State of the Rangers

Monday Mailbag: Trade Winds, AV, Signs of a Turnaround?

You got questions. The Suit has answers.
You got questions. The Suit has answers.

No goal breakdown today folks. Unfortunately Dave is traveling and I only caught the second half of the game. Apologies for that.

Anyway, I originally had an x’s and o’s post scheduled for this morning, but I decided to call an audible since the team really hasn’t been playing well of late. I feel like during such a critical part of the season everyone would rather talk about the team than strategy, so I thought a mailbag/twitter bag would be more appropriate.

Before we get started, a big stick tap to those who sent questions in. Much obliged.

Q. If you were the GM what would be your plan for the rest of the season?
– @leemorreal

A: Even if the Rangers make the playoffs, I don’t think they will get far with this roster as it is currently constructed. The Penguins, Bruins, Capitals, and Red Wings all have superior top end players and superior role players. Matchups for a 7 game series against one of those clubs would be a nightmare for AV. The only thing we have that others don’t is Henrik Lundqvist and he looks far from his normal elite self.

My plan would be to upgrade the bottom six and bottom pair defense. Even though we could stand to use more top end skill, we really don’t have the chips to pull off a major trade. I’d focus on acquiring a solid third line player or two. Let’s have a line that can bring a heavy forecheck, win in the dirty areas of the ice, play good D, and pop 30-40 points. That’s severely lacking right now in our bottom six.

Would a move like this help turn us into the offensive team that AV wants? No, but depth, true depth would help create a little more balance.  Boyle is on pace for 2 goals. Pooliot 8 goals. Dorsett 6 goals. Moore 3 goals. Pyatt is goalless. This could be an easy fix on the trade market.

With all that said, I’d probably wait till after the Olympics to make a move. Should any of our stars go down in Sochi, that would put us on a whole other course. Might be better to play wait and see.

Q. Give me a few trade targets!
– Bob

A: I mentioned this the other day, but I like Zach Smith on the Senators ($1.9M cap hit). He’s a good center who hits, fights, wins face-offs, and can pop a few goals. David Jones ($4M cap hit) in Calgary is also another guy who brings size, grit, and offense. Andrew Ladd ($4.4M) probably wouldn’t be available, but I always liked his game as well. Given the high caps, we’d obviously have to shed some salary to get any of these done. Someone keeps mentioning Cogliano, who I like as well, but I can’t see the Ducks moving him. They’re in first place and probably looking to upgrade, not sell.

Going the other way, I wouldn’t be opposed to moving Derick Brassard if the org believes Oscar Lindberg will be ready for the Show next season, or if they still believe JT Miller is a center and not a wing. McIlrath getting 5 mins a night doesn’t bode well for him, so trading away Girardi or MDZ at this point doesn’t really make a lot of sense unless defense is coming the other way. Though, the latter will not likely be a Ranger beyond next summer, so maybe we could pull the trigger on MDZ if Dylan sticks.

Q. What’s your take on AV saying the Rangers should play more like the Red Wings?

A: For those of you who missed that news story, here’s AV’s full comment.

“I look at the Detroit Red Wings, who I know well because I coached against them the last seven years,” Vigneault continued. “They have no toughness, per se, as far as that type of personnel in their lineup, at no point – other than maybe (Jordin) Tootoo the last couple years, but he’s gone now. But those guys play hard. They have the puck, and they say, ‘Try and get it from me.’ Or they don’t have it and they battle like hell to get it back. They compete.”

Interesting comment from AV. I see what he’s trying to convey as far as puck possession, but their top guys are three zone players. Is Brad Richards a three zone player? Is Stepan?  Nash? I don’t think so. Plus, there aren’t many guys in the league tougher than Berto, Franzen and Cleary. Gotta disagree with this. We’re not Detroit.

Q. Convincing win against the Flames. This the start of a turnaround? What about Cally? Do you think he’ll be a Ranger this time next year?

A: Exciting yes. Convincing? No. Need to see a lot more consistency in the D-zone before we start talking turnaround. The team is still giving up way too many transition rushes.

As for Callahan…he better be. We won’t win a Cup without Callahan. He does it all.

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  1. I really don’t trust AV. I mean, even Babcock had to make changes to the Detroit system as they lost Lidstrom, Rafalski, and Stuart.

    We don’t have the puck-moving D-men to be a Detroit. Not quite sure Detroit has that anymore. If your breakout sucks, and you don’t get great speed through the neutral zone…dump it, right? Not sexy, and it can certainly be counter-intuitive to a puck possession system…but you do what you have to do.

    The passive forecheck thing just shackles guys like Hagelin and Callahan. I acknowledge Cally has yet to truly be healthy, but can’t help but think Hagelin would look better if we returned to more of a 2-1-2. Which won’t happen of course.

    Fire Glen Sather.

  2. Suit

    What’s your thought about keeping Hags, with Step, and Nash as a line? They seem to really work well together, and let BR skate with Kreider, and Zucc, giving us two very good lines.

    As for trades, Zack Smith, and David Jones sound like good men to target, what do we give up that any teams really wants?

    Cogliano should not be targeted at this time. Correct me if I’m wrong, he becomes an UFA after this season, why give up the store for him now??

    In closing, Hank looked shakey in goal last night, something going on between his ears, been saying that all season. Glad he finally got his win, couldn’t stand to loose to the Flames, one of the worst teams in the NHL!!

    1. Walt- While I like those lines I’m never one to be opposed to juggling guys around based on who’s wheeling and who might be mailing it in on any given night.

      I think a lot of teams would want Hags, especially those who rely on aggressive forechecking. The question is would we be willing to part with him? I don’t know if I’m there yet.

      Agree with you on Cogliano. Frankie will have to answer that one for you. Believe he’s the one who keeps bringing him up.

      1. Hags is not what I would consider a scoreing machine, but with his legs, I sure as heck would not want him traded.

        We’ll see what Frank has to say, ha ha ha!!!

  3. Good write up, the Rangers won last night but it sure as hell wasn’t pretty. They were making good plays on offence largely because they were skating better, supporting the puck carrier and making better decisions with the puck.

    On defence, again same old story. Fans were critical last year because the Rangers would collapse in front of the goal when defending. Now with their new hybrid defensive system, opposing players are free to waltz into the front of their net and do whatever the hell they want. Mikael Backlund looked like a power forward last night against the Rangers. They can’t continue to give away ground in front of the net or Lundquist will have an aneurism. Ulffie never played soft, not sure why the Rangers defence are.

    Speaking of which, Lundquist played better last night, although looked very unsteady in the shootout. One area where Henk still needs to improve is his puck handling skills. It would take a lot of pressure of his defence, if he could once in a while make a play with the puck. I am not asking that he become the next Mario Lemieux, but if he can at least become as good as Cam Talbot of Biron with the puck, it would make a difference.

    1. I doubt the system is designed to let opposing players easily waltz into the slot/crease area, but it does happen, probably because our D plays soft all too often. I’m happy that they are not collapsed and therefore pinned in the D zone for minutes at a time like last year’s version. Once the D gets it, or we get better D, things should be better in terms of the breakout (which is also better than last year’s).

  4. There were some good takeaways from last night’s game, which saw the team start off down 2-0 and ultimately comeback to secure 2 points.

    I’ve never seen Hank struggle and battle so much to make saves on average / above average shots. I wonder if he needs minor surgery on a knee and is trying to play through during an Olympic and new contract year. He has been very average since training camp.

    When asked after the game if McIlrath’s fight could rally a team, AV commended McIlrath for being courageous but wouldn’t say a fight can rally teams……kid’s first NHL fight, very classy AV. No wonder why he has a reputation of playing soft teams. Send him back to Canada.

    1. AD

      Your right, that comment really got under my skin. What does AV want a bunch of pansies???
      He sure as hell has enough playing for him already!!

      1. It was just an easy setup question and rather than give props to a #1 draft pick with big expectations in the physical part of the game, AV chose to pass? I don’t get it.

        Meanwhile, Kreider went out of his way to rave about the fight and what that meant to the team.

          1. Did AV read the press release when McIlrath was called up? We referenced the fact he led the AHL in both fighting majors and penalty minutes. The kid is 21 years old and embraced a fight with McGratton, arguably the toughest guy in the NHL.

            Has AV seen that our team has been pushed around all season?

            Again, I am thankful Kreider acknowledged the importance of this to the team.

            And, for what it is worth, McIlrath will become a quality defenseman in this league; just a matter of time.

          2. Agree, and it’s nice to see some stones on our team. For a while I thought the Rangers were playing with nothing but women, not to insult women, whom I love dearly!!!!!

            He is making the most of his call up, and hopefully force the management to keep him up!!!!!

    2. Im trying to like AV but stuff like that wont help that happen. wish we could send em back n have Torts back where he belongs

  5. We got two points. Urgency wasn’t there in first 10 minutes (again). Stepan finally was is the mix. Let’s hope we can build on this.

    Hank is just a regular goalie when we don’t block 10 shots a game.

    Could use a defenseman who can carry the puck. I like Hags, but you have to give to get.

  6. Suit, good post but I disagree about the Rangers having three zone players. Richards admittedly is not, but Stepan can play all over the ice – and Nash has the talent to do so as well. I really would like to see Nash do some penalty killing to refocus that aspect of his game.

    A lot of defense is about attitude and not talent. AV has trusted MZA with far more defensive responsibility than Torts did and he has done the job. If you tell a guy he’s an offensive player, you’ve already lost the battle.

    1. Thanks Ray. I hear ya but my point was to compare our top guys against Detroit. MZA has been better defensively since his first stint, but he’s not Pavel or Zetterberg. Ditto Stepan. Agree, would like to see Nash get a few more shifts on the PK. Not because he’s great defensively though. Just might give us a chance at some shorties.

  7. From reading these comments — at least most of them — it’s quite clear that those who moan and groan about Lundquist being “average” or “regular” because he hasn’t been superhuman so far this season, are the epitome of fair weather fans, fans whose memory can’t encompass more than a few games, the last few. What nonsense. Has there ever been a great athlete in any sport who hasn’t had a period when they haven’t been great? Of course not. Lundquist is a great goalie, and has been a great backstopper since the first day he put on the pads for the Rangers. Unfortunately, the so-called fans who disparage him here and at the Garden reflect a level of ignorance that is all to common among New York City hockey fans, few of whom ever stepped foot on the ice.

  8. I have been doing some thinking watching the Rangers play this year. There are a slew of problems with the team.
    Starting in goal Hank has issues which last night in the shoot out he looked ordinary when in years past he was a wall. Makes me think that the new equipment shattered his confidence watching goals go by him. He has receded from outstanding to above average from top 3 to top 12

    Defense is soft and no boomer on it. Only player getting an A+ is McDonagh. After that Moore, Girardi Stralman and Staal are bunched together with Moore and Staal being the better. Moore is a keeper but if Staal is bolting it is time to trade him. Girardi is a Keeper Stralman hopefully can be signed. Del Zotto is trade bait and Falk a fine option for 7th. McIlrath needs to stay up here and be given the chance to play 15 minutes a game and groomed in the NHL. He gives us physicality.

    Del Zotto and Staal should fetch a decent return to plug some of the holes on the team.

    On offense Nash, Kreider and Stepan are good to go. Brassard Richards and Zuccarello are also good to go. (if Nash had half the energy of Zuke …just wow…sigh). Hagelin Callahan and Boyle will be ok for a 3rd line until another center can replace Boyle and bump him to the 4th.
    Moore is a good center, many people do not realize what he brings to the game. So Moore, Dorsett and bring up a kid to play on the 4th line.

    In Hartford we have Conner Allen on D, Kristo, Lindberg, Hrivik and yes I say give Beach a chance to redeem himself to keep an eye on.

    so in my view the problems are Hank getting used to the equipment sooner rather than later, Defense a shake up for a few reasond to include the FA status for next year and getting rid of Pyatt, Pouliot ( though he did play well last 2 games) Asham.

    Scary time to be a Ranger fan this year…officially they have become the cardiac kids in blue….haha

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