Hot take musings: Injuries, Lundqvist, the defense

michael grabner
Photo: NHLI/Getty Images

There’s a lot going on in Rangerland lately. With injuries mounting, the Rangers have been forced to call up a pair of forwards from Hartford and have been forced to dress another pair of forwards that have been regular scratches. The goaltending hasn’t been Hank-like. The defense has been suspect, as expected. All that has come to the interwebs being an almost unbearable place to be for Ranger fans. So let’s have some fun.

  • The Rangers have basically been forced to replace Rick Nash-Mika Zibanejad-Pavel Buchnevich with some combination of Matt Puempel (now injured himself), Marek Hrivik, Josh Jooris, Nicklas Jensen, and Oscar Lindberg. If you’re wondering why they aren’t scoring and aren’t getting any good chances, that’s probably your first place to look. Michael Grabner’s absence for personal reasons compounds the issue. Hot take: The Rangers aren’t tough enough, and that’s why they aren’t scoring.
  • Henrik Lundqvist has not looked Hank-like this season. Some point to the defense hanging him out to dry and allowing him to be peppered with high quality chances regularly. Some point to the age of now 34-year-old goaltender as a sign of his decline. We’ve seen slow starts from Hank and seen that he rebounds. Could that change, and he doesn’t rebound to his usual self? Sure. But again, we’ve seen that after slow starts, he tends to rebound. Hot take: Trade him for pucks, free up cap space, let Antti Raanta be the started with Mackenzie Skapski backing him up.

  • Jumping to the defense for a second: It’s clear the Rangers have a giant hole on the right side. We’ve covered that way too often around these parts. But dare I say that the left side has been somewhat decent, bordering on good? Ryan McDonagh is Ryan McDonagh. Marc Staal has been fairly steady when he’s not making passes. Nick Holden has settled into a good 3LD role that seems to suit him. Brady Skjei is a kid, so he’s making mistakes. But I’m willing to let a kid learn. Hot take: Skjei is a bust, trade him for pucks.
  • And back to Hank: Before passing extreme judgment on Hank, I think the Rangers need to make an upgrade on defense and get healthy first. It’s clear Hank is overcompensating for porous play. He’s been significantly more aggressive, coming out of the crease quite often. He’s been over pursuing the play to the point of error. And worst of all, he’s expecting pass because of bad defense, and he’s getting beat on shots that he normally stops because of it. Hot take: He should retire.
  • Kevin Hayes is now second on the team in points with 19 (10-9-19). If I remember correctly, I believe seven of those nine assists are primary assists. The kid has been an offensive machine. Remember when everyone wanted him traded? Those were the times. He’s the future 2C in New York. Hot take: It’s a flash in the pan, trade him for Jacob Trouba.
  • With Hayes’ play, it makes you wonder if –when Zibanejad is healthy– the Rangers explore a major trade involving Derek Stepan for a defensive upgrade. I can see a deal for Dougie Hamilton centered around Stepan. I’d be oddly ok with that trade. Dougie is really, really good. Hot take: People will Dougie way too much if the Rangers land him, forcing the fans to turn on him.
  • Michael Grabner leads the Rangers in goals. Hot take: Las Vegas takes him in the expansion draft, Rangers fans revolt because they should’ve left Hayes exposed.
  • Have to feel for Matt Puempel, who was finally getting a real chance with some skill players, only to have a cheap shot from Brock Nelson send him to the IR. Hot take: He needs to change his last name to Pimple, just for the laughs.
  • The Rangers are still tops in the division (35 points), but fourth place Philadelphia trails by just two points. Pittsburgh (35) and Columbus (34) are in between the two teams. Hot take: Anyone who claims they had Columbus as a sleeper to make the playoffs gets slapped for lying.


  1. When do you think this current slide will stop?
  2. Will Hank regain his All Star form?
  3. Will the Rangers make a defensive upgrade by the deadline? If so, for who, and who goes the other way?

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  • 1. Not sure what you’re asking but assume that they will be playing .500 hockey for a while (hopefully), certainly with all the injuries.
    2. I don’t know, will the D give him any help and allow him to play his game and not overreact to plays? Doubt it, this D stinks.
    3. Michael Stone for a goalie prospect and Lindberg.

    Brady Skjei a bust? I think that’s harsh because it is really hard to evaluate a young D man because they’re overall defending as a team is lacking. As soon as the speed game and goals stopped, then it’s defensive responsibility that isn’t capable. The Rangers record when scoring 3 goals or less is bad, and that’s not by coincidence.

    Yes, Grabner was signed for 2 years so he could be exposed for the draft, agreed.

    Hayes a flash in the pan? lol, hardly, he’s one of the most talented players on the team.

    Stepan for Spurgeon, more realistic than you think. Minny wants Stepan badly and Derek can be traded before his NTC kicks in on July 1. Cap hits are within $1M of each other.

    That was fun Dave, thank you. 🙂

    • Minny sure makes a lot of sense (Calgary too to a lesser extent). With Zibanejad and Hayes, Stepan definitely draws the short straw in my eyes. If/when that happens, let’s not be surprised by the initial hole felt in our lineup though.

      • yeah, definitely cannot do anything until everyone is healthy for sure. but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened. Minny needs scoring and centers badly. plus they covet Derek as a hometown player.

  • Maybe AV wises up and starts Raanta. We have 4 or 5 starting players out and we panic and are ready to dismantle the team. The real problem is the lack of depth and talent in the farm system due to poor drafting and trades. A former first rounder, a bust, is sitting on the bench in Florida. When teams face injuries, they need a strong minor league team to help compensate. Rarely, if ever, do the Rangers call up a player the excels.

    • I don’t think you can call the lack of depth in the farm system the problem when you have baby faced kids like Miller, Hayes, Buch, and Vesey already playing key roles on this team. Kreider and Zib aren’t too long in the tooth either.

      It’s hard to keep winning when you have 5 starters not available to play.

      Maybe we should praise their depth for being the reason they still are atop the Metro?

      • Miller and Kreider came through their system. The others were signed out of college or overseas, not through their system.
        When was the last time Hartford won a championship in the AHL? They stink every year.They need some decent talent from Hartford to step in and be effective at the NHL level when injuries hit.

  • Fun Write-Up

    I think we need to start playing with some urgency, but it may take getting Nash back before that happens. We will make a trade for a defenseman, but that player, IMO won’t be a big name. It will be another complementary RHD who will just be solid and a youthful, speedier upgrade over Klein.

    Once Nash returns, and Zinbad comes back, I hope to see some normalcy on the lines. More like the opening of the season, where Step/Vesey/Nash were together, Zinbad/Kreider/Buch, Hayes/Jt/Grabner and a 4th line with some grit.

    The defense needs some help and Raanta needs more starts. I trust Gorton to get us the players we need to make a run.

  • -When we get healthy.

    -I’m worried that Hank only has so much left. Because his slow starts are typical, I think he rebounds this season. But I’m not so sure about the future.

    -I’m apprehensive. If we’re in good shape, have an expendable trade chip (likely Steps) and all we need to be a legitimate contender, I’d pull the trigger on Hamilton. Otherwise, if we’re, like last season, fringe, I wouldn’t risk another Eric Staal trade, and I’d just wait until July 1 when Shattenkirk becomes a Ranger.

  • “When do you think this current slide will stop?”

    To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, “You might be a Stanley Cup contender when playing .500 hockey is considered a slide”.

    The slide happened immediately after the west coast trip AND when injuries began to mount (Kreider, Buch, Miller and now ZBad and Nash). The Rangers were playing at least as many games as every other team (Washington had 3 games in hand on Dec 1) with injuries to key guys. January has the Rangers playing only 11 games, so I expect this mediocrity to last another two or three weeks until the team gets healthy and rested.

    “Will Hank regain his All Star form?”

    (Sounding a bit like Yogi) I think you expect him to regain his All-Star form in the second half of the season until he doesn’t. He’s gotten hot in the second half (except last season when he was scorching hot in the 1st half) every year in his career. He’s a second half player. If the Rangers get healthy and regain with scoring in the second half with a typical Lundqvist second half performance, this season has a chance to be special.

    “Will the Rangers make a defensive upgrade by the deadline? If so, for who, and who goes the other way?”

    I have no idea. Living in the Carolina Hurricanes market, I like Ryan Murphy’s potential and don’t see him making it big there. I think he fits AV’s system better than Peters’ and could potentially be a “huge Gordon find” if the Rangers can swing a deal for him. The problem is that I think we’d have to give up too much.

    • I think you’re slightly optimistic.

      I see it as: the Rangers were CRUSHING the league the first 2-3 weeks of the season when every other team was still getting their bearings. As oppositions began to settle in, the Rangers domination diminished. After all, the easiest 20 games to win are the first 20 of the year. From then on out, they become tighter and tighter. The silver lining is that the Zib/Buch injuries seemed to coincide with the diminishing of the dominance, which means that their loss was most likely a factor. However, my thesis is that is it not the whole factor in so far as we will not see the return to dominance once we have a fully healthy roster. Other teams have come into their own and we are not that much better than them.

      Are we a Stanley Cup contender? Perhaps, but I am not yet sold.

      • If the easiest games to win are the first 20, then why doesn’t everyone have their best record in the first 20 games of the season?

        If playing .500 hockey is considered a slump / slide, then the team is unquestionably a playoff team.

        I agree with you how you are playing in the final 20 is more important than the first 20. But should we panic over mid-season slumps? The Kings, the year they beat the Rangers for the cup, started off very hot (27-8-4). But from December 23 — February 3, they went a dismal 5-14-2. They nearly regained their form from the beginning of the season and went 16-6-2 over the remainder of the season. Still, that’s 21-20-4 over (a little more than) the last half of the season.

        IF the Rangers go into the playoffs healthy. IF the Rangers regain their ability to dictate games as they did when healthy in the beginning of the season. IF Lundqvist plays as he usually does in the second half and in the playoffs. How can anyone not think this team has as good of a chance as any IF these three things happen? Sure, this team has warts. Name a team that doesn’t?

        • How can everyone have their best records at the same time? It’s not mathematically possible. The point is… don’t let the first 20 games define what you think is the norm for any team. Too many variables until things settle in. So if we do very well the first 20 games, and then hit a wall, to me, the jury is still out on the “contender” title.

          I’m not arguing that we are a playoff team- that is a safe bet. Not all playoff teams are genuine contenders. For example, our 2015-16 Rangers.

          The divide between us seems to be where we are on the IFs that you pointed out. On health, all we can do is assume (hope) that is the case. On dictating games, I am not as confident as you. And that doesn’t mean I’m panicking or looking to blow the team up. I’d like the team to get healthy and play through January to see where we are.

          I am not as optimistic as you that we will be where we would both like at that point in time.

  • When do you think this current slide will stop?
    March 13, 2017
    Will Hank regain his All Star form?
    Will the Rangers make a defensive upgrade by the deadline?
    If so, for who, and who goes the other way?
    Klein for a bag of pucks

    • There is no hope until the dope gets fired or people get healthy. The walls are caving in! Time to panic.

        • Let me be honest with you. I know one thing that you may not. Some people don’t know how to win. They don’t have the killer instinct to close the deal. I am afraid the coach has this problem.
          All you knuckle down draggers wait a little while before you do what is natural, not think.
          Everyone wants to win, but not everyone can do it. AV can surely win lots of games. Break records and win awards. The one thing that he can’t do is win the big prize. He is stubborn and he is bad at getting the best of his players. He is also bad at player evaluation.
          When players see his poor evaluations on other players you remove one part of the player’s ambition. You put doubt to the player’s mind. You remove the edge you need to win. Another problem is history. If you had a dog who bites, you would have to assume he would bite you. AV history is of poor decisions that result in failures. What do you expect when you play for AV? You will win a lot of games and then ultimately lose!
          Maybe some stupid would say Keenan was a loser before he one the big one. I would say if you paid attention to that season Keenan change his management of the team with an example of letting Kovalev play 5 minutes straight on the ice. If it wasn’t for Kovalev we would not have won.
          This uptight jackass strangles all the players especially the rookies, What he has done to Miller, I would have fired him long ago.
          No, we will not win with AV in control. Time to panic.

          • Oh how I absolutely wish AV wins a Stanley Cup (either in NY or elsewhere) before he is done coaching if for no other reason than for you to reevaluate everything you think you know. Up would be down, down would be up…. boy, would that make me giggle.

          • I hope I am wrong too. Just think of me as a parent that tells their son that, that woman is not good for you. In the end, we all suffer. She cheats on you blows all your money and does not care for you does not let you see your child and is an alcoholic? But you love her. She’s good in bed.
            That explains All you AV lovers.
            Sometimes the adults have to do the right thing. We have to remove your pacifier. Its bad for your teeth and is ultimately bad for you relying on something that is useless.

          • Hey but if the woman goes to rehab she might be a keeper. AV will not go to rehab he is in denial!

          • Interesting analogy- thoughtful and witty, just slightly condescending.

            Side question for you: was the moon landing real or fake?

          • I was trying to have fun even if I am losing the crowd. Don’t take me too serious, maybe Eddie should.
            Let me ask you did the government burn down David Koresh’s ranch in Waco?
            I loved it when Dave called me passive aggressive.

  • What were the questions?

    1. If you look at the standings, you see a whole host of teams at or around .500 for their last 10 games. The compressed schedule is hellish. Winnipeg tonight, Chicago tomorrow, back home Sunday is difficult. Getting 3 points might be the best out of those games. So, the slide (just a victim of the schedule) stops around New Year’s when NYR will have played half the season almost.

    2. I hope HL regains his form, but I will take slightly above league average Hank over what we have seen of late from him. He was horrible in the home game against Pitt, over committed in the Isles match, and that Eichel short sided goal was awful. Yes, he has terrible help, but he’s had terrible help for 3 years now. So, if no one thinks the #5 is going to rebound, why would you think the #30 is going to? I deparetly want him to, but realistically I think we have already seen his best and his better too.

    3. I know he fell completely out of favor in NY, but who would you rather have right now…# 8 or MDZ? That doesn’t answer the question Dave proposed, but I think we need to add a YOUNG D. We aren’t winning it all this year, so let’s continue to get younger. Hamilton is my guy, and JT goes that way. Miller is beyond replaceable.

  • I absolutely had Columbus making the playoffs so slap away. Unapologetic believer that Tortorella could coach that team

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