Archive for Musings
– You can slam the front office for a number of decisions made over the last couple of years, but one the Rangers absolutely nailed was the signing of Viktor Stalberg. This is a guy that was near being out of the NHL and instead the Blueshirts gave him a one-year prove-it deal that couldn’t have worked out better. Stalberg has done yeoman’s work up and down the lineup and contributes consistently on both ends of the ice. It would be great to have him back, but the new deal he’s earned will probably make that impossible.
– Kevin Klein is such an interesting case because he’d never been much of an offensive contributor until last season, when he shot 11.8% (much higher before he got hurt). The thing is, he’s continued to produce this season and is converting at a 14.5% rate. Now according to most models, Klein’s scoring was and still is destined to come crashing back down to earth. But I think one of the things that gets overlooked when analyzing luck and shooting percentages is that you don’t need a high shooting percentage to be a good player, but you can definitely be a good player if you have a high shooting percentage. I don’t buy that all shooting is even, that all players must fall to the mean. Colorado’s Alex Tanguay has shot a whopping 18.6% over his 1078-game career, which has resulted in an extra 146 goals in comparison to a player with the same number of shots converting at the rough league average of 9%. In other words, Tanguay has doubled his goal total thanks to sharp-shooting, and that’s the difference between being just a guy and ranking 213th on the all-time scoring list. The perception of Tanguay is significantly enhanced because he’s produced at such a high rate and there are a number of players both active and all-time that maintained abnormally high shooting percentages and had much better careers as a result. I think Klein is just one of those guys that picks his spots wisely and is efficient when he does. And he has a little more skill than he gets credit for.
We’ll know a lot more about the Rangers by the end of this week. This week they are playing three of the hottest teams in the league and some of the best puck possession teams out there. You’d think that all wouldn’t bode well, but defensively against the Ducks it was a much improved performance.
The Rangers are a team of contradictions. They struggle on the puck possession side of things yet have a great recent record against the Western conference.
The win against the Ducks was another example of how you just cannot predict which Rangers team will turn up. The Rangers haven’t been this inconsistent for a generation.
A lot of fans immediately heard alarm bells when hearing Jeff Gorton speaking almost in past tense about Keith Yandle while championing Brady Skjei. The alarm bells were because he didn’t speak openly about Girardi and Staal. But remember this: the management can surely see the regression that Girardi and Staal are showing.
You don’t just throw big names, big tickets under the bus. It damages their trade value, it doesn’t help the team either. It wouldn’t at all surprise me if one of the two were shipped out in the summer. You just don’t publicly bash guys of that stature and expect to get any kind of positive return for them in the summer. It’s a process.
– Interesting idea by Alain Vigneault to create a “tower” line of Rick Nash, Eric Staal and Viktor Stalberg. I still think Staal makes more sense as a winger in this lineup (who takes a ton of faceoffs), but I admit the idea of this monster line harassing the enemy net in the playoffs is tantalizing.
– How much money has Chris Kreider earned with his late-season surge? He’d been in the midst of a brutal year and it seemed like his lack of production would result in a discounted contract, with the savings earmarked for J.T. Miller. But now Miller’s offense has dried up and Kreider is on a tear with five goals in his last nine games and 10 since January 16. Kreider’s usual strong playoff performance will also have a major impact, but he’s now in position for a hefty raise over his current $2.475 million cap hit.
Even though Kevin wrote a musings post on Wednesday, there is some stuff in my head that I wanted to get out. So, I’m writing a separate musings post. Bring it, Kevin!
Can the Rangers justify not keeping Eric Staal beyond this season? Does anything other than a Cup winning parade justify moving two second round picks and a legitimate prospect? In my opinion Staal is getting better with each game but how do you measure a move such as Staal’s?
… and if you do keep him, what number ($) makes sense? Is there even a number the Rangers can afford?
Brady Skjei has done reasonably well in his cup of coffee with the Rangers thus far and you have to be happy his solid (albeit not rapid) development. That said, while the young blueliner makes solid, steady progress it would be a disaster if he doesn’t make the Rangers out of camp next season. That’s partly because it will mean his progression has stalled but with Dan Boyle retiring, Keith Yandle’s uncertain future, not to mention the Girardi/Staal ‘situation’ and a sticky cap scenario… the Rangers simply need him to be ready.
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.