Archive for Kevin Klein
One of the big storylines this season for the Rangers has been injuries. Throughout the season, skaters all across the lineup have endured some form of injury or another, with even the perennially healthy Henrik Lundqvist falling victim to the injury bug. We’ve already covered the Jesper Fast angle of the injury story, so I thought I’d probe one of the more interesting questions raised by a fully healthy lineup: what happens with Kevin Klein.
Most everyone can acknowledge that Klein has had a down year. He’s never been much more than a low-end second pair, more appropriately third pair guy, but in years past his offensive production has masked his shortcomings. This year not so much, with the play of red hot rookie Brady Skjei compensating for his errors at best and those same errors on full display at worst.
As Sunday turned to Monday the Rangers are in a nice place; they’re riding a five game win streak with Henrik Lundqvist being fresh off win number 400. Without further delay, let’s muse all things Rangers with a focus on the impending trade deadline.
Every team has their needs and everyone around the league know what the Rangers’ needs are which beggars the question; when a team’s need is as glaring as the Rangers (hello right handed blueliner) is it at all possible to get value at the deadline? If the Rangers do make a move to improve the one obvious flaw that they have, it will take something very special from Jeff Gorton to not overpay and/or give up a major asset or two.
Outside of Dan Girardi, there is no one player that divides the Rangers fan base more than Adam Clendening. Opinions on Clendo seem to be at both extremes of the spectrum, with some thinking he should be given regular minutes and is a solid RD, while others think he’s useless. There seems to be very little grey area in this debate, but the grey area is the best area, since that’s where the truth lies.
Before really analyzing Clendo’s strengths and weaknesses, perhaps it’s best to review both sides of the discussion. Those that want him in the lineup regularly see his skating and puck moving abilities and relate that to a big need for the Rangers. Those that believe he is useless see the flaws in his gap control and coverages in the defensive zone. But the question that draws the most discussion is whether or not Clendo is an upgrade on Girardi and/or Kevin Klein.
With the Rangers on their bye week, which was perfectly timed with the halfway point of the season, we are afforded the opportunity to evaluate the Rangers with nothing else going on. Midseason report cards have been a bit of a tradition here at BSB, so let’s keep that tradition going, shall we?
Over the next few days, each of us will be tackling a different aspect of the team, and assigning grades accordingly. I’m batting leadoff here, and I’m going to be discussing the most polarizing aspect of this year’s team: The defense.
Overall, the back line for the Rangers has been relatively bad. The combination of age, injuries, wear and tear, and a shift towards speed has made what was once a strong defense into a bottom-five unit in the league. The slow start by Henrik Lundqvist exposed the defense even more. But it’s not all bad, either.
The Rangers can probably tolerate one blueliner playing poorly until they finally decide to amend their blueline closer to the trade deadline, a time when cap space is likely to be plentiful and when the typical NYC obsession with acquiring a big name will take over Jeff Gorton. What they cannot afford is to have multiple liabilities on the back end, particularly on a unit that cannot move the puck as it is and on a unit, that is seemingly playing worse in its own zone as the season progresses.
Kevin Klein has truly come back down to earth and is nowhere near the player the Rangers have enjoyed over the past couple of seasons. His form with and without the puck is becoming a serious problem for the Rangers. With his unsustainable level of offense now a memory, Klein is standing out more for his multiple turnovers, poor positional play and general incompetence on the ice. His indecisiveness and hesitation on the puck right in front of Henrik Lundqvist against the ‘Canes – that led to Viktor Stalberg’s goal – was typical of the Klein we’ve seen this season more often than not.
Fans have been clamoring for Clendo to get into the lineup for a while. It’s no surprise that it’s for Klein either, who has been struggling mightily all season. Let’s see what the kid can do.
In case you missed it, the Rangers are off to a pretty solid start. While the team sure is fun to watch, the pace of play and success might not be sustainable. Most of that is due to the massive upgrade needed on defense.
Folks immediately point to Dan Girardi and Marc Staal because of their contracts, or Nick Holden because of his early gaffes. But Kevin Klein has been under-the-radar bad to start the season, and it’s one of the main reasons why the Rangers are struggling in the overall shot-attempt battle (CF%), and why detractors are saying their fall is coming fast.
Last night, the Rangers collected their eight victory of the season over the red hot (?!) Edmonton Oilers. The Blueshirts spoiled Cam Talbot’s return to the Garden and scored five goals for the sixth time in eleven games this season, which is nuts. Any way, I have some thoughts.
1. There has been a lot of discussion about PDO when it comes to the Rangers performance thus far. It’s not like last year where unsustainably hot goaltending was masking other issues, but more of a discussion about high shooting percentage and low save percentage evening out. The Rangers would still be a very good team under this analysis, but just not the offensive powerhouse that they have been to this point. Read More→
With the signing of Marek Hrivik, the Rangers have cleared up most of their to-dos for this summer. They locked up their restricted free agents. They got younger, cheaper, and faster with a big trade that also brought back a high draft pick. They retooled their bottom-six with quicker, more skilled, better defensive, and better penalty killing players. But the one major move that has been oddly absent is the big change to the blue line.
Many expected –hoped– that the big change on the blue line would come at the expense of Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. That was fueled by some draft day rumors that the Rangers were looking to move the pair. However that was shot down eventually by the public statement that Jeff Gorton expects Girardi to have a bounce back season. Considering the contracts, trading just one of them has always been a long shot. But perhaps the upgrade on the blue line will come from a relatively unexpected place – Kevin Klein.
Over the course of the season, we, along with many other folks, have beaten to death that the Rangers defense is not what it used to be. While we’ve addressed some of the root causes, we have not addressed what specifically changed from last year. The personnel is the same. The system is the same. So it’s fair to expect similar results.
As with anything in sports analysis, it is very rarely one thing. A culmination of factors can conspire to change something that once appeared static and reliable.
First, let’s take a look at age. The average age on the blue line is 29.7 years old. That is not a young group. Dan Boyle’s spritely 39 years obviously skews things a bit, but Ryan McDonagh and Dylan McIlrath are the only members of the defense significantly under 30 (Yandle is 29). Especially for the less mobile defenseman, there are a lot of miles on those bodies.