Archive for Rants
It’s a holiday tradition unlike any other: The Rangers/Flyers post-Thanksgiving showdown. In keeping with the tradition, the Rangers showed the Flyers how a real hockey team plays, besting their Metropolitan Division rivals 3-2 in a high-spirited matchup that featured some phenomenal saves by Henrik Lundqvist. All of this should be cause for celebration, but while I hate to be a downer I’m going to come in and rain on the Turkey Day hockey parade.
Just to get it out there, front and center for all to see, the Rangers did not play a good game. Their CF% for the game was 32.04%, and the only Rangers skaters with above a 40% individual CF% were Brady Skjei, who played exceptionally given the circumstances, Josh Jooris, and Kevin Klein (no Rangers cracked 50%). For those who are really statistically inclined, xGF% on corsica.hockey, which takes into account things like shot type, distance, and angle of the shot, was 37.12%, which is also, suffice to say, not very good. How on Earth did they win this game then? Two words: Henrik Lundqvist. His save percentage was 95.24% and he made some simply outrageous saves in close that any other goalie would have let in. Once again, Henrik bailed us out.
Boy, the Rangers play two mediocre games and all of a sudden the world is ending. The focus, as always, has been on the defense. But let’s be clear here. We all knew the defense was in need of an upgrade before the season started. The major problem lies on the right side, where Dan Girardi plays top pairing minutes and Kevin Klein has been bouncing between second and third pair. Brady Skjei has moved to that side to try to stabilize everything.
Dylan McIlrath wasn’t the answer. Adam Clendening may or may not be a viable bottom-pairing guy, and we won’t know until he’s in the lineup more consistently. Alain Vigneault is going to lean on his guys until major roster decisions are made down the road. So let’s try to get into AV’s head and understand why he’s making the decisions he’s making, instead of just bashing him or the players blindly.
Things are going a little too well in Rangerland right now and I’ve had just about enough of it. Until the Blueshirts start losing some games and facing a little real adversity, I thought it might be helpful for all of us Never Satisfied New Yorkers to focus our energies on a few other irritating areas for the time being…
– Michael Grabner may be second in the NHL in goals, but he’s also second in that garbage plus/minus stat. I’d like to praise Grabner’s start, but until he gets that corrected, I just can’t get on board.
– Adam Clendening missed a golden opportunity for a viral Mannequin Challenge video on Sunday when he was glued to the bench. If he’s not going to play, he should at least be helping the Blueshirts get pageviews from the bench.
– Chanting BUCHHHHH sounds way too similar to ZUCCCC. How are fans watching on TV supposed to differentiate? Jeff Gorton needs to consider these things when he brings new players into the fold. Read More→
The concept of change is not a complicated one. One thing becomes another. Yet, out in the real world, change embodies complication. It can be lengthy, violent, compromised, terrifying and exciting. It tends to affect most things, some more than others. Some is met with little resistance, some with the greatest force you could ever imagine. The way it effects you will be determined by your investment, your willingness to adapt, and what you stand to lose. It effects economics, politics, art, religion and yes, sports. At this juncture, our beloved sport of hockey is at such a crossroads of change.
It was brought to light yesterday that Matt Pfeffer, an analytics consultant for the Montreal Canadiens was let go from the organization for his impassioned plea for the club to reconsider trading PK Subban. Now, in a vacuum, while it raises operational questions, it is not a big deal. Any employee who does not see eye to eye with their employer can be let go. However, this situation is emblematic of hockey’s growing civil war between the current powers that be and the emerging sub-culture of analysis-driven management. Read More→
The evolution of sports is an interesting beast. Forever embedded in the American (and Canadian) consciousness, competition and loyalty can breed life long interest and devotion. People spend countless hours over countless years watching their idols. The love of the sweater eventually outlives all the players you grew up watching and those who have long faded into oblivion. As players come and go, the game changes around them. Some embrace the evolution, some fail to evolve and their time within the game draws to a close.
The evolution tends to come in common themes. Players get bigger, faster, and more skilled. They are better trained, with their talented cultivated from younger and younger ages. The game itself develops more specialized roles for players and matchups and statistics become more prevalent. Trends emerge, science is tested and every team tries to gain that competitive advantage.
It’s now been a good amount of time since the Rangers have been eliminated, and the rest of the league has settled nicely into round two, which has allowed many of us fans to absorb the loss and perhaps move on with our lives.
Although I cannot speak for all fans, I feel confident that you’ll all agree with the following statement: Henrik Lundqvist deserves better. And so, I’ve written a short open letter to him on behalf of all fans.
Accountability has been a word thrown around by many Rangers fans this year. Its meaning can be subjective. The name on the jersey can sometimes influence accountability, even if it shouldn’t. The job of a coach is to fight through subjective reasoning and enforce accountability at an objective level.
Accountability has been an issue all year for the Rangers. Veterans who have played poorly have not been benched. Heck, they haven’t even seen their ice time slashed. Kids that make rookie mistakes are scratched. Second year players are called out publicly. Others are benched mid-game.
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.