Archive for State of the Rangers
Apparently, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are so bad (p.s. they’re not) that they are untradeable unless the Rangers do something ridiculous like take back Bobby Holik and Scott Gomez’s Ranger contracts.
Well, the rather perplexing trade between the Canucks and Panthers this week has taught us two things that should excite the Rangers and those are: NHL General Managers still make stupid decisions and there is most certainly a market for mediocre defensive defensemen.
Here’s the deal; Erik Gudbranson is a better, younger player than either Staal or Girardi but he has neither lived up to his draft billing (3rd overall in 2010) nor is he such a particularly impressive blueliner that teams ‘just have to have him’. Factor in the Canucks gave up the 33rd overall pick in what appears to be a solid draft, gave up on their 14th overall draft pick from 2014 and you have the makings of an overpayment regardless of the other bits and pieces in the deal.
We keep hearing the comparisons between Evgeni Kuznetsov and Rangers prospect Pavel Buchnevich. Also how Buchnevich bested KHL numbers from a certain Vladimir Tarasenko – arguably the best young sniper in the NHL today. We also hear that expectations should be tempered for Buchnevich partly based on the period of adjustment required for the aforementioned rising stars – and rightly so. No one should expect Buchnevich to come in with no English, no exposure to the North American style of hockey and pot 30 goals as nice as that would be.
With all that said, not only can Buchnevich significantly help the Rangers on the ice – by adjusting quickly to the rigours of the NHL – but he can help Alain Vigneault and the perceived notion that he is a veteran-favouring coach who often ignores developing younger players for immediate gains.
The Rangers’ bottom six isn’t what it used to be, and that’s a problem. While it’s hard to pin the decline on just one player’s departure it doesn’t require too much of a logical leap to say that the Carl Hagelin trade, while necessary, hurt the team’s depth. While Emerson Etem’s potential was promising he was mishandled and failed to impress in the time he was allotted, leading up to the eventual trade for Nicklas Jensen.
Some fans may have been a bit disappointed with the return on Etem, given that Jensen too has failed to produce consistently in his professional career so far. Still, when looking at the Rangers’ bottom six, and the fact that they’re going to be right up against the cap yet again this season, the young Dane may be a helpful addition to the big club.
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 well understood around both the Rangers organization and fan base that some serious changes to the team are going to be necessary if the squad hopes to be a serious contender this time next year, although obviously what changes will be made remain to be seen. Most of the focus immediately goes to the defense, and rightly so given the Rangers’ struggles with shot suppression and breakout passes this season, but something that’s flown somewhat under the radar is the state of the fourth line.
The Rangers’ fourth line was one of their strengths two years ago when they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, so it’s a little disheartening that these days it’s considered one of their weaknesses. Consider that season, when the fourth line consisted of Dominic Moore, Brian Boyle, and either Dan Carcillo or Derek Dorsett. That season the fourth line was crucial in the Rangers’ success, helping to shut down opponents’ top competition, put the other three lines in a position to succeed on the ice, and score the occasional goal. Not surprisingly, their possession numbers in the 2013-2014 season were pretty solid, with the fourth line posting a CF% of 49.21% with Carcillo and 52.52% with Dorsett.
Evaluating defensemen has always been a tough proposition for teams. It’s a tough proposition for anyone, really. There is so much that goes into the position. Skating, positioning, reads, hockey IQ, passing, shooting, physicality. The list goes on and on. But unlike forwards, who also need these skills, success isn’t necessarily tied to on-ice production.
Plus/minus, hits, and blocked shots are the traditional ways of viewing defensive success. After all, if you’re not allowing goals, blocking shots, and delivering hits, then you are doing the things that a defenseman should be doing. It’s a fairly simple theory, but it also represents an antiquated view of the game. Much like how pitcher wins is viewed in baseball. These are stats that are kept, but not very useful ones.
The biggest topic of this offseason will be how the Rangers address their precarious cap situation. With minimal cap space and several key free agents to sign, the Rangers are in a tough spot. The club has some rookies ready to take the next step, but it isn’t enough to fill out a lineup. Nor is it enough to contend for a Stanley Cup.
The elephant in the room of the cap strapped Rangers is the $11.2 million in cap space committed to Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. It doesn’t take a great hockey mind to see that both were pretty terrible this year. We know it. The team knows it. The players know it. It’s just a simple fact. The big question is whether or not the team thinks this is a one-year blip on the radar or a sign of things to come.
Well, here we are. It’s May 6th and the Rangers are no longer playing hockey games. I’m sure it still stings for many of you (us). Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen frustration and venting in the comments section. Lamenting decisions from both the coaching staff and management are perfectly natural as we process the death of another chance to bring the ultimate prize to Broadway.
Fear not, BSB faithful, we are here to help. The upside to an early exit is we get to implement the BSB Offseason Plan Contest a few weeks earlier this year. It seems like it will be a really fun year to do it, too. For those of you unfamiliar, we have run this little exercise for the past few years (save for 2014-2015, as they were just playing hockey for too damn long to make the timing work). Basically, you get to play GM of the New York Rangers. Read More→
Remember when everyone thought the Pens were too light and too ‘green’ on defense to contend this season? Seems like a major error of judgement, no? After dismissing the Rangers, the Pens have the Caps on the brink and appear very well set to take a run at the Stanley Cup and they’re doing it with a relatively unheralded defense.
Yes, the Pens have an absolute offensive stud (albeit a dirty one) in Kris Letang and beyond Letang they have two good puckmoving blueliners in Olli Maatta and the traded for Trevor Daley. Beyond that though and they have either a lot of youth or question marks rounding out their unit depending on your own personal take on Ian Cole, Ben Lovejoy, Justin Schultz and Derrick Pouliot. What the Pens lack is a lot of established, top four blueliners. But it hasn’t mattered.
The Rangers’ 2015-2016 season was about a team that didn’t necessarily lack enough talent, but certainly had the wrong mix.
That’s not meant to absolve Alain Vigneault. There’s no question the coach deserves a share of the blame for his atrocious deployment – but there was also only so much Vigneault could do to right the ship with faulty personnel.
New York’s major problems were three-fold – and all were hallmarks of previous success that suddenly became glaring warts. The headliner was the disastrous blueline with long-time rocks that crumbled and created a domino effect that directly impacted the club’s other two biggest issues – forechecking and the penalty kill.
We’ve talked about the blueline repeatedly and are in universal agreement that fixing the defense will be priority No. 1 this offseason, so let’s explore the other two dilemmas.