Per Darren Dreger, the Carolina Hurricanes have asked permission of the Rangers to speak with assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson about their head coaching vacancy. Samuelsson has long been rumored to be on the list of candidates for multiple open positions, but teams were waiting for the Stanley Cup Final to end before speaking with him. It is likely Ulfie will land himself a head coaching job sooner rather than later.
Category: State of the Rangers
Back by popular demand, we’ve decided to kick start our annual player, coaching, and management report cards. As always, these grades aren’t just based on stats, but also the execution of each personnel or player’s respective role within the organization. Obviously there’s some subjectivity here, but that’s what makes this interesting and conversational.
Before I get started on AV and company, let me first say that grading coaching specifically is not easy. Many of the greatest coaches in this game have been fired multiple times over, and it’s never because they lost their ability to do what they do. More often than not, those decisions typically come down to politics.
So how does one evaluate a coaching staff?
Stay of execution or the start of something special? The Rangers held on to get their first win of the Cup finals Wednesday night and give the fan base a glimmer of hope. Let’s have a little muse about how things went down.
Earlier this week we considered a few reasons to be cheerful despite the Rangers being 3 down in the series. One of those reasons was Chris Kreider who had a huge part to play in the game winning goal. Kreider’s mere presence causes problems, even against the best defenses in the league.
If Kreider can continue to go to the net, continue to play physically and get a little less reckless in his own zone, the sky’s the limit. Yes, Kreider needs to develop more facets to his game but he’s already scaring teams.
Martin St Louis. He leads the team in goals; he has three game winning tallies amongst his eight markers. If someone told me the Rangers would give up two first round picks and a captain that was pricing himself out of town for a trip to the Finals, I’d have definitely taken that deal. Well, that’s what we got. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and while St Louis hasn’t been brilliant every game he’s certainly justified Sather’s decision to bring him to New York.
There will come a time when Rangers fans look back on this season with mostly fond memories, but it is not this day.
Not when the team was so close – four measly wins from attaining the sport’s ultimate prize – but now faces the very realistic prospect of an embarrassing sweep. And not when that prize was seemingly lost as much because of atrocious officiating and because of pucks’ recent tendency to find every which way to bounce off Blueshirts into their own net, while simultaneously finding every which way to bounce away from the opponents’.
Years ago, Wayne Gretzky famously said, “there are three seasons in the NHL: The regular season, the post-season and then the Stanley Cup final.”
Never could a statement ring more true with this fan base.
The Rangers have been the equal of the Kings in all three contests so far, and yet the Rangers are facing a 3-0 series deficit and probable defeat in the Stanley Cup Final. On the heels of a promising yet inconsistent first regular season under Alain Vigneault, the Rangers have shown a huge amount of promise in the playoffs to get to their first Cup Final since the magical ride of 1994.
There has been a ton of positives that should provide plenty of hope for the future. Smiling in the face of defeat, let’s look at a few things that should excite Rangers fans moving forward.
Norway has a hockey force
It seems a long, long time ago since the whole ‘Is Mats Zuccarello NHL calibre’ debate. Zuccarello has grown throughout this season (and the Final) and after discussing whether Zuccarello could do more after Game One of the Cup Final, boy has he.
If Carl Hagelin can develop some consistency in his offensive game and improve his decision making, he could be an elite talent. Yes, the Rangers cruelly lost the first game in the Finals against the Los Angeles Kings, but there were positives to be seen and one of them was and continues to be the growth of Carl Hagelin.
Hagelin’s speed terrifies people. It was the focal point of the first portion of Game One in LA, and the Rangers should really focus their offensive game plan around Hagelin and Chris Kreider’s speed. When those two players arrive in the offensive zone at full speed, it’s pretty daunting for opposition defenses.
On Wednesday evening, the Rangers will play their first Stanley Cup Final game since 1994. Twenty years worth of anticipation, a big-market, celebrity-fueled war between New York City and Los Angeles. And, at the center of it all, a marquee goaltending matchup for the ages. Since I have done my Preseason Top 30 Goaltenders list, Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick have ranked number one and two, respectively.
Most people associate Quick’s playoff pedigree with his 2012 Cup/Conn Smythe winning performance. As a general rule, his playoff performances have been stellar, amassing a 2.27 GAA and .922 save percentage over five playoff seasons (although it is slightly skewed because Quick played almost 30% of his playoff appearances during 2012). This year, however, Quick has been rather pedestrian (we’ll get there in a minute). In fact, there are a number of pundits who are calling a clear goaltending advantage to New York. Let’s break down Quick’s style and figure out why that is.
Whether it was with the Columbus Blue Jackets or the New York Rangers, Derick Brassard has often left the impression that the best is yet to come. One thing Brassard has always done however, is respond positively to criticism or droughts, and has developed an encouraging tendency to turn up in the big games. It all bodes well then for the rest of the playoffs, but also with regard to his future as a Ranger.
Brassard is arguably one of the most naturally gifted players on a Rangers team that has a handful of All Star calibre players and potential Hall of Fame candidates. It is perhaps Brassard’s presence – and playmaking ability – that makes the departure of Brad Richards in the summer so likely. Also, it is Brassard that makes recruiting an eventual Richards replacement an option rather than a necessity.
Per Pat Leonard, Derek Stepan indeed traveled with the team to Montreal for Game Five tonight. Alain Vigneault noted that Stepan will get a look in the morning skate before he makes his decision on inserting him into the lineup. As expected, Stepan will wear full face protection (cage) if he plays.
Also, Oscar Lindberg traveled with the team to Montreal. per Arpon Basu. The highly touted prospect has yet to play an NHL game, but played a very strong campaign in the AHL, his first in North America, putting up a line of 18-26-44 in 75 games. It’s safe to assume that if Stepan cannot go, then it will be between Lindberg and Jesper Fast for the fourth line spot. J.T. Miller, who played in that spot in Game Four, played just three minutes before being cross-checked into the goal post (no penalty was called). He did not return to the game.
Miller did not travel to Montreal.
For those who are still aboard the “Nash is a tire fire” train, James Mirtle wrote this fantastic piece about why that just simply isn’t true. This isn’t an article about analytics, it isn’t an article about #fancystats, it’s just an article about why Nash is doing more than just meets the eye. Sure, there are some more stats involved than just what’s under the “Goals” column, but that’s to be expected to have a complete analysis of the situation.
If you haven’t already, you should definitely check it out.