Archive for Players
Three cap saving moves made by the New York Rangers. Three moves that, at the start (or middle, depending on when the player came into the lineup) of the season, were met with more questions than answers. But here we are in March, and all three have prominent roles with the Rangers. All three are solidifying the forward depth. All three have one thing in common: Speed.
Under Alain Vigneault, the Rangers have moved from a game anchored around defense and north-south skating to an east-west, counter attack style of play. Vigneault has molded the Rangers using their best asset, their skating ability. It has been the club’s philosophy –for the most part– when drafting and targeting free agents. It is their biggest strength, and as we’ve seen all year, it’s giving opponents fits.
The beauty of writing about a team as good as the New York Rangers is that we’re at liberty to analyze the minor things that other teams dream of having as their number one problem. Half of our fanbase is currently at war with the other half because they’re mean to our 12th forward. Our franchise player has been out for roughly two months and yet the team is still thriving. It’s great to be a Rangers fan right now.
Something that’s been nagging at me like a shin splint lately has been the physical beast that is Chris Kreider. We’ve all seen the pool video. Listed at 6’3, 226 lbs, and only 23 years old (and such an absolutely beautiful skater), he’s exactly what every team wants. One day when he learns how to control himself, I’m gonna kick myself for wasting time writing this post, but til then, I digress…
With a five-point lead and four games in hand on the second-place Islanders as well as a seven-point lead and two games in hand on the banged up Penguins, it’s looking more and more likely that the Rangers will win the Metro Division. If the Blueshirts do manage to hang on to their lead, they could face one of four Atlantic Division teams: Detroit, Boston, Ottawa or Florida. The Bruins currently hold wild card position, trailing the third-place Red Wings by four points and leading the Senators by the same number. However, with a dozen games to go and Boston streaking, it’s still possible the Bruins will overtake the Wings – just as it’s possible The Hamburglar, Andrew Hammond, will steer the rallying Sens into the postseason.
So with the Blueshirts comfortably in playoff position, let’s (gasp) take a look ahead at these potential first-round foes. Read More→
I guess I’m going to hedge my bets here. When Marc Staal signed his massive contract extension, my initial thought was that Carl Hagelin was going to be the odd-man out. It was a purely business decision under the assumption that the New York Rangers were, without a doubt, re-signing Martin St. Louis to an incentive-laden contract. After all, the Rangers do need to clear a spot for Anthony Duclair next season. Since Hagelin, MSL, and Mats Zuccarello are the only free agent wingers in top-nine roles, it makes sense that they would need to choose two of the three.
Understandably so, the notion of letting Hagelin go was met with some backlash. At that point, MSL had been producing points, and to be honest, I hadn’t 100% looked at his underlying numbers too much. I know how good Zucc’s and Hags’ numbers are, having evaluated them multiple times. I guess I fell victim to MSL’s reputation. Hey, it happens.
If you’ve been reading this blog a while, then you know we’ve been questioning Dan Girardi’s deployment for quite some time now. Love him or hate him, the fact remains that Girardi will be a member of the Rangers for the next five seasons. Since the Rangers are, for better or worse, married to Girardi long-term, it is now about utilizing this resource to get the most out of what is almost guaranteed to be some painful decline years.
Let’s get the easy part out of the way: Girardi is not the player he used to be. Whether you believe it to be a regression due to age, or that the switch to Alain Vigneault’s aggressive system exploited his skating ability, or that he just wasn’t good to begin with, it doesn’t matter. What we see today is what we have.
Last summer, I wrote a post outlining teams around the league who had yet to name captains, guessing who they would choose and whether or not that would be my choice. At the time I wrote it, it was widely speculated that the Rangers would name Ryan McDonagh the next captain, following in the footsteps of many greats. Heck, I even wrote why I thought he should be chosen. So, having been right, how do I think McDonagh is faring?
Let’s look at statistics. Mac seems to be struggling this year, but is he really? He has only 18 points through 40 games this year, which isn’t too far off from his pace set last year of 43 points in 77 games played. There is something that feels off, though; several stretches of point-less games (most recently, a 7 point streak that ended with an assist on January 20 vs. Ottawa), a lack of presence defensively, etc. Read More→
News broke yesterday that Jesper Fast will be out for 2-3 weeks with a Grade 1 knee sprain. Losing Fast is a bigger loss than most realize, as Fast had been a key cog in the bottom six. He has shown the ability to play up on the third line and drive puck possession. He has shown he can play a shutdown role on the fourth line. He has been one of the team’s top penalty killers. He has also been inducted into Alain Vigneault’s Circle of Trust.
Considering the need to find another center, preferably one that can win faceoffs, perhaps the answer is in Oscar Lindberg. Lindberg, acquired from Arizona in 2011 for Ethan Werek, has been one of the Hartford Wolf Pack’s best forwards this season. Actually, I’d say he’s been the best forward not named Chris Bourque. In 46 games this season, Lindberg has been logging big time minutes in Hartford and has responded with a line of 13-18-31. He is second on the team (to Bourque) in all three categories.
Continuing with the trend of posts that will get me yelled at, it’s time to look at Kevin Klein, his career season, his career averages, and if anything like what we’ve seen so far this season will continue. Klein is having a sensational season this year. He’s already doubled his career high in goals (8), is well on his pace to beating his career high in points (21), and has arguably been the best right-handed defenseman on the Rangers this season. It truly is remarkable the year he’s having.
But, and yes there’s a but, there are a lot of warning signs that this may not continue.On December 8, Klein was shooting 21.4% (six goals in 28 shots). He has two goals in 24 shots since then, dropping his SH% by six points (15.4%) in that two month span. Although his booming shot from the point is still a weapon, that offensive production is already starting to slip. It would be nice to see him get powerplay time with that shot, but that’s a whole other topic for a different day.
Yesterday I wrote how Marc Staal’s contract extension, combined with all other contracts on the books for next season, may mean that Carl Hagelin is the odd-man out for next year’s plans. Saying that people were divided on the issue would be an understatement. The loudest folks against dealing Hagelin were wondering why the Rangers would keep Mats Zuccarello.
But to be honest, this isn’t a choice of Zucc or Hagelin. They have different roles on this –emphasis on this– team. Zucc is a top-six forward, a guy that will produce and make his teammates better. Hagelin is a bottom-six guy who is counted upon to be a three-zone player and kill penalties.
Zucc is a proven quantity that can produce at even strength and on the powerplay in a top-six role. A common argument is that he is streaky, but even elite players are streaky. It’s hockey, streaks happen.
In case you missed it, the New York Rangers re-signed Marc Staal to a six-year, $34.2 million contract extension yesterday, ensuring the top-four defenseman remains on Broadway for most, if not all, of his professional career. Ranger fans are torn over this. Some are ecstatic that the Rangers kept one of their cornerstone defensemen, others aren’t too thrilled about another long-term contract, and the rest are downright upset because Staal isn’t a #fancystats possession darling. Not even us here at BSB agree on it. Chaos! Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!
It’s no secret that Staal has had a bit of an odd career arc thus far. Without rehashing that entire post (which you should read), Staal was nothing short of brilliant up until 2010. He was then paired with Dan Girardi, and his #fancystats suffered. There is some noise here, as Staal was also used as the primary shutdown defenseman –with Girardi– that year, the first time in his career. Regardless his #fancystats suffered, but his offensive output actually went up because he was being used on the powerplay.