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Posts tagged: Ruslan Fedotenko

What’s Wrong With Ruslan Fedotenko?

When the Rangers signed Ruslan Fedotenko out of his PTO last year, it was a hotly debated topic. In fact, it spawned one of our most controversial and most active posts at that time, and it even led to a bet with me and a Penguins fan. I lost the bet (Fedotenko didn’t get to 15 goals), but it didn’t matter: Fedotenko was one of the best offseeason bargains of the 2010-2011 season.

His play earned him another one year contract for this season, and very few could see any downside in that. His chemistry with Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust was evident, and to be honest, the Rangers needed bodies to fill out the roster. However, this year the Ruslan Fedotenko that we knew last year is nowhere to be found. He seems to be gripping his stick a little too tight, and more often than not we are seeing him fan on shots, or just shank them altogether.

The good news is that Fedotenko’s defensive play has still been stellar. He is second on the team in regards to quality of competition faced (QUALCOMP of .060), while playing with the second worst quality of teammates (QUALTEAM of -.366). His Relative Corsi (a stat reflective of puck possession) is not good (-17.4), meaning that there are more shots directed at the Rangers net when he is on the  ice as opposed to off the ice. His Corsi isn’t indicative of much though, considering the quality of opponents and teammates he plays with.

Looking at his starts and finishes in the offensive zone, Fedotenko starts 44.4% of his shifts in the offensive zone, but finishes 47.3% of his shifts in the offensive zone. To analyze this with his Corsi (puck possession), what this means is that although Fedotenko starts less than 50% of his shifts in the offensive zone, he still manages to finish more shifts in the offensive zone, despite not having puck possession for the majority of the shift.  To break this down further, basically Fedotenko’s shifts consist of containing top competition from scoring, gaining puck control, gaining the zone, then dumping the puck for a change. It’s a tough job, but someone needs to do it. And Fedotenko does it just fine.

However, that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. Fedotenko has been demoted to fourth line duties with Prust and the newly acquired/returned Mike Rupp, and played just nine shifts in last night’s win over the Islanders (a total of 5:32 in ice time).  This is down from his 14 shifts and 9:19 in ice time against the Devils on Tuesday, and 19/13:33 in Phoenix. It’s tough to really explain the lack of ice time, other than John Tortorella’s style of not playing his fourth line too much. That’s not to place blame on the coach per se, but it is a potential explanation nonetheless.

It’s the coaches job to find the right mix of lines and ice time that get the team going. The Rangers have won three in a row heading into tonight’s pre-Winter Classic showdown with the Flyers, where Fedotenko will presumably have his hands full with the Claude Giroux line. But for those, including myself, asking what exactly is wrong with Fedotenko, the answer is nothing. The biggest difference is that we don’t see it on the stat sheet. Fedotenko is still an important cog on the machine that is the Rangers. Defensive play is often understated and underappreciated, and it appears to be the case with Fedotenko this season.

Rangers Win and Post Game Thoughts

The Rangers kicked off their European trip with a solid 2-0 victory over Prague. Aided by second period goals from Artem Anisimov and Ruslan Fedotenko, the team was led by the strong play of Martin Biron who played very well in earning a shutout victory. According to beat writer Jim Cerny Biron made several impressive saves throughout.

Given the lack of TV coverage that is the shortest recap you’ll ever likely to see on the site so we’ll just get to some thoughts I have over the game.

  • Artem Anisimov scored the game winner. I have a feeling this won’t be his last of the upcoming season. With so much talent, he started to be more consistent last year. Hopefully, with Brad Richards commanding so much attention Artie will have more freedom to have a big year.
  • I know it’s pre-season but with his goal, did Fedotenko once again prove how nice a pick-up he’s been? All that from a camp try-out. He’s a great depth piece that can be moved up and down the lines and gives 100% every game. Good teams need foot soldiers and that’s exactly what Feds is.
  • Take a bow Marty Biron. Yes, I am biased but health allowing I firmly believe the Rangers have the best 1-2 in the entire league. A perennial Vezina candidate aided by a guy in Biron that could probably still be a solid starter for 10+ teams around the league. Have to love that combo.
  • Erixon and Del Zotto got on the board. Hopefully their assists help raise their games. By all accounts, Del Zotto’s pass in particular was a great play. That’s what he’s capable of.
  • Brutal Schedule! Following the Prague game yesterday the Rangers now do all this, prior to next Friday’s opener: They resume play against Frolunda in Sweden on Friday, Slovan Bratislava in Slovakia on Sunday, and Zug in Switzerland Monday. That’s going to be taxing. 3 more countries in 4 days before going back to Sweden for the opening weekend. Hopefully they get a rest day or two in the next week.
  • I would love to see Scott Stajcer get some time in net. He’s got good talent so don’t let him rot in the stands for the next ten days. Given the schedule, giving Lundqvist and Biron some time out of the pads would be good.
  • A week today is the opening game! I can’t wait to be there. If you’re anything like as excited for the opening weekend as I am, good luck to you.
  • I truly believe we’ll see a strong first weekend from the Rangers. 1-1 would be fine, given all the travel, the injuries on D etc but I have a feeling the Rangers take both games.

Prust’s Tricky Situation

Despite a great season last time around, when Brandon Prust became an integral (albeit surprising) Ranger there could be some difficulty finding an ideal spot for Prust on this year’s team. Prust is obviously going to make the side; after all he became a dangerous penalty killer last season as well as a fearless competitor. However, his role this year is somewhat complicated by the fact he still hasn’t been cleared for physical contact and won’t be until the Rangers hit Europe – meaning the gritty winger won’t have had an ideal pre-season whatsoever.

His line mates from last season – primarily Brian Boyle and Ruslan Fedotenko – will have a full camp under their belts with different line mates as well as accumulating plenty of ice time. The Rangers have a lot of wingers desperate to make the team out of camp including physical winger Dale Weise, speedy Carl Hagelin and Mats Zuccarello. One of those, if not more, may head to Europe because of injuries persisting on the roster to players such as Prust.

So what if a Hagelin or Weise finds great chemistry in the bottom six, especially with Prust’s former line? Again, to repeat, Prust isn’t going anywhere. His play last year built up a lot of credit and he’s a great find for the Rangers but he may be moved around the roster if chemistry is built up in his absence. Not an ideal scenario for the fan favourite.

New Emphasis on Experience?

Rangers fans for years, clamoured for a re-build. Fans wanted home grown players to provide the core. Well, Rangers fans got their wish. Next season, while the team will be led offensively by expensive free agents like Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, the team will be a vastly home grown one.  However this year’s free agency period (but not exclusively evidenced by free agents) has shown a new, greater emphasis on experience throughout the league. Teams are looking to add experience even if it costs them good quality prospects and draft picks. More than ever, teams are looking to win now.

If you are lucky your team will have done it the right way; build a core and add to it. This is what the Rangers have done. They have added 3 cup winners this off season by retaining Fedotenko, recruiting Mike Rupp and winning the Richards sweepstakes. 2 of those players have scored cup winning goals and Richards is a Conn Smythe winner – impressive experience. We recently discussed the differences (and similarities) between the Rangers the Bruins. One of the things we identified was the extra playoff experience the Bruins enjoyed. This summer, the Rangers addressed that. However it is a growing trend around the league.

Example 1: San Jose

The Sharks have been a cup contender for several years and their better players are getting older. Is the Sharks’ window to win closing? With a core in place the Sharks gave up some serious youth when they traded the likes of top prospect Charlie Coyle and young winger Devin Setoguchi to bring in Brent Burns and earlier this week they moved Danny Heatley to acquire Martin Havlat. The Sharks also added veterans such as Michael Handzus and have prioritised the experience Burns and Handzus bring over having patience in waiting for kids like Coyle to arrive. Is this win now?

Example 2: Washington

If you’re a Capitals fan you probably feel like you’ve hit the jackpot. The Caps had a stable of young goaltenders but like San Jose, seemingly began to crave experience over youth. Luckily for the Caps they too benefit from a great core so the risk of prioritising experience over youth is less. Having bagged a surprising return of picks for young goaltender Semyon Varlamov from the re-building Avalanche, the Caps went out and added veteran goalie Tomas Vokoun for the bargain rate of $1.5m. Vokoun gives them a huge upgrade in experience and skill at a position of need for the Caps. The Caps however already began to crave more veteran presence last season when they added Jason Arnott at the deadline while they also acquired Marc Sturm and Scott Hannan – all experienced players.

There are several examples throughout the league to evidence that more than ever experience is back in fashion and highly sought after. Veterans are not an afterthought but are becoming a priority. Simon Gagne is taking his impressive career and big game experience to ambitious LA for two years, Chicago looked for some experience and added it in Andrew Brunette, the Pens added veteran presence with Steve Sullivan, while the Florida Panthers went crazy and added some quality, plenty of quantity and a lot of experience with players such as Ed Jovanovski, Jose Theodore and Tomas Fleischmann.

It seems the Rangers may be at the forefront of an increasing trend in the league but most importantly, thanks to a solid few years building they are doing it the right way. They’re following a successful blue print. The Rangers have a core in place, they have several more talented picks on their way in the system but have now added crucial experience as they look to take the next step. Hopefully they take that next step next season.

 

Rangers Show Restraint, Come Out Winners On Day One

Yesterday’s free agency activity can be summed up in one word: over payment. Time and time again in the live chat we would see someone sign, and then ask ourselves “Wait, he got WHAT?!”. In a market where Ville Leino can get six years and $4.5 million per year, the Rangers showed restraint, and came out victorious in the first day. They bowed out on Jaromir Jagr, they bowed out on Andrew Brunette. In fact, they only signed two players, Ruslan Fedotenko and Mike Rupp.

Neither contract is a cap killing contract. We know what Fedotenko brings to the table, and I’m glad he’s back. As for Rupp, the initial reaction was “wait, he got how many years?”, but the more you look at the signing objectively, the more it makes sense. The Rangers need a bigger body to be physical and play on the fourth line. They also needed someone who can serve a purpose other than just being a big body. Rupp is the guy they wanted, Rupp is the guy the got.

Rupp wins 50% of his face offs, which immediately makes him the best face off guy on the team. Add that to his ability to throw his body around, drop the gloves when necessary, and chip in ten goals a year, and you have yourself a nice little signing. The contract (three years, $1.5 million per) is a bit much, but it doesn’t really hamstring the Rangers.

Glen Sather spent $5.9 million yesterday, a far cry from what most people expected, even without a Brad Richards signing. The signing of both Rupp and Fedotenko may lead to later moves (so long Erik), but they were signings that we either a) wanted (Fedotenko), or b) were necessary (Rupp). For $2.9 million next season, which is almost half of Leino’s salary for ONE season, let’s call yesterday a win.

Rangers Re-Sign Ruslan Fedotenko

Via Bob McKenzie, the Rangers have re-signed Ruslan Fedotenko to a one-year deal worth $1.4M. I wasn’t sure if he would be coming back after the Mike Rupp signing, but I like it. Contract seems very fair, if not a little light for Fedotenko given some of the nonsense contracts that were given out today.

Improving The Third Line

Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust are two very important pieces of the Rangers heading into next season. Reports suggest the team is also considering bringing back Fedotenko as well. Does that mean one of the most effective third lines in the entire league could be re-united when the Rangers hit the ice in Stockholm? It shouldn’t. Giving Fedotenko a new deal as a reward for a solid and surprising season is a good idea, giving him a two year deal is a bad idea. Giving him ice time ahead of the likes of Carl Hagelin is an even worse idea.

Michigan product Hagelin should make the team out of camp and he should be thrown on the third line (along with likely 3rd line candidates, Prust and Boyle) straight away. He should be put there, allowed to learn and make mistakes without the threat of demotion or diminishing ice time.

As harsh as it sounds, Hagelin is the future of this team, 32 year old Fedotenko is not. What Fedotenko should be next year is an affordable luxury; a useful player on the 4th line that can be moved up and down the line-up when necessary. The Rangers are deep enough to accommodate Hagelin on the third line and deep enough that they can tolerate any potential growing pains. Boyle and Prust are the type of team-first, hard working guys that could really help a guy like Hagelin develop on the fly.

Then there is the balance of the proposed line. Boyle has the size and ability to go straight to the net effectively. We have seen him score goals this past season by protecting the puck impressively and driving forward. Brandon Prust makes any defense stay honest and will hit everything that moves and forecheck with ferocity. What both of these players may lack is pure skill. Hagelin offers more skill, additional goal scoring ability and great skating and would really round out the line. Hagelin offers more of an offensive threat than Fedotenko would.

The best part of this is that it is a line that could stick together for some time. Boyle is only 26, Prust is 27 and the youngster would be Hagelin at just 22. It could be a line with good two-way ability and physicality and could become an effective third line. All three players have defensive ability and play the penalty kill. Concerned about the positions? Prust and Hagelin in particular appear to be flexible positionally so the fact both are listed as left wings should not pose an issue. Fedotenko was also listed as a left wing yet the trio of Fedotenko – Boyle – Prust thrived in 2010-11.

The Rangers have shown a willingness to blood youngsters in the past few seasons and that shouldn’t change next season. Ruslan Fedotenko has earned a new deal but he should not be a hurdle prospects like Hagelin should have to overcome. Hagelin should get the opportunity to make his Rangers debut in his home country and ideally on the third line. What all this discussion about the third line also highlights is the depth the Rangers boast. Players such as Sean Avery haven’t even entered the discussion for the third line, while Fedotenko would be best served on the fourth .

Should the Rangers sign Brad Richards then all of a sudden even Boyle seems destined for fourth line minutes as there is no way (following such a promising rookie year) that Derek Stepan drops that far and one has to imagine Anisimov is more likely a top 6 rather than a bottom 6 player at this point. Good problems facing the Rangers next season one of which is improving the third line.

Brooks: Rangers Working On Two Year Deal With Fedotenko

As per Larry Brooks, the Rangers are in the process of negotiating a two year deal with LW Ruslan Fedotenko. Fedotenko, brought on for a professional tryout last season, made the team, and presented the Rangers with one of the best bargains in the NHL. For just $1 million, the Rangers got themselves a reliable grinding winger that found chemistry with Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle. That trio turned into the best fourth line in hockey, and graduated themselves to third line duties halfway through the season.

On paper, Fedotenko’s numbers were not impressive. After all, he only finished with ten goals and 25 points. However, his value to the Rangers isn’t measured in points. Fedotenko was clearly one of coach John Tortorella’s workhorses and most reliable wingers. Tenk played some of the most important even strength minutes, and was a fixture on the Rangers penalty kill. Fedotenko missed time with a sprained shoulder and appendix surgery. In that time he was out, the Rangers went just 5-10-1.

Per Brooks, it looks like the two sides are working towards a good price for Fedotenko’s services. It is clear that Tenk will get a raise from his $1 million, but how much of a raise is the issue. Personally, I think a $1.5 million annual salary for Fedotenko would make him a good fit. In the end, he’s still a third line player for this team.

Stay Or Go: Ruslan Fedotenko

As the offseason for our Rangers progresses, we are going to take looks at the pending free agents (and some players still under contract) and see how the Rangers may deal with them this coming summer.  I am starting this series off with Ruslan Fedotenko because in the beginning of the season, I made a bet with a Penguins fan that he would get to 15 goals.  He did not, thus I lost the bet.  As part of the bet, I had to agree to admit that I lost the bet.

When the Rangers signed Ruslan Fedotenko to a professional tryout in September, many looked at it as an afterthought.  Sure, he would push the kids a bit, maybe be a decent spare part, but he surely wouldn’t contribute much.  Then, following his tremendous preseason –one where he outplayed Dane Byers, Dale Weise, and Mats Zuccarello– he was signed to a one-year deal worth $1 million.  Fedotenko earned that contract.

After signing with the Blueshirts, Fedotenko had a relatively slow start to the season, netting just a goal and four helpers in October.  His November was highlighted with a five point (2-3-5) in three game effort, but it was his play without the puck, specifically with Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust that stole the show.  Fedotenko just meshed with the two grinders, and their chemistry made them the most dangerous fourth line in the game.  In fact, their play was so good, they were –as a unit– moved up to the third line.  Their consistency and great play was one of the only constants for a team that was absolutely ravaged by injuries in the winter months.

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Could the Rangers Look the Same Next Year?

As the Rangers looked to get in to the playoffs down the stretch and now in the playoffs, some of the Rangers best players have been their oldest. These were players deemed not good enough for other teams, even players that didn’t have a team. Ruslan Fedotenko –a try out in camp don’t forget– may have summed up the Rangers work ethos with his spectacular defensive play earlier in this playoff series against the Caps, while Vinny Prospal continues to log big minutes and score important goals. The Rangers should look to bring back both players. Both players –albeit in different ways– lead by example for the Rangers. If it’s not Prospal’s enthusiasm and offense, it’s Fedotenko’s work rate and hunger. Even as the Rangers mature next season these are two players that the younger roster players can still learn from.

Then there’s the forgotten man in New York this year, Michael Del Zotto. A poor start to the season (certainly in comparison to his rookie year) culminated with demotion and injury to cap a miserable 2nd year as a pro for the skilled defenseman.  However barring a spectacular trade offer, Del Zotto will be a Ranger next year – they clearly still value the talented blueliner. On top of the likely return of Del Zotto is the news (rumour?) that the Rangers are considering offering a new deal to Matt Gilroy. Add all this up and do the math – there are a lot of familiar faces that should or could be returning next year.

The one position that will likely see a major change is the top line center. With Brad Richards permanently linked to the Rangers, they appear to have their answer in the Dallas pivot.  But beyond Richards there may be little change on the horizon. That’s not a bad thing, as the free agent market (beyond Richards and goaltending – certainly not a need) is very weak and most of the Rangers prospects would benefit from another year of seasoning. Bringing back this year’s club with Richards as an upgrade is still a very good, competitive (and still young and developing) team. Bringing back Prospal and Fedotenko as the veteran presence every team needs is the right thing to do. Many doubted Prospal’s ability to recover from his long injury but he’s proven (and is still doing so) that there is still a lot left in that overly tanned body of his. Fedotenko is low maintenance and would be cheap – as well as building a team with the right players the finances need to add up and both veterans should fit in to the financial plan.

Obviously there are a few maturing prospects that could make the team (Weise, Grachev, Valentenko) and several others, maybe getting looks in camp (Thomas, Bourque) that will excite and lead calls for another shot of youth next season but Rangers fans shouldn’t be disappointed if next year’s club looks similar to this year’s. A developing team shouldn’t be rushed and this year’s team is showing Rangers fans that there’s a lot to like and a lot to get excited about already adorning red, white and blue.