Archive for Rants
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.
Tonight is just another game in the Rangers action-packed, though sometimes exhausting November, right? Sure, they’re up against the best offensive team in hockey, a team tied for second in points in the entire National Hockey League, so it’ll be a tough one, but otherwise, nothing crazy happening tonight at the Garden.
The talent here at BSB later today will post about what kind of special teams they throw and exactly who to watch for (spoiler alert: it’s still Steven Stamkos.. and Tyler Johnson, who you’ve probably never heard of), but this morning we need to focus on what MSG has been pushing for weeks, the big elephant in the room. Tonight marks the return of former captain Ryan Callahan, along with Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle, and much like ripping off a bandaid, I think we’ll all feel better once it’s done.
Marc Staal quite frankly has been awful, Henrik Lundqvist has been inconsistent, Martin St Louis has been on the periphery, and core players such as Mats Zuccarello have either been invisible or terrible, depending on how forgiving you are as a fan. Throughout the Rangers line-up too many players haven’t kicked into gear yet or shown nearly enough consistency.
Almost the entire roster has Rick Nash (and to a lesser extent Chris Kreider) to thank that the record isn’t a lot uglier than 4-4, eight games in. Fancy stats to one side, this team hasn’t passed the good old fashioned eye test. A lot has been made of the Rangers ‘big three’ on defense not playing well so far, and that is certainly true (McDonagh and Staal were both particularly poor in Montreal) but better contributions are required all over the line-up.
I want to preface this article with the fact that I am not a mathematician or statistician. I’m a lawyer. In fact, they lied to us in law school and told us we wouldn’t have to do math once we were out practicing. So even if you love my ideas, I have no real skill set to design or implement them. This is purely for conceptual discussion purposes.
Ok, with that out of the way, I wanted to talk about #fancystats for a minute. It’s becoming clear that organizations around the league are starting to recognize the usefulness and momentum that these types of statistics have, evidenced by more and more front offices disclosing their emphasis on integrating them into their management processes.
However, I think we can all agree that the concepts and statistical methodologies are rudimentary at best at this point. It’s also completely understandable. Baseball has led the way in the revolution of statistical analyses, but it has a massive advantage on all other sports: each play happens in a vacuum, and at most there are 2-4 players involved in any given play. This level of isolation makes it incredibly convenient to look at individual performance within that play and assign value to it. The causal relationship between each player on the field is limited, and unlike hockey, plays happening minutes prior have very little bearing on what you are measuring.