Archive for Marc Staal
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.
Both Dylan McIlrath (knee) and Marc Staal (back) will not travel with the team to Buffalo for Tuesday’s game. Staal is still dealing with his back spasms, and McIlrath tweaked his knee in last night’s game against the Islanders. Both are considered day-to-day.
The Rangers will recall a defenseman from Hartford for tomorrow’s game.
Update: Henrik Lundqvist will not travel with the team either.
Both Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal are set to return to the lineup tonight, with Marek Hrivik potentially out with the flu. If Hrivik can’t go, then the Rangers will go with 11F and 7D in St. Louis tonight. McDonagh returns after the Leo Komarov cheap shot. Staal missed one game after tweaking something.
By Alain Vigneault’s own admission, the Rangers are being very conscious of their cap situation because they expect to add a player or two before the trade deadline. With Monday’s 3 p.m. buzzer looming, let’s take a look at how the Blueshirts might use their assets to bring in reinforcements for another Cup run.
Chris Kreider – The 24-year-old still possesses all the tools to be a star and should be a bargain as a pending RFA thanks to his disappointing season. With that in mind, Kreider is possibly the team’s most valuable bargaining chip, but it would take a huge return for the Blueshirts to pull the trigger – likely a better player than is currently believed to be available. Depending on how the rest of the season shakes out, it’s perhaps more likely New York considers dealing Kreider in the offseason.
Oscar Lindberg – There have been whispers about the Swedish rookie over the last few days and it’s possible that he’s a player the Blueshirts would be willing to part with. Lindberg burst onto the scene with unsustainable offensive production, but has been very quiet over the last couple months. Once seen as the heir apparent to Dominic Moore’s role as the team’s fourth-line pivot, Lindberg’s future role now is a bit more uncertain. For clubs that can’t or won’t take on salary and are looking for young roster players with future potential, Lindberg could be very appealing. The Rangers probably won’t even consider moving J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, Kevin Hayes or Pavel Buchnevich so Lindberg might become expendable almost by default. Read More→
The Rangers find themselves back in action on Tuesday, after their seven day All-Star layoff. Hopefully, the rest does the team well, as they have exchanged optimistic signs of improvement with mediocre displays over the past few weeks (months). While we take a little breather from competitive hockey, I have some thoughts.
Might as well start with the All-Star Game. I will just say what we are all thinking: it’s terrible. It has been terrible for quite some time. At least it doesn’t determine home ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Final, but that’s a different discussion altogether. I have read various articles on how to improve it, and at least the NHL is trying. Yearly tweaks to format, a fantasy draft, etc., have at least shown the league acknowledges the problem. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a realistic fix. Players don’t try, which is fine. The problem is over the past few years they spend more time just dicking around than they do playing hockey. I understand that these guys work very hard over the course of the year and deserve some levity and recreation. The problem is watching Carey Price play goal backwards just isn’t very entertaining. That’s not to even touch on the whole John Scott fiasco. Read More→
I have a confession to make. I haven’t really been watching much of the Rangers lately. A combination of a hectic work schedule and early deficits have conspired to dilute my commitment to watching this group. It’s tough to keep it locked to MSG when they are already down 4-1 six minutes into the second. Despite this, I have obviously read every wonderful article the BSB crew has churned out and scrolled through the ol’ Twitter feed to see the wreckage the morning after games. The weirdest part is my liquor cabinet hasn’t needed refilling as often. Strange.
What this little break has allowed me to do is take a step back and assess the big picture with this club. The only consistent thing this season has been inconsistency. They have been embarrassed by mediocre teams like the Flames and Oilers, but have put on clinics against talent-stacked squads in Tampa, Dallas and St. Louis. It’s maddening. What I have determined during my sabbatical is that the organization is facing a litany of crossroad decisions as the Rangers enter the back half of Henrik Lundqvist’s prime window.
The Rangers embarrassing loss in Edmonton was the exclamation point for the embarrassing regression from the Rangers defense. Unfortunately it all centers on Dan Girardi. The veteran Rangers blueliner has become an absolute liability.
This issue is no longer about his already questionable decision making ability. Players can cover up their decision making through their athletic prowess (Chris Kreider), their effort (guys such as Brandon Prust) and their positional sense but Girardi’s awful play has become so apparent and it’s because he’s basically doing nothing right on the ice anymore and it’s got to the point where he needs to be removed from the line-up, even if it’s just for a game or two.
Girardi can’t skate well enough for Alain Vigneault’s system, he makes bad plays with the puck but his positional play has now never been worse. He’s far too often removed from the play in his own zone. To the point where he can’t even block a shot which has so often been his saving grace (because fan bases overrate heroic blocked shots like it was the Spartan’s last stand) and a key defense from his defenders (of which I used to be one).
After a tough loss against Vancouver, the Rangers continue their west coast trip tonight in Edmonton. Between late games and a somewhat erratic, feast or famine schedule, I have some scattered thoughts…
1) Can you believe we are past the 1/3 mark of the season already? I am of the mind set that the first third is for evaluating your systems and personnel, the second third is for making adjustments and the final third is for making that push toward the playoffs. Injuries to Kevin Klein and Derek Stepan have thrown something of a wrench into that plan.
2) Speaking of those injuries, they have really wrecked havoc on AV’s deployment and line management. I understanding you are without one of your top-six centers and top-4 defensemen. That would be a serious issue for any contending team. The concern I have is that it seems like AV is putting a greater focus on trying to find lightning in a bottle with his line combo’s than he is trying to find a reliable balance.
Per the official Rangers Twitter, defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi and forward Mats Zuccarello will be held out of training camp activities for the first week. All three had offseason procedures (Staal – ankle, Girardi – bursa, Zucc – brain/skull), so it’s not surprising they will be held out. I’d expect they rejoin after the first round of cuts, which is usually comprised of the kids getting sent back to juniors.
Alain Vigneault has said all three will be ready for the start of the season.
Update (5:20pm): To address the goaltending question, both Cam Talbot and Henrik Lundqvist were way above league average in adjusted goals saved above average (adjGSAA) which by definition compares goalies and, “as definitively as possible, regardless of circumstance, and in consideration of the tools we have and the variables we can actually account for, Goalie A is performing better than Goalie B.” Since these two goalies are above average, we can assume that they bail out their defense on high-danger shots on a regular basis.
Throughout this golden era of Rangers hockey, a period of time in which we have seen the most consistent success from the Rangers (still missing that one essential piece though), their vaunted defense has been the subject of much praise. That was until very recently, about the mid-point of two seasons ago, when the Rangers faced a critical decision with Dan Girardi. They re-signed their franchise defenseman, and then re-upped Marc Staal the following year. This locked up two core pieces for what could be the remainder of their careers.