Mailbag: What to do with Hayes, Klein, McIlrath, and Stoll?

Four questions this week as the training camp battles heat up. As always, you can use the widget on the right to send all your questions to me, and I will answer them in a weekly mailbag post.

kevin hayes

anon asks: Why do you think Kevin Hayes should stick to center? He can’t win a faceoff to save his life.

I’ve addressed this on Twitter a bunch of times, but I may as well address it here too. While faceoffs on special teams are important, even strength faceoffs don’t do much in terms of controlling the play. It’s what is done after the faceoff that matters. The Derek Stepan winner against Washington showed us that much, as Stepan didn’t win that draw. It was Jesper Fast that came in and poked the puck to Keith Yandle that set the whole play up. But I digress.

The point with Hayes is that of his 45 points last year, I believe 40 of them were either goals or primary assists. That’s 90% primary points for him. That’s what you want your centers to do. You want them to create offense, you don’t want them to be passengers. Hayes is very smart as well, as he consistently drives to the net, and he gets himself open to shoot. He’s a beast with the puck, and he’s pretty solid defensively too. Faceoffs are skill that can be improved upon. You can’t teach hockey IQ, and Hayes has that in droves.

John asks: What do you think of Dylan McIlrath’s play so far? Has he earned a spot on the team? If so, who goes?
Bobby asks: What do you think will happen with Kevin Klein?

Lumping these two together, since they are not mutually exclusive. Klein’s future is directly tied to McIlrath’s. McIlrath is an intriguing case this year, and I can probably dedicate 5,000 words to this alone. He’s been much better this year than last, and appears to have finally figured out that he can’t leave his position to deliver a hit. The hits will come, but it’s more important to defend and move the puck. He’s been solid in that regard thus far, but it’s still early and he hasn’t seen much NHL competition yet. He’s not the best skater in the world, so faster teams will torch him regularly. That said, he’s been better than Kevin Klein thus far. But again, it’s early.

His waiver status –he is no longer exempt– makes things interesting. I highly doubt he passes through unclaimed, so the Rangers likely need to keep him. I think the best move for the Rangers for this year and beyond is to have a 6D rotation of McIlrath and Diaz depending on matchup. That frees up cap space, gives Alain Vigneault freedom to matchup, and perhaps opens up a more permanent role for Brady Skjei after his more than likely two month stint in Hartford.

NYRFan asks: Do you think Jarret Stoll makes the team?

This is a loaded question. Oscar Lindberg is a lock, as are Emerson Etem and Viktor Stalberg. That basically means Stoll is competing with Tanner Glass for a spot as either the 12F or 13F. I think Stoll has the inside track as he brings more to the lineup. But I have to admit, my thought process on this is incredibly biased because I picture the ideal lineup for the Rangers, and it has Stoll as the 13F and Glass either in Hartford or traded. I don’t think that’s what will happen immediately, but it wouldn’t shock me if that’s what happens by December, after AV is done tinkering with his lineup.

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  1. I agree with Hayes at C and that Stoll shatters Glass. At least that’s what I’m hoping for. Let Glass be 13f F. Dust him off as needed for Philly and Columbus.

  2. But Dave, if your assessment is correct, that McIlrath will be torched by faster teams, then why trade Klein now? How do we win in the playoffs with a player who you think will get torched regularly? Klein may not be an elite defenseman, but he certainly can hold his own against the faster teams.

    Unless the cap forces such a move, why not keep Klein as the 6D, cut Diaz, and ease McIlrath in as the 7D until we see what the big fellow can do against the teams that may in fact, roast him like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man? 🙂

    1. Good points Eddie.

      I’d like to add that Dave believes McIlrath has been better than Klein. I wish someone would have told Klein he was in competition with McIlrath. This being Klein’s 12th preseason, I’m certain he is approaching it like most vets do, get his reps in, get his legs going and go tape to tape on your passes. The thought of comparing a vet like Klein simply preparing for regular season games to a desperate McIlrath on the brink of bust status and running out of options is just unfair. There is no direct competition between the two so I can’t understand why McIlrath has outplayed Klein. Megna has outplayed Stepan, there’s been no mention of that. It’s essentially the same scenario. These pre season games aren’t a barometer for Klein and Stepan

      1. Klein has to go simply because there are multiple younger and/or cheaper options (Diaz, McIlrath, Skjei, Graves) that can fill that bottom pair role.

        If this weren’t a salary cap league, then you happily roll with Klein on the bottom pair because you know he can step into a top 4 D role if needed. Unfortunately, there is a cap, and it’s difficult to keep a luxury like Klein around. Just like it became difficult to keep a luxury like Carl Hagelin around.

        Klein has been a wonderful addition in his year and a half at MSG. He’s played a bit over his head, and the Rangers reaped the benefits of that high level of play. Sadly, Klein is likely to be entering the decline phase of his career. Might as well give a younger player a chance and turn Klein into an asset or two.

        1. Klein has a nice cap number, others have nicer. If you’re say… Boston, and have a huge gap in your D corps and you’re trying to salvage your season before it begins; would you be willing to trade a 2016 3rd for him? A 2017 2nd? Is dealing now rather than looking over the waiver wire gonna help you more?

          1. I’m pretty sure nobody in knows what is going on in Boston, management included.

            Taking advantage of confusion favors the bold!!

        2. On target with the Klein analysis, time to turn the page, Boyle will be shown the door next year. Mcilrath time to shine is now, Skjei will be a regular next year! Rangers rule!!

    2. Eddie, you give the impression that Mcilrath is skating in quick sand every time he is on the ice?? Although he is not Hags, he is not the dead wood you seem to think he is. Once the opportunity is loud and clear that hey kid, U made the team, Watch out NHL opponents , keep your chins up!!

      1. Bobby, getting torched due to his skating was Dave’s assessment, not mine. I said “IF”. I’ve seen some positives. But still not wowed. I see an adequate player thus far. Maybe adequate is enough for a low cost 7D. I’m still on the fence.

  3. As for Hayes, listening to AV’s presser yesterday, it seems as if the kid may be on the verge of checking into AV’s doghouse that a certain Mr. Miller knows all too well from last season. :). AV is definitely is sending a message he wants more out of Hayes. I wonder how or if that will impact the center/wing decision.

    1. Thanks Ed, I didn’t hear that. Hayes a bit too relaxed?? good for AV. handle it before it becomes an issue. Maybe give Lindberg a shift or two centering that third line, that might send the point home.

  4. Dave, why do you think Etem is staying with the team? Does he need to clear waivers too if he’s sent down to ahl? I must say his performance has been a disappointment for me so far.

    1. Major disappointment! He does need to clear waivers, but he may very well clear if he continues to play the game he’s been playing

    2. Etem will stick if only for the fact for what they gave up and that he’s only had a minimum time to digest the systems. He’ll need another month to starts soaking in, he may play as little as 3 games in the 1st 6 weeks(very few B2B 3/4 stretches.)

      1. These may be the very same reasons Anaheim lost faith in him. He looks like he is merely going through the motions. Not a player who looks desperate to make an impression

  5. I disagree…faceoffs matter at even strength as well. I do agree what happens after are vital as well, however winning clean draws are just as vital.

    Why would you lock in Etem? He has done not a thing to create value, yet Stoll has just by his sheer experience on Cup winning teams.

    1. Faceoff wins don’t have a lot of correlation to Ranger victories recently, neither does possession for all that matter. I think it has to do with style of play with the stretch passes on the breakout and pressing upon loss of possession.

      If Boyle & Yandle did more lugging the puck out the numbers would change.

    2. I agree Leatherneck. The idea that face-offs are only important on special teams is a brand new thought which I believe directly ties into the new statistics. Nonsense IMO. Win as many face-offs as you can. Possession leads to opportunities. The best way to gain possession is to win the draw

  6. Dave, I like Hayes on the wing. Personally, I feel that teams should have their best playmakers on the wing, away from the crowded middle of the ice.

    Furthermore, wingers have significantly fewer defensive responsibilities (especially in AV’s D system where the center is responsible for the crease), why not free Hayes up, so he mainly has to worry about offense only?

  7. One of your most insightful forums to date, brother Dave. Must have something to do with The Papal Visit.

    Regrettably, young Etem should be sent to Hartford, Binghamton, or Brigadoon; then we suit up Adam Graves, Brian Noonan and Nicky Fotiu.

    Let’s go to war.

  8. Hayes should stay at the center position because of his size, and AV has stated so on many occasions. With Stalberg, and Etem, assuming he gets his act together, that would be a nice fast, secondary scoring line, that also would be defensively responsible….

    Klein stays for the first third of the season, with Mc Ilrath being the 7th d-man until he proves he belongs, or not. If he belongs, I can see Klein be moved sometime mid season, another victim of the cap world we live in. Until he is moved, Mc Ilrath plays on the right side, giving the vets days off as needed, until he can be trusted to take over full time.

    The 4th line should be Moore, with Lindberg, and Fast as his wings. Very fast line, great shut down, and wonderful puck possession group, who could score their fair share as well. Stoll should be the 13th man, giving Moore, and or Hayes days off as needed, or shuffle the lines around to get him some playing time as well. Glass should be dealt away, or sent to the Pack, and thank him for his services, never to be seen again, we hope!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Hayes is too good of a play maker to not keep him at center. His vision and patience with the puck is awesome. He has a gift that can’t be taught, hockey IQ!! As far as face offs go, who better to teach him and the other centers then Stoll. He has the best face off winning numbers in the N.H.L. over 10 years.

    1. Hayes playmaking for me came from on the wing carrying the puck deep, not playing in traffic. Not sure it matters if he’s in Chateau Bow Wow

  10. Faceoff skills are something that can be taught and improved upon. I like Hayes in the pivot role. Jarret Stoll is a keeper he has skills, experience, hockey sense and can bring it every night. Glass should be waived as his role is redundant if the undertaker sticks. Don’t be surprised if Glass is picked up. Etem, Stalberg and Fast are all speedsters that you can bring in and out of the lineup. Lindberg has showed he deserves a shot in the bigs. I would keep Kline, as Dan Boyle will be gone next year and the Rangers will need the depth on defence.

  11. Hayes is a center an plays better at center. I am not concerned about faceoffs. Not also sure Etem has won a spot, so He may stay an not dress along with maybe Glass who won’t dress every game.

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