Archive for Musings
The trade deadline is one week away, and the rumors are surprisingly quiet. I expect it will pick up over the weekend and as we get closer to Tuesday/Wednesday. The Rangers are not really in many rumors at the moment, but that I also expect to change as the trade winds pick up.
In case you revived the dead horse, the Rangers need defensive help. And if you did revive the dead horse, you now have a zombie horse. It’s your fault when the zombie apocalypse happens. Jerk. Enjoy your final trade deadline musings before packs of zombie horses eat you.
With every passing day the trade deadline draws closer, with teams already likely in the preliminary stages of making whatever deals we’ll eventually see transpire. The Rangers are likely to be active at the deadline one way or another, and while I’m not going to make specific recommendations or prescribe particular remedies to what’s ailing the team (given that I’ve already done that, and given that there’s certainly more than one way to improve this team) I do want to unpack the crucial thought process that a team must undertake in the run up to the deadline.
In short, it all has to do with whether or not this team sees itself as a true contender, and whether or not that’s actually true. We’ve seen in previous years the Rangers’s tendency to go all in, adding pieces at the deadline in order to give the team a shot at the Cup. While I think it’s certainly admirable to try and contend every year possible and give Henrik Lundqvist a shot at his Cup, we’ve also seen in previous years that this hasn’t exactly worked out.
Last night, the Rangers lost a disappointing game to the rival Islanders in Brooklyn. The loss snapped a six game winning streak in which the Blueshirts were able to move into a temporary three-way tie for second place in the Metro. Since it’s Friday and we are all looking to kill some time at work, I have some thoughts…
1. I am not a big believer in picking your preferred playoff matchups. I generally find it to be a fool’s errand, but this season, I really can’t see any upside in trying to vie for position in the stacked Metro division. Nothing good can come from the meat grinder of potentially playing the Penguins, Blue Jackets and/or Capitals in the first two rounds.
As Sunday turned to Monday the Rangers are in a nice place; they’re riding a five game win streak with Henrik Lundqvist being fresh off win number 400. Without further delay, let’s muse all things Rangers with a focus on the impending trade deadline.
Every team has their needs and everyone around the league know what the Rangers’ needs are which beggars the question; when a team’s need is as glaring as the Rangers (hello right handed blueliner) is it at all possible to get value at the deadline? If the Rangers do make a move to improve the one obvious flaw that they have, it will take something very special from Jeff Gorton to not overpay and/or give up a major asset or two.
With the trade deadline approaching, it has been fairly obvious that the Rangers are in the market for a defenseman. That defenseman is likely to be on the right side, as the Rangers are pretty terrible there. That part we know. What we don’t know, though, is what the Rangers plan on doing to address this hole.
There are numerous options, most of which we’ve covered here. The Rangers can make a splash for a Kevin Shattenkirk. They can go for a rental like Cody Franson or Michael Stone. They can make a block buster deal for a young defenseman rumored to be dangled, like Jacob Trouba. But one area that hasn’t been discussed much is standing pat, and doing nothing. There’s a solid argument for this case too.
As the NHL heads into All-Star weekend, regular season games have been suspended until Tuesday. With the loss to the Flyers on Wednesday, the Rangers go into the break in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division, nine points back of the Caps for the top spot. With sixty percent of the season behind us and just a month to go before the trade deadline, I have some thoughts…
1. Even though it was a small sampling of games over the past week or so, it was nice to see a real bounce back in performance from Henrik Lundqvist. He has looked much sharper since the barnburner against Dallas. Much more poised on his feet, more precision in his angles and movement and more in sync with the team in front of him.
On the podcast last night, Becky and Pat brought up an interesting discussion about who their dream Ranger would be. It’s an interesting topic, as there are many different opinions of what player will solve all the problems that ail the Rangers. It’s also a fun discussion too, as it’s a battle to try to get your favorite player on the Rangers.
For Pat, his dream Ranger is one of Erik Karlsson, PK Subban, or Steven Stamkos. At the deadline though, he’s significantly more realistic, preferring Cody Franson or Kevin Shattenkirk in the summer. Ryan Graves actually made his list too. Talking about a reboot of the defense.
Unless you’re blind, you’ve noticed that the Rangers have a huge issue on defense. It doesn’t matter what you think about Henrik Lundqvist’s future, it’s painfully obvious that for the Rangers to be a better team and have a legitimate shot at a Stanley Cup, they need to make drastic changes on the blue line. This is beyond deployment, it’s personnel based, and the need is dire.
There are some quick fixes that can be done to make the Rangers into more of a contending team. This would mean giving up a young top-nine forward for a young top-four defenseman and then making a separate deal for a solid bottom pairing defenseman. That, at the very least, is what is needed to turn the current version of the Rangers into a true Cup contender this season. They need not one, but two defensemen.
With the Columbus Blue Jackets having just wrapped up a historic win streak, former Rangers head coach and current Jackets skipper John Tortorella has been in the media lately talking about the character and identity of his team. As a bona fide nerd and believer in statistical analysis I’d typically be dismissive, even mockingly so, of Torts’ typical emphasis on things like “playing the game the right way”, but lately I’ve been reconsidering my stance.
The discussion around intangibles in hockey can be a polarizing one, and while I’m not sure I’m convinced that teams should pay premiums for the character of their players I’m by no means hesitant to say that these sort of things matter. Their on-ice impact is ephemeral and often over-stated, but even the most hardened spreadsheet fanalysts ascribe meaning to the game that ultimately can be tied back to qualities of character.
The Rangers have been incredibly up and down the past few weeks. Which version of the Rangers is the real version we can expect to see down the stretch?
There is no way of predicting the end of the Rangers’ season. I truly believe the blueline will look significantly different come February and we do not yet know how the top nine forward set up will shake out when all are healthy.
How will this influence the team’s ability to match up against the Caps, Pens, Habs and yes, the Blue Jackets?
Reading back that first comment – only the Pens scare me. Even the Pens however have their flaws, their warts. There is no perfect team in the East. That’s why Rangers fans should remain optimistic.