and 11.5 RCorsi is second on the team, but he was tops among the forwards last season. The addition of Rick Nash bumped Hagelin to second with his 12.56 CorsiON and 13.2 RCorsi. The full list (minimum of 20 games) has a few surprises, and really illustrates the struggles of Chris Kreider.

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Don’t expect a huge change with Vigneault on board

Don't expect a huge difference in performance under Vigneault.

Don’t expect a huge difference in performance under Vigneault.

With Alain Vigneault on board, the Rangers are likely going to be changing their styles of play. But with that style change comes understanding what that change will bring. This is something we’ve covered a few times here, but it’s worth digging deeper into the puck possession metrics to see how exactly the Rangers will be differing in styles of play, and how effective AV’s more conservative style is at driving puck possession.

Make no mistake, there are very few coaches as aggressive as John Tortorella. The Rangers sat at the top of the league in GF% (goals for percentage, GF/[GF+GA]), CF%, and SF% this past season, which was likely the most efficient on-ice performance of any Torts-coached Ranger team. They may not have been pretty, they may have been maddeningly inconsistent, but they were efficient in puck possession as a team. Vigneault’s Canucks, however, were not in the top-10 in these categories this past season.

But it is unfair to really rate Vigneault –or Tortorella for that matter– with just one lockout-shortened season of stats. So let’s look at the last three years for these coaches:

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