Archive for Players
I admit it, I was wrong. I mused over the summer that one of the best options the Rangers had that could help them address the numerous flaws on the roster was to move a stuck in neutral Kevin Hayes. Turns out Jeff Gorton’s faith, some Alain Vigneault tough love and Kevin Hayes’ summer training plan were much better decisions than my trade intentions.
What we are seeing now is patience being rewarded and just why the entire NHL went hard after Hayes when he decided Chicago wasn’t his original six destination of choice. Gorton re-upped Hayes on a two year, $5.2 million dollar deal and he’s being rewarded handsomely for doing so. There’s not many players offering better value (even on a bridge deal) than Hayes. Hayes will still be under team control when his deal expires as he’ll still be an RFA in two summers time – good times.
In case you missed it, the Rangers are off to a pretty solid start. While the team sure is fun to watch, the pace of play and success might not be sustainable. Most of that is due to the massive upgrade needed on defense.
Folks immediately point to Dan Girardi and Marc Staal because of their contracts, or Nick Holden because of his early gaffes. But Kevin Klein has been under-the-radar bad to start the season, and it’s one of the main reasons why the Rangers are struggling in the overall shot-attempt battle (CF%), and why detractors are saying their fall is coming fast.
It’s fair to suggest that Brady Skjei – not Pavel Buchnevich, Jimmy Vesey, Chris Kreider or JT Miller – may be the most important draft pick and/or prospect the Rangers have developed in an entire generation.
With Dan Girardi and Marc Staal in decline (regardless of their respective bounce back seasons, they’re certainly not going to ‘improve’ from hereon in) and with only Ryan McDonagh a sure thing on the blueline moving forward, the Rangers absolutely needed Skjei to become a bonafide top four defenseman.
Not many people will have predicted this regular season coming out party from Skjei, particularly after his underwhelming preseason, but that fact is that Skjei has become an integral and surprisingly productive member of the Rangers and he’s helped solidify a blueline that faced a ton of question marks. His importance will surely only grow as he gains experience.
As the Rangers continue to dominate the opposition with their speed, skill, and depth, one forward has become a rather polarizing player lately. Derek Stepan has been on the receiving end of a tremendous amount of backlash this season, likely due to his one goal in 14 games to go with his $6.5 million cap hit.
What is conveniently ignored in these discussions is that Stepan has nine assists for a total of ten points. He leads the team in assists, is tied for third in points, and is tied for the team lead in powerplay points (4) and powerplay assists (4). Stepan is on pace for a line of 6-59-65 over a full 82 game season.
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.