Archive for State of the Rangers
Update: It was brought to our attention that the wording of the Sportsnet article is confusing, and that the limited NTC business discussed was in relation to NMCs that don’t have full no-trade protection, like Fleury and David Clarkson. Regular NTCs may not have to be protected, which certainly helps the Rangers immensely. This should be confirmed next week.
The latest news from Sportsnet on a potential expansion draft to stock the new Las Vegas franchise next summer revealed some important details on how teams can build their “protected” lists. Here’s a summary of the key criteria:
- Each team must expose at least two forwards and one defenseman that played at least 40 games during the 2016-2017 season, or 70 total games over the previous two years.
- All teams may protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie.
- Players with no-movement and no-trade clauses that extend through the 2017-2018 season will count against the protection limit, but those with clauses that expire at the end of next season may be exposed. Teams may also seek agreements with individual players to waive existing clauses.
- Players with two years of pro experience or less are exempt from the process.
- Each team can lose a maximum of one player to expansion.
We keep talking about how the Rangers are poised to make an array of moves to shake up both the roster and the organisation as a whole, but aside from signing Pavel Buchnevich (hurrah!) the team have been silent thus far. That may be because they aren’t done assessing the current situation yet; time will tell.
The Rangers are obviously going to need to reshape their defense – if they can – but perhaps the biggest decision they may have to make may be which center they have to deal. The Rangers don’t just need to shift cap space but they need to acquire assets and the Rangers best chance of a quality return – without negatively impacting any one specific position – may be moving one of their centers. It’s the position where the Rangers are deepest.
Former Rangers blueliner Jeff Beukeboom is likely the fan’s choice to replace Ulf Samuelsson and he’s the emotional choice to be the Rangers next assistant coach thanks to all his obvious connections to the big club. Emotions aside however, and Beukeboom is indeed the right choice, and for several critical reasons.
Continuity is something that’s a common theme in successful organisations and Beukeboom knows the organisation better than maybe anyone else – certainly better than any other assistant coach candidate. It can only be seen as an advantage that he’s so familiar with the club, with the systems and with the majority of the blueliners in the organisation.
Beukeboom has been with the WolfPack since 2012 and will know better than most how the Rangers can best integrate Dylan McIlrath (assuming he is even retained – which he should be). Beukeboom will know Brady Skjei well from their time together last season so he’ll surely be able to help accelerate the Rangers top prospect into a top four role. He’ll also know how far away fellow blueline prospect Ryan Graves is from being NHL ready following his own solid introduction to pro hockey.
Ulf Samuelsson will not be back with the Rangers next season. The Charlotte Checkers of the AHL, the Carolina Hurricanes’ affiliate, hired him as the head coach of their team. Samuelsson concentrated on the defense and penalty killing for the Ranges.
There is no word on his replacement yet. It is assumed that Jeff Beukeboom has the inside track, but anything can happen with coaches.
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.