Archive for Rants
Over the weekend, news broke that Keith Yandle has put off extension talks with the Rangers. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Yandle’s minutes since coming to New York have been minimal. He’s been relegated to third pairing and second powerplay time, after playing 20 minutes a night in Arizona. You can make the case that the Rangers have a deeper defense than Arizona, which is true, but you cannot defend playing inferior players over Yandle on a nightly basis, especially when you consider the cost to acquire him.
Yandle cost the Rangers Anthony Duclair, a first round pick, a second round pick, and John Moore. Moore was included to make room for Yandle, and the first/second round picks are the cost of doing business in the NHL. The biggest piece was Duclair, who is having a great year in Arizona with a line of 12-11-23 thus far. He was a first round talent that fell to the third round, and the Rangers got 18 games and one-and-a-half seasons of a misused Yandle for him. Horrible asset management. And that’s not even the crux of the issue.
The Rangers are as big a defensive mess as they have been in well over a decade. It’s truly difficult to recall a sustained stretch of such defensive lapses on a game by game basis as this recent ‘run’. So how do you find the cause to the problems? Where do you begin to remedy the team’s ills? And how can this coach turn it around with little assets or depth to change the roster or practice time to go back to the drawing board?
Ironically, the problem isn’t the powerplay which is currently in a 5 for 21 stretch – not good enough to brag about but certainly not the problem. The problem also isn’t Henrik Lundqvist even if he has been pulled in two of his last four starts. We could go through this post listing a bunch of trends, statistics and/or players who have shown up on the box scores and suggest they’re doing their bit. However the fact is – other than stating the obvious and noting that the defense is a mess – the fix isn’t obvious either.
It feels like every season I find myself writing a post scorning the dangerous play of a handful of NHL athletes, and this past week’s action by Flyers’ defenseman Radko Gudas. Gudas took liberties with a hit on Senators’ forward Mika Zibanejad, going for a clear head shot while playing the puck(???) last Tuesday:
Zibanejad to the locker room after this hit pic.twitter.com/boaupGEHaz
— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 2, 2015
The fun part of situations like this comes when you read people defending the actions of the Flyers’ “defenseman,” loosely quoted because between this year and last with Tampa, I can’t remember a positive hockey-related thing he has done. Or a positive thing at all, but I digress. Sure, it wasn’t charging or interference because Zibanejad had just passed the puck. However, instead of tracking the puck, Gudas feels the urge to introduce Zibanejad’s face to his forearm. Maybe he was feeling amicable, who knows.
It has been a strange start to the young season for the New York Rangers. It has been wildly varied in fan and media attitudes toward the talent level, personnel and performance of the team. I have been thinking more and more recently about the intersection between many of these concepts, and I’m going to try to keep my thoughts as organized as possible, so they don’t devolve into a jumbled mess.
I’ll preface this short post by letting you know that this will be a rant. The Rangers game last night wasn’t pretty, and after reading Alain Vigneault’s comments about the current roster situation yesterday, one has to wonder if there will be changes tonight. But I think that this tweet I posted last night is really the most concise way to say how I feel about things right now:
If the Rangers had won five more games, this post would never have been written.
But now that they have fallen short of the ultimate prize again, let’s take a look at General Manager of the Year finalist Glen Sather’s scorecard over the last 15 months. And before I go any further, know that I’ve been effusive in my praise of Sather in recent years here, here and here. Sather deserves credit for building a contending core from the ground up, but what he’s done since just before the 2014 trade deadline has done more to harm than to help.
Sather has been all in – and justifiably so, given how close his club is to the Cup. But it’s the compounding of each mistake that has been crushing. Read More→
I open this post with a peace offering to those who came here to be irritated due to the title of this post. This is your friendly reminder that you have the freedom to choose which blog posts to read and which to ignore. Additionally, this post will include #fancystats, regular hockey-loving eyed interpretation, and perhaps the scariest of all, logic.
Let’s start the Tanner Glass dilemma from the beginning. Rangers fans that follow hockey were less than thrilled with the Glass signing for several reasons; the first being that he’s not good at hockey, and the second being that the contract itself ties a lot of money and time into a career fourth line player. That second part doesn’t need stats – fancy or basic – as justification. We saw a great fourth line player in Brian Boyle leave for monetary reasons over the summer, but big players with decent offensive upside are a dime a dozen. No need to bury your cap and lock one down for three years.
Consider, for one moment, that fans are a little agitated because Glen Sather had, despite his moments of brilliance, just locked down a 30 year old player whose career saw virtually no offensive capability (54 career points) for the highest and longest contract he’s ever received. Writers were lauding this as a move to have some “grit” and “jam” and whatever other strange words we want to associate with toughness on the team, but if you check around the league, you typically don’t pay $1.45M/year for a glorified punching bag.
It’s no secret, the New York Rangers have not been dressing their best possible lineup on a game-to-game basis. We’ve gone over why Tanner Glass, who is a great guy, is not the best option to have in the lineup. Even his staunchest defenders have backed off, realizing that he doesn’t drive the play, is out of position in the defensive zone, and generally hurts his teammates when on the ice.
But yet, Glass is in the lineup almost every night. He’s in the lineup at the expense of J.T. Miller, a kid with great potential who is already a better player than Glass. He is in the lineup over Lee Stempniak, a veteran who is a better player than Glass. He’s in the lineup over Jesper Fast, who is by far the best defensive player of this quartet. Earlier in the season, he was in the lineup over Anthony Duclair and Kevin Hayes.
When you take a look around the internet Rick Nash’s name isn’t being mentioned in discussions for the major, end of season hardware. Why not? Nash, despite playing almost Selke-level defense and obviously second in the league in goals is doing it all for the Rangers at both ends of the rink yet the Hockey News didn’t even consider him in their discussion for their mid season awards post – not a sniff. We’ve come to expect it from the Hockey News but in their defence they’re not the only outlet that hasn’t touted Nash’s credentials.
Nash is on course for approximately 90 points; he may also challenge Jaromir Jagr’s 54 goal record setting season for the Rangers. Nash is in the top ten for game winning goals and is third in the league in shorthanded goals. There really isn’t anything that Nash hasn’t done for the Rangers, yet here we are and he’s not in the mix for some media love. What gives?
It’s mid season and perhaps it’s a pointless argument. Nobody won anything in January whether it be team or individual success. Nash is in the middle of his finest season as a Ranger and arguably his finest season to date. Nash took a lot of criticism in the last postseason (some rightly so) even though he played hard, within a team frame work (are you reading, Phil Kessel?) and certainly contributed to the Rangers march to the Cup Final even if it wasn’t the contribution many expected.
Nash is likely suffering from the mud that has stuck from last spring. It doesn’t matter. The Rangers know what they have in Nash and they know he’s an elite weapon who is at the top of his game. The Rangers power forward has found a new maturity in his game, a world class level of consistency and is all of a sudden absolutely worth the outlay and the cap hit he comes with. Rangers’ fans won’t care if Nash isn’t being discussed so long as the team has another deep playoff run and really, that’s all that matters. Thanks but no thanks Hockey News.
*The holidays sort of interfered with our post schedule this week, so unfortunately no goal breakdown today. The Rangers beat a terrible Devils team on the strength of a Derek Stepan hat trick and a strong performance by Henrik Lundqvist. You’re welcome.
The Rangers have won 8 games in a row. That’s awesome. It hasn’t always been dominant, pretty hockey, but they have gotten the job done. After digesting the circus that is New Jersey’s hockey operations, marveling at Derek Stepan’s em, diverse, hat trick, and generally enjoying the win, one pregame narrative still continued to fester after the final buzzer sounded: Tanner Glass.
There seemed to be a tremendous amount of debate, both between fans and beat writers (don’t you love twitter, hockey journalists?) about AV’s decision to scratch JT Miller in favor of Lee Stempniak. At least that is how the beat writers framed it. Fans, on the other hand, saw Miller out and Glass in, which, of course, did not go over well.
In fact, the beat writers did not even broach the topic with AV at the pre or post-game presser. This is seemingly what really irked the fans. We demand answers, and they are our conduits, as journalists, to illicit the information from sources we don’t have access to. But no one bothered to ask.
Glass has been the faux-hawked elephant in the room pretty much since all of the injuries seemed to subside. At this point it’s pretty clear; he is a terrible hockey player. Pretty much every #fancystat ever created, plus all the eye tests tell us that. He shouldn’t be taking minutes or a lineup spot from JT Miller, or anyone else for that matter.
We have had made tongue-in-cheek comments about what leverage Glass has on AV that he was not only given that contract, but is seemingly immune to lineup changes and poor play. How could it possibly be, that an analytics driven coach, who generally makes defensible personnel decisions, can get it so wrong, so often with one fourth line player?
Larry Brooks tried to rationalize it by saying that Glass is a fourth line player, Stempniak and Miller are not, and therefore have nothing to do with one another. I don’t buy this for one second. Stempniak would make for a fine fourth line player on this roster. Steve Zipay tried to defray fan aggression by saying that we should stop complaining about this type of stuff when a team wins eight in a row. That’s like me saying to a client “don’t worry that I forgot to file that motion for you, the judge ruled in our favor anyway”. It’s nonsense.
I suppose we will never know what magic aura Glass holds over AV or why beat reporters are terrified to even bring up the notion that Glass is playing over far superior players. We probably should be satisfied by winning eight in a row. The problem is most of us (on this site at least) have half a brain and realize that they Rangers just (rightfully) tore through a pillowy-soft section of the schedule. We realize that Dominic Moore can’t be skating with a 210lb anchor around his leg when he is trying to cover Sidney Crosby.
I guess this turned into a little more of a rant than I set out to write. I guess the moral of the story would be: 1) Beat writers, we aren’t stupid. When something stinks, have the stones to ask the questions about it. 2) Tanner Glass is terrible at hockey, and I don’t know if our collective fan constitution can deal with two and a half more years of him. And 3) JT Miller deserves to be in the lineup right now. I suppose 4) we are actually excited the Rangers have won eight in a row.