It appears that Rangers assistant coaches are in high demand. Just hours after the Hurricanes asked to speak to Ulf Samuelsson about their head coaching vacancy, John Shannon reported that the Canucks asked to speak to Scott Arniel. Shannon also noted that the Penguins asked to speak to Samuelsson.
Category: State of the Rangers
Dan Girardi – What a roller coaster year Girardi just completed. He looked totally lost at the beginning of the season (like several Blueshirts), but quickly turned around his game and played like his old self during the second-half. Management was convinced that Girardi’s early-season hiccups were an anomaly and rewarded him with a six-year, $33 million contract, essentially choosing Girardi over captain Ryan Callahan. But Girardi again looked like a liability once the playoffs started, culminating in his train wreck performance (mixed with a healthy share of bad luck) during the Stanley Cup Final that left many fans calling for a trade. Girardi had no more than a dislocated finger during the playoffs, so his pylon-like play should raise eyebrows given the substantial financial commitment New York made to him just a few months prior. Nevertheless, Girardi has been a tremendous player for the Rangers during his eight-year career, and, just as Brad Richards did at the start of this year, Girardi seems likely to bounce-back from this most recent embarrassment in a big way. Grade: B-
Anton Stralman – For almost his entire tenure in blue, Stralman was the most underappreciated player on the team. But thanks to his particularly stellar play during the postseason and some gushing comments from talking heads and bloggers alike, Stralman is now viewed as a must-keep player by many fans. Advanced metrics make Stralman look like a true stud, but he’s been a very good second-pairing defender, not necessarily a $5 million a year blueliner. Stralman contributes next to nothing offensively – though some argue that his possession metrics suggest he was a victim of bad luck and believe Stralman actually does far more to help the attack than his point total indicates. Stralman has certainly emerged as a very good defender, but he seems like a guy that was underrated for so long, he’s now overrated. Grade: A-
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.
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.