State of the Rangers

Are the Rangers missing a trick with Emerson Etem and Dylan McIlrath?

Etem needs a regular role. Even if he hasn't earned it yet.
Etem needs a regular role. Even if he hasn’t earned it yet.

There are many different ways to develop prospects but are the Rangers – and coach Alain Vigneault – mishandling Emerson Etem and Dylan McIlrath? Sometimes a team needs to let a player grab a regular spot even before he’s earned his role. Maybe the Rangers need to lengthen the leash for Etem and McIlrath while the season is still early.

The Rangers have two unique prospects on their hands in Etem and McIlrath. A team not known for their physicality, the Rangers could surely benefit from Etem and/or McIlrath establishing themselves in the rotation. Etem has one of the biggest bodies up front for the Rangers and has speed the team would love to see more of. McIlrath of course, is a massive presence on the blueline who is comfortably the biggest, most physical defenseman the Rangers have on the backend. The problem is, neither player has been able to display their physical talents nearly enough. Part of that reason is opportunity.

McIlrath has played just three games, all at the expense of Dan Boyle, and has had no chance to establish any game to game continuity. McIlrath arguably played his best game against the Avalanche, the one time he has been able to play back to back games. His reward? Back in the press box against the Coyotes. As a big body and as a rookie learning the lay of the land in the NHL, McIlrath needs game time not prime seats for the best team in New York.

Etem’s problem has been slightly different. While Etem has also struggled to crack the line-up, when he has made it in he’s been used as a fill-in for the most part and has bounced up and down the line-up. While Etem was rewarded for his progress over the past week by retaining his place in the line-up for Tuesday’s game against Carolina, he was bumped from the top six to the fourth line, a line where the emphasis and style of play are clearly different.

Of course, no one is expecting Etem to keep his place ahead of the returning Rick Nash but if the Rangers are going to properly develop Etem they need to give the young power forward some consistent ice time in a regular role and let the young forward learn through any mistakes he makes. Anaheim weren’t able to give Etem the right kind of role consistently and eventually moved him on despite his obvious talent.

The Rangers are missing a trick with Etem and McIlrath. As a team with envious depth compared to the rest of the league, as a team that has gotten off to a strong start and as a team who can absolutely expect bigger contributions from integral players such as Rick Nash, Chris Kreider and Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers can afford to put the two youngsters in and let them make mistakes and (hopefully) learn and develop from them. Will anyone truly care if the Rangers drop a few extra games in November when this team’s focus is clearly beyond April?

This Rangers team isn’t about the regular season. It’s about peaking at the right time and being best prepared for the playoffs and in the playoffs it’s often the teams that have the best depth that win. Dylan McIlrath, and in particular Emerson Etem, have upside, not just now but for the future. Persevering with an ageing Dan Boyle in November isn’t the answer even if it’s Boyle that rightly or wrongly gets the call come the post-season.

The Rangers don’t just need to know what they have in Etem and McIlrath for the now, but for the future. Both players are on cheap contracts and the Rangers have significant negotiations approaching with Keith Yandle, Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes. Developing two more young players such as Etem and McIlrath and helping them grow into full time, established players for next season would be a huge boon to the Rangers’ depth for the future.

Young players learn from taking in what their veteran teammates do on the ice – they learn by example. But repetition, consistency, careful management and trial and error are important methods for a young player to grow from. Can the Rangers honestly say they’re doing the right thing by Etem and McIlrath right now? Would a few more games before the stretch drive hurt this team’s ultimate goal of a Stanley Cup or help them achieve it?


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  • So now you want physical, you had one and ragged on him to no end. He was a top 10 hitter in the league but you thought he was a negative so he is down, now you want some. Make up your mind.

    • ^aggressive much?

      Glass being demoted has nothing to do with wanting other, more talented adequate and capable, size and physicality in the line up.

      On top of that, are you sure that it was Chris who wrote whatever article you’re referencing about not wanting Glass on the Rangers roster? The blog has about 5-6 contributors and Chris writes once a week (I think), so perhaps you’re calling him out on something he didn’t even provoke.

      Regardless, like I said initially, just because Glass hits but isn’t good enough to warrant a spot in the NHL doesn’t mean that someone who may or may not have said that doesn’t believe in the need for a balanced brand of hockey which includes a physical component.

      • Based on last years playoffs I would sit Nash … LOL … depends on what type of team you want I guess. They are on a role so obviously tough to make changes now. BTW, I have my Rangers hat parked and am now cheering for the Hartford Wolfpack. It’s Game Day! The Wolf Pack travel to Portland tonight to take on the Pirates.

        • Wolfpack have lost 5 straight including 3 SOs in a row…Nash does many things to contribute to our success and if you would play Glass over him in the playoffs….well let’s keep it polite
          EE is just an over-rated player who should never see an NHL rink…it’s not the size or speed, but the hockey sense and personal motivation…McIlrath is a guy who wants it, but doesn’t have the speed or NHL instincts to be a regular..I would play him instead of Boyle who’s done

  • Giradi seems to be the leader in hits on the team now. He is about 2.5 hits per game and has TOI of 18 to 21 minutes per game. WOW … you had a guy who would get between 3 and 8 with TOI of 7 to 12 minutes per game. Remember the definition of a hit in the NHL … separates the man from the puck and the hitters team gains control of the puck. Oh and your boys Dylan and Emerson are really running up the G’s and A’s in the stats column too …

    • Please give this a read. Some useful tidbid for you to consider,

      “Hitting rates and opponents’ shooting rates correlate (R2 = 0.2136) in a manner suggesting that either teams allowing more shots against hit more frequently or that teams with higher hitting rates are giving up shots against more frequently. This seems counter-intuitive if hitting in hockey is designed to thwart an offensive attack.”

      “If we look at this from the perspective of CF% (Corsi For Percentage), we see that again there is no meaningful correlation between hitting rates and puck possession on the team level.”

      “The Cup winning teams are located along the entire spectrum of hitting rates, although the larger concentration of finalists and winners is near or below the 27.00 Hits Per 60 mark.”—puck-momalytics-001817973.html

      • All valid points, We had this debate a while back when the math hockey textbook adoption criteria were being discussed in NHL at the corporate marketing board meeting. One of the criteria was “Develop hockey by mathematical means – a powerful way of thinking”. I’d asked what makes one way of thinking more hockey mathematically powerful than another? The answer was that 3 + 2 + 1 = 6 and 6 + 6 + 6 = 18 is more mathematically hockey powerful than 6 * 3 = 18. I have no clue why and think that answer is malarkey. But hey, like I said, they are on a role, so I will climb back into my seat in Hartford and listen to Jim Schoenfeld discuss the merits of travel by bus and team building.

      • I looked at the article and think the first paragraph you quoted is misleading. The 0.2136 number was based on the first month and half of last season — and so a fairly small sample. The author also looked at past years and larger samples and did not quote actual numbers, but seems to say that the negative correlation was really a small sample size effect.

        He makes a good argument that hitting does not correlate with shot suppression at all, but there is not a strong argument that it is a negative.

  • Arguing for more Glass is a fool’s errand. If Glass could handle the biscuit and manage possession in the Ozone, you love to see him in but he is a turnover machine who cannot gain/maintain possession of the puck. Along with the fact he is not fleet on his feet to say the least.
    Dylan needs to play as much as Boil. Last night would have been a perfect time to play him. Boil is pretty done. Rest him until March.

  • Right now I am in favor of whatever AV is doing. The team is off to a hot start, whether anyone believes they are playing well or not. They have 24 points out of their first 15 games, for crying out loud. I think the coach is handling McIlrath exactly the right way, playing when he can and not expecting 25 minutes a game every other night against NHL competition. Look, if they get off to a 12 point division lead in January and they can afford to give Boyle a week off to rest his bones, see what McIlrath can do full-time, I’m with you. Otherwise I want to do everything possible to win this division; the Capitals aren’t going away anytime soon, and I want that last line change in the playoffs.

    Just my two cents. -Regards- orange

    • Great post Orangemike! I completely agree.

      The NHL is not a developmental league. Teams like Buffalo, Phoenix and Toronto can afford to break guys in on this level simply because the expectation is these teams are not gonna play more than 82 games this season. I know a lot of people believe Etem is this complete package of size, speed and skill, but let’s not forget………. this is the same kid that was unable to claim a roster spot out of training camp when the Rangers gave him every opportunity to do so. Now with his second organization, isn’t it possible that while he may possess all the tools, he simply needs more work than anticipated and while the AHL is not an option, 13F is a generous landing spot for Etem at the moment.

      I would love to see an article that pats the Rangers on the back for their tremendous start and AV’s usage of McIlrath and Etem as a positive as opposed to a detriment to their growth. This team looks fantastic and deserves props for what has been a masterful start to the season.

      • Sorry, but under the current CBA, the NHL is a developmental league along with being the top league in the sport. Top clubs routinely are jettisoning players because of the salary structure. In addition to this, you can’t stash players in the minors infinitely until you think they’re the finished product like the Devils did in the ’90s.

        You have to develop both in the minors and the show, then either lock them in, string them along on 1 yr contracts or deal. This has what has been and currently is going on with both McIlrath, Etem & Miller.

        Coaches(head & assistants) need to recognize this and have to be coaching these players up and into the lineup. It’s in the job description now. By doing that, it allows the GM better assets to work with. Benoit Allaire is a great example of how player development at all levels of the organization drive the ability to parlay low level assets into quality.

        • ??????

          I’m not sure what Benoit Allaire has to do with the NHL being a developmental league. He is a goaltending coach who would serve in the exact same capacity whether there was a salary cap or not.

          • In a non cap league, are the Rangers investing in non drafted players and coaching them up to starters? No.

          • What are you talking about???? Are you trying to say Cam Talbot was a product of the salary cap?

        • Chris, I completly agree with you!

          Alec, while I get what you are saying, I think you are overstating this. Every major pro sports league either has a cap or a luxury tax to deal with. So clearly, there is an incentive if not a mandate to find ways to get younger but still win. So I agree with that.

          But aren’t the Rangers doing that? They’ve successfully weaved in Kreider, Hayes, Miller and Fast, and this year Lindberg. They swallowed hard and moved on from key guys like Callahan, Pouliot, Prust, Dorsett, Boyle, Stralman and most recently Hags…all in order to make the cap hit work. And the team keeps winning. Waiting on deck in the process is Etem and McIlrath.

          But it’s a process that doesn’t have to be achieved overnight. You were advocating that Klein should be traded to free up cap space back in September in order to make room for McIlrath. Why does that have to be done now? It clearly doesn’t, and we’d be a far weaker team if that had happened. The Rangers don’t NEED to dump Klein, and they don’t NEED to quickly push McIlrath into a role he may or may not be capable of filling at the moment. At some point, yes, trading Klein will undoubtedly become necessary and if McIlrath shows he’s capable, then slotting him into a full time role makes all the sense in the world.

          But remember, there are growing pains associated with thee moves that have to be managed very, very carefully. The Rangers were smart to cut ties with Hags because they knew they had other ways to fill the role he brought to the team. There is no evidence yet that McIlrath or Etem are ready to fill the role of a more expensive option–at least not today. Why take on an unnecessary amount of growing pains when the cap is not mandating you to do so?

          AV’s number one responsibility is to play the players he feels can bring the organization a Cup, He’s judged solely on wins and losses–player development is a secondary consideration. Gorten’s responsibility is to construct a roster that can accomplish that role and remain under the cap.

          I have no problem at all with the way the Rangers are going about this.

          • Thank You Eddie. Great response. I’m still not sure what Alec’s point is. It doesn’t matter how a player becomes a part of an organization whether it be a first round draft pick, 7th round draft pick, acquired through trade or an undrafted free agent, it’s what you do with the opportunity. These guys come in on ELC’s regardless. After that, they are on their own. The productive players get paid and the non productive players don’t

    • I think the conversation starts and ends with the face that he is 6mil on the cap for this year AND next. I’m sure salary for this year COULD work out if SJ took some in return. With Yandle, Hayes, Kreider, Miller, Etem, among others all looking for raises next year there is absolutely no way in hell we should consider taking on Marleau’s financial obligation as it would squeeze some of the above names out of our salary structure. Not a fit.

      • Agree completely. Can’t see a fit here at all.

        But just for fun, let’s say there is interest, how COULD it work?

        Is it possible that sitting Moore is an opportunity to play Stoll more at center to see how that line would work? Let’s say it is. And if it works, let’s say the Rangers are willing to move Moore (I would hate that, btw)

        I hear that Gorten has contacted Boyle’s agent to inform him that his client’s playing time will be reduced. What if he ALSO asked if Boyle were sent to a team that could give him more playing time, would he agree to waive his NMC? Again, let’s say he has and the agent says yes.

        So what if the Rangers said to SJ, hey, we will trade you Boyle, Moore, Etem and a prospect for Marleau? Cap hit would be almost identical.

        Not saying I want this or even believe there’s really much of a chance of this, but is this even remotely possible?

        • That doesn’t clear up any salary issues for next year though. Moore and Boyle are both off of the books and we likely still won’t have enough to resign Yandle, Hayes, Kreider and Miller– assuming we trade Etem.

          No way would I trade however many years of Etem and whoever else would get squeezed out for one year of Marleau.

          Salary would have to go to SJ that is signed through next year. I.e. a Staal or Girardi, say.

          • I agree, and as soon as I posted, I realized next year would be the problem. 🙂

            But on the other hand, will they opt to re-sign Yandle, who will likely command $7 mil on the open market? What do you do with Kreider, who’s due a big pay raise? I’m not 100% sold that Kreider is still on this team next year, or even at the trade deadline. Especially given his erratic play (although he was real good last night).

            Again, just playing some silly mind games for the moment, just for fun. 🙂

          • Next year is a hell of a conundrum to figure out. Without trying to assign dollars to players, my order of priority would be something like


            I am with you that Krieder may very well be the odd man out. It is mainly due to the fact that besides Yandle, he will warrant the highest caphit. Unless he puts it together this year, I would probably take issue with paying him 4 mil + when Miller/Etem very well may surpass him in the coming years and will only be due 2.5mil ish bridge deals.

            Regardless, Hayes and Yandle, to me, are priority 1 and 2. I haven’t yet looked into comparables, but I’d hate to have to pay north of 6 mil for Yandle. That will certainly be an interesting negotiation to follow.

        • You can’t balance this year’s cap hit by trading Boyle, Moore, and Etem. In fact, trading Etem does no good at all. You want 22 bodies. If you trade three for one, you need to call up two players from Hartford. To pay those two players, you need Etem’s salary and half of Moore’s.

          I also doubt very much that San Jose wants Boyle back.

      • Agreed. I’ve been looking at ways the Rangers could sell this and I can’t come up with anything.

        I wanna start by saying, I am against the Rangers trying to make this deal work. Marleau is a declining player who does not make the Rangers better this year and certainly not next year. I’ve gotta assume names like Tambellini, Skjei and Buchnevich are on San Jose GM Doug Wilson’s mind. Simply put………. forget about it Doug. We are good enough to compete with our current roster and unless a deal that includes a player like Stamkos or Taylor Hall is introduced, let’s roll with what we have and not interrupt what is shaping up to be the deepest roster we’ve had in years.

        The Rangers are gonna have to get creative as it is if they plan on trying to retain Yandle’s services beyond this season. Throw Marleau and his ridiculous 6.6M cap hit into the mix and not only Yandle becomes an impossibility, but Kreider and Hayes become (deciding on which way Gorton decides to go) a pipe dream as well.

        There is only one player on the San Jose roster who is worth surrendering a Buchnevich, Hayes or Kreider…….. Brent Burns. Unless his name is involved, just say NO!

    • From earlier today on a different thread:
      So Patrick Marleau would be willing to come to New York.
      Do you want him?
      How do you get him?

      Not sure I want him, don’t know how I’d get him. @$6.66mm through 16-17, you have to get somebody on either side of his price to move back and that means asking somebody to waive their NTC.

      Say anybody who has one waived(which I doubt,) who goes? Who would they take?

      The Sharks already have a ton of D on long term contracts, so it’s not Staal or Girardi. If they lost their mind and wanted them, you’d have to move another player because you’d be scraping under the cap. Do you trade Kreider or Miller as the throw in? For me, only if a future 1st rd pick(2-4 years out) is coming back.

      So who else? Nash straight up? They have the cap room, it would be an almost even swap in talent and would free up cap room both short and long term.
      Any other forward goes back to losing someone like Kreider or Miller as part of the deal.

      Not a fan of any prospect, but Nash would be one I could live with; even though I doubt Nash would agree.

  • Chris, I have to totally disagree with you.

    First of all, you really didn’t explain at all how you would go about this. In McIlrath’s case, are you saying he should rotate with Boyle, or at this point be the 6D with Boyle sitting? If the former, well, that’s happening now. Over the last four games, both players have each played two of them. If the latter, then how often does Boyle play? Once a week? Not at all?

    The process for possibly transitioning from Boyle to McIlrath has already begun. AV smartly held the kid out early to let him learn. He also did that to be fair to Boyle. Boyle played regularly, demonstrated his game was not where it needed to be, and then it was far easier to sit him down and have the tough conversation with him that AV has had. Now, they are rotating, and how MUCH each plays will depend on how WELL each plays. Objectively, I’m seeing two players that are playing fine right now. Neither has distinguished themselves, nor have either really struggled either (perhaps Boyle more so simply because he’s expected to provide offense from the point, which he hasn’t). Do you just sit Boyle, create a rift with a veteran player and maybe lose the room in the process? Or do you let nature take its course, and let each player either play his way in or out of the lineup?

    Also, you have to remember there are steps in development. McIlrath is just a kid. He’s undoubtedly thrilled to no longer be in the AHL. He’s an NHL player in his first season. Other than truly elite players, it is hardly unusual for an NHL player in his first season to sit as much as half the games while learning. He knows he has to earn his time. And as he plays and gets better, he also knows his time will come.

    In Etem’s case, it’s undoubtedly harder for him and, undoubtedly for management as well. Etem has been in this seemingly endless cycle with two different teams of being a part time player. It would be understandable if he were a bit fed up with it by now. But who would you sit on this roster to make room for him? Are you prepared to regularly jumble the lines just to give him playing time? Doesn’t that run counter to what needs to be done to create chemistry with linemates? And isn’t this even more challenging since he probably would benefit more by being on the top two lines as opposed to the 4th line? He’s a talented player, but right now, it’s an odd fit.

    In addition, you seem willing to throw away points early in order to develop young talent. Is that what a Stanley Cup contender does? Or is that a better strategy for the Sabres, Hurricanes, Avs, Coyotes and Oilers of the world? And doesn’t that run directly counter to exactly what AV said he wanted to do this season, which is get off to a great start so that they are NOT scrambling for a playoff spot as they seem to every year except last season? Wouldn’t throwing away points force you to overplay your veterans in March and April, thus wearing them out come playoff time? The Rangers want that fast start now. Then, as the schedule gets more demanding, you will likely see more rest for veterans.

    I’m going to once again quote one of the greatest coaches in any sport, Bill Parcells, to get his take–

    “You plug a young guy in too early, and if he’s not ready you can destroy that player. You don’t want to throw him to the wolves and have the wolves bite so hard that he loses his self-confidence, or the fans or the press get on him. If I had put Romo in his first year and just let him play, he would have been out of football in a year and a half. But after a year or two of practicing, you could see he had a real good chance.”

    If you are going to carry young players on a Stanley Cup contending team that has few obvious holes, then those players and management have to realize that, barring injuries, playing time will be very hard to come by. I have no problem whatsoever with the way AV is handling this at the moment.

  • If AV is willing to (1) commit to Etem on the 3rd line and Fast/Stalberg on the 4th and (2) use Stoll as the true 13F rather than cycling out whichever kid missed an assignment in the previous game, I’m all for it. Letting Etem “prove he doesn’t belong” by pinning him into a defensive role on one side of Moore like he did early last year with Miller is just a waste.

  • The math is very simple. Until and unless there is an injury there is not one of top 9 you would sit in favor of Etem. Tough luck for the kid, and bad for his development, but it wouldn’t be fair to Fast or Stalberg (and even more so Hayes or Miller) to sit them in favor of an inferior player.
    McIlrath will get 20 games if all D are healthy through the year.

  • I feel both Mcllrath and Etem can benefit the team by playing on a more regular basis. They both add elements that can complement our ultimate goal ( THE CUP). Mcllrath size/nastiness and physical nature is non existing on our current D line. Etem is showing flashes of brilliance in many aspects of the game ( it must have the coaching staff intrigued to say the least ). We have come close the last few years, who is to say these 2 can not provide that final piece to get us the Cup. They need the experience, roll with them!!

  • Trade rumors flying about! Patric Marleau ( 17 yr veteran of many NHL wars ) will accept a trade to 3 teams. Rangers are on that list. I hope this does not materialize, if its 5 years ago, then I say go for it!. But at this stage of his career, his mileage and SALARY are too great of a risk.. This has Marty St Louis/ Boyle issues written all over it!!

  • Not sure they have earned NHL playing time just yet. If they could clear waivers, they would both be playing in Hartford. It is important to remember that AV’s November lineup is different from his May lineup.

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