Archive for Musings
After a pretty consistent schedule, the Rangers have enjoyed three days off before they take on the Red Wings tomorrow afternoon at Joe Louis Arena. That will be the Rangers 68th game of the season, so we are coming down to the wire. Once colleagues and clients start irritating me with talk of brackets, upsets and obscure mountain colleges, I know the NHL playoffs aren’t too far away. Anyway, I have some scattered thoughts… Read More→
– The news that Dylan McIlrath will miss a couple weeks with a knee injury will likely effectively end his season. Barring another significant injury, there’s no chance Alain Vigneault will look McIlrath’s way upon his return when he won’t immediately be at full speed, nor in the postseason given Vigneault’s preference for the veterans. But it is a pretty huge luxury for the Blueshirts to know that their 23-year-old seventh defenseman and 21-year-old first call-up from Hartford can both be penciled into the lineup for next fall. Dan Boyle will obviously be a goner and at least one of the other five veterans will likely be out as well, but the Rangers are lucky to have two replacements in house.
– While Cam Talbot was busy wrapping up First Star of the Week honors in Edmonton, Antti Raanta was giving up three goals in the first five minutes of the game against the Islanders on Sunday. Raanta has been mostly OK, but there’s been a noticeable drop-off from Talbot last year to Raanta now. Granted, Talbot was among the top backups in the game over the last couple years and Raanta was acquired for Ryan Haggerty (remember him!?), but with Henrik Lundqvist getting older, the backup goalie is only going to be a bigger issue each year going forward. While Chris advocated for keeping Raanta this summer, I’m not as sold. I wonder if Magnus Hellberg could be the No. 2 next season?
- It took Alain Vigneault less than a game to realize playing Eric Staal at center wasn’t going to work. Sure, the idea of having Staal, Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan down the middle is tantalizing, but it just isn’t feasible with the current makeup of the team. Kevin Hayes has earned that third-line role with recent improved play and has formed an effective threesome with Oscar Lindberg and Viktor Stalberg. Hayes also has been underwhelming on the wing, where the Rangers have a major hole with Rick Nash out. Perhaps things will be different when Nash returns, but until then Staal’s greatest value is on the wing, even if he needs to tag in frequently to win faceoffs.
- Speaking of Nash, when he returns the Rangers should finally achieve the depth level that Dave preached all year – Stalberg/Dominic Moore/Jesper Fast, or the equivalent, as the fourth line. Granted, it’s possible that Vigneault will still choose to dress Tanner Glass over a guy like Lindberg, but if not, the forwards should be pretty strong one through 12. This looks pretty good to me:
The long rumored Eric Staal to New York trade has been finalized. The Rangers acquired the C/W from Carolina yesterday afternoon –at 50% retained salary– in exchange for prospect Aleksi Saarela and a pair of second round picks in 2016 and 2017. A lot of people had a lot of opinions about the trade, and now that we’ve had some time to digest the move, let’s break this down.
1. Make no doubt about it, this team is better now than they were Saturday night. Eric Staal, despite his goal scoring numbers this year, is still a solid hockey player. He drives possession to absurd amounts (56.7% this year) despite playing on very bad teams. He only has ten goals this year, but he’s shooting a paltry 6.3%, almost half his career average. The optimist in my believes that there is a chance Staal goes on a tear with better teammates and a turnaround in luck.
The trade deadline is right around the corner, and the rumors are flying left and right. Speculation is also rampant. So as we head to the deadline, which is this coming Monday, I have some helpful hints to help you through this stressful time.
1. First and foremost, know the difference between speculation and rumor. A rumor is something concrete, stating that there have been talks, pieces discussed, and a deal could be in the works. Usually these rumors come from two people: Bob McKenzie or Elliotte Friedman. Speculation is different from a rumor. Speculation is saying that the Rangers could deal for Eric Staal because Rick Nash is out. “Could” is the key word there. That’s someone throwing something at a wall. It could make logical sense, it could not. But try and identify the difference, it’ll save you some sanity.
2. Beware of fake accounts. I linked to McKenzie and Friedman above for a reason. Even if they aren’t the first to report something, they will piggyback off the original reporter. Seriously, beware of fake accounts.
Two questions for the mailbag this week. As always, submit your questions via the widget on the right, and we will answer them on a weekly basis.
Ray observes: This is more of an observation about the penalty kill than a question. So I’m going to put the full email from Ray below, it’s superb analysis.
I looked up some surprisingly hard to find numbers and did some calculations that might be of interest. I found my starting numbers on War-on-Ice. The stat is simple enough — TOI/GA (time-on-ice per goals against), so one is rating defenders by the simple metric of how well they keep the puck out of the net. High numbers are good.
I list all Rangers with at least 10 minutes of PK time and asterisk those with < 50 minutes.
Happy Friday, BSB faithful. It’s about 5am and I am readying to leave for Canada to get back to my Canuck roots for a couple days, so I’m going to leave you with some brief thoughts before the Kings come to town this evening.
Let’s start the proceedings with a former King. I am very surprised the Rangers did not put a claim in on Christian Erhoff. I know what you are saying; “but Justin, there was a reason the Kings put him on waivers, why would the Rangers want anything to do with him?” Well, for one he would have added defensive depth and he only cost cap space. There have been several nagging injuries this season, and clearly the organization is only looking to call up Brady Skjei in the event of a long-term role. Could also have created some matchup leverage depending on opponent. Alas, it was not meant to be.
The Rangers’ defensive lapses and disappointing individual performances have been discussed again and again, but one surprising issue this season has been the frequency with which the team hits the ice with very little energy. We saw so few of those pure stinker games in recent years under first John Tortorella and then Alain Vigneault, but this impossible-to-measure quality has been missing this season with unacceptable regularity.
Part of the problem has been the exodus of key individuals that served as the main spark plugs for the Blueshirts. Former captain Ryan Callahan could always be counted on to give the team a lift by sacrificing his body, Carl Hagelin had the unique ability to fly on ice and wreak havoc in the opponent’s zone, and Martin St. Louis channeled his veteran status and personal experiences into juice for the club. The Rangers survived the departure of Callahan just fine, but losing the latter two last summer may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Read More→
The Rangers find themselves back in action on Tuesday, after their seven day All-Star layoff. Hopefully, the rest does the team well, as they have exchanged optimistic signs of improvement with mediocre displays over the past few weeks (months). While we take a little breather from competitive hockey, I have some thoughts.
Might as well start with the All-Star Game. I will just say what we are all thinking: it’s terrible. It has been terrible for quite some time. At least it doesn’t determine home ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Final, but that’s a different discussion altogether. I have read various articles on how to improve it, and at least the NHL is trying. Yearly tweaks to format, a fantasy draft, etc., have at least shown the league acknowledges the problem. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a realistic fix. Players don’t try, which is fine. The problem is over the past few years they spend more time just dicking around than they do playing hockey. I understand that these guys work very hard over the course of the year and deserve some levity and recreation. The problem is watching Carey Price play goal backwards just isn’t very entertaining. That’s not to even touch on the whole John Scott fiasco. Read More→
Two questions for this week’s mailbag. As always, email us your questions using the form on the right.
Felix asks: Given all the (well deserved) criticism about AV’s stubbornness in sticking with declining aging players, why do think he hasn’t learned his lesson from his Vancouver days and is seemingly recreating his own demise, this time in New York?
This is tough to answer. Part of AV’s dismissal in Vancouver was due to reluctance to play younger guys. That appears to be true this year, especially with Dylan McIlrath. However Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, and Kevin Hayes have all flourished under AV. The argument can be made that Kreider, Miller, and Hayes all had to play, as the Rangers had no other option and that when there is an option, AV leans on veterans at the detriment to the team.