Rangers Musings: statement games & future Ranger great?

michael grabner
Pavel Bur… I mean Michael Grabner… Photo: NHLI/Getty Images

People talk about the Rangers 5-2 come from behind win against the Pens as a statement game.  For me, the biggest statement games were the significant Blues and Lightning victories a couple of weeks back – I feel they were more complete games even if the comeback against the Pens was very impressive. For me, the Rangers gave up far too many high quality chances against the Pens on Monday. It wasn’t a quality defensive performance.

Michael Grabner could go pointless for the rest of the season and he’d already represent good value. His goal against the Blue Jackets last week summed him up best. His speed gives teams fits, he’s up on the play so quickly and once he’s away you cannot catch him. The way he settled the puck and finished his breakaway underlined the confidence he’s playing with right now. It was a goalscorers finish.

Oh, and another thing: Michael Grabner, Cy Young winner?

Kevin Hayes is already half way to his points total from last season. He’s got 59 games to match his underwhelming sophomore season. Hayes should comfortably break 50 points for the first time and the way he’s playing there’s no ceiling for him right now. That’s without factoring in the additional ice time he’ll see with Mika Zibanejad’s unfortunate injury.

Against the Pens Hayes immediately saw his ice time go up from the Panthers game. His TOI jumped from 15:26 to 17:28. He also played almost exactly double the PP time. Hayes could be in for a huge year.

You know your team is playing well and on a hot streak when you see the following stat line:

G/F: 1st, 81 GF. G/A: 8th, 46 GA. PP %: 8th, 21.7 PP%. PK % 7th, 85.5 PK%

My instant reaction to the Zibanejad injury was that ‘Boo’ Nieves should be brought back into the line-up. Josh Jooris, while a solid depth player, isn’t likely to be a long-term option for the Rangers. Meanwhile the team’s strong start to the season, the relative safety of the fourth line and the skill Nieves would bring to the line-up would make him an ideal fill in at a convenient time. Giving Nieves an extended look also let’s the Rangers know very early in his pro career, just where he is on his development curve.

Ryan McDonagh should be an early season Norris trophy contender. The obvious contenders thus far are the usual suspects such as Brent Burns, Shea Weber and Erik Karlsson but McDonagh’s name should at least be in the discussion if he carries on with this level of play throughout the year. His move for Hayes’ goal against the Pens was truly elite level skill. McDonagh is back to being a dominant two-way force.

More McDonagh: he’s very sneakily approaching 200 points as a Ranger.

Here’s more sneaky statistics for you. Derek Stepan is not only quietly having a solid season (despite the relative lack of goals) but he’s climbing the Rangers all time points charts and quickly. Some fans are divided on whether Stepan represents good cap value (he absolutely does) but there’s no denying his impact as a Ranger.

Already 35th on the all-time list, he could be as high as 25th overall by the years’ end. He needs another 33 points to catch Petr Nedved. Bear in mind Stepan is 26 and has another five years on his contract. If he only averages 50 points per season for the duration of his contract Stepan would be in the Rangers top ten scorers of all time – at 31. If Stepan plays for the Rangers beyond his current contract he may climb right into the top five Rangers point scorers of all time, surpassing players such as Andy Bathgate and Mark Messier. Not bad for a late second round pick. For all you Stepan haters out there, think about those numbers and those Rangers alumni. That’s rarefied air Stepan could end up sharing.

It’s been a while since we had a question time so here goes;

  • Who ends the season with more goals: Grabner or Rick Nash
  • Who ends up leading this team in scoring?
  • A quarter of the season in (already!) how do you grade Jimmy Vesey thus far, and why?
  • Trying your hardest to be critical, which Ranger has most disappointed you thus far and why?
  • Which core player on the roster, right now, are you most willing to part with in a trade to upgrade the blueline – and why?
  • Should the Rangers pull a Talbot, and trade Antti Raanta in offseason?


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  • 1) Still going with Nash. Gonna go 32-29
    2) Miller
    3) B+. Know he’s been a bit streaky but to expect him to come in and make an immediate impact is a nice surprise. Especially with AV’s short leash with rookies.
    4) Klein. This is hard to do cause most fun had watching this team in a while, but he was extremely shaky to start. Still like the guy and he’s coming back to normal, but if pressed..that would be my vote.
    5) Toughest question. Is Lindberg a core player? If not..Im not really sure..everyone playing at such a high level. Im going with Lindberg or no one. (is that a copout?)
    6) Another tough one but i would go with YES if return is good. From what we keep hearing, we have some decent G depth in our ranks. Plus if there’s a chance we lose him in expansion, i would do a preemptive strike.

    • Teams need to expose on goalie for the expansion draft. Raanta qualifies. You can’t trade him.
      “The exposed goaltender must either be under contract for the 2017–18 season or will become a Restricted Free Agent in 2017.”

        • I am not sure, but in the previous expansion draft I believe the requirement for the exposed goalie was to play 10 games in the last season or 25 games over two past seasons.

        • I still get credit for answering question as posed right? I would hate for this to affect my GPA? 🙂

        • Why Varlamov? Colorado has another goaltender who is an RFA next season. The interesting case is Tampa though. Bishop is an UFA next season, and Vasilevsky is actually the only goalie under the contract. Anyone knows how the rules are applied in a case like this? Will Colorado be forced to acquire a goaltender to expose him to the draft?

  • 1. Nash. But Grabner is having himself a hell of a season so far. No denying that.
    2. Jonathan Tanner Miller.
    3. A. For a rookie, love how he does all the little things and the dirty work, already. “Nash clone” is an accurate comparison so far, I feel. I was a bit skeptical, but I was wrong. His game came pre-packaged and as advertised. I’m just waiting for AV to doghouse him for some sort of benign mistake other vets on the roster get away with daily, a la Miller and Hayes. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)
    4. Klein. He’s just not playing well, and unlike Girardi, that was/is unexpected.
    5. Zucc. I love Zucc. But he’s 29 and his trade value may never be higher. You gotta get to give, and I feel Mats could fetch us a handsome return.
    6. Arguably the best backup in the league. My heart says no, but my head says yes. Igor has looked awful good so far in the KHL. He might be ready. And as Marc points out above, Vegas looms large.

  • 1. Nash, I think either Grabner slows down, or Nash just edges him out. Grabs did score more goals than Nash back in 2010-2011, but was only by a goal or two. So it’s not like it hasn’t happened before, though.
    2. Mats Zuccarello Aasen.
    3. Vesey’s been much better than I anticipated.
    4. Not really disappointed in any Ranger, but I wish Buch, DJ Z-bad, and Kreider could remain healthy, play as that line.
    5. Derek Stepan. I think Hayes could step into his spot, and Stepan would fetch a nice return.
    6. Depends on what moves are made before then, what’s still needed. I’d do it, though. I mean, we will likely sign Shattenkirk, so I’m not sure that we’ll need to trade for a defenseman in the off-season.

    • Agree with the item 6. We should be able to get a decent right D rental at or before the trade deadline in March

  • 1. I guess Grabner, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Nash surpassed him

    2. Hayes. Breakout player of the year, Hayes is a superstar in the making (and yes, I have been saying this for three years now).

    3. Vesey has been excellent, B+ for me. He’s not the finished product and that’s the most exciting thing about him. The Rangers grabbed another long term top 6 fixture when he signed. Physical, agile, skilled, smart. What more do you need?

    4. No current Ranger has disappointed me with their play so I’m going to name a former Ranger as my biggest disappointment. Dylan McIlrath should have stepped up his game this summer and become a better skater. The fact he didn’t crack this D corps and garnered little interest around the league is a massive indicator of his lack of development. It’s too bad, but the Rangers will survive without him. Beyond McIlrath, the health/lack of fitness of Buch is another disappointment.

    5. I wouldn’t deal a core player for blueline help. I would target a depth D that can challenge Klein or Girardi for a spot in the lineup. Also, I would target a D that will be a UFA next year (I’d target MDZ, Streit, Wideman, or Kulikov) so the Rangers aren’t forced to buyout Girardi for the extra expansion draft protection slot. The Rangers will be signing Shattenkirk this summer anyway, and Ryan Graves will force his way to NY, so losing a UFA D this summer and Klein (either in the expansion draft or a summer trade) is really no big deal.

    The guy I’d move out is Lindberg. He just doesn’t seem like he’s going to be anything more than a bottom 6 player. That was really his ceiling the whole time, anyway, but it feels like Lindberg is being passed on the depth chart. Boo restarting his career last year has made Lindberg an extra piece that the Rangers can now replace from within.

    6. Like others have said, Raanta is required so the Rangers can stay compliant with the expansion draft rules. Also, I wouldn’t trade Raanta anyway. He’s a fine backup and, as we have seen, backup goalies are worth very little in trades.

  • 1. Nash gets hot and Grabner cools off….Nash by a whisker.

    2. I’m thinking Hayes and Miller neck and neck–and Hayes wins out by a nose! The light switch has gone on with both and they seem ready to finally become star level players.

    3. Vesey gets an A-. Obviously more for him to learn but so far he has exceeded my expectations for a rookie player.

    4. To me, it’s Kevin Klein. He’s been pretty mediocre thus far.

    5. No opinion really on a trade. To me, there are no untouchables ever. I’d be reluctant to part with anyone right now but I’d want to see what is being offered.

    6. Raanta? Hard to say. As we saw with Talbot, the return for a backup goalie is minimal. I think you consider trading him simply to create cap space if needed f other needs, and then go with a cheaper option. Will Halverson be ready next year?

  • I hope all had a Happy, Safe & Healthy Thanksgiving. And guys and gals, a shout out for the members of our Armed Forces who were away from family on this Holiday. I, as well as some of you, know how difficult a Holiday is while serving.
    1. Nash (although I am so happy with Grabner’s play, not only his production)
    2. Miller
    3.B. He has performed admirably and exceeded my expectations
    4.Hank, just look at his goals against and save percentage. Sorry but when one player takes up 13% of your payroll I expect more.
    5.I’m not sure. Wow Chris that’s a tough question. Knee jerk would be Lindberg, but he’s coming off serious hip surgery with no training camp, so I think he still has a lot to give. If you put a gun to my head, something I am not very fond of, I’d say Staal. Holden’s normal side is the left so he could slide in there leaving a right side spot open. But I really think we get Shattenkirk for nothing more than money (easy to say when It’s not my $) so we need to be careful here.
    6.SORE SPOT with me. Please go look at Talbot’s stats. So with some big name goalies being spoken about on the ‘available list’, I’d be inclined to keep him. He play has been excellent and seems to be a real team guy.

  • 1. Zucc
    2. Hayes
    3. B+ Doing some great things in addition to scoring.
    4. A.V. He’s sabotaging everything with his moronic changes on D. Girardi needs to be exiled from the top 6 permanently. Restoring him to the top pair hurts both McD and the team as a whole.
    5. Jooris, just so Nieves or Lindberg or anyone with a possible future with the Rangers can get some playing time.
    6. If Allaire thinks Shestorkin (sp?) is ready, then I wouldn’t mind trading Raanta, but I also don’t believe he’ll fetch much on the trade market.

    • Nieves isn’t ready. Lindberg is still dealing with hip issues.

      And to say AV is the biggest disappointment and sabatoging the team is laughable. If there was a Jack Adams Award for the quarter pole, he’d easily be one of the three nominees.

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