The resurgence of Ryan McDonagh

ryan mcdonagh
Photo: Winslow Townson/AP

Suffice it to say, last year was a disaster for Ryan McDonagh. He struggled mightily, and seemed unable to carry an injured Dan Girardi who really shouldn’t have been in the lineup. There were many theories behind his struggles, from no support from his partner (whether it be Girardi or Kevin Klein) to no support from forwards. But part of the onus did fall on McDonagh, who was one of the many players caught running around in his own zone last year.

This year, we have seen a Ryan McDonagh like we have never seen before. We’ve known what he can do in his own zone, but he’s never been one to really rack up the points. McDonagh has nine assists so far, with an eight-game point streak. He’s been eating minutes at all strengths, and looks like the McDonagh of old.


Here’s how McDonagh has fared with his fellow defensemen this season. He’s been paired only with Girardi and Nick Holden here, and you see that both pairs are¬†close to the median line, while McDonagh alone is more towards the “good” part. The pairing with Holden is a little on the scary side, but as of right now it looks like McDonagh and Girardi are able to play big and capable minutes together.

In terms of pure CF% (either raw or adjusted for score, venue, and zone), McDonagh is one of two players –Adam Clendening being the other– above the magic 50% line. This might be a tad misleading, since the Rangers have been ahead for so much of the season that the numbers are skewed, but adjusting for score minimizes that a bit.


Perhaps the best part about McDonagh’s play is his influence on his teammates. Using the above chart, we can see that McDonagh has a positive influence on his teammates. To read this, the purple is where a teammate is when playing with McDoangh, and the red is where a teammate is without him on the ice. Most of the purple boxes are up and to the right (more towards the “good” part) of the red boxes, which shows positive impact.

It is worth noting that the two primary people McDonagh sees ice time with are Holden and Girardi. Both red boxes are on the “bad” side of the middle line, while both purple boxes are on the “good” side. That means McDonagh carries these players. The good thing here is that Girardi seems to be able to go along for the ride, while Holden seems to stay put.

A resurgent Ryan McDonagh was one of the key needs for this Rangers club this season. Without it, the team was likely doomed to repeat the same mistakes as last season. With it, the Rangers can hold their own defensively while the forwards carry the load. McDonagh has been a monster this year and is very clearly carrying the blue line to success. This is what you expect of your best defenseman and your captain.

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25 thoughts on “The resurgence of Ryan McDonagh

  • Nov 7, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    I agree that McDonagh has been great.

    But the chart #1 screams that Clendening has been unreal.

    • Nov 7, 2016 at 1:02 pm

      It certainly indicates a phenomon in which Staal and Skjei have both played better while paired with Clendening.

      And yet, he’s played 5 games, so this could be little more than a coincidence. I’d like to see him play a bit more, though, not just when Girardi sits but in place of Holden from time to time as well.

      • Nov 7, 2016 at 4:02 pm


    • Nov 7, 2016 at 7:13 pm

      I’ve wanted Clendening on the top pair with McD since the beginning of the year and was laughed at by the thought.

      D men do not have to hit people any more to be top pair D men. It’s about moving the puck and being able to play on the PP, both things Adam can do.

  • Nov 7, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    I can only wonder if the World Cup put RMcD in game shape from game 1. He came into game 1 with a passion that was not there last year. You can blame it on his partners, but he has a jump in his game that was not there last year. He is playing younger and quicker. Did he, by chance train with Hayes in the off-season?

  • Nov 7, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    Girardi is done and should not be in the lineup anymore he is broken down from many seasons being a warrior thank him and move on.

    • Nov 7, 2016 at 7:15 pm

      I agree David, I think Ranger fans have to come to the realization that the league has changed and not having the ability to skate on the back end leads to retirement. Sorry to say, but true.

  • Nov 7, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    this is a bit off topic Dave but can you share a link explaining how the data are score-adjusted? I’m always curious when it comes up [but too lazy to research it myself]

    • Nov 7, 2016 at 4:07 pm

      It’s basically just weighting data differently based on whether a team is behind, tied, or leading on the scoreboard.

      The Rangers, for example, have pretty solid possession stats when trailing or tied, but have a shoddy possession line with the lead. But because they’ve held the lead so often, without score adjustments, the Rangers would look like a subpar possession team, when in fact they drive possession near League leading levels when it matters most, when they’re behind or the game is tied.

      • Nov 7, 2016 at 4:15 pm

        And just to expand a bit further, the Rangers are 4th in Fenwick and 5th in Corsi 5-on-5 Close (tied or trailing by 1 goal). It’s only once you factor in their possession numbers with a lead that they appear to be possessing at sub-average rates.

        • Nov 7, 2016 at 4:20 pm

          thanks for the explanation. makes sense.

        • Nov 7, 2016 at 9:06 pm

          Leather, is that you? I feel your presence.

  • Nov 7, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    Trouba resigned with Winnipeg, now off the market.

    • Nov 7, 2016 at 4:04 pm

      Dodged a bullet there.

      • Nov 7, 2016 at 4:08 pm


    • Nov 7, 2016 at 4:35 pm

      good for him. if I tried that at work they’d fire my butt! this guy gets $6M. why, because he can do backwards crossover and I … probably can’t do them so well anymore?

      anyway, happy to hear that a good young player will be back in uniform for his team.

      • Nov 7, 2016 at 5:01 pm

        I can still crossover while backskating, I’ll do it for $250,000.

        • Nov 7, 2016 at 7:32 pm

          That would violate the cba you get 575K minimum!

    • Nov 7, 2016 at 7:16 pm

      Disagree Chris, he’s more tradeable than ever now that teams know what he will be paid as he is now locked in.

      I just think the Rangers are now out because they are loving Miller and Skjei right now.

      • Nov 7, 2016 at 8:56 pm

        That’s valid. I think there will be more interest in him now that teams have some hard figures to value into the equation in terms of what they’re willing to give up.

        However, Jets management always intimated they want to keep Trouba; putting him on the block was primarily a negotiating tactic, I think, and also a Plan B in case they couldn’t reach terms with him.

        So, while it’s probably true that now that he’s signed he’ll be pursued more, I also think Jets will be less likely to deal at this point.

        • Nov 8, 2016 at 6:11 am

          Exactly, teams don’t have to guess as to how much Trouba will make this year and next as now he has a “cost certain” contract. And at a bargain too. Teams will call again.

          I think the Jets want him gone at this point. It’s a distraction that they don’t need. Their need is a goalie, IMO.

  • Nov 7, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    How good McDonagh was last year is unclear. Among the 53 pairs who played 500+ minutes 5v5, McDonagh-Girardi was last in possession stats and first in +/- per 60, averaging 1.31 goals per 60 more than the opposition. Or, to put it simply, their horrible play caused the Rangers to win most of their games.

    Obviously, Ryan was the strength of this pair and so he was actually not that bad. He is already an absurd +10 this year. Yes, +/- is unreliable because of sample size and usage. However, when a guy is repeatedly used against the best opposition, is the strong member of his pair, and wins the +/- game year after year, he is flat out good.

  • Nov 7, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    McD is back to being an elite D man again. If you looked at the pecking order of what needed to change from last year to this year then McD’s improvement in play had to be at the top of the list.

    • Nov 8, 2016 at 5:25 am

      Trouba Resigned….IT just feels and looks like the Rangers resolution for a top 4 RHD will come in the off-season. The guy on St. Louis is pretty good eh?

      • Nov 8, 2016 at 6:12 am

        lol, you and I know that the Rangers are all over the Shatty situation pal. The Rangers love his puck moving ability. Hope your trip is going well my friend.

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