Archive for Marc Staal
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.
Some quick notes that broke over the weekend:
- Marc Staal had surgery to remove a bone chip in his ankle last week, he is expected back for opening night.
- Dan Girardi also had surgery for a bursa excision. He is also expected back for opening night.
- The Arizona Coyotes had their sights set on goalie coach Benoit Allaire, but Allaire turned them down, preferring to stay with New York as part of a long-term approach. Allaire has worked with Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot to great success, and will be working with Mackenzie Skapski as well.
- Jeff Gorton appears to be the heir apparent to Glen Sather, if he steps down. The Rangers denied the Maple Leafs and Bruins interviews with the Assistant GM.
- Ryan McDonagh had a fractured foot, suffered in Game 4.
- Dan Girardi sprained his right MCL in Game 4.
- Mats Zuccarello had a brain contusion (yeesh), full recovery expected. He was unable to talk for 3 days and needed speech therapy.
- Marc Staal had a hairline fracture in his ankle, suffered in the regular season.
While injuries are not an excuse, these injuries certainly played a role in the Rangers’ defensive performance in the latter half of the series.
I’m spoiling you. As I head to New York myself on Tuesday morning I thought I would muse for the second time in a week. Sometimes we go weeks without ‘musings’ sometimes I have a lot I want to say so let’s jump into it.
Marc Methot gets 19.6 million, makes Ottawa make Glen Sather look savy. I too am absolutely sensitive about Marc Staal’s contract. He comes with a huge health warning and will probably never be the truly dominant player he could have become but Marc Methot getting close to 5m a year makes Staal’s deal look more than fine (health allowing). Staal has more offensive upside than Methot and teams also pay for numbers.
If they’re comparable defensively it’s probably only because Staal has had a couple so-so years recently. In addition, Methot may be one of the few top four defenseman around the league that is even more injury prone than Staal. The price for defensemen continues to get out of control.
The Rangers may be quiet at the deadline through no fault of their own. Many of their apparent targets are gone. Santorelli is in Nashville, and a few players linked to the franchise like Patrick Kaleta are injured past the deadline.
With the All-Star Game coming up this weekend, we’ve been handing out our annual midseason grades. Dave tackled the goaltending and coaches, Chris wrote about the top-six forwards, and today I’ll be reviewing the defense.
Boyle’s season got off to a slow start after the 38-year-old D-man missed the first five weeks of the year with a broken wrist. But in my eyes, he was brought here to do one thing – fix the power play – and that’s been a resounding success. Does Boyle deserve all the credit? Definitely not. But he has made a major impact moving the puck quickly and decisively on the man advantage, and he’s been better in his own end than I expected. Boyle has been deployed in the offensive zone whenever possible, but he’s made that positioning count by helping the team direct rubber at the opposing net at a terrific rate.
The decision to let Anton Stralman go in favor of Boyle may haunt the Rangers for years, but for the short term, I’m pretty comfortable with the tradeoff.
Grade: A- Read More→