Some random Friday thoughts

The Rangers have now past the ten game mark of the new season, and will be taking on the cellar-dwelling Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at Madison Square Garden in search of a 7-2-2 start. There has been much to analyze in the early going, so naturally I have some thoughts…

1. Mainstream media analysis, especially in the early goings of a season, is especially broad. Good starts, slow starts and unexpected performers litter the narrative landscape. Reading publications like The Hockey News or ESPN, the assumption is that the Canadiens are invincible and the Ducks and Blue Jackets are toast. You dig a little deeper into the individual teams and you find that each club has it own sources of consternation and optimism.

2. Continuing with that thought, it brings me to the Rangers defense and star players. We have discussed the sub-par starts for all defenders not named Klein and Yandle. Additionally, Rick Nash, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan have not met fan expectations in the nascent stages of this season. Point being, these types of criticisms are tough to met out in the broader hockey media landscape, but every team, even those off to good starts, have fans hand-wringing on these types of issues.

3. If you have been reading here long enough, you know that I am a staunch Rick Nash defender. The guy is one of the most complete star players in the NHL. I am also a big believer in process over results. Sample sizes might not give you enough time to fully regress to the mean in a given time frame, but I’d rather be good than lucky. Nash has done the things required of him to put up far bigger numbers than exist on his stat line. He creates, he back checks and he plays a 200-foot team game. Of all the early season criticisms of the team, Nash is far from a problem.

4. My word, the goaltending has been fantastic. Antti Raanta has brought a quick, efficient and simple game to NY. He appears to have all the tools to succeed as a starter and I would not hesitate to give him additional games to keep Hank fresh. Depending on the market place, he could easy walk in July to find more playing time, so once the front office becomes confident in his abilities, a Talbot-esque extension wouldn’t be terrible asset management. Mackenzie Skapski is a nice insurance policy in case it happens, though.

5. I like AV’s decision to move defensive pieces around. For all the Girardi vitriol, he is still a competent defender, albeit with a skill-set not particularly suited to this system. To give him some more sheltered minutes against less elite opponents, his lack of foot speed may not be as glaring an issue.

6. Ryan McDonagh stands to most greatly benefit from this type of move. Pairing him with a more mobile defensive partner like Yandle or Staal (to an extent), gives Mac more freedom to create and drive possession.

7. Brady Skjei’s development will be crucial to watch this season. With Klein off a strong start and his contract being one of the most movable, much will depend on Skjei, or even McIlrath, to a lesser extent and their ability to step into a top-six role. Moving Klein during this season might be the best shot to maximize the asset after holding at the Draft.

8. It is an oddly liberating feeling not to have to anticipate frustration at Tanner Glass’s presence in the lineup. It appeared to be a difficult decision for the front office, but I’m glad they were able to act objectively and put the best team on the ice. The club has tremendous depth this year and it was a necessary casualty. Something tells me we end up seeing him later in the year, unfortunately. Again, I’m sure Glass is a top-shelf human being; I am simply talking about the hockey player.

9. I am a big Jesper Fast fan, but I like him much better in a bottom-six role. I think he is capable in a scoring capacity, but I don’t think it is the best use of his skill set.

10. Just curious if there is any roster move you would not make to accommodate Steven Stamkos’ next contract?

11. John Tortorella is back in the NHL. Just terrific.

Enjoy the game and the weekend, everyone.  Just in case you missed it, make sure to give our newest writer, Pat (@katpeogh) a follow!

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  • First of all I want to say good luck to Torts, except when the Bluejackets play us.

    Regarding Fast, I also agree with your assessment of his role on this team. The guy is very good defensively, and shouldn’t be used in a top six role. Skating with Stoll, and Moore, that is a great shut down line, and could very well pitch in with some secondary scoring.

    Nash will start scoring, and when h does it will be in bunches. He has always been a streak scorer, so what else is new?????

    The defense will come around to our expectations, especially since the move of Klein to the top pairing, we now are starting to see Mac Truck’s game come around.

    I suggested some minor line changes yesterday, and I can see that if AV makes some of these moves, we really could be a dangerous team.

    On a side note, Price started out of the gate like a storm, now that he lost two in a row, the NHL channel is starting to question him. And we thought the Ranger fans were fickle ??????????

    Last, but not least, let’s all hope we don’t see Glass again in a Ranger uniform ever. Great guy, wonderful teammate, good friend, but not a good hockey player. Please leave him where he is!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Love that tidbit about Montreal. Typical. That market may be worse than New York when it comes to knee jerk reactions and absolute assessments. World Champions one day, choking dogs the next.

  • Nice Post! Let’s Go Rangers, JOBU is hoping the recent line changes at practice and DS’s new child get some things clicking in the top 6! Raanta is simple and quick, sort of like his haircut!

  • it was a nice post you have to change up every now and then to see what you have I am glad he put the two lines back together now is time to see what they can do

  • 6- If were gonna see McD with Staal or Yandle, he’d have to switch to play the right side. He’s done it before (2014 Olympics come to mind) but do you see that happening with our squad? To offset that, G, Boyle or Klein would have to come over to the left. Doesn’t seem like much of a fit, no?

    7. “Moving Klein during this season might be the best shot to maximize the asset after holding at the Draft.” While I’d agree that an in-season trade might maximize value, it should take a backseat to winning a cup this year. Given how our blueline situation is unfolding this year, we have a much better shot with Klein on our squad. Save the trade for the offseason when capspace will be paramount in retaining guys like Yandle, Kreider, Hayes, Miller, Etem, etc. At that point, the Boyle (4.5) + Klein (2.9) = (7.4) savings will go a loooong way. But like I said, not until the off season.

    9. Agree in full. Fast down to 4W, Miller up to 2W, Etem/Stalberg at 3W. On paper makes a hell of a lot of sense to me.

    10. Don’t see it as realistic. Easiest way to accommodate would be to ship out Nash. Assuming Stamkos contract will be $10 mil, we’d still need to make up 2.2 on the cap. As stated above, Boyle/Klein is a good start, but that 7.4 will still be shy to resign the guys we currently need to ink. In order to accommodate Stamkos in any capacity you’d think either Staal or Girardi would have to go…. or we would be stuck with a gutted team similar to how we were for a bit after the Nash trade (losing Dubinsky, Anisimov, etc).

    11. Good for Torts. For his sake, hopefully it doesn’t play out like his last go in Vancouver.

    Great stuff, Justin, as always.

    • To a degree. You still need to be better than your opponent most of the time. It’s not all that lucky that Chicago and LA have won multiple Cups the past half decade (although LA had some luck vs. the Rangers in that series with all the OTs that went their way).

        • No doubt. I’d just add that there is still plenty of mediocrity in the playoffs when over half the NHL comprises the field. I get your point though, luck is a huge factor when all else is close to equal.

  • Please do not trade Kleiner. Arguably our steadiest Defender and McD’s recent uptick in play can partly be attributed to his paring with Kleiner.
    If Kreids and Nash start to score watch out, this team could get on a serious role with the quality of goaltending.

    • Who do you think you are showing optimism on this blog site. No one can do anything and we should be trading for first overall picks every year

      • Few would consider me an optimist but we all hold this team to a higher standard given the passion of the fandom.
        Reality is this team is very talented and if at least two lines are clicking, the team should come out on top more times than not. I do also believe the unsteady Defense has a lot to do with our offense’s performance to date.

        • I was joking. I agree with you. Outside of the blackHawks and blues there isn’t an organization I would trade the rangers for right now

          • Fun discussion point. I’d still take the Rangers over the Blues. That core has a lot to prove.

            I’d add the Lightning to that list, but I have a feeling that team will be dismantled in a year or two.

  • Great article Justin.

    As I was reading, I found my head nodding up and down for the majority of the article. The nods got bigger in particular with your assessment of Jesper Fast. I couldn’t agree more with his limited offensive ability and what role he should fill on this team. I definitely see him in a bottom 6 role and actually prefer him on the fourth line with Moore and Stoll. This is no knock whatsoever on Fast………… I really am a fan of his game and what he brings to the lineup. I just feel his detail to D and offensive spurts play really well with the underrated Dom Moore.

    Rick Nash’s overall game has evolved. The popular sentiment “Nash has to score”
    is brought up in every conversation which includes the 31 year old winger. As old and as stale as that sentiment has become, there is some truth in it. Yes, he needs to score…………….. just as any first line NHL left winger has to score, but his defensive, physical and special teams prowess is way too often overlooked. Offensively he is off to a slow start, there’s no doubt about that, but in no way, shape or form has he had a bad start to the season. He’s actually been very good IMO. He is involved and motivated on every shift and has had many good looks and chances. They are just not going in right now. There were stretches in the 2013-14′ season (his second year with the NYR) where his name was never called on the broadcast simply because he was never involved in the play. That never happens now. The numbers will come and he’ll get his 60 points this year, but his defensive stamp and physical play are always on display. Now if only Chris Kreider could approach his shifts with the same level of desire Nash does, we wouldn’t feel the need to put the offensive woes of the Rangers all on Nash’ back.

    Stamkos in a Rangers’ uniform would almost guarantee the end of 2 of the three Rangers future kids (Kreider, Hayes, Miller) and Yandle. If the Rangers feel they could start the 2016-17′ season with Buchnevich and Tambellini playing major mins, then go for it. If the Rangers are looking for a 1st line sniper, well there he is. Stamkos is a superstar

    • I would trade Kreids, Haze and Yandle for Stamkos in a heartbeat. Yandle is gone (hopefully) at season’s end as we cannot/should not pay him 1st pair money and the BC boys are talented but will confound the fan base with their potential and inability to ever fulfill it.
      Stamkos is a difference maker with heart.

  • I think Fast has far more offensive ability than he’s given credit for. I like him on the 3rd line with Hayes & Lindberg, leaving Stalberg & Etem on the fourth.

  • AV is getting close, this is what I would like to see;

    Nash,Brass, Zucc
    Krieds, Step, Oscar
    Stallberg, Hayes, Miller
    Moore, Stoll, Fast
    Etem Extra

    • No way! Did you see how putrid the Rangers PK unit was when he was scratched vs Winnipeg. With Hags no longer around, he’s an integral piece to that unit’s success.

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