Archive for Players

Jan
17

Appreciating Jimmy Vesey’s improvements

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jimmy vesey

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Jimmy Vesey was the prize undrafted free agent before last season, and the Rangers nabbed him. The former third round pick was instantly placed into a middle/bottom six role and put together a nice rookie season. The winger finished with a line of 16-11-27 in 80 games, which is impressive for a rookie given his usage.

That said, his play away from the puck left a lot to be desired. It didn’t go unnoticed that he was sporting a -4.27 rel CF%, a -13.32 rel GF% (!!), and a -5.83 rel xGF%, it just went without much criticism. He was a rookie and playing more than 40 games for the first time in his hockey career. His sophomore season would be looked at with more scrutiny, and he hasn’t disappointed.

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Paul J. Bereswill

At the end of tonight’s game in Arizona, the Rangers will reach the midway point of their 2017-18 regular season.  That means it’s time for some midseason report cards!  To kick things off, we’ll be focusing on the top six forwards.

Complicating matters slightly is the fact that the Rangers don’t have a strict delineation between their top six and bottom six.  There’s definitely a fourth line.  There’s Kevin Hayes handling tough match-ups on a nightly basis, but his wingers have rotated regularly.  So for the purposes of this exercise, let’s call the following players “the top six”: Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Pavel Buchnevich, Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash, JT Miller and David Desharnais.  Yes, that’s actually seven forwards.  Just roll with it.

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david desharnais rangers blues

When the Rangers signed David Desharnais this summer, it was viewed as a deal for a bottom-six center who could fake it in the top-six if needed. He is certainly talented, but hasn’t been consistent enough to warrant any serious consideration as a top-six center. Given his last few years in the league, it isn’t an unfair analysis.

Fast forward to this year, and we have a completely different Desharnais. He 100% deserves to be in the lineup, he’s been playing very well. He’s been used by Alain Vigneault in basically every lineup spot too. First line center? Check. Second line center? Check. Third line center? Check. Fourth line center? Check. Healthy scratch? Check.

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rick nash rangers sharks

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Much like their dilemma with Michael Grabner, the Rangers have a tough choice to make this offseason (or sooner) with Rick Nash. The good news is that unlike Grabner, Nash will likely be looking at a pretty large pay cut from his current $7.8 million deal. The bad news is that he still isn’t going to be cheap.

Nash may not be worth his $7.8 million on the score sheet, but he’s still good for roughly 25 goals and 40-50 points over an 82 game season. That may not seem like much, but that’s still top-six production. Factor in that Nash is a force on the ice and draws attention, and he’s a valuable asset for any team.

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Dec
14

Ryan McDonagh’s Strange Season

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The Rangers up-and-down start to the 2017-18 season has called into question every facet of the team.  From Alain Vigneault’s obvious flaws, to questions about Henrik Lundqvist’s “decline”, to the lack of real center depth, there’s been no shortage of talking points as fans and analysts have tried to figure out why the Rangers have been largely mediocre this season.

One of the players that’s caught my eye this season, often for the wrong reasons, is Ryan McDonagh.  Even the most staunch McDonagh fan would have to admit that the Ranger captain just doesn’t look right.  His up-and-down season reached its nadir with a historically bad performance on Tuesday night vs. Dallas.

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michael grabner

The Rangers sure did strike gold with Michael Grabner. Signed to an expansion friendly deal before last season, fans –and probably the front office– thought they were getting 10-15 goals with good penalty killing. Getting that and a body for expansion for $1.6 million was a solid deal.

But then Grabner started scoring. His shooting percentage astronomically high, but the goals were coming. He scored 27 last year, and many thought the Rangers were silly not to capitalize on his value. He likely could have fetched a first round pick at the trade deadline last year. But the Rangers held court.

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Skjei’s development has been critical to the Rangers long term future.

Ah…..Brady Skjei….the name that possesses a vowels to consonant ratio that can only be rivaled by Red Wings’ forward Martin Frk. The young whippersnapper represents the bridge between the murky present of the current team and a potentially brighter future built around youth and potential. The question is how good can Skjei really be, and have we seen enough to declare him a cornerstone of a franchise that can carry a team to the cup?

The answer, as you might expect is not very cut and dry. Skjei enjoyed a breakout last year. His 39 points in 80 games put him in the top 20 over the past decade of any defenseman in their age 22 season.

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It’s something many of us know-it-all number crunchers said: Michael Grabner simply wouldn’t be able to score this year the way he did last year. It tied into laments about the state of the forward corps, the fact that the Rangers didn’t offload him to a real contender (or some wannabe) at the deadline for a million first round picks, and came with an air of certainty often attributed to smugness by those less inclined to numbers. Well, it’s safe to say us spreadsheet samurai were wrong, and Michael Grabner is at least so far putting on a repeat performance. So what’s going on there?

First of all let me just say this – I’m happy to be wrong, and I’d imagine I speak for pretty much all of us in that regard. Nonetheless, it is something of a curiosity, because last year he finished the season with an individual shooting percentage (at even strength too, so no shorthanded or empty net situations inflating the numbers here) of 16.28%. To put it a little bit more intuitively, he was getting a goal more than every ten shots, which, even by Alain Vigneault standards, is high.

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Dec
07

Boo Nieves has been earning his keep

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boo nieves

When the Rangers started the season with an abysmal 4-7-2 record, it was easy to point the blame at the entire roster and the front office. The biggest issue, one that drove many mad, was Alain Vigneault’s insistence of going with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen on multiple occasions. The Rangers had kids in the system waiting for a call up, but we were seeing a sub-optimal lineup dressed on a nightly basis.

Boo Nieves was called up, and there was an immediate balance in the lineup. The club was able to roll four lines and three pairings regularly. Anthony DeAngelo was sent to the AHL to make room. Both moves should have been made sooner, but better late than never. Nieves, who along with Brady Skjei represent the remaining 2012 draftees with the Rangers, had an impact beyond the lineup balance, and has been a pleasant surprise.

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henrik lundqvist

As the Rangers get deeper in the dog days of the hockey season, there’s been more and more attention paid to Henrik Lundqvist’s workload. He’s started 23 of 26 games already this season, and is on pace to start 72 games this year. The last time Hank started that many games was the 2009-2010 season.

As Hank ages, remember that he’s 35 already, he will need to get more rest so he can be fresh for any potential playoff run. It’s something that Alain Vigneault has been trying to accomplish for each of the past few seasons. So far, it seems that AV doesn’t have the same faith in Ondrej Pavelec that he’s had in his other backups.

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