Rangers final grades: Defense
Back by popular demand, we’ve decided to kick-start our annual player, coaching, and management report cards. As a reminder, these grades aren’t just based on stats, but also the execution of each personnel or player’s respective role within the organization. Obviously there’s some subjectivity here, but that’s what makes these interesting and conversational.
As always, feel free to post your own grades in the comments section below.
There’s no way to spin it. Girardi did not have a good season. While his effort was undeniably at a maximum, unfortunately his output was still a career low. This year was his worst statistical (scoring chance differential) season on record. What made matters worse was this came after a subpar performance in the 2014 playoffs.
It’s fair to point out that he may have the team’s toughest task with shutting down opposing stars and getting buried with defensive zone starts (after a whistle). However, he’s paid to break up those dangerous plays in the slot and this year he didn’t do that with any regularity. In general, I thought he just looked a step slower.
Final Grade: C
I was hoping McDonagh was going to take a step forward this season offensively and really solidify himself as one of the game’s elite all around d-men. Instead, he took a slight step back, with his even-strength production decreasing vs. the last two years.
His scoring chance differentials also weren’t great, but that probably had more to do with being partnered with Girardi. I’m sure someone more sophisticated with advanced stats can prove or disprove this theory, but at times I thought McDonagh was overcompensating defensively to cover Girardi’s rear.
McDonagh did put up 12 points on the power play this season (3rd on the team), which was flat with last season despite having about 30 seconds of less power play time per game.
Final Grade: B
Staal got absolutely buried this season with defensive zone starts, but was still able to walk away fairly even on scoring chance differential. He also matched Girardi in offensive output (20 points) despite receiving virtually no time on the power play.
From a qualitative standpoint, I thought Staal continued his strong play from last season. His stick work, gap control, pivoting, and timing were all in sync and it made for some great defensive plays.
Staal doesn’t block a ton of shots, or level forwards with jaw dropping hits, or put up any sort of flashy stat that we can point to as evidence of his ability, but he takes care of his own end. Hopefully his run of back luck in the health department continues to be nothing but a memory.
Final Grade: B+
Let’s face it. Dan Boyle replaced Anton Stralman for one reason and that was to fix the power play. He finished the season with just 8 power play points. Meanwhile, Stralman had 14 power play points and had double the offensive production at all strengths.
Boyle’s saving grace was I thought he had a good postseason. His 1.6 points per 60 were in line with his career average and he seemed a bit more decisive in his decision making than the regular season.
Boyle’s best days are in his rearview mirror and the likelihood of him out producing last season’s stats at 39 years of age is probably slim to none. However, if AV continues to give him a lion-share of offensive zone starts and be selective in his match-ups, he can probably have a useful 2nd season on Broadway.
Final Grade: C+
Kevin Klein’s season was a bit harder for me to peg down. On one hand, with the departure of Stralman, Klein assumed a lot more responsibility. His time on ice per game increased from around 15 mins to 18 mins per game, which shouldn’t be overlooked. His percentage of offensive zone starts decreased from 54% to 45%. As a result, he put up his best offensive season ever (9 goals, 17 assists) and a neutral scoring chance differential.
On the flip side, as Dave pointed out the other day, his production fell off a cliff prior to getting injured. Perhaps injury prevented him from coming back strong. Perhaps his stats just regressed to the mean. Perhaps the increased workload finally caught up to him. Either way, it’s hard to ascertain what might have been had he not missed time.
Personally, I hope he gets another chance to compete as a Ranger. Right-handed defensemen who can bomb from the point, protect the house, and only cost you $2.9M in cap space are hard to find.
Final Grade: B+
Sorry folks, but 21 games isn’t enough of a sample size for me to evaluate Yandle’s performance. Plus, I have no context to compare his time in Phoenix, as I never watch Coyotes games.
Overall, I thought he looked shaky, but then again playing in front of 18,500 crazed Rangers fans is not the same as playing in front of an empty house in the desert. We’ll see what next year brings.
Final Grade: Incomplete
Hunwick was a perfect fill-in for when guys were struggling or injured. He’s not going to score a lot of points, or make any fancy defensive plays, but he just plays simple d-zone hockey. You need in-expensive depth guys like this on your roster.
Whether or not Hunwick still has designs be a regular on an NHL team remains to be seen, but the fluidity in his skating and his ability to move the puck up ice made him a good bargain player, something this roster lacks.
Final Grade: B+
For mid-season grades for the defense, scope out Kevin’s post here.
*Please note, all advanced stats are courtesy of War on Ice.