Category: State of the Rangers

Appreciating Benoit Pouliot’s recent play

Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Image

Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Image

When the Rangers signed Benoit Pouliot in the offseason, we viewed it as a solid depth signing that could lead to some great tertiary scoring. Pouliot was one of the league leaders in P/60, and the Rangers got him for a bargain of a contract. It was low-risk, high-reward at its finest.

However the signing didn’t work out as planned –at least to start the season– for the Rangers. As the team adapted to the new system, Pouliot was one of the players who really struggled. He didn’t register a point until the ninth game of the season. Through two months, he had a measly four points (2-2-4) and was the target of many angry Ranger fans.

Then December came around. Since the beginning of that month Pouliot has 11 points in 15 games (6-5-11), including a seven-game point streak. Five of those points (4-1-5) came on the powerplay. In the span of 15 games, Pouliot has gone from whipping boy to tenth on the team in scoring and sixth in goals. That is probably the fastest turnaround we have ever seen.

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Value for money? Not in New York.

Rarity: Chris Kreider is one of few that represent value this year. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Rarity: Chris Kreider is one of few that represent value this year. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Who gets the blame; the General Manager? The coaching staff? Or perhaps the players themselves? When you look at the Rangers’ disappointing position in the standings and general up and down performances from a game to game basis, one thing that may go unnoticed is how the Rangers are not getting value for money from their roster. In the cap era, getting good return from your investments is critical and is something found on almost every successful roster.

With New York it obviously begins with Rick Nash ($7.8 million) , Brad Richards ($6.667 million) and yes, Henrik Lundqvist (at present, $6.875 million). When judging the financial returns solely on this season, none of the critical trio named are giving the Rangers acceptable production. Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, and in fact almost every Ranger player on a sizeable cap hit hasn’t produced.

Whatever the mitigating circumstances, the underwhelming returns continue with Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, Michael Del Zotto and, until recently, Derick Brassard. No ‘core player’ has produced as anticipated. Considering cap hits of $2 million dollars and above, it can be argued only Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello have produced above expectations. When you consider, from a financial perspective, almost an entire roster hasn’t lived up to its billing it’s a huge area for concern.

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Rangers mid-season grades: the goaltenders

United in brutal paint jobs.

United in brutal paint jobs.

So far, the crew here at BSB has covered the GM, Coach, defense and bottom six forwards in our mid-season grades series.  Today, we touch on something of a sore subject: the goaltending.  Even though Marty Biron played in several regular season games, he immediately retired and gave way to Cam Talbot.  For this reason, I’m not going to grade Marty.  However, he would get a solid A- for his broadcasting prowess.

Henrik Lundqvist

Much digital ink has been spilled in this space concerning the play of our now $59.5 million goaltender.  In contrast to the rest of his career, this season has been marred by inconsistency and erratic play.  All the speculation about his contract situation/future only compounded the problem, and was worsened by the eventual windfall he did receive.

From a statistical standpoint, the first half of the season hasn’t been a complete disaster.  Hank is currently sporting a 2.70 GAA and a .908 Save %.  As most of our loyal readers can attest, I am not a big fan of either of these statistical measures as accurate indicators of goaltending ability, but until a truly reliable advanced metric is developed, it’s all we got.  Read more »

Rangers mid-season grades: Glen Sather

The good ol' days

The good ol’ days

For those of you who missed it, we kicked off our annual mid-season grades this week with a review of Alain Vigneault, and have since followed that up with player grades for our defense, bottom six forwards, etc. Today, we’re going to grade the man who oversees it all — Glen Sather.

For the purpose of this post, we’ll need to look back at 2013 in its entirety because we’re experiencing the ripple effects of Sather’s earlier decisions now. And of course, there’s nothing to grade him on from October through December, or what we’d normally evaluate for ‘mid-season’ grades.

If you look back at 2013, there’s essentially four major decisions that standout which have had a cause and effect on our current place in the standings.

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Rangers midseason grades: bottom-six forwards

When healthy, Derek Dorsett has been everything the Rangers hoped for

Like many parts of the 2013-2014 roster, the bottom-six forwards have struggled through long stretches of the season thus far.  Part of that can be attributed to players being used out of place and in unusual situations, but the team hasn’t gotten consistent play out of many of its depth forwards for most of the year.  That seems to be changing over the last few weeks, and has been as instrumental to the team’s mini turnaround as anything else.

Brian Boyle

Boyle will forever be a polarizing player amongst Ranger fans because he has hands of stone and doesn’t drive opponents through the boards with his massive size.  You can’t really judge Boyle fairly until you accept those two facts of life, which many refuse to do.  But Boyle is a very useful player in many other areas.  Though this hasn’t been his finest year, Boyle is still being relied on as the team’s top defensive forward, plays well on the penalty kill, is the best faceoff man on the team and drives possession.  He is guilty of being a passenger at times this season the same as nearly every player on the roster, but for the most part, Boyle has been use usual steady self.  Still, scoring just one goal all year is pretty hard to do.

Grade: B Read more »

The Marc Staal audition begins tonight

Can Staal get back to his dominant old self?

Can Staal get back to his dominant old self?

With Marc Staal returning to the line-up tonight, speculation will begin (again) as to whether the timing of his return is right, and whether Staal will ever be able to return to his previous best. In addition to the obvious chase for a playoff spot, and the continued (prolonged) acclimatisation to the new coaching staff, the Rangers will need to treat the second half of the season as an audition of sorts for Marc Staal.

There’s no question that Staal – at his best – is an elite All Star calibre defenseman, capable of shutting down the league’s best scorers, while also contributing offensively. However there are a boat load of questions regarding his durability, the task of re-projecting his long-term potential, and subsequently measuring his relative importance to the Rangers. In addition, the club needs to consider the financial risks that come with committing to such an injury prone and potentially concussion-vulnerable player.

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Rangers midseason grades: The defense

The steadiest of the steady (Elsa/Getty Images)

The steadiest of the steady (Elsa/Getty Images)

Suit kicked off our annual midseason grades yesterday with his review of Alain Vigneault and the coaching staff. As Suit mentioned in his preamble, we all hand out ‘performance grades’ around the mid-way point of the regular season and just after the commencement of the playoffs. 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.

We do not take these grades lightly. Each grade is very well thought out. For the defense, I graded based on two areas: on-ice performance based on role on team, stats (both traditional and #fancy) based on role. It’s important to note that I stressed role on the team. This means that a player like Dan Girardi will be graded based on his role as a shutdown performer, and Michael Del Zotto on his offensive contributions.

A quick note about the numbers being used: Goals-Assists-Points, Corsi, OZone starts, Quality of Competition faced. Details here.

Ryan McDonagh (6-17-23, 51.3% Corsi, 47.4% OZ starts, 29.6% ToTm QoC)

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Rangers mid-season grades: Coaching

Needs improvement

Needs improvement

Quick note: Last night’s goal breakdown will be posted this afternoon.

Back by popular demand, we’ve decided to resurrect our hotly contested player, coaching, and management report cards. For those of you new to the blog, the staff and I hand out ‘performance grades’ around the mid-way point of the regular season and just after the commencement of the playoffs. 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.

Before I get started with AV’s grade, I just wanted to reiterate that we try to be thorough with these posts. Although most of us have played hockey at some level, we know we’re not experts. If we were, we’d be working in hockey ops. With that said, we feel we know the game better than others who cover it, so we hope you enjoy this series.

So that’s my preamble, let’s move along.

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Henrik Lundqvist, balance and the Bauer OD1N line

Weight too far forward.

Weight too far forward.

On December 19th, Bauer Hockey held a media event to unveil a new line of both player and goalie equipment that they claimed was going to be a “game changer”.  Their basic approach was to charge their research and product design engineers in St-Jérôme, Québec to change the way hockey players could perform on the ice.  The concept was made analogous to the automotive industry: remove cost considerations, aesthetic inconsistencies from the status quo, all preconceived notions about what was possible within the industry, and show us the future.  A concept car.  The pressure of the normal product to market cycle was taken out of the picture and the goal was pure innovation.  The OD1N line was born.

Three core products came out of this endeavor: a body suit, a player skate and goalie pads.  Bauer’s website has the keynote from the event if you are interested in checking out the specs on the skate and the body suit, but for the purposes of this post, we are going to focus on the goalie pad, and its primary endorser, Henrik Lundqvist.

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Time for a controversial addition in Dion Phaneuf

Photo: The Score

Photo: The Score

Dion Phaneuf. Yes, I said it. The Rangers have a huge question mark in an area – defense – which on paper at least, they have had good depth. Michael Del Zotto is likely, barring a stunning turnaround, on his way out of New York in the summer (at the latest). Marc Staal’s long term future is full of doubt due to injury. That leaves –on paper– two key cogs: Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi. McDonagh is a stud, he’s a future, perennial Norris candidate if he gets some support; unfortunately Dan Girardi is no longer the guy to provide it.

Girardi’s game appears in decline, and yet he’ll still get paid handsomely in the summer, based on past achievements. His play this year has been underwhelming (on a team that, in his defense, has collectively underwhelmed) and he hasn’t been the same consistent presence we grew to appreciate, for the last two years. That’s a long time, playing under his normal assumed levels, to commit to a long term future at a big financial cost.

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