State of the Rangers

At what point is there too much turnover?

Quick, find the current Ranger. Hint: Trick question.
This is from November, 2010. Quick, find the current Ranger. Hint: Trick question.

When  Suit wrote about the Rangers and their inability to find consistency, it struck a chord with me. I realized that despite management’s best efforts, this is a Rangers club that has had significant turnover year in and year out for quite some time. We know about the constant turnover from the teams mostly built through free agency from 2006-2010 while the farm was rebuilding. But once that core is in place, the turnover is supposed to stop.

But the problem is that the turnover hasn’t stopped. Just six skaters (Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Brian Boyle) remain from the 2010-2011 club. Another three (Brad Richards, Anton Stralman, Carl Hagelin) join them from the 2011-2012 club that went to the Stanley Cup Finals. Another three (Rick Nash, Derick Brassard, John Moore) played significant time with the Rangers during the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

All told, just 12 of 18 skaters were on the team last year. That number is cut in half when you go just two seasons prior.

The top teams in the league, the ones that compete for Lord Stanley year after year, have had their cores in place for years. Pittsburgh, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Boston have had the same core for as long as I can remember. St. Louis has had their core in place for at least three years. Even Washington has had the same players suit up from year to year.

But the Rangers are following a different path. The core that John Tortorella spoke about after the 2011-2012 season was gutted. Brandon Prust was too expensive. Management decided to go a different route with Ruslan Fedotenko and John Mitchell. Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov were sent to Columbus. Ryan Callahan to Tampa Bay. Those are six players that were a core group under Tortorella.

But now Tortorella is gone, and the roster turnover appears to be commencing once again.

That’s not a shot at Alain Vigneault by any means. He needs the appropriate personnel to execute his more creative system. AV isn’t a coach that is going to play your Black-and-Blueshirts style. That’s okay.

Guys like Zuccarello, Stepan, Nash, Richards, and Martin St. Louis are guys that AV can use to generate offense. But that’s where the roster turnover rears its ugly head. Of those guys, Stepan is the only one who played regularly with the Rangers starting in 2010 (Zuccarello played 50 games over two seasons). All this leads to inconsistency.

The Rangers have a window to win, and it’s closing very fast. But what could be coming even faster is the next significant roster blow up. Just six forwards (five if you assume a Richards buyout) are signed for next year. Three are RFAs (Zuccarello, Kreider, Brassard), and only two are locks to be re-signed. The current group of prospects has only been playing with each other for one season. They didn’t grow up together like Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan. The chemistry there will take time as well.

This isn’t to say that I disagree with the decisions made to ship some of these guys out either. Prust priced himself out of New York. I’d still make that Dubi/Anisimov for Nash trade. The Marian Gaborik trade was a coup. I don’t like it, but the Cally trade had to be made from a business standpoint. But all these moves are risky moves that have had mixed results.

Regardless of where this team is headed this year and next, the new core of this team needs to be identified and locked up. The blue line is in good shape, but with just one forward signed beyond next season (again assuming a Richards buyout), the forwards are a big area for concern. That kind of turnover doesn’t bode well for successful teams.

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  • The issue wasn’t that there was turnover, the issue is that the core that was eventually replaced was not the poor that was going to bring you the championship. Four players will eventually be replaced. The whole issue is whether there is a core group of young players that are ready to step in and fill the void left behind. The problem is that this organization has drafted poorly or not drafted it all based on trading pics. Therefore the core has to come from a different source. Based on history, if your young core is not win a championship within the first four years of there being in existence together, Chicago, Pittsburg, Boston, Los Angeles, then it’s time to retool and find a new core group.

    • Stepan, Kreider, Zucc, Hagelin, D. Moore, McD, Staal, Girardi, Lundqvist, Talbot, Miller, DelZotto, Callahan.

      That’s 13 players that dressed for the Rangers this season that had made their NHL debut with the Rangers. If you want to add McIlrath and Connor Allen you get up to 15.

      That’s a pretty good draft/development record if you ask me.

      • And many of the players aquired from other teams were done so by trading players drafted by the Rangers. Went through the farm system and made NHL debuts with the Rangers. Sather turned them into Nash, Brassard, Moore, and Dorsett.
        The Rangers have resorted to old bad habits. Since returning from the break it hasn’t looked like the same team. They pass instead of shooting. Nash has gone cold. No one is going to the net. The PP has also gone MIA.

  • The Rangers were on the right track when they developed their own players. They played on the farm and worked their way up and eventually you had a group of players that developed some good chemistry. Now its more of a team of individuals wearing the same uniform. The players are more concerned about landing that huge contract then the teams’ success on the ice.
    Rather then trading away draft picks, I would like to see this team build by developing their own players. Don’t rush them like the Oilers but allow them time to learn their trade, much like the Red Wing model. But this is not the direction this teams management is going and it won’t until their is change.

  • What’s done is done.

    Sather blew up this team’s core to success. Nobody knows what bounces around in Sather’s noggin. The only positive move was Gaborik to Columbus but even that good move brings in younger players who need time to assimilate while the key to Stanley Cup success, the Goaltender, gets another year older and the clock keeps ticking. I’ll even agree that Cally holding the team hostage was a very unpleasant situation and he had to go. Callahan can not hold a financial gun to management’s head and he had to go but cripes not for another aging star. Hey Sather keep over paying for UFA’s and your minions will think, “Hey I want what you’re freely dispersing to outsiders too”. If I’m skating my ass off and banging bodies every night who the hell are these $7 and $8 million dollar prima donnas who skate around like they’re in the Ice Capades?

    Buffalo’s acquisition of Chris Stewart should have made bells go off in Sather’s noodle. How about Cally to Buffalo for Stewart and a pick? That (instead of possibly 2 # ones and the Captain for their almost 40 year old aged star) would have been a far better move than the one that was made. Buffalo would have enjoyed the time to schmooze their homegrown in anticipation of locking him up to the end of his career and probably would have jumped at the opportunity. That move would have given us the power forward we need to compete in our division and especially at this time of year when the Smurfs seem to disappear and the game turns a bit more physical.

    Much of the team’s current woes also date back to gutting the strength and depth at Center with the Nash trade. I think it’s starting to look like maybe Sather over paid there too as our weakness up the middle is most obvious. Where was the wealth at center that was to replace those traded players?

    Too many moves, too many bad moves and here we are. Sather is an anachronism. His glory days in Edmonton have faded with time. He does not have his finger on the pulse on the contemporary game. If ownership wants to keep him around just to negotiate player contracts so he can alienate the entire team than fine, there’s something he can do but otherwise he has got to go.

    Resurrecting this team will take time in order to remedy all the ills and will never happen under the current regime. The GM’s moves most times defy logic. Unfortunately this club will NEVER be a contender capable of hoisting The Cup until the current management team is gone.

    • I think that’s a big issue here. In a vacuum, the deals are fine. But combine all of them together, and you have a team that has completely changed.

  • Next season Zuccarello, Brassard, and of course Kreider will hold out, Richards, Boyle, Pouliot, and Stralman, will be gone. Sather already knows this team will be in trouble.

    If Sather waits past training camp, even Talbot will be an UFA.

    Sather just doesn’t get it.

  • Very touch to keep teams together in the days of the salary cap. You need your high-paid stars to produce like stars, your mid-level guys to push upwards and fill roles and a young stud or two to surprise everyone.

    Slats is trying to surround a “win-now” goalie with lots of individuals, that do not comprise a team. Don’t discount the locker room presence either. No Messier or Graves to kick butt with the doors closed here. Maybe it is time for someone else to play GM.

      • As much as I feel Mr. Boyle’s value is low, he surely cannot be blamed for a host of single-goal losses. He may actually be a reason why it was only one goal (did I say that?)

        • I’m not even sure what is going on anymore. Keep this up and I’m going to ask you out on a bro date

  • I think the writing on the wall was when Sather came out after the loss to Boston last spring and stated that the current Rangers brand of hockey was not the formula for success. He went on to indicate that the more successful teams recently played more of a puck possession game as opposed to dump and chase, yada yada yada.

    So we continued on with the restructuring of the team, as keep in mind, these statements were made after the Nash and Gaborik blockbusters.

    After the abysmal start this year, I was very impressed with how this team came together and played well for long stretches mid season. A big portion of this is contributed to our 3rd line (Zuc/Brassard/Pouliot) who came out of nowhere and became a force for us. The trio even moved to our first power play unit.

    Anyways, long story short I went from being disgruntled with our on ice product early in the season to impressed with how quickly it took Sather to get this team from Torts era to Vingeault era. We are just 2 springs removed from the ECF and I honestly believe if this team gets clicking we can do some damage this spring (perhaps even get to the ECF again). Now that is a HUGE IF, but IF it were to happen, what was the last organization that was able to have such a large amount of roster turnover and make 2 conference finals appearances in such a short span (while still making the playoffs last year)?

    My point is that despite an egregious amount of roster turnover, Sather has kept this team a competitor and almost perennial playoff team since the lockout. When was the last time we finished in the basement? Before 05.

    All that said, I agree with Dave and Suit… in that all this roster turnover isn’t really the formula to build a real playoff contender year in and year out, HOWEVER, some credit needs to go to Sather when considering the finesse he has been able to apply while continually remolding his team.

    My 1 complaint is that in building his teams, Sather has not yet made them deep at C, which seems to be a necessity in today’s NHL. Richards has not worked out, so this summer it will be time to buy out and try again. BUT even with the current roster if they get going like they were pre-Olympics, I would not be surprised to see them do some damage this post season. And to think, St. Louis hasn’t even gotten going for us yet. If they put it together they can make some noise.

  • Dave/Suit,

    These discussions the past two days have included a lot of criticism of the Rangers current management, specifically, Glen Sather.

    I ask you, is he the right man for the job, or has he not been good enough, and a replacement would be needed to take the next step?

    I’m curious of your take.

    • We aren’t being critical of management, we are just pointing out the huge risks taken by management to make this team a winner.

      I think Slats has been doing a good job. Those trades, in a vacuum, are good trades and deals you need to make. But at a top level, this much roster turnover leads to inconsistency.

  • yes this team got to the ECF with their “core grinding players” but to think that was the formula to win, is not thinking at all. I believe that team needed a tweak and unfortunately they got blown up. I wonder how much different things would be if the head coach (torts) had gotten replaced before any moves were made?

    we’ll never know but I believe the gabby trade was solid, the Nash trade on paper looked great but man oh man does he not give a lick some games! I dont even get excited when he gets the puck. Cally like someone said before held a gun to the organization and yes St. Louis has not produced but all we need is for this team is to make it to the postseason and truly anything can happen. stay positive because theres nothing else for us to do as fans.

  • I don’t think it is the high turnover rate alone. I believe it is the combination of that, and the adjustment to AV’s new system. So the players who are brought in, are trying to learn chemistry with players who are also still learning the AV style. This team on paper is pretty well balanced, besides the lack of toughness that can score, but those players are hard to come by. So i think this team needs the end of this year, hopefully some playoffs, and training camp next year for this team to play to their potential. It wouldn’t surprise me if Sather tries to ink dubinsky to a deal in a years time, barring there are no hard feelings from dubinsky. As strange as it sounds, think of him on Nash’s left wing. He’d have another playmaker who can mix it up, distracting opposing players from 61. It might be a pipe dream, but hey who knows.

    • I think you’re right on here, except with Dubinsky. Love the guy but he is going to want crazy money. It’s the same discussion we’ve had with Callahan and Richards, great guys but no where near enough point production to justify their demands (Cally) or actual salary (Richards).

      The grinding/forechecking types need to come from within or at least be younger players. You can’t sign vets to fill that role because most veteran FAs command at least $4M if they play on the 2nd/3rd line. $4M is way too much for a 28 year old 40 pt player.

      Next season look for a one or two of Miller, Fast, Lindberg and Hrvik to try and fill those roles for the Rangers. If they do and are successful then the team will be in excellent shape.

      • I think out of all the kids you mentioned Chris, Hrivik may be the most likely to fill the power forward element thats missing from this lineup. I know alot of people like to mention the other youngsters more but my moneys on that kid.

        • I don’t even care about a “power forward” The Rangers have three right now with Nash, Kreider and Boyle (though Boyle’s hands obviously leave a lot to be desired).

          I’m talking about guys that can use their speed to put their body in the opponents way. I could care less about big hits I just want to have some forwards that can go and disrupt the other team while on the forecheck.

          • I agree w you, but who said anything about “big hits?” Also, have to disagree with you on Nash being a “Power Forward.” In my opinion, he’s a “Big Sniper.” I think this team has enough speed, but are lacking forwards with snarl that can dig the puck out of the corners.

    • I’m with you, Tyler, in that Dubi is my favorite Ranger to ever have been traded. Man do I miss what he brought to the table. I think it would be a pipe dream, but I guess stranger things have happened.

      And to think that at the time of the blockbuster that shipped him to Columbus, EVERYONE was clamoring that he didn’t justify his new 4+ mil contract, couldn’t score a goal and needed to leave.

  • Look at any successful team, in any sport, and there is one common thread: quality GM leadership. This organization lacks this, hence, we are bound for bottom seed playoff contender profile under his stewardship.

  • Four of the five teams you listed as the strongest teams in the league (Pitt, Chicago, LA, St. Louis and Boston to a lesser degree) all bottomed out for a few years and drafted their core players with high first round picks. For better or worse, and largely because the keep bringing aging stars, they haven’t been at the bottom of the standings (top of the draft) for consecutive years to build a really solid core.
    It is a hard argument to make, but there are certain benefits (especially in the cap era) to being a crap team for a few years. Not saying that is what I want for NYR but that is part of the story here.

    • Yeah, the Rangers never actually bottomed out. They managed to consistently finish around the #6-#12 pick in all those years of missing the playoffs. Though when Sather had the fire sale before the 2004 lockout he did manage to stockpile picks that turned into the really successful 2004/2005 drafts. That was the closest the Rangers came to bottoming out.

      The one year they had two picks in the top ten (#4 and #9) they picked up the dynamic duo of Brendl and Lundmark. Thanks Neil!

      Sather did whiff on a #6 with Montoya but other than that the draft has been pretty solid since Sather arrived, 2003 excluded of course.

  • Always loved Dubinsky interviews-born leader & really knows the game, but Sather not a fan.
    You figure

    Dubinsky really good on faceoffs, physical, not a real good fighter or big scorer, but a more expensive, tougher,better version of Boyl e

    Sather getting rid of both Dubinsky and Callahan really hurt this team.

  • Center/Center/Center….this team doesnt have much up the middle. None of their centers are that great.

    Stepan a decent #2 that is forced to be a #1. Bras a decent #3 that is forced to be a #2.

    You cant win with a wing heavy lineup and add to that all the rangers offensive stars going cold at the same time= disaster.

    It is getting late early.

  • To be honest I do not think we have the player to get into the playoffs as a whole. Mark my words we will miss out on the playoffs. It is not because of skill, it is because of attitude. The beginning of the end was when we lost Dubinsky.
    Since then we have lost a few more who had an aggressive attitude. Nash what an enigma. Great skill and just no leadership ability and stoic. Richards falls into this category too. Just watch their body language. St Louis comes in and he is just not a fit chemistry wise. Whem Dubi and Cally were scored on you could see they were mad. Richards and Nash display the oh well, it’s Hockey. No anger no fight in them. Skill alone won’t win you a Cup.
    Players who show the right attitude are Lundqvuist, Talbot, McDonagh, J. Moore. Girardi, Kreider, Stepan, Brassard, Zuccarello, Boyle, Moore and Dorsett.
    Yes Staal, Klein, Hagelin, Pouliot and Carcillo do not either but not as bad as Nash and Richards whom display at at it’s worst.

    St Louis for 2 1st rounders (possibly, unlikely) when we had all these players in Del Zotto, Callahan and Girardi with no 1st rounders in return. This to me is not how to develop a winning contender but a sure way of building a pretender that looks good with false hope. We need to build a star of our own in the likes of McDavid, Eckbald or Eichel.

  • The OP’s point about turnover as relates to inference of cohension-chemistry is valid, but it is not dominant compared to the larger issue of having enough horses.

    This team still needs further talent upgrade to win at top levels.

    We should get there by trading Stepan + Girardi + J. Moore + for a significant upgrade.

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