Archive for State of the Rangers
Let’s have a gander at the grades for the Rangers’ top two forward lines shall we?
Rick Nash’s overall season can be argued both as a positive and a negative. Indeed, there are few players that have divided opinion the way Nash has since he became a Ranger. A season that featured notable career highs but that was offset by another underwhelming postseason, things went as far as culminating with Nash being considered prime trade material this offseason. Hardly the appreciation you’d expect for a 42 goal player and early season Hart Trophy candidate. The problem is that Nash, like many Rangers, is now judged primarily on what he does after the regular season and this is where he failed to live up to both his regular season production and significant salary.
Nash needs to be a leader, the go-to guy offensively and in the postseason that didn’t happen nearly enough. Nash lacked postseason consistency, was never close to being his dominant regular season self and as the Rangers went quietly into the offseason, tellingly, so did Nash. Once again, despite solid numbers the microscope will firmly be on Nash come October. Despite the disappointing end, Nash finished in the top ten for the Hart trophy. Grade: B
While the disappointment of Carl Hagelin’s (necessary) departure still lingers for some, something might have been forgotten. The Rangers you may recall, have a rather talented NHL ready prospect, on deck, waiting for his chance. Thanks to the Hagelin trade, the path should now be clear for Oscar Lindberg’s arrival in New York.
Lindberg has been ready for a while, a fact only emphasised by his impressive AHL playoff performances this spring (16 points in 15 games). The main problem may have been finding an appropriate spot in the Rangers line-up suitable for Lindberg’s skill set. So is it a case of exit Hagelin, enter Lindberg?
Of course the Rangers are linked to Matt Beleskey because, well, aren’t the Rangers linked to every single free agent and trade candidate? This year’s prime buyer beware candidate is Anaheim’s Matt Beleskey who will officially test free agency and was actually ranked by several media outlets as the top free agent forward available. That he is ranked numero uno to some speaks volumes about this season’s weak free agent market and is one reason why the Rangers shouldn’t conduct any major roster surgery through free agency.
Beleskey actually would be a nice addition for the Rangers. He has size, he’s physical and he has suddenly discovered a scoring touch but he’s a classic free agency risk. He shot around 15% this regular season which is unsustainable (especially given his career 8% mark) and yet he still ‘only’ potted 22 goals in 65 games during the regular season. Considering Marty St Louis and his 21 goals are being chased out of New York City it’s hard to see why you would overpay for a guy that has had plenty of ice time with one of the league best tandems (Perry and Getzlaf) in recent years and hasn’t yet truly broken out.
The New York Rangers defense has been called elite by some, and a disaster by others. The reality of the unit is that it is somewhere in the middle, much like how Suit graded them yesterday. The Rangers seem to be set on the left side. They have a legit top pairing defenseman in Ryan McDonagh, at least two solid top-four in Keith Yandle and Marc Staal, and then, well, it gets fuzzy on the right side.
Starting with Dan Girardi, who appears to be the most divisive topic among Ranger fans later, the Rangers have a player who thrived under John Tortorella’s zone collapse defensive zone style. But under Alain Vigneault, Girardi’s lack of foot speed, poor gap control, and poor positioning have many questioning if he can keep up in a strong side overload/man coverage system. I’ve already suggested that the Rangers consider dropping him from his top pairing role, to mixed reviews.
Dan Boyle was brought in to help the powerplay –at the expense of Anton Stralman, who I needed to mention at least once in this post due to the situation, but will forego mentioning him again– and was relatively unsuccessful. He made the opposition mindful of his presence, and he certainly gave them options, but the results simply were not there.
It’s still amazing to think that just a couple of short seasons ago, Mats Zuccarello was toiling away in the KHL because, well, the Rangers didn’t really want him. At best, they were certainly not convinced by him. Fast forward a few years and Zuccarello is absolutely irreplaceable on a club that harbours annual Stanley Cup hopes.
We all saw how the Rangers struggled to generate consistent offense in the playoffs. Zuccarello’s enforced absence early in the playoffs was almost an instant death knell to the team’s hopes of winning the Cup. It shouldn’t have been the case however.
The Rangers had Rick Nash, they had Marty St Louis in position to step up, they had their trio of young centers all entering the playoffs in good form and they had Chris ‘Mr Playoff’ Kreider. But it didn’t work out as intended. St Louis literally played himself out of a new contract and maybe even out of the league. Nash hasn’t ridden himself of his playoffs demons. So what does it all mean?
With the Draft approaching and everyone’s attention turning to off-season business, Ranger fans have fixated on a report from TSN’s Darren Dreger (here and here) regarding significant interest around the league in Cam Talbot. He is apparently the top choice for a number of teams for their goaltending vacancies; Edmonton, San Jose, Calgary, Florida, Buffalo and Dallas, have all been named as potential suitors.
This is great news for the Rangers. A short time ago, we were talking about a second round pick representing solid value for the one-time undrafted free agent. Now, there is chatter about Talbot’s value being as high as a mid-first round pick. That would be quite the coup. This development has created an interesting debate in real versus perceived value. Read More→
The coaching of Alain Vigneault has come under fire in past months, as he appeared to be routinely outcoached by Barry Trotz and Jon Cooper in the playoffs. Compounding this was his decision to play Tanner Glass regularly, a decision which left most fans baffled.
But Vigneault is a Jack Adams finalist, so it’s not like he was all bad this season. He did a lot of good, and there’s a ready why he’s a Jack Adams finalist.
Good: Easing the kids into the lineup
The Rangers came into camp with a lot of question marks on the roster. No one knew what to expect of Kevin Hayes, who made the roster out of camp, and was transitioning to a new position. J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast were sent back to the AHL to work on little things in their games as well. In the end, it wound up being the right decision.
Vigneault took the slow approach with the roster, seeing what he had in veterans Ryan Malone, Matt Lombardi, and Chris Mueller. All three played a good portion of the first two months with the big club. Perhaps Vigneault wanted to see what they had, or perhaps he wanted to buy time for the kids to develop properly.
It’s truly unfortunate timing that Rangers goalie prospect McKenzie Skapski is going to be sidelined for almost half a year. Skapski had perhaps unexpectedly established himself as a legitimate NHL prospect this season. He did so by first making a solid, if not excellent start to life in the AHL with the Wolf Pack then built on that with an impressive cameo in the NHL while Henrik Lundqvist was shelved. Now, Skapski is injured.
Skapski is young and he’ll return. His injury may have cost him a regular back up gig at the NHL level this coming season but then again, wouldn’t he be best served with 40-50 starts at the AHL level? Indeed, Skapski’s injury shouldn’t in any way alter the Rangers plans to actively shop or ‘listen’ to offers for Cam Talbot. The free agent goaltending market this coming season will be awash with short term options for a backup, a position that would only cost the Rangers dollars and no assets. Talbot is replaceable (Sorry Cam).
I started writing this when the Rangers were down 2 games to 1 to the Capitals but didn’t post it. Fast forward a month. I believe what I was trying to write several weeks ago – even as the Rangers were one good period away from the Stanley Cup final – still rings true so the opinion hasn’t changed. The Rangers are a great team, have a good roster and have some talent coming through the ranks but for me, there remains one major issue that needs addressing this summer.
This isn’t about skill and it isn’t about depth. It certainly isn’t about goaltending and with one of the best coaches in recent times, it’s not about the Head Coach either. No, the Rangers have a lot going for them even as they enter the offseason after a hugely disappointing end to their season (based on the expectations that had arisen). The Rangers are missing something much different. Ironically this team lacks a player – or two – in the Brandon Dubinsky mould.
It’s a good job Rick Nash gets paid a boat load of money because he’s having to put up with a lot of criticism since the playoffs began. Once again, the Rangers play their biggest game of the season in Tampa Bay tonight, looking to right the many wrongs of the game two stinker. A considerable amount of scrutiny will face Nash as the Rangers have now arrived at the point where good performances, great two-way play and timely assists from Nash are no longer enough. His lack of goals have surely become a major distraction and are now the elephant in the room. Win or loss.
Nash has to score. He has to score because the media demand it, the Rangers need it and because everyone know Tampa have the offence to score at will. Not helping Nash is the fact that Tampa’s superstar Steven Stamkos has found his game after a difficult start to the playoffs and Tyler (undrafted) Johnson has dominated the playoffs and has been an absolute beast against the Rangers. Given Nash’s 42 goal season, coupled with his seemingly annual playoff regression, seeing the opponents’ most important goal scorers raise their games at the most critical moments will be particularly jarring for Nash and fodder for the mob who are happy to criticise Nash.