Archive for Players
No Ranger forward is more polarizing year after year than Rick Nash. Opinions on Nash range from best 5v5 forward on the team to terrible and needs to be traded. It’s a little entertaining to see the back-and-forth regarding Nash, but it’s tough to argue that Nash hasn’t been one of the best forwards on the club this year.
Through 29 games, Nash has a line of 13-7-20, and is on pace for a 30-goal season. He’s tied with Michael Grabner for the team lead in goals, and is fourth on the team in points. He’s also tied for the team lead in PPG (4) and PPP (6). All this while missing four games due to injury.
Brady Skjei’s first NHL goal, with celebration.
Hopefully the Rangers won’t have considered shopping JT Miller, Kevin Hayes or any of the ‘core’ kids to help address the team’s obvious flaws but one player who has constantly been touted as a trade chip has been Oscar Lindberg. Thanks to the way the Rangers have utilised Lindberg it’s hard to see any kind package involving Lindberg bringing back any meaningful return.
Yes, Alain Vigneault has openly preached patience with Lindberg (and rightly so) as he came back from a significant injury but the fact Vigneault has prioritised Matt Puempel and Josh Jooris is bad roster management. Neither player likely offer the Rangers more upside than Lindberg whether that is as a trade piece or part of the current roster set up. The fact that Vigneault sees Jesper Fast as a top six winger but keeps Lindberg in street clothes is also baffling even though Fast and Lindberg’s respective destinies should not be directly linked. Fast indeed, has certainly deserved to stay in the line-up despite being misused.
The Rangers have been the definition of inconsistency recently, going 4-4-1, as the team noticeably took a step back after its hot start to the season. During that start the Rangers were arguably led not by Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash and Derek Stepan but by their kids; most notably Jimmy Vesey, Kevin Hayes and JT Miller.
What we’re seeing right now is all three players go through some growing pains, inconsistent form and quite simply stretches of games where the puck doesn’t go in for them. This isn’t time for panic however. Far from it in fact and this despite Hayes being pointless in four, Miller goalless in six and Vesey with one goal since November 13.
The Rangers can probably tolerate one blueliner playing poorly until they finally decide to amend their blueline closer to the trade deadline, a time when cap space is likely to be plentiful and when the typical NYC obsession with acquiring a big name will take over Jeff Gorton. What they cannot afford is to have multiple liabilities on the back end, particularly on a unit that cannot move the puck as it is and on a unit, that is seemingly playing worse in its own zone as the season progresses.
Kevin Klein has truly come back down to earth and is nowhere near the player the Rangers have enjoyed over the past couple of seasons. His form with and without the puck is becoming a serious problem for the Rangers. With his unsustainable level of offense now a memory, Klein is standing out more for his multiple turnovers, poor positional play and general incompetence on the ice. His indecisiveness and hesitation on the puck right in front of Henrik Lundqvist against the ‘Canes – that led to Viktor Stalberg’s goal – was typical of the Klein we’ve seen this season more often than not.
Regression is miserable to watch, and we are going through that misery right now. As Rangers fans, you’d think we were used to this by now, having gone through the exact same thing last year. Even though this year’s team is vastly improved and still a playoff team, there are some major problems on the blue line that have not been addressed. If the Rangers are to succeed beyond a being a one-and-done in the playoffs, things need to change.
The good news is that we’ve seen Alain Vigneault already make one adjustment on the blue line. Remember top pairing defenseman Nick Holden? He wasn’t being put in a position to succeed. He’s now on the third pair, and has been significantly better in that role. It’s time to make those adjustments for the rest of the lineup. These aren’t major moves either, it’s just a simple matter of tweaks before a potential upgrade arrives.
Here’s Chris Kreider KOing Brandon Manning in the first period. What a left.
There are many reasons for the Rangers’ early-season success, but chief among them is the emergence of a group of Blueshirts that are thriving in the second stage of their careers.
J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad have been in the NHL for several years now and seen varying degrees of success. But all have now gotten past most of their growing pains and are really beginning to come into their own.
Miller and Hayes in particular have seen a giant leap in production and responsibility that we hoped would come last season. Now, both players have earned Alain Vigneault’s full trust, are playing in all situations and contributing on the scoresheet.
Yesterday, the Rangers made a surprising little move by claiming the 24th overall pick in the 2011 Entry Draft, Matt Puempel. Without trying to make this more complex I truly see some good signs regarding this transaction, so lets get to some musings that have sprung from the waiver pick-up.
First and foremost lets get to the semantics, a couple of weeks ago the Rangers terminated Calle Andersson’s contract. In theory, Puempel just takes his slot and the Rangers still have a few spots open for trade flexibility or UDFA signings.
J.T. Miller has been a bit of a revelation for the Rangers this season. Viewed by some –including myself– as the best trade chip to try to upgrade the Rangers defense, Miller has taken this and basically shoved it back in our faces. I’ve never been happier.
Through 17 games, Miller has a line of 7-10-17, leading the team in scoring. He’s bounced between the top three lines, showing he can play anywhere in the lineup and on either wing. And he’s done all of this primarily at even strength, with just one PPG and one PPA to his stat line thus far.