Archive for Offseason
This postseason ended poorly for the Rangers, and it’s generally understood that the team is due for some major changes. This itself isn’t a problem, given the ways in which the Rangers’ on-ice process struggled throughout the season, with slight improvements here and there but nothing major. Still, recent news about whom the Rangers are shopping might be cause for some concern.
Let’s start with Larry Brooks’ article, which stated that the Rangers are standing pat on Dan Girardi but listening to offers on Nash, Stepan, Brassard, and Ryan McDonagh. This caused quite a stir both here on Blue Seat Blogs and elsewhere on the internet, as it should. Dan Girardi, simply put, had an abysmal season and should be first on the Rangers’ priority list of players to trade, not last. It’s not terribly far out to say that what the Rangers need is addition by subtraction, with any potential Girardi/Staal/Glass deal likely to improve the team no matter what.
Unless you were living under a rock this season, you noticed that the Rangers need to make some changes if they wish to stay relevant in the NHL. Without singling out specific players, they were slow, apathetic, careless, and sloppy all season long. Some of it was attitude, with the apparent expectation that they could just flip the switch in the playoffs. That didn’t work.
The bigger issue was the inability to get the puck out of the defensive zone to transition to offense. On defense, only Keith Yandle consistently moved the puck out of the defensive zone. But he’s going to command $6 million on the open market. That snowballed throughout the lineup, as the forwards were unable to generate speed through the neutral zone. That stymied the offense, especially in the playoffs.
With the exciting news of Pavel Buchnevich finally signing with the Rangers there’s been some talk of finding a fellow Russian to help ease the transition to North America for the highly touted youngster. While this discussion has involved Alex Radulov, given the likelihood of the Rangers parting ways with Dominic Moore there might be another option the Rangers should look into pursuing: Vadim Shipachyov.
Shipachyov is a skilled centerman who put up 60 points in 54 games with SKA St Petersburg last year, surpassing the 54 points he put up in 49 games the previous year and 32 points in 52 games the year before that. His most notable asset is his vision, finding space and setting up high-quality scoring plays with ease, as seen in the two videos below, but our very own Josh Khalfin also notes that he’s defensively responsible and an intelligent player generally who will likely succeed at the NHL level.
It’s never fun enduring a long offseason while fans of other clubs get to enjoy a playoff run. This may sound a little spoiled to fans of teams like Edmonton and Calgary, but over the last decade, Rangers fans have been treated to a consistent expectation of contention. Since the Rangers have been eliminated, I have read a lot of great analysis about the importance of this offseason and potential directions for the club to go.
It’s going to be very difficult to handicap the exact moves from an analysis standpoint and hey, that’s up to you guys and gals anyway (shameless plug for the Off-season Plan Contest). I have kind of a conceptual thought-dump I wanted to share about this coming offseason and to see how you are felt about some of these things…
There are a lot of dynamics involving our New York Rangers thus far. On one hand it is extremely exciting when beat writers are suggesting buyouts and moves for players such as Kevin Shattenkirk and Tyson Barrie. You start feeling a bit anxious that a move can be coming any day. When there are constantly rumors about players who are viewed as important members of the team being traded, fans get excited, for better or for worse.
When your team signs its brightest prospect, fans can’t help but feeling that a youth movement may be approaching, especially when your other top prospect showed his value in the playoffs against a pretty dynamic Penguins team. All of these different factors make it so difficult to predict what this team will look like in a couple of months, but that is what makes this summer feel so much more exciting than the previous summers.
I will be covering the draft starting in a few weeks, so right now I just want to mention the move that almost seems way too familiar to overlook: The Reclamation Project. From Brian Boyle to Anton Stralman to Benoit Pouliot to Viktor Stalberg on the positive side to Ryan Malone, Matt Lombardi, and Jeff Woywitka on the negative, we as fans have learned that the New York Rangers will always try their luck with these types of players.
This poll has been on the sidebar for a while, but I wanted to make a post out of it to gauge the fan base about your preference for the offseason. The Rangers underwhelmed all season and got blown away in the first round in the playoffs by a superior Penguins team.
It’s clear –at least to me– that there need to be changes made. However the level of changes that need to be made is up for some serious debate. Do they need to blow it up? Do they need to just retool? Or do you believe that the team will be fine once they are all healthy?
Viktor Stalberg was a bit of a revelation for the Rangers, perhaps their best free agent signing since Benoit Pouliot. Stalberg, like Pouliot, was grabbed for a cheap one-year deal to serve as a bottom-six player with speed. Stalberg certainly impressed most people this year, even without putting up major points (just 9-11-20 in 75 games).
Stalberg is perhaps the perfect depth player for a team like the Rangers. He’s a great skater, he’s a two-way guy who can score and play in his own zone, and he’s a worker. At just $1.1 million, he was a welcome addition to the third and fourth lines, bringing stability to a forward group that sorely needed it late in the season.
Talking to fans since the Rangers got eliminated, I’ve noticed a few recurring trends showing up in the discussions. The most prevalent is that Rangers fans have an absolute desire for a scoring winger on this team.
No matter what direction the Rangers go; Retool, Rebuild, or go for one more run, there will be a need for a scoring winger. Ideally it would be one who is young and can grow with the team. Pavel Buchnevich will be with the team, but he isn’t the answer to your scoring winger desires. This is by no means a knock on Buch, as he has the tools, but tempering expectations for a teenager is always a good thing. Plus, Alain Vigneault will likely shelter him initially.
An obvious way to begin our search for a scoring winger is to look into free agency. Unfortunately when the current crop of free agent wingers is less than appealing.
The Rangers have a pretty long shopping list this summer with the defensive (let’s call it) overhaul and all the restricted free agents needing signing (amongst other to do’s). Complicating things for Jeff Gorton and co. will almost certainly be Oscar Lindberg’s injury and the fall-out it will cause.
Lindberg’s season came to a very disappointing end. After a truly surprising start (that include Calder whispers in October) where he was a major reason for the Rangers’ own fast start, Lindberg eventually slipped and stayed out of the line-up. In retrospect it’s now fair to assume that his hip issues influenced the disappointing culmination to his season.
In a utopian hockey world, the Rangers’ roster would be full of 6-foot-6 tanks that all skated like the wind, possessed unreal skills, and paid equal attention to both ends of the ice.
But in reality, NHL teams can really only afford to focus on a couple of attributes in building their rosters. The best franchises have identified those characteristics within their existing talent pool and continued to add and improve over the years. The Kings, Ducks and Panthers are teams of physical giants that will grind you into a pulp, while the Lightning, Penguins and Stars have focused on speed and skill.
The 2015-2016 Rangers lost their identity. They maintained the same all-world goalie that was key to the John Tortorella-era Blueshirts who were airtight defensively, and the recent Alain Vigneault edition that became a lightning quick counterattack team. But this year’s group never quite figured out what it was beyond having that super-safety net in goal.