Season Turning Point: Calling up Hagelin and Mitchell

With a playoff spot clinched, we are running a new series about turning points in the season. These posts will focus on moves the Rangers made that effectively turned their season from mediocre to great.

On November 24, the Rangers had lost two games in a row to the Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers. It wasn’t so much that the Rangers lost the games, it was that they were getting beat to every single loose puck in those games. They looked slow, and even looked slow in their six wins prior to those losses. The two players made an immediate impact, and the Rangers won their next five in a row, including three in a row against Washington, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.

But those wins weren’t just ordinary wins. The Rangers looked faster, and for good reason. Hagelin and Mitchell eventually replaced the revolving door of Erik Christensen, Wojtek Wolski, and Sean Avery (with a little Andre Deveaux as well). Only Avery had some sort of speed out of that trio. Their success paved the way for the removal of all three spare parts (and distractions) from the Rangers locker room, permanently. It was not only addition by speed, but addition by subtraction.

It wasn’t just speed though. Something was different. Both players immediately bought into the John Tortorella system of forechecking, two way hockey, and grinding out games. The Rangers had the puck more often, and it showed. Their time of possession in the offensive zone shot up noticeably, and the Rangers were generating more offense off the physical offensive zone play. They had the puck more, it’s as simple as that, and it was mainly due to Mitchell and Hagelin.

Puck possession is an easy enough metric to figure out, as it’s defined by the stat Corsi. Corsi is a stat that counts the number of shots directed at your net (missed, blocked, saved, or goals) versus the number of shots directed at your opponents net (missed, blocked, saved, or goals) while a specific player is on the ice. All shot attempts for – all shot attempts against = Corsi. Essentially, the more shots directed at your opponents net, the more you have the puck, and vice versa.

Relative Corsi (I’m going to abbreviate this as RCorsi) takes Corsi to a different level. Generally speaking, the better teams in the league will dominate Corsi. RCorsi accounts for this, and takes the Corsi of the player (as described above) and subtract the Corsi of the team when that player is off the ice. This makes for a more balanced measure of puck possession, as it eliminates the team concept and focuses solely on the player, and how he affects the team.

Now that we’ve explained RCorsi, it’s easy to see why Hagelin and Mitchell were instrumental to the Rangers long term success. They boast the two highest RCorsi among forwards on the team. Mitchell’s RCorsi is 13.1, and Hagelin’s is 12.6. To really put a value to this, the next best Ranger is Brandon Dubinsky at 8.5 RCorsi. Brad Richards sit’s in 4th at 2.7 RCorsi.

What’s even more impressive about their RCorsi is that Hagelin starts less than 50% of his shifts in the offensive zone (46.5%) and Mitchell is barely above 50% offensive zone starts (51.1%).

The best part is that these guys are showing they made a difference on the ice and on the scoreboard. Despite playing 20 fewer games than the rest of the team, Hagelin still sits in the top five in scoring on the team (14-23-37). Average that out over a full 72 games thus far for the Rangers, and that’s 18-30-48. That’s Calder discussion worthy. As for Mitchell, he has 15 points (5-10-15) while playing mostly checking line duties.

The Rangers didn’t just call up two AHL guys, they called up two difference makers. These two almost single-handedly righted the ship for the Rangers in what could have been a disastrous stretch. Just think Mitchell was acquired from Toronto for a 7th round pick, and Hagelin was a 6th round pick in 2008. Not bad Mr. Sather.

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  • A couple of minor points:

    a) we traded a 7th round pick for Mitchell, but a 5th round pick for Jon Scott? hmmm….

    b) your point about these call-ups immediately buying into Tortorella’s system is spot on, and a testament to the continuity this organization now has between the Whale and the Rangers. As a side note, Avery never “bought in” and played to serve his teammates and coach. For him, it seemed the other way around. I hope that is now obvious to the Avery fanatics who love him, unconditionally.

    • Sometimes that’s just how the trade market works. It’s all about the market at the time of the trade. It’s very tough to compare 2 trades from different years.

  • The main person who made the most impact was indeed Hagelin!

    The kid has speed, skill, and most importently brains. He is a thinking man, and has demonstrated it time, and again. He can also be used in other areas, like the PK, PP, and even strength. I love the way he busts his hump out there, he really wants to play. A far cry from both WW, and EC, they went through the motions, but never played with heart.

    As for Mitchell, when we got him everyone said he was a depth player for the Whale. Well he turned out to be a decent player with some skill, and speed. He is frustrating at times. He brings the puck in the attack zone, and looks to pass off, why not shoot John????? But for a 7th round pick, it was a steal.

    To your point, this was indeed the turning point of this wonderful season so far.

  • I understand that this is a post about a stat and a really impressive one at that, but I have to take one minute to praise Hagelin. The kid is freaking gold. I love watching him skate, I love the fact that he doesn’t waste his speed with laziness or a condescending attitude that he has it and can use it on his own terms. He goes hard all the time and always wants to learn. They were recently praising him on a postgame recently for his extreme interest in not only gaining knowledge from his linemates, but immediately using what he has learned. I mean, how many points does he have in the past few games? He makes me so excited for games and when he is on the ice… he is gold.

  • Any stat that tells you a fourth line guy who averages 10 minutes a night is a difference maker…isn’t a very good stat at all. And why do hockey geeks have to invent stats to try to explain the game? Open your eyes and watch the game, Mitchell is a dime a dozen player in this league, he had a nice stretch, scoring 3 goals in 5 games, and has been invisible since, despite getting PP time. He’s a depth guy, not a difference-maker.

    • So depth guys and difference-makers are a mutually exclusive thing? Eesh. Not always about points and goals my friend, there is a lot more to the game.

      Now I admit, sometimes when he has the puck with a good shot, Mitch needs to unleash the fury. But that aside he does a lot of other things like defensive responsibility and offensive contributions that lead to scoring opportunities such as extended forechecking shifts. That’s why these stats are there. You can’t have a full team of 20+ minute guys.

      On my way to the Garden, gonna go watch the Detroit game with my open eyes now.

  • Depth guy, dime a dozen, stats or no stats. BTW, open your eyes, means pay attention to the game, not stupid stats, I guess I’ll have to teach you guys how to read as well. If you think Mitchell is doing anything above the norm, you obviously are blind to what you are watching.

    • And someone needs to teach you how to communicate like a grown up. These guys put their heart into an amateur blog that they probably barely break even on after hosting costs. They all have day jobs that pay their bills. But the only way you want to contribute is say what crappy stats they discuss and they need to open their eyes and just watch. If you don’t like the posts here, go away or just create your own blog.

      This post was analysis. Using stats Seveloped over a season. This was an analysis post, not a live blog of the game. X’s and O’s theory. If you disagree with analysis fine, but the “stats are stupid” argument just doesn’t apply here…it’s an analysis blog that concentrates heavily on game theory.

      That doesn’t mean that those who follow the blog don’t watch the game as it happens and understand what is going on real time. But those that find after the game in depth analysis interesting follow this blog. If that’s not your thing, fine, plenty of blogs out there.

      As far as your Mitch comments, ok he’s not flashy, but he’s excelled within the system this year *within his role*. Maybe there are a lot out there like him, but it’s not like he has some monster contract. And this post was just trying to point out what a great role player he has been and some stats to back it up. And yes, as soon as he came in, there was a noticeable change…a lot of that was Haggy, but don’t forget some bums we had at that point whose roster spot was taken by Mitch. Think about them. Now ask yourself…you want Mitch or them? Those guys are the dime a dozen. Lots of teams wish they could get rid of their bottom players for a Mitch.

      • I’m sorry, but if people can’t take criticism, they should roll up in a ball and stay in Mommy’s basement. Judging by the thumbs up/down(childish BTW)someone posts something here and everyone falls in line. Sorry, but when the words almost singlehandedly and Mitchell get used in the same sentence, someone has to call BS.
        As far as ‘turning the season around’, did I miss when things were bad? The Rangers didn’t play many games early in the season, thus weren’t high up in the standings, then the ‘team’ led by Lunqvist kicked it into overdrive.
        A lot of teams, in fact all of them, could have had Mitch for the waiver fee last year, no one bit.

        • Alright dude, cool, it’s not your kind of site. I’m good with that, but why waste your energy posting? FYI, so we are clear, I don’t know these guys other than trading some comments back and forth every now and then…and I may be very over stepping the line by making the comments above.

          But really, the Mommy’s basement line? Isn’t that what the internet trolls are about? Listen, you don’t agree and that’s fine. But criticism for the sake of creating further discussion vs criticism which only contains the point “I think stats are stupid, analysis is stupid, and your post is stupid” are very much two different worlds.

          While this community sometimes gets posts by internet trolls from their respective maternal basements, these comments sections are about promoting discussion about the NY Rangers and about strategy, analysis, stats, etc. Your commentary was only about why you think stats are stupid and that this was a bad post.

          Back it up with something. And promote discussion instead of trolling for the sake of reading your own words. Disagree with these guys all you want, but back it with substantial statements/proof/numbers/what have you.

          And if not, they accept guest submissions all the time. You dont’ like their ideas for an article? Write one and submit it. If it’s good, I’ll be here to compliment you. If I disagree, I’ll let you know. But I’ll at least give a coherent argument and back it up.

          Dave, Suit, Chris, et al, this isn’t my blog and I’m sorry if I’m over stepping my boundaries. I just have always felt this community is at it’s best when the trolls are quiet and we are having actual discussions/debates with substantiated arguments and people learn something. Just wanted to actually say these statements once.

          Now I can go to bed at peace after the bday captain scored the game winner right in front of my section, two hours before MY bday…and given the time of this post, there was some obvious continuation of ringing in my birthday after that (dammit, I love working from home).

          • A major point of my argument was that stats, especially fabricated ones, don’t tell the whole story, now you want stats to back up my argument?
            A coherent argument, does it get any simplier, Mitchell is a fourth liner, he was even a healthy scratch a few weeks ago, he doesn’t score much and the coach doesn’t think enough of his defensive game/skating to put him out on the PK. Does this sound like someone who “almost singlehandedly turned the season around”?
            Happy Bday.

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