Archive for Players
Rick Nash gets his 400th NHL goal.
Suffice it to say, last year was a disaster for Ryan McDonagh. He struggled mightily, and seemed unable to carry an injured Dan Girardi who really shouldn’t have been in the lineup. There were many theories behind his struggles, from no support from his partner (whether it be Girardi or Kevin Klein) to no support from forwards. But part of the onus did fall on McDonagh, who was one of the many players caught running around in his own zone last year.
This year, we have seen a Ryan McDonagh like we have never seen before. We’ve known what he can do in his own zone, but he’s never been one to really rack up the points. McDonagh has nine assists so far, with an eight-game point streak. He’s been eating minutes at all strengths, and looks like the McDonagh of old.
The Rangers have played 10 games so far this season and a couple of things are starting to stand out. The most obvious one is that their speed is driving their offense, leading to a wealth of goals spread out fairly evenly across the roster. Another thing that’s plainly evident is that the Rangers’ young guns are really contributing in a meaningful way, whether it’s Jimmy Vesey, Kevin Hayes, or Mika Zibanejad. All of this speed and scoring might lead one to wonder however, about Pavel Buchnevich.
Buchnevich came into this season a much-hyped prospect whose KHL numbers invited comparisons to guys like Artemi Panarin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. He’s an adept playmaker and a responsible defensive forward, digging for pucks along the boards and setting up his linemates with timely passes. The one thing he hasn’t done yet at a time in season when the Rangers are scoring left and right (how about that shooting percentage?) is score a goal.
We have a Blueseatblogs Fantasy Hockey league where one of the divisions is called The Jimmy Vesey Hype Train. It’s fair to say that if it isn’t already full steam ahead on the hype front for Jimmy Vesey then one or two more impressive performances in the near future and the hype train will definitely be out of control.
While Vesey has been hugely impressive thus far, it’s important to temper expectations (sorry folks). Vesey has exceeded expectations thus far with his production, the way he has eased himself into the line-up, as well as his play both on and off the puck. He looks destined for a strong rookie year and is clearly justifying all the excitement and buzz that was created during his free agency tour of the league. With that all said, Rangers fans shouldn’t panic if he cools off, or hits some rough patches and the media around the team shouldn’t put too much pressure on Vesey.
It’s amazing how quickly a player can get into the dog house with fans. But just six games into the season, Nick Holden has done just that. After being thrust into a top pairing role on his off-side with Ryan McDonagh, Holden has struggled mightily. He’s been out of position, looks a little lost, and is a bit panicky with the puck.
There can be multiple factors at play here. First and foremost: He’s playing well above his pay grade. He’s not a top pairing guy on the right side (his off-side). Heck, he’s not a top pairing guy when playing on his proper side. If he were this guy, he would have cost more than a fourth round pick at the draft.
The Rangers clearly need help on their blueline and have a well documented surplus of forwards up front so it stands to reason that multiple Rangers forwards would be connected to trade rumours given their uneven line-up. That doesn’t mean Jeff Gorton should be in a rush to move kids such as J.T. Miller for blueline help.
My personal feeling is that the Rangers would be making a monumental mistake if they wind up trading J.T. Miller, almost regardless of the return he brings. Miller’s development curve has been trending upwards for a long time now. Miller is still young, has good speed and size, a cap friendly contract and is a home-grown, cost controlled asset with yet more upside. All of these merits and yet we haven’t mentioned Miller can play all over the line up and in every different scenario. You don’t trade that kind of player.
“He’s dropped off a little bit for me,” an NHL scout told ESPN’s Craig Custance. “I hate to say it, but I think he’s on the backside of things now.”
There are likely a few reasons for the number of growing doubters:
It’s early so far in the 2016-17 regular season, but certain things are starting to become apparent. One of the most basic is that the Rangers’ new found speed and skill is going to be tough for teams to handle, or at the very least fun to watch, and one of the players who best exemplifies this is Mika Zibanejad. Although losing Derick Brassard, a fan favorite, was touch for many early returns on Zibanejad are overwhelmingly positive. Chris has already touched on his efficacy on the powerplay, but I thought I’d go a little bit more into how he plays at even strength.
What we can see with our eyes is that Zibanejad is fast, has good hands, and makes good passes. In particular, one of the things I noticed when I broke down every single one of his goals from last season over the summer is that he has good hands in tight, particularly when he’s on the receiving end of a low angle, vertical pass, helping to generate shots in close. He’s also pretty adept at setting up high danger scoring chances for his linemates, as we’ve seen so far with Chris Kreider, complimenting their skills with his own speed and vision.
The Rangers are in an interesting position. They have a pretty big logjam at forward, one that even exists while two forwards are out with injuries. If and when both Pavel Buchnevich and Oscar Lindberg return, two forwards will need to be out of the lineup. This is a magnificent problem to have.
On the other side of the coin, the Rangers have a blue line that is likely one of the bottom-ten in the league. The biggest hole is at 1RD, where the Rangers have no real options. Dan Girardi isn’t an option there anymore. Kevin Klein struggled in the role last season. Adam Clendening isn’t a top pairing defenseman. Nick Holden is a lefty. Dylan McIlrath….yea not opening that can of worms.
Jeff Gorton may have landed his first trade theft as Rangers GM. Gorton has made many solid moves since replacing Glen Sather (as well as a couple of questionable ones but I digress…) and while it is perhaps premature to make bold statements, Mika Zibanejad is making Gorton look quite the savvy General Manager.
On the face of things, the Brassard/ Zibanejad deal should have an element of win/win for both sides. After all, Derick Brassard will be a solid player for the Senators, at least in the short term. However, even forgetting about the draft pick or financial elements the Rangers took advantage of, it’s the added dimension Zibanejad is giving the Rangers that makes this such an exciting deal for Rangers fans. That dimension is a much better, more dangerous powerplay for the long term.