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Category: State of the Rangers

Why the Rangers need to address the center position this summer

Derek Stepan is awful at face-offs. It needs addressing.

Derek Stepan is awful at face-offs. It needs addressing.

Not a single team currently ranked lower than the Rangers in face-off percentage this year will be in the playoffs. The last four Stanley Cup Champions (Chicago (twice), LA and Boston) rank 5th, 3rd and 8th respectively in face-off success. All three of the Rangers centers relied on for their offense – Derick Brassard, Derek Stepan and Brad Richards (so, not Dom Moore and Brian Boyle) – have less than a 50% success rate, with Stepan winning a paltry 45.2% of his face offs. Can you see the point we’re trying to make?

When Brad Richards leaves the Rangers this summer, the team must ensure his replacement(s) count face-off ability among their skill sets. Face-off weakness is also one why reason why Derick Brassard being retained isn’t a guarantee. Aside from resolving Marc Staal’s contract situation this summer, perhaps the biggest focus for the Rangers needs to be acquiring proven face-off centermen.

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Fast or Carcillo: Lineup decision plays key role

Fast has played well so far. (Photo: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Fast has played well so far. (Photo: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

When Chris Kreider went down with his hand injury, the Rangers were left with a problem in their top-six forwards. There were few options to fill in for Kreider, and none that could provide the scoring threat that Kreider provides on a nightly basis. Dan Carcillo has been a pleasant surprise, and Jesper Fast has held his own in his call up this week. Since J.T. Miller is not ready to take on this role, it comes down to Fast or Carcillo.

Acquired for a 7th round pick, Carcillo has been one of those pickups that went under the radar but reaped many rewards for the Rangers. Originally thought to be redundant with Arron Asham in Hartford, Carcillo has fit in nicely with the fourth line. The fourth line continued chugging along with Carcillo in for the then-injured Derek Dorsett. Once Dorsett returned, Carcillo bounced around the lineup, most recently filling in for Kreider on both the top line and second line.

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Assessing the Rangers wingers, long term

Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

While everyone who watches the Rangers with any regularity would agree that the Rangers need to address the center position in the near future, the Rangers have got a lot more talent on the wing than many will lead you to believe. It starts but certainly doesn’t end with the current roster.

With Rick Nash and Martin St Louis leading the club from the wing, there is plenty of veteran elite ability for next year. Greater contributions (and consistency) will be expected from Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider. Both young wingers offer physical tools (speed and/or size) and the ability to score in bunches but Kreider at least, will be expected to take the next step after his promising rookie campaign this year. Hagelin is almost the perfect depth winger given his reliability in his own zone, ability to play on any line and an ability score close to 20 goals at the NHL level.

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Debunking the “Vigneault doesn’t play the kids” myth

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

When Alain Vigneault had some choice comments for J.T. Miller following his demotion back to the AHL, after being given a golden opportunity to take a critical role for the Rangers, many fans called for AV’s head. The arguments thrown out had nothing to do with his successes as the coach this year, but that he has “never liked kids and refuses to play the kids.” It’s a silly argument actually.

Let’s use AV’s recent history –his stint with the Canucks– as the barometer for playing the kids. He started there as the head coach in 2006-2007. Since the 2004-2005 season never happened, I think it’s fair to start with the 2003 draft as our cutoff for our little experiment, seeing how many kids were drafted by and played for the Canucks under AV. Technically, I can use the 2001 draft since Kevin Bieksa (5th round of 2001 draft) didn’t play his first full season until 2006-2007. But, let’s use 2003 as the cutoff.

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Why the Rangers should retain Dominic Moore

(Photo: LoHud)

(Photo: LoHud)

Throughout the Rangers recent stretch of form (the Calgary game aside) a key aspect to the Rangers’ success has been the consistent performances from the role players. Whether it is Brian Boyle, Derek Dorsett or veteran Dom Moore, the Rangers have gotten great performances from their lesser lights.

Dom Moore in particular has been a quality player most nights. He has consistently displayed a high hockey IQ, he’s got defensive prowess, and for a team that struggles to score consistently, his 18 point season is no bad thing from your 4th line center.

Retaining Moore in the summer is a no-brainer. Given the likelihood of significant change at the center position retaining Moore gives the team some continuity at the position. With Moore, they’ll retain a player that is part of a strong penalty killing unit who is also both cheap and unlikely to upset the apple cart in the event of being handed a fringe position on the roster.

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Fourth line depth a critical key to success for the Rangers

Photo: Frank Franklin II AP

Photo: Frank Franklin II AP

One of the many issues the Rangers have dealt with in the past is depth, specifically on the fourth line. The inconsistency is what led previous coach John Tortorella to play the line just five minutes a night (much to the chagrin of the fans). Last year saw endless combinations of Taylor Pyatt, Darroll Powe, Arron Asham, Derek Dorsett, or –in the playoffs– Brad Richards. In 2011-2012 it was some combination of Mike Rupp, John Mitchell, and a rotating right winger.

The key here is that the Brian Boyle line, whoever he was playing with, was always the third line. The Boyle, Brandon Prust, Ruslan Fedotenko line, the one we all loved so much, was playing top-nine minutes. Not to take anything away from them, as they were one of the better shutdown lines in the game, but that trio –on a deep team poised for a run to the Cup– is a fourth line. It’s something we harped on ’round these parts for about three years.

Our exact quote: “When Brian Boyle is our fourth line center, we will finally have the depth required to make a deep run.”

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Contextualizing Hank’s place in history

CBS Sports

CBS Sports

With his win over Ottawa on Tuesday night, Henrik Lundqvist passed Mike Richter for the Rangers’ all-time wins record.  His 302nd career victory came on the heels of back-to-back disappointing losses, so this achievement was somewhat marginalized.  It’s very difficult to take stock of history while you are in the middle of a somewhat frustrating playoff race.

Aside from the Rangers’ franchise record, Henrik moved into a tie with Turk Broda for 26th on the NHL all-time wins list.  Just for some context, he is only one win behind Olaf Kolzig, and two behind Billy Smith before some separation sets in.  In only eight-plus seasons, Hank has put himself in the discussion with current or projected hall of famers.  This got me thinking about his overall career trajectory.

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At what point is there too much turnover?

Quick, find the current Ranger. Hint: Trick question.

This is from November, 2010. Quick, find the current Ranger. Hint: Trick question.

When  Suit wrote about the Rangers and their inability to find consistency, it struck a chord with me. I realized that despite management’s best efforts, this is a Rangers club that has had significant turnover year in and year out for quite some time. We know about the constant turnover from the teams mostly built through free agency from 2006-2010 while the farm was rebuilding. But once that core is in place, the turnover is supposed to stop.

But the problem is that the turnover hasn’t stopped. Just six skaters (Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Brian Boyle) remain from the 2010-2011 club. Another three (Brad Richards, Anton Stralman, Carl Hagelin) join them from the 2011-2012 club that went to the Stanley Cup Finals. Another three (Rick Nash, Derick Brassard, John Moore) played significant time with the Rangers during the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

All told, just 12 of 18 skaters were on the team last year. That number is cut in half when you go just two seasons prior.

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Rangers still struggling to find consistency

The memory remains

The memory remains

Just thirteen games remain in the regular season and the Rangers are still struggling to find consistency. Back in January, things seemed to have finally clicked and the Rangers looked like they were headed in the right direction.

However, in the 10 games since the Olympic break, they have won four times and are averaging just 2.2 goals per game. What’s worse the power play, the team’s lone offensive strength, is clicking at just 14%.

Right now, it appears things could go either way for the Blueshirts. And despite having played 69 games, you wonder if this is all we’re going to get out of them this season, or if there’s still a late LA Kings-like surge hiding up their sleeves.

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Determining market value for Anton Stralman

Stralman's will be a tough contract to determine.

Stralman’s will be a tough contract to determine.

When Anton Stralman rejected a three-year, $9 million offer from the Rangers over the weekend, a lot of fans were outraged. This would be the fourth Ranger this season to “reject a perfectly good offer.” Henrik Lundqvist’s negotiations took a while before he re-signed, as did Dan Girardi’s. Ryan Callahan’s never materialized, and he was shipped to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline.

Unrestricted free agency is a tricky beast. Market value is generally determined by comparable contracts, but the player has all the leverage. As we saw with Cally, teams will be willing to give him seven years and $6 million, which makes his value higher. It’s best to view this objectively, which is tough considering how much we all love the Rangers.

When it comes to Stralman, and in particular defensemen who are not relied upon to produce offensively, market value is a little more difficult to determine. Using point production isn’t the best indicator of value, so we have to be a little more creative.

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