Report Card: The Top Six

Rick Nash is Canadian for frustrating.
Nash is Canadian for frustrating.

Rick Nash – There were three Rick Nash’s this season. There was the timid, perimeter, unengaged Nash who sleep walked through parts of the season. There was the hungry, physically dominant, clutch Nash who was joint third in the entire league with nine game winning goals despite missing almost a quarter of the season. Then there was the postseason Nash whose effort and determination couldn’t be questioned but whose production certainly could.

Nash will enter next year closely watched by one and all to see how he responds to what was a hugely difficult postseason for him. Nash needs to produce more, and more consistently, given his contract, reputation and incredible size and ability. Nash managed to score a solid 26 goals in the regular season which was interrupted through injury, but everyone knows he should be the Rangers best goal scorer and he wasn’t. Grade: C

Brad Richards – Thanks for trying Brad. Brad Richards is almost certainly an ex-Ranger as his buyout is a mere formality at this stage. During the regular season, Richards actually produced quite well given his diminishing importance to the club on the ice. With 20 goals and 51 points, Richards was solid. However his second lowest shooting percentage of his career and being arguably the biggest defensive liability amongst Ranger forwards, Richards was very hit and miss.

In the post season Richards started well, had some huge moments that will always be appreciated by the Ranger faithful (the game seven goal in Pittsburgh?) but ultimately he faded into irrelevance. Richards’ tank is almost empty and it has started to show. Richards still managed to be a great influence off the ice, a class act throughout and a great figurehead for a group of players that truly defined the meaning of team. Despite diminishing returns he will be missed. Grade: C

Chris Kreider – Hopefully Chris Kreider’s huge breakaway missed opportunities against the Kings in games two and five won’t haunt him. With his self confidence, upside and on ice ability you imagine Kreider will easily put his disappointments behind him. Kreider had an up and down regular season, typical of a rookie. At one stage he was a solid candidate for the Calder trophy and 17 goals in just 66 games is a solid return for a player who started the year in the Minors.

In the playoffs we saw what Kreider can do to teams. He played physically, he scored big goals, he had the best point/game ratio (0.96) of any Ranger forward but he was still inconsistent defensively and needs polish. Kreider’s exciting, If only for what he can become when he eventually puts it all together. Grade: B-

Marty St Louis: If we are being honest, as a Ranger, St Louis was poor in the regular season. Trying to do too much he ended up doing too little and many fans had already hit the panic button after a meagre 1 goal in 19 goals. Then the playoffs started, then tragedy struck.

As someone who has lost a parent unexpectedly (also, my mother) I can only admire and hugely respect the way St Louis handled such a tragic situation. St Louis defied the huge emotional burden, produced several key moments as he led the Rangers with 8 goals in the playoffs. St Louis led all Ranger forwards with 15 points and proved once again that when the playoffs arrive, he delivers.  Grade: B-

Carl Hagelin – If Carl Hagelin ever learns to finish his chances, and adds a little more offensive consistency to his game he could be a star. As it is, Hagelin has developed into a fine weapon for the Rangers with his impressive penalty killing, his lethal speed and his undeniable work ethic. With 17 goals and 33 points in the regular season Hagelin was a great secondary piece for the Rangers.

In the post season Hagelin grew in front of everyone. With 7 goals, Hagelin produced above and beyond what was expected and was one of the few Ranger forwards that intimidated the Kings – because of his speed. Hagelin’s still too streaky as he had five streaks of eight games or more without a goal in the regular season but, already a core Ranger for his wheels and PK skills, he still has more upside and that’s perhaps the most exciting part of Hagelin’s future as a Ranger. Grade: B

Derek Stepan – Is the expectancy on Derek Stepan unrealistic? He was close to a point per game player in the lockout and potted 57 points this year while also contributing 15 points in the run to the Cup Final. Yet, with a slow start to his season, with the frustrating tendency to pass up good shooting positions and a poor faceoff record, Stepan still leaves you thinking he could do more.

Stepan has been a remarkably consistent and durable Ranger and showed great resilience to endure the broken jaw against Montreal and yet come straight back with a two goal game in game five of the Habs series. Stepan and a solid season without wowing anyone yet was near the top of all major categories for the Rangers which underlined his relative consistency and importance. Grade: B

It is a compliment to the Rangers depth, bottom six forwards, and the team’s defensive ability that this team made the Stanley Cup Final without a single member of their top six group of forwards really having a particularly strong season individually. This group of forwards has a lot of room for improvement and that bodes well for everyone involved with the Rangers.

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  • Not much to quibble with here. To judge the grades as accurate screams out the Blueshirts greatest deficiency…top 6 forwards. Everyone needs to get better and/or we need to bring in a stud.

  • To piggyback what Bayman said, I believe there is more room for improvement here. We can realistically say there is room for growth in Kreider, Hagelin and Stepan’s game. A full season of St. Louis is very exciting. The room for improvement for Nash begins in April – he’s proven all he can during the regular season.

    This much is exciting.

    But with Brad Richards gone, there is a need for another impact center, a player who elevates the wingers around him. That will be the biggest challenge this offseason (c’mon Ryan O’Reilly).

  • Me thinks the Nash rating is more based on the playoffs than the full year effort. I love Hags and Step, but based on the full 95 game effort, I cannot rate either one ahead of Nash.

    • Sal, Nash is expected to do more, he’s paid as an elite winger and offensive leader and he hasn’t been what was expected. Hagelin and to a slightly lesser extent, Stepan both filled their roles. That’s why Nash doesn’t get a great grade. For the record, I love Nash and he hopes he gets to where we all know he can.

      • Newsday beat writer was on Joe and Evan and said he thinks the Rangers should get Nash on the St Louis routine. While he is big he is a soft big and was even coming back the bench winded during the 3rd period 30 second shifts.

        I hope it is true and he just needs to re-commit to conditioning to get back to the young version of Nash.

        • He’s definitely not the same player he was earlier in his career. In addition to his questionable fitness (def looked gassed in playoffs), I think he needs to work on his skating. He loses his balance and is way to easy to knock off the puck for a guy his size. Work him out with Marty and do skating drills with Barb Underhill.

          One thing I hadn’t really considered is the degree to which concussions may be affecting his fitness. Studies show concussions can actually affect the body’s ability to properly deliver energy to cells all over the body. That’s why long term exhaustion is part of post-concussion syndrome. It makes exercise very difficult. Aggressive aerobic exercise seems to really help the body’s ability to restore itself, so all the more reason to let Marty run him ragged this offseason!

  • If they buyout Richards and add a top 6 Center that can win Faceoffs. The Rangers could have a better regular season than last year. Not including the horrid road trip to start the season. I mean by being dominant in the East with Boston, Pittsburgh (who finally got rid of Shero and will now spread out the talent properly) and I guess you have to put Montreal in there. The Rangers have to remain a fast team. They were able to beat anyone in the NHL with their skating alone. However, a big top 9 RW or two would balance the lineup out. If one of them were say PPTOI worthy. That would help. We had no righties for the left side on the PP. The scoring chances came from the right circle from lefties like MSL. Nash also needs to play on his LEFT. It’s you guys at BSB who pointed out his scoring chart and he’s a LW. At least 5 on 5 but only if Sather can add a couple righties.
    I want the BSB crew and fans ponder this. “Nash for Captain”. Mac is the obvious choice but he’s not a load kid. He quietly goes on with his business. Nash is the same way except if Nash is leading on the ice, he’s scoring 40-40-80. McDonagh should get an “A” with Richie leaving but he’s gonna play his game no matter what. It might be in the teams best interest to give Nash more responsibility on ice. We may see the guy we sent some good young players to Columbus for. Big Joe Thornton already has a good report with Nash and is arguably the NHL’s best passer. I believe he’s at about 53% on face offs or better. Not sure.
    I would give the top 6 a C overall for the season. They were not the offensive leaders on this team. Depth is great but guys like Nash & Stepan have to scare teams. Only Kreider did that with his speed. The Rangers could also trade for ROR. The Avs need Defenseman badly. Staal would be going West for at least a year hopefully allowing Sather to give Strahlman the money he seeks. Likely
    4 years at $17-$18 mil. Doable for a steady D, No? Brooks Orpik has said he would test the market. Very physical defenseman. Must keep Zuc & Brassard. I’d like to keep Pouliot but I think he needs AV and his style to be effective. Journeyman anywhere else he goes.

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