The 2017 season is right around the corner, and as the World Cup of Hockey begins we will finally have something new to talk about in regards to hockey. This comes right on time as I am absolutely drained of any ideas after this one for the near future.
While many of us are certainly intrigued at how the forward depth will shape up for the New York Rangers post training camp, many more fans are eager to see what move GM Jeff Gorton may have in play to fix up the defense. It has been a long anticipated move, combining the rumors on Kevin Shattenkirk, the “guaranteed” Rick Nash trade, young defensemen remaining unsigned, and that the Rangers seem to do their business in the shadows with moves nobody sees coming (I love you Brassard, stay golden). In any case, there are a lot of factors surrounding the Rangers, but sometimes there are management and advisory roles that need to be filled as well.
This idea came to me early yesterday afternoon after the Vancouver Canucks hired former first round pick Manny Malhotra to be part of the coaching staff. Other than being an overall good teammate, one of Malhotra’s greatest talents in the NHL –aside from his two way play– was his prowess on faceoffs. It was one of the major reasons why Malholtra was hired.
While I would argue that faceoffs are perhaps overrated by some, there definitely is more to it. A good briefer on why faceoffs may simply not be as important as we used to make it out to be can be found here by Dom Luszczyszyn, and the most resounding line of the small article is right in the beginning.
“If you’re great at faceoffs, but are constantly hemmed in your own zone because you can’t get the puck out reliably, do the faceoff wins really matter?”
The conclusion is that faceoffs don’t directly correlate to great defensive play, being good at faceoffs doesn’t automatically make you a wonderful two-way player, and that the opposite applies as well. What happens after the faceoff is much more important than the puck drop itself.
That said, nobody can deny it is better to be good at faceoffs than not, even if the impact is minimal. Through this summer the Rangers lost Dominic Moore and Derick Brassard, two of their top faceoff men. Oscar Lindberg has a history as a faceoff ace in Sweden. Similarly Josh Jooris, who is one of my favorite signings of this summer, was solid on faceoffs as a rookie. His wrist injury last year hurt his effectiveness in the dot last season, though.
Derek Stepan is an interesting case, as I would argue he is one of the team’s best defensive players and the all around ace. But he stinks in the faceoff dot. Similarly Kevin Hayes has had faceoff struggles used against him, and at times it was used as an example for his laziness and overall “bad play” last year, without factoring that most young players don’t do well on faceoffs right away.
Which brings me to the title of this post: Perhaps the Rangers should be looking at hiring a faceoff specialist to help. There are so many ways to win faceoffs, and perhaps the team can benefit from a faceoff kingpin teaching all of the different strategies. It’s a better strategy than signing someone like Jarret Stoll, who offers faceoff success and nothing else. I’d certainly entertain the idea of hiring someone like Paul Gaustad for this role.
In any case, the season is almost here, what do you think the Rangerscan do to improve on faceoffs? Or do you simply not care about them?
By the way, the best in depth faceoff site on the internet is http://puckbase.com/