“Defense? What’s that?…” (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(This post was written before the doubts about Kreider’s availability for tonight were released. But… the point of the post remains.) The arguments for keeping Chris Kreider in the line-up and hopefully riding out his ‘growing pains’ are obvious. Size, speed, a wicked shot and that the team wide lack of size would be further exaggerated without him in the line-up. That all said, Kreider has obviously hit a brick wall this season. His production has dried up which means his defensive miscues and poor decision making are no longer being covered up.
In the long term Kreider remains a key part of the Rangers future, although legitimate concerns are starting to be raised about whether his iffy decision making ability and his defensive awareness will hold him back from becoming a top tier power forward. Even as recently as the start of this season, Kreider looked on his way to taking the next step but his production to start the year was clearly masking the errors that continue to punctuate his overall game.
In the short term, the Rangers could and perhaps should look elsewhere for an injection of offense and defensive accountability. Should Anthony Duclair be back in the line-up? Equally dangerous with his skating ability, Duclair is certainly no worse in his own end than Kreider and has looked dangerous in the offensive zone even without the goals to show for it. Duclair is however, just one option.
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via Blueshirts United
When the Rangers get healthy in a couple of weeks their line-up will be set – barring a fresh injury or a dramatic loss of form. The Rangers will be dressing a veteran heavy line-up even though several regulars are still in the young category.
Meanwhile down in the AHL, the Hartford WolfPack has started the season strongly (7-2-1 as of Wednesday) and are being led offensively by a handful of prospects. Among others, Oscar Lindberg, Ryan Haggerty, Danny Kristo, J.T. Miller, Mat Bodie and Jesper Fast are all having productive seasons offensively. Including Haggerty (in his rookie pro season but still with six points in ten games) all of the above are playing consistent hockey and are close to a point per game.
This kind of collective form offers an organisation exactly the kind of problems they want. On the one hand the Rangers don’t have any space for prospects in New York – certainly not in positions where enough ice time is available – but on the other hand they want a steady stream of players knocking on the door putting pressure on the established core. However, a problem starting to develop in the Rangers organization is that several prospects may see their paths blocked in both the short and long term.
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Speedster Anthony Duclair put up 99 points for the Quebec Remparts last year
Entering training camp last fall, there was an intense battle for the final forward spots between youngsters Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg and Danny Kristo. Fast actually won the job out of camp, but an early injury combined with Kreider’s emergence put an end to the competition.
Miller, Fast, Lindberg and Kristo are all clearly on the fringe, and with a strong second-half, Ryan Bourque joined the fray. Free agent signings Kevin Hayes and Ryan Haggerty are also in the mix for NHL jobs in the near future.
Miller looks all but assured of a spot out of camp this year, but that means there are still as many as five more near-NHL ready forwards knocking on the door. Read more »
Will JT Miller be in the reckoning for more Broadway hat consideration? Courtesy of Blueshirts United
It’s never too early to look ahead. With the recent Q & A insight from Hartford’s Bob Crawford to fall back on, it’s worth taking a look at what Rangers forward prospects – if any – can make an impact with the Rangers this coming season.
With the significant turnover seen in New York this summer, it looked as though there were several spots for the taking but the additions of Tanner Glass, Lee Stempniak and Matt Lombardi may have impacted the chances for a rookie or younger player to make their mark. With respect to the likes of Chris Mueller it’s in the Rangers’ best interests for one or more of the younger, higher ceiling ‘bubble players’ to stake a claim for an NHL gig.
JT Miller and Oscar Lindberg
As Bob Crawford suggested, Miller is NHL ready. For him it’s about consistency, seizing an opportunity and having the right approach; something that he has been criticised for in the past. Lindberg is a less obvious situation. It seems that Rangers fans have waited forever for the Swedish pivot to get to New York but with the Rangers committing to Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard and Dom Moore for three of the center spots, Lindberg may be forced to start the year in Hartford. That’s not a disaster if it happens.
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(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
When the music stopped on the NHL’s annual game of July 1 musical chairs, the Rangers were clearly left standing. Not only had they lost Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot, Anton Stralman and Brad Richards, but they were also left with minimal cap space and a much smaller group of incoming players. The kicker to all this is that none of the new players were centers.
All throughout the Finals, the narrative was the Kings’ depth down the middle and how the Rangers could match it. It was an area targeted for improvement this off-season, and it was the one area the Rangers seemingly couldn’t find a way to upgrade.
I don’t hate the Dan Boyle deal. I do hate the Tanner Glass deal, but we are talking about a 4W here, so it’s far from the end of the world. Sather added some nice depth the minor league club and created a pool of reinforcements should injury strike, but when we are potentially counting on one of just two possibly ready prospects to play significant minutes without any veteran competition, it becomes a little concerning. Read more »
Probably the most ready (Photo: Blueshirts United)
It doesn’t matter if you liked what happened on Tuesday or hated what happened on Tuesday. We are all Ranger fans, and we will all cheer for the team. What we can all agree on, based solely on numbers, is that some of the kids in Hartford are going to need to step up and take a roster spot. When I say numbers, I mean this:
In: Dan Boyle, Tanner Glass, Mike Kostka (AHL: Steve Kampfer, Matt Hunwick, Chris Mueller, Chris Bourque, Cedrick Desjardins)
Out: Anton Stralman, Derek Dorsett, Brad Richards, Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot, Raphael Diaz, Justin Falk
Seven NHL players left the Rangers on July 1, and only three came back. The defense was more or less a one-for-one swap, with Boyle replacing Stralman and Kostka replacing Diaz (Falk I consider to be a #8 defenseman at this point). So, barring any trades, the Rangers are pretty much done with the defense. It is also unlikely we see Dylan McIlrath or Conor Allen on Broadway this year. The roster numbers just don’t work.
As for the forwards, one forward came in and four left via free agency. If you assume Glass takes Boyle’s spot on Dominic Moore’s left, that leaves two RW spots open for competition (or a 3LW and 4RW, as Mats Zuccarello can play both sides), and a 2C/3C. There are really only three names that come to mind when it comes to kids on the cusp: J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, and Oscar Lindberg.
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The 2013-2014 postseason was such an emotional ride, I needed to take a little step back after the Rangers were tragically eliminated in Los Angeles two weeks ago. Sure, I did a report card and may have twittered once or twice, but I needed a break to collect myself. Big props to the crew here for putting together fantastic content, from end of season grades to draft/free agent previews.
Once I felt alright to reengage the hockey world, I wanted to put the past season into some context. We all know the roller coaster narrative of a struggling team at the beginning, some transformative trades and an emotional ride to the Final. Unfortunately, those stories had already been told and I emerged from hibernation a little late. There is way too much going on now to reflect. Off to 2014-2015 we go! Here are some scattered thoughts of the various goings on surrounding the Rangers as we head into tonight’s Draft…
- I obviously agree whole-heartedly with the Richards buy-out for both business and performance reasons. However, the move does put a decent sized hole in the lineup during an offseason without a whole lot of options. Considering the timing of internal free agents, I doubt the Rangers can make a meaningful run at Paul Stastny, considering how overpaid he will be.
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Per Pat Leonard, Derek Stepan indeed traveled with the team to Montreal for Game Five tonight. Alain Vigneault noted that Stepan will get a look in the morning skate before he makes his decision on inserting him into the lineup. As expected, Stepan will wear full face protection (cage) if he plays.
Also, Oscar Lindberg traveled with the team to Montreal. per Arpon Basu. The highly touted prospect has yet to play an NHL game, but played a very strong campaign in the AHL, his first in North America, putting up a line of 18-26-44 in 75 games. It’s safe to assume that if Stepan cannot go, then it will be between Lindberg and Jesper Fast for the fourth line spot. J.T. Miller, who played in that spot in Game Four, played just three minutes before being cross-checked into the goal post (no penalty was called). He did not return to the game.
Miller did not travel to Montreal.
(Scott Levy/NHLI/Getty Images)
With the regular season coming to an end in a few short weeks, speculation will increase as to whether Brian Boyle should be retained or not. For the right price, Glen Sather should absolutely keep Boyle – for the short term. It may be Boyle’s demands that scupper any extension with New York, but from a pure skill perspective he still fills multiple needs for the Rangers.
The Rangers are not a good face-off team. Derek Stepan is at best inconsistent in the face-off circle and, with Brad Richards likely to leave in the summer, the Rangers definitely need some face-off proficiency wherever they can get it. This is a big reason why keeping Boyle is a wise move. Boyle is a solid defensive player (he’s one of the best fourth line players in the game) and he’s essential to the penalty kill, A big part of that is because of his face-off ability.
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With the Rangers off to a 1-4 start, any attention not focused on the Blueshirts has been on the Hartford Wolfpack. Specifically, attention has been on Danny Kristo, J.T. Miller, and Chris Kreider. Some other attention has been on Oscar Lindberg and Brandon Mashinter as well.
The attention isn’t unwarranted. Kristo (2-3-5), Kreider (2-1-3), and Miller (4-0-4) are all making waves with fans with their offensive performances. Mashinter (0-3-3) and Lindberg (0-3-3) also have some pretty nice point totals through four games. But points only tell half of the story. Since #fancystats aren’t available for the AHL, we need to focus on stats that are available.
Focusing on Kristo/Kreider/Miller, let’s focus on shooting percentage and +/- (I know…). Both stats add a little more to the discussion about rushing kids based on point production.
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