In a utopian hockey world, the Rangers’ roster would be full of 6-foot-6 tanks that all skated like the wind, possessed unreal skills, and paid equal attention to both ends of the ice.
But in reality, NHL teams can really only afford to focus on a couple of attributes in building their rosters. The best franchises have identified those characteristics within their existing talent pool and continued to add and improve over the years. The Kings, Ducks and Panthers are teams of physical giants that will grind you into a pulp, while the Lightning, Penguins and Stars have focused on speed and skill.
The 2015-2016 Rangers lost their identity. They maintained the same all-world goalie that was key to the John Tortorella-era Blueshirts who were airtight defensively, and the recent Alain Vigneault edition that became a lightning quick counterattack team. But this year’s group never quite figured out what it was beyond having that super-safety net in goal.
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.
Per John Rosasco of New York Rangers PR, goalie prospect Adam Huska was named the USHL’s goalie of the year. Huska started 37 games this year with the Green Bay Gamblers, putting up a record of 26-9-2 with an astounding 1.87 GAA and .931 SV%.
Huska was the Rangers’ 7th round pick in the 2015 draft, and joins Mackenzie Skapski, Brandon Halverson, and Igor Shesterkin as highly rated goaltender prospects for the Rangers. Just think, it was two years ago that goalie was a weak position in the system for the Rangers. Now, one of their strongest.
Huska is committed to UConn for next season.
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.
Per our very own Josh Khalfin, the Rangers have signed undrafted free agent Michael Joly to an AHL contract. Joly is injury prone but a known scorer, so an AHL deal is a risk free maneuver for the organization. Since this is an AHL deal, it doesn’t count towards the 50 contract max for the Rangers, but also means Joly can’t be a call up to the NHL team under this deal.
In his overage year in the QMJHL, Joly put up a line of 33-30-63 in just 39 games. Joly was also at least a point-per-game player in every season except his first year. His issue has always been health.
Joly will be one of the many new forwards in Hartford this year. The club is expecting significant turnover. While many may look at the deal as a low key move, which it is, there is something a bit bigger at play here. The Rangers are looking at young guys to fill the holes in Hartford, instead of bringing in veterans on NHL deals. That’s right process.
It’s now been a good amount of time since the Rangers have been eliminated, and the rest of the league has settled nicely into round two, which has allowed many of us fans to absorb the loss and perhaps move on with our lives.
Although I cannot speak for all fans, I feel confident that you’ll all agree with the following statement: Henrik Lundqvist deserves better. And so, I’ve written a short open letter to him on behalf of all fans.
The biggest topic of this offseason will be how the Rangers address their precarious cap situation. With minimal cap space and several key free agents to sign, the Rangers are in a tough spot. The club has some rookies ready to take the next step, but it isn’t enough to fill out a lineup. Nor is it enough to contend for a Stanley Cup.
The elephant in the room of the cap strapped Rangers is the $11.2 million in cap space committed to Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. It doesn’t take a great hockey mind to see that both were pretty terrible this year. We know it. The team knows it. The players know it. It’s just a simple fact. The big question is whether or not the team thinks this is a one-year blip on the radar or a sign of things to come.
Rangers center Oscar Lindberg successfully underwent dual hip surgery to repair two torn labrums (yikes) today, per the Rangers Twitter. Lindberg’s recovery time is expected to be six months. He won’t be ready for the start of the season in October, but he should be back by November based on that six month recovery period.
The official injury description is “bilateral hip repair” which sounds pretty painful. Lindberg was a healthy scratch numerous times down the stretch, and this may have something to do with it.
Lindberg was pegged by many to be Dominic Moore’s replacement next season as the full-time 4C on the team. He was also pegged by many to replace a still-on-the-roster Tanner Glass. He was also pegged by many to be traded. So basically this injury confirms that we know nothing, Jon Snow.
Well, here we are. It’s May 6th and the Rangers are no longer playing hockey games. I’m sure it still stings for many of you (us). Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen frustration and venting in the comments section. Lamenting decisions from both the coaching staff and management are perfectly natural as we process the death of another chance to bring the ultimate prize to Broadway.
Fear not, BSB faithful, we are here to help. The upside to an early exit is we get to implement the BSB Offseason Plan Contest a few weeks earlier this year. It seems like it will be a really fun year to do it, too. For those of you unfamiliar, we have run this little exercise for the past few years (save for 2014-2015, as they were just playing hockey for too damn long to make the timing work). Basically, you get to play GM of the New York Rangers. Read More→
Per Richard Labbe of La Presse (s/t to Hugo for the tip), head coach Alain Vigneault received a vote of confidence from management, and was told the team wants him back next year. This isn’t much of a surprise, as one bad outing usually doesn’t cost a coach his job.
That said, Vigneault’s leash is almost certainly shorter, as “his guys” got steamrolled throughout the season. Changes are needed on the ice, but these changes begin off the ice. But don’t be expecting any coaching changes this year.