State of the Rangers

The frustration of reserving judgment

The Rangers have gone 8-3 in their last eleven games, which is obviously a good thing. However, there has been some really bad process along the way. I don’t think there is any question at this point that the Rangers are most definitely a playoff team, but the bigger concern lies in their ability to win a seven game series with the likes of the Penguins and Capitals.

At BSB, we analyze performance on a game-by-game basis, while trying to identify good and bad traits in what is happening on the ice. We also like to take macro view of overall production and trends, which can hopefully be predictive of future performance and adjustments that need to be made for sustained success. I suppose what makes analyzing this stretch of Rangers’ hockey frustrating is the injuries to several key forwards, namely Rick Nash, Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich.

At this point, we know the defense needs an upgrade in the worst way. Barring an act of pure magic by Jeff Gorton, we are likely looking at a fairly incremental upgrade, given the understandable resistance to giving up an NHL forward in a deal for defensive help. The question we ultimately need to answer is: if Lundqvist continues to progress to career norms, can his high-level play and the depth up front mask the defensive issues well enough to truly contend?

This unfortunately cannot be answered accurately in the wake of the aforementioned injuries. Nash has been in beast mode all season. Zibanejad has brought an element both at 5v5 and on the power play that the Rangers have not had in quite some time. He is a right-handed triggerman that draws attention away from his line mates every time he touches the puck. Buchnevich, while initially struggling to find the back of the net, has displayed all the creativity and skill that made him so highly touted coming out of the KHL.

Make no mistake; these three are all top-9, if not top-6 players for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. It has been a testament to the forward depth constructed by the front office that the team has been able to weather these injuries as effectively as they have. Sure, we complain when the process is brutal versus a bad team and they eke out a win. However, sometimes we lose for forest for the trees when players of this caliber sit in the press box.

With all three skating again (albeit on different time frames), the Rangers will be in a much better position to determine how aggressive they need to be pursuing a defensive upgrade when the offense can be analyzed comprehensively. With all the missed time, it is still difficult to handicap what the ultimate capability of this team is, as currently constructed, but hopefully the picture becomes a little clearer in the coming weeks.

Until then, it is a bit frustrating to watch the team play down to the level of their opponents and hemorrhage shot attempts left and right. Unfortunately, we have to reserve judgment on the current stretch of play until the team gets three of their most important forwards back.

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  • Spot on Justin. In addition, it is going to take a while for Zibanejab and Buchnevuch to get into real game shape and back into the flow. Barring further major injuries we will eventually see what the team can due when fully staffed, but it probably won’t be clear until nearly February.

      • Yes and no. It showed what they had when the league hadn’t seen the way they play. Now that they have seen the Rangers, will they have adjusted their strategies to try to thwart them even when they are at full strength, or will the Rangers still be too much to handle?

        • I’m not suggesting the Rangers final 20 games will replicate their first 20. I was pointing out that we don’t need to wait for the return of Nash, Zibanejad, and Buchnevich to see what this team can do when healthy. We know what this team can do healthy, the question is whether they will stay healthy after these returns, and whether the goaltending can stabilize and become more consistent. If these things happen, we know what this offensive depth can do.

          The final 20 are different not because teams figure each other out as much as teams are worn down, have injuries, and have various players slumping at the wrong time. That’s still a big unknown, but if the team remains healthy, there’s no reason to think that the final 20 won’t be a success.

          • I’m right with you Chris. If the team is healthy and they make a deal or two, no reason at all why the can’t have a strong final 20 games and a deep playoff run.

          • I’m always really bad on speculating on trades. My attitude is, I would try anyone on this roster for the right piece or pieces. Other than NMCs, no player is untouchable or untradeable.

            I’d prefer to keep Stepan and Miller, bit am absolutely open to trading either or even both for a big return.

          • Right answer IMO eddie. because while we all want to keep Stepan and Miller, this team is not a contender unless something big happens on the back end IMO.

  • I know that Ryan Graves is not THE answer to the problem on the D… but is there any kind of major flaw in his game that is preventing him from at least being tried on the defense?

    • It’s always a tough call as to when a young player (particularly a defenseman) is ready, especially for those of us on the outside looking in. If he’s not ready, just saying “oh what the heck, just give him a shot anyway, can backfire badly. Most GMs will tell you that the last thing you want to do is promote a player too fast. If he fails, it can set his development back considerably.

      Graves sounds like a fine prospect. I’m assuming we will see him at the proper time. Given the Rangers current position in the standings, there really is no reason to rush him.

      • I’ve seen Graves in person multiple times, the most recent 2 weeks ago in Hershey. He’s done all he needs to do in the A, only way he progresses is in the show.

        I don’t know if he’s ready, but I do know you’ll never find out by keeping him in Hartford.

        Blahblah AV cup blahblah. I’m sorry, but in a hard cap environment an NHL coach’s job description needs to include developing young talent like being in a college program.

        • Sounds great in theory, but unless you are in full rebuild mode and everyone including ownership is on board, the coach and GM only get to the keep their jobs if they win on a consistent basis and make playoff runs. Otherwise, you are likely developing said talent for another GM and/or coach.

          I do understand what you are saying, but with all respect, there are a lot of guys who look good on the AHL level only to flounder when they get to the show–especially young defensemen.

          There’s no rush whatsoever to do this. That’s my point.

        • Not to mention, no one knows what the Hartford coaches are telling AV, or whether AV has inquired as to Graves’ readiness.

          Which is to say, we can all sit around and pretend we know that Graves has plateaued in Hartford and is ready to go, and the only reason he’s not been called up yet is because AV is a middling imbecile who couldnt coach himself out out of a paper bag, or we can recognize that none of have any clue what’s going on behind the scenes. I choose the latter.

          • Well said. It’s so silly. Didn’t they promote Skjei last year? Didn’t AV take an immediate liking to the kid and then even gave him the benefit of the doubt this Fall after a disppointing camp? The notion that the Rangers are reluctant to call up kids, and that AV is the reason why, has no basis in fact or reality.

  • If all 3 are healthy tomorrow, who sits? Conventional wisdom says Hrivik and Puempel are the first chips to fall. The 3rd player is hardest to handicap. Pirri has the draw of being a staple on our first PP unit, which is why Lindberg had a tough time cementing himself after coming back from injury. Since earning back a regular role due to injuries, he’s assimilated himself well. This board will most likely scream for Fast to sit because no one likes positionaly sound if unspectacularly skilled players, but I’m not convinced he draws the short straw. To me it will be a question of Lindberg or Pirri to wear the 3rd suit upstairs based on the PP caveat- if Pirri gets replaced on the PP, he’ll sit for Lindberg; if not, Lindberg will join Puempel and Hrivik as odd men out.

    • Fast will not sit. Seeing how our coach coaches, Pirri will move back to center and force Lindberg out. There is a 1% chance AV sits Jesper Fast. I feel anything I see the future line up of Kreider/Stepan/Zucc, Nash/Zib/Fast, Miller/Hayes/Vesey, Grabner/Pirri/Buch. And the only justification I have is that none of those make any sense, and it puts Fast in the Top 9 where AV seems to think he belongs.

    • Vesey-Stepan-Nash
      Grabner-Lindberg-Fast (w/Pirri rotated in and out)

      When Pirri plays, he’ll get the PP time as well. When he sits, maybe put Buchnevich across from Zib on the wall.

      • When all the forwards are healthy, my guess is that Hrivik goes back down, Puempel becomes the 13F and Pirri is released. Unless, of course, there’s a trade.

          • I would say marginally, yes. First, he’s a little bit younger. Second, this is already Pirri’s 4th NHL team, which at 25 yo suggests teams are pretty quick to move on from him (much like Clendening). And the eye test tells me that Puempel is a better all around player, where as Pirri seems to be only about helping on the PP (where thus far he’s been pretty uneven).

            So I’m not locked in either way, but that’s just my hunch.

    • Fast is not positionally sound. He spends way to much time wandering over to his offwing and puck watching. He should sit.

    • One of these players has to be sent down we can not carry 24 players on the active roster , so who are we going to lose on waivers . They can all play well at times

  • Have any of the bright young minds at BSB analyzed Clendening’s game and have a clue why he doesn’t get any playing time at all? I know AV wants guys he can trust with the puck on defense. What is Clendo’s issue?

    • First of all, Clendo, at the moment anyway, isn’t that good. We can start with that. Second, look at most other teams in the NHL. How many of them rotate their 7 defesmemen? Not many if any that I know of. The 7D is there for the occasional spot start or when someone is hurt. That’s it.

      We can debate Girardi’s usage until the cows come home, but the reality is, the chances that performance would improve in any meaningful way if AV went to a rotation and played Clendening more is probably pretty small. Five other organizations have already moved on from the guy. They usually move on from him within a half season on average. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for more playing time.

      Now, the one asterisk on all this is the way the schedule plays out from here. The Rangers have many more opportunities to practice coming up. Clendo will certainly get his chance in practice to show he deserves more time. Perhaps he will, but I’d keep expectations real low on this one.

      • Again, as pointed out before: moved for Gustov (pretty good young defenseman), moved for Sutter by Van (model organization for properly developing talent that they are), moved by Pitt for Haglein. Waived by Anaheim because they wanted to send him to the minors as they had no room on the big club, no contract by Edm because he “didn’t fit culture”, another organization that sets the standard on talent evaluation and development right?

        Numbers don’t lie:
        Expected Goals:
        Girardi- xGF60 of 2.51, xGA60 of 2.62
        Clendening- xGF60 of 2.89, xGA60 of 1.91

        Girardi- CF60 of 49.24, CA60 of 65.42
        Clendening- CF60 of 57.95, CA60 of 40.08

        So almost half a goal more per 60, and almost a full goal less per 60, and Clendening drives offense and limits shots against, while Girardi bleeds A LOT of shots against. Also, thats just this years 5×5. I’d use “All strength states” but Clendening doesn’t have enough PK time, and Girardi’s PK numbers are the worst in the League I believe, his xGA60 on the PK is 6.95.

        • Be very careful with limited sample sizes when analyzing stats like this. You can jump to a false conclusion, much as was done last year with McIlrath. He’s now on his third coach and still not playing much. Clendening is on his sixth coach. I know what you are saying about the trades, but good puck moving defensemen are hard to find, especially RH shooters. He was a FA that Rangers took a chance on, and there wasn’t exactly a bidding war for his services. So just like McIlrath, this isn’t likely an “AV evaluation issue”. At the moment anyway, we are talking about borderline NHL players that fans always seem to overrate.

          Now again, I will concede that players do grow and improve. Lots of practice time coming up. He will certainly have his chance in practice to show what he can do. I’m just saying I wouldn’t hold my breath that he can bring much to the table.

          • The problem is AV won’t provide a sample size for Clendening to actually prove his worth.

            We can all suggest that it’s a small sample size, yet with a large sample we know objectively Girardi is a tire fire and it took half a season for coach to be aware of it.

            This team is going to operate in a 1 step forward, 2 steps back manner until they lose AV.

          • The defense is what it is. If there were actually better options, the coach would use them. The same thing was said last year about McIlrath. He’s playing LESS in Florida. Maybe AV should be taken to the woodshed for OVERPLAYING him last year.

            So basically, what you are saying is, experiment with marginal players–that’s the ticket for success?

            If our defense is really as bad as is being portrayed, and given the injuries at forward, plus the just average goaltending we’ve gotten, it’s pretty amazing isn’t that we have the record we have. Sounds like credentials for a Jack Adams nomination as opposed to a pink slip. 🙂

          • I truly believe this is all boiling down to 1 thing. The current NHL management (Front office and coaches) are in 2 distinct segments. They either embrace advance stats or they don’t. AV is more of an old school coach, and has implied in pressers he doesn’t put much value in them. They’re used but not as the tool they are. He has an ego. There is no questioning that. I think it’s coming down to the fact that if he plays Clendening and he excels the advanced stats guys will say told you so.

            And quite honestly, if this is the case just flatly say you don’t believe in them and that’s why he’s not playing. Don’t trot out the garbage that Girardi is still effective etc. I’ll still call him to task for it, but at least it could be understood.

  • Very Nice Article.
    We need to upgrade the defense, or there’s no cup this year, right?
    Everyone seems to agree on this, right?

    The GM of this team has seen enough forest, trees, shrubs & grass to know it too.

    Lets Go Rangers – 2017 is almost here!

  • You can,t trade or just get rid of G or KK just for the sake of getting rid of them . G can,t be moved without his ok , KK won,t get you much . Sure you could call up a GM and say if you take G take your pick out of 10-13 -26 -27 86 and you could trade G if he ok,s it . Only way G is moved is by buying him out and taking the hit for 6 more years

    • Yes, The Girardi contract will BURN us for years to come, as he continues to decline. Staal’s contract not much better, but at least he shows signs of having some snarl left to his game. The Stephan, Nash, Hank contracts will also cause major grief.

    • Take the hit I say. The time comes when one has to face the music for bad decisions. To keep him because one wants to avoid the cap hit while he drags down the team is madness. Unless they can get creative buy him out. This team as constructived isn’t winning the. Cup. Stop with the fools gold,sell high and build a team that can. The Yankees finally did it this season knowing they weren’t going to win it all or possibly make the playoffs. The Rangers should do the same and should’ve last year with Yandle and others at the deadline.

  • Justin, outstanding common sense article. To go off the deep end, as many did during our “epic” two game losing streak, obviously is a little silly. As you mentioned, this team is playing without three KEY forwards. Hank hasn’t rounded into form yet. The defense, it’s true, has had its ups and downs, but let’s not forget how well we were playing defensively prior to our crippling two game losing streak.

    Even at our best, we are simply NOT a better team talent wise than the Pens, or the Caps or probably even the Bolts when they are healthy. Doesn’t mean, if all breaks right as it did a few years ago, that we can’t make another deep run. But we have to be the no-margin-for-error Rangers again, where everything clicks perfectly in order to win. This means….

    1) First and foremost, Hank needs to be Hank. I’m a huge supporter but I was really disappointed with how he played in the Wild game. Once he let up that soft first goal, the roof collapsed. He needs to be better and I believe he will be better. He is a GREAT goalie. But if this is one of those off years for him, sorry, it’s season over.

    2) we need to be patient and let the roster get healthy. Once it does, we will have a much better idea if our forward depth can compensate for a pedestrian defense.

    3) we pretty much know the Rangers will be active at the deadline. They have the cap space to make a big move, or several smaller moves. What those deals will be remains to be seen.

    4) when injuries happen, it’s “next man up time.” I’m always curious to see who has the talent and the desire to do so. Kreider’s been good. No complaints. Stepan, espevially the last few games, has been real good. Hayes? He’s had some moments but mostly has NOT stepped up. Miller? Huge disappointment…yet again! Another in a long line of disappearing acts from him. I keep hearing that Hayes and Miller are “stars”. Stars in theory are one thing. Stars in actuality are another. To blame AV is obviously ridiculous. Was Miller’s success early in spite of AV, but his substandard play since because of the coach? Please!

    To me, Miller and Hayes tepid response to the depletion of the roster is a huge red flag in terms of whether they can be counted on going forward. Not ready to give up on either, but just saying, don’t be surprised if one is dealt for help on defense.

    5) Stepan–are you SURE you want to deal this guy? The ONLY reason I’d consider it is to free up cap space and roster moves for another deal. I think Stepan is one of those “glue guys” that if you take him off the team, he will leave a bigger hole than you think. Not saying I wouldn’t trade him, mind you. But be careful what you wish for here.

    We won’t know abou this team for at least another month. In the meantime, enjoy the ride! 🙂

    • He’s not Gorilla glue just Elmer trade him for young skilled,tough assets. DeAngelo on Arizona would be nice but if one says Zona wouldn’t make that trade. Stepan isn’t as valuable as you think. Some on this site see him a step below Sid and other true number one centers. Why couldn’t a package be put together? Arizona has a lot of young talent maybe they need a veteran center who some always say puts up 60 points. Who’s a just below Sid and Toews. Hell hasn’t done anything yet. Really how much is Stepan worth? Before that NMC kicks in fully find out or G number two we will have.

      • Spot on HB…….Way over rated for a slow , soft player who stands in the slot and waits for zucc or kredier to occupy 2 guys and give him a pass for a wide open shot!
        Low trade value in my opinion………wish we kept Dubinsky or Anisimov in that trade…

        • Hey rich I’ve looked at Stepan career goals and Artie is right there with Stepan in career goals. Without playing top line mintues or PP. Here’s one for Stepan fans would Chicago trade Artie one for one for Stepan. I think not Artie does the same things at millions less and makes guys better and is tougher.

    • Eddie,
      I was only able to see about 1/2 of the game last night , but I did see Miller go end to end with speed , around the defenseman and put a perfect pass onto holdens stick for a goal………later I saw him blow past everyone on a similiar rush……..
      Every game I watch he shows speed and talent and moves while being 210 pounds and ONLY 23 years old!!!!!!
      Every game it seems, him and hayes dominate play as a penalty kill duo.
      Every game I expect him to put on an exciting rush up the ice and drive to the net.
      Again 23 years old!!!!!!!
      Stepan is not my type of player [ slow, soft -5 hits all year, doesnt stick up for teammates, doesnt go into corners, cant drive to net, bad on faceoffs ]
      But wow, he is nowhere close to , or as valuable as JT Miller…..stepan is very replaceable…….not productive enough for team leader in power play and even strength minutes……[ and playing with two excellent forwards]
      Instead of AV burying him with fast and lindberg , put JT Miller back with hayes and nash or kreider and zucc and his numbers will way overshadow stepans.
      Put stepan with fast and lindberg…..ugly!

      • I agree, Miller played well last night. Perhaps he responded to AV’s “tough love”. Hayes too. Both have been good on the PK.

        But again, once the injuries hit, they went through a lengthy stretch there where they were mostly invisible. It’s amazing to me the free pass those two get out here. With their talent, both need to be contributing much more, especially now with key forwards out. It’s hard not to wonder if they have the work ethic and fire in the belly necessary to truly be great players. We already know from past reporting that both Miller and Hayes have had issues in that regard in the past. That shouldn’t be summarily dismissed and most definitely bears watching.

        All I can say is, if Stepan had similarly disappeared, he would have been skewerred out here.

        As far as what line Miller should play on, it’s a chicken and egg thing. But if both he and Hayes were playing better, they would never have been split up to begin with.

        Now I do agree, they are both young and I wouldn’t be so quick to give up on them either. But I also wouldn’t be so quick to give up on Stepan. It all depends on what you can get back to upgrade the defense and the team’s cap management concerns going forward.

        • Hey Eddie Stepan trails both of these guys in GOALS. When the injuries started Stepan was a no show it wasn’t until a couple of games ago he showed up. Good player nowhere near great as someone previously posted. Our best trade chip without giving up the young skilled future core of this team. Stepan is the part of the past core please move on already. Never give out a NMC unless it’s to a HOF in his prime.

        • Eddie,
          I think you dont give enough credence to the fact that year after year Stepan plays top line minutes and with this teams best offensive forwards……nash, zucc, kreider…etc
          Miller on the other hand plays 3-4th line minutes with fast, lindberg etc [ scrubs as we used to say]
          That really means alot, who do you want passing pucks to you zucc or fast?
          And why does AV split up hayes and miller when they look so effective together?
          AV needs to stop switching lines every game and be patient with everyone…he needs to be as patient with the Millers and veseys as he is with the girardis and kleins and stalls! IMHO

          • Stepan also has to play against opponents’ top line and toughest D pairings, and he’s expected to play a shutdown role against the Toewes, Kopitars, and Tavares of the League.

          • You are right Chris, unless the home coach AV decides to put out ‘ checking ‘ line against top competition.
            BUT, lets say he plays them straight up…
            Taveras destroyed him all last year , what we lose all 4 games to isle?
            Crosby destroys us/him…[cant believe AV put him against crosby]
            Kopitar….how did he/us play against kings 2 years ago?
            Stepan might face better players , but they kill him!

          • That’s why we traded for Mika so Stepan doesn’t have to go up against Superstars.

          • Rich was pointing out that year after year Stepan gets to play alongside the Rangers top offensive talent, suggesting that as a result of that he should be putting up much better numbers than Miller. To put that claim within context, I was pointing out that Stepan also plays against elite talent and serves as a shutdown role moreso than an elite scoring role.

            Why we traded for Zibanejad –who has been injured since mid-November– isn’t germane to that discussion.

  • It’s not worth it, so all I’m going to say is this.

    Our defense corps is healthy. Opposing teams have figured out how to beat the Rangers. They are clogging the neutral zone and attacking the defense and we have zero answers for it. You say the defense has been mostly good. The numbers show, that the defense is rapidly going down and we’re asking goalies to be the savior. If you want to see just how we’re trending, you’re more than welcome to visit and play around with the numbers. Forewarning, they aren’t as pleasant as many think.

    As I said yesterday. If we put out the best lineup, try different things and we lose: fine whatever. I can not, nor will I ever in any thing I do, accept mediocrity. I am terrified that we’ll do something drastic and dumb at this deadline.

    • Meant to add to that:

      You do realize that we LOST the 5×5 battle to pretty much an AHL team last night right?

      ARI: CF60- 55.33, CA60-49.93
      NYR: opposite of course.

      We did manage to win the xGF battle, though the 5×5 score was tied at 2-2.

    • John

      Great post, total agreement with you. The best part of your post is “I can not, nor will I ever in any thing I do, accept mediocrity”, absolutely perfect comment. There are plenty on this site that justify anything by saying look at the standings, look at our scoring, relative to the rest of the NHL, look at how good the defense played last night, forgetting the last month, etc. etc. etc.

      Ed-3’s remarks remind me so much of last season, how D Mac looked decent ,but justified his not playing ahead of Boyle, or Girardi. He could practice with the squad, develop, and would get his shot this year, sounds like that broken record is on the turn table again, and again !!!!!!

      This is a business, the objective to win, win, win, the cup that is, not the regular season, and get eliminated in the first round. We are an original six team, and the Pens have as many cups as we do, in half the time. I love what Dan has done for us, but the key word is HAS, not what he is doing now. Same goes for Staal, and the same mistakes made year in and year out. Trade away draft picks, get some marquee named player, who’s best year’s are some 5-6 years behind them, and then yell from the top of the roof how wonderful they are. Hell, I was led to believe MSL could walk on water, then we got Yandle, and he was the third coming of the man, after MSL, and JC himself. It’s all bull sh*t, and until we win it all, the season would have been another disappointment………

      • Walt, John love what both of you have said . It’s about winning the cup not just making a good show of things to sell ad space. Danny is done buy him out move on. Stepan isn’t getting better there’s no brake out 40 goal season coming or 30 for that matter. With two cups in 75 plus years only in sports can one fail so miserably and still be in business. Because FAN is short for FANATICS. Now the cry is 1994 oh so long ago kids born that year legally can drink at games.

        • Well, we have something going for us anyway, we aren’t the Cubs, every 100+ years to win it all!!!!!!!! See there is a brighter side isn’t there ???? LOL

      • Walt-

        Very fair statement about last year. I have to own it when I’m wrong and I was wrong. I kept expecting the defense to round into form but unfortunately they never did. I came around at the end and agreed, yes, McIlrath probably should have played more. And I certainly expected he’d be ready to impress in camp. Heck, the Rangers thought enough of him to sign him this summer as opposed to letting him walk, right? So I’m sure they expected him to compete for a roster spot.

        But what happened? DMAC did not have a good camp (by his own admission by the way). The Rangers waived him and not one single team bothered to claim him. Then when a deal was made to give him a chance in a new organization, what happened? First Gallant and then Rowe quickly concluded that DMAC is not, at the moment anyway, someone who can play significant minutes and help an NHL team. Maybe one day, but not today.

        So while I will own up to the fact that I was probably being more hopeful with the vets than I should have been, the reality is that AV had few if any better options, just like he really doesn’t have a better option this year. Until they make a deal to upgrade the defense, it is what it is.

        This is why I just roll my eyes when everyone goes off on the coach for not playing his 13F or 7D more. There’s usually a reason why they are in that role to begin with. It’s because they aren’t that good. So why kill the coach over the players on the margins when a change in the lineup is likely to have little if any impact? I mean, I HOPE you aren’t implying that if only AV had played DMAC more, we would have somehow beaten the Pens and gone on to win the Cup!

        The DMAC experience should have opened everyone’s eyes here. We are passionate and knowledgable fans, no doubt. But we are not talent evaluators. We were wrong about McIlrath. He is NOT a difference maker player and taking the coach to the woodshed for not playing him more was totally off base. DMAC may be that one day. He still young so who knows? But he clearly is NOT that today.

        Now, to your point (and John’s) about “accepting mediocrity”. I wholeheartedly agree. But define NHL “mediocrity”. To me, it’s a team that barely makes the playoffs year after year, which is what we mostly saw during the Torts Era, did we not? In the AV years, we’ve been, in aggregate, one of the best teams in the NHL record wise, with deep playoff runs to go with it. And we’ve done it with a roster that isn’t exactly going to have a plethora of HOF nominees 10-15 years from now. This season, flaws and all, we have one of the best records in the league. That’s hardly mediocrity.

        I want a Cup as much as you do. But I think we see the blame for WHY it hasn’t happened yet and the pathway to getting that fixed from a very different perspective.

        As I’ve said before, when a team is bad, like the Rangers were from 1998-2004, and you have all those lottery picks to work with, you MUST score on at least some of them. We failed to land even ONE difference making star in the first round. Then, in 2010, when we failed to make the playoffs but still had the building blocks in place of a decent team, we made the biggest blunder maybe in Rangers drafting history–going with Dylan McIlrath over Vladimir Tarasenko. Can you imagine if this team had drafted him? That one huge miss might have been the difference in 2014 and 2015 and we might well have not one but two Cups.

        I totally understand your desire to hang on to draft picks. I get it. But I’m confused. Since the Rangers have drafted many good but no real great players (other than Hank), the team is what it is….a good but hardly great team. So when management sees an opportunity to upgrade a good unit and try to get that one or two more pieces to hopefully win a Cup, you take them to the woodshed. If the drafting wasn’t stellar, doesn’t that mean the only avenue left is to trade and/or sign FAs? It seems to me hanging on to bottom tier first round picks is more likely to result in a perpetuation of the very thing you are complaining about here–more mediocrity.

        I’ve been preparing a comprehensive look at every major Rangers trade over the past five years or so, which I will post when we get closer to the deadline. So far, it shows pretty clearly that the Rangers made the correct moves with most of these trades. Some were more succesful than others, but thus far, none have really hurt or setback this franchise. What has set back this franchise is simple–mediocre drafting, which resulted in little choice but to trade future pieces to upgrade for that chance at winning it all.

        Good discussion Walt. Glad you’re back. We don’t always agree, but no doubt, this site is way better when you are here expressing your views.

        • Ed3

          First of all I wasn’t implying that DMac would have brought us a cup, far from it. He did show some vast improvement as the season went on, but still he sat, while Girardi played with a broken knee cap (?), or some injury, and Boyle was just terrible, and undersized as well.

          To the drafting issue, all the examples made were pre Gorton era, and the drafting has improved considerably, even in the late rounds that we managed to sit on. Realistically, how many Hanks come into the NHL as a 225 (?) draft pick??

          I am an old fart, have followed this team since my childhood, and the mistakes made are the same, year in, and year out. We want instant gratification, are very impatient with the kids, go after the over the hill gang, etc, etc, etc.

          We tend to disagree on most issues, that’s fine, but I just wish management would try something different for a change, isn’t that what just happened this past election?

          In closing, to you, and all the others on this blog who contribute, here’s wishing everyone a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year !!!!!!!!!!

          • Walt-

            Right back at ya my friend. Hope you have a wonderful New Year in Central Pa and can get to a few games at our old stomping grounds in Hershey!

            I agree drafting has been better, but there’s nothing really in Gorton’s background that tells us if he’s a great drafter or not. He’s made some very astute trades and managed the cap well. Beyond that, jury is still out.

            And maybe you are on to something…..maybe the Rangers need their “Brexit” moment to shake things up. :). (but as we will soon see both in Britain and the U.S., change may or may not be a positive. The only thing we know is that it will be different. Different isn’t necessarily better).

            It will be a very interesting next few months for the Rangers, that’s for sure.

            Have a good one!

    • Sad to say, I think the basic point here is right: “Opposing teams have figured out how to beat [or at least neutralize] the Rangers.” The only question is whether, possibly, with the three injured forwards back, the team can overcome that neutral zone clog. I hope so, but I don’t know.

      • You mean to tell me that our future hall of fame coach, as some would have us to believe, can’t come up with a counter to the neutral zone clog????

        How about dump and chase, we have all the speed in the world playing for us?????? I’m no coach, nor is the guy behind the bench, and I’ not being paid the millions he is, but he never deviates from his set game, come heck, or high water…….

      • Yes and no.

        I think they’ll make a difference, but games are going to be a lot of 5-4 etc. High scoring who scores the last goal.

        Sadly, I see another 4-1 series exist for Hank’s future. The Hank haters will dump it all on him, again.

        • John

          That is one of the reason at the beginning of this season, when everyone was sooooooooooooo high, I said that I wouldn’t post for the first 20 games or so. Some ridiculed me, where’s Walt, winning too much, and some other bull remarks like the sound of crickets. This team seems to get out of the gate like a jack rabbit, and then hits a wall, and sneaks into the PO’s over the years. The d was suspect from last year, and is still suspect, and the wart will manifest itself again in the PO’s unless we make some serious moves. I love this team, but I love winning more, and as stated above by John, winning is everything. Who the hell wants to be a brides maid forever?????????

          • Walt-

            Under AV, they’ve made the playoffs with relative ease each season. It was only in most of Torts seasons as coach where they would sneak in at the end.

            Under AV in the first two seasons, the team played its best hockey in the second half. Last year was different. This year? TBD

  • I’ll say it again, even with 100% health this team is going no where as currently constructed. And what’s even scarier is that because of the strength of the division is whether the Rangers make the playoffs at all.

    Throw the first quarter of the season out, it doesn’t matter any more. They’re not scoring 4-5 goals per game the last quarter of the season nor in the playoffs. Defense wins towards the end of the year and we don’t have one that is worthy of contending,

    Girardi = Done, he should retire
    KK = Only sporadic decent play
    Staal = Ok, most times
    McD = By far our best but even he shows cracks based on his partner at the time
    Skjei = Good potential but subject to young player’s mistakes
    Holden = Our 2nd best D, playing well for now
    Clendening = In the coach’s dog house for whatever reason

    This is going to make them a contender? Ah, no.

    The only way they get around this without a big upgrade on the back end is to own the puck throughout the games like the Pens did in the SCF. NOT HAPPENING. They can’t even possess the puck against the Yutes, never mind the top teams in the league.

    This is the real first year that Gorton is in full control, he has upgraded the forwards, next year will be the D as his hands are basically tied this year.

    • Well, it depends on what you mean by “going nowhere”. If you mean they aren’t anyone’s favorite to win the SC this season, I’d agree. Most experts had the Rangers as a borderline playoff team. So far, they’ve proven to be better than that. So in that regard, they’ve overachieved. But on paper, this team is not better than Pit, Was, TB or Chi.

      Now, I do think you are overstating the narrative somehwat. It’s more than fair to see what this team looks like once they are healthy. I don’t think you can totally dismiss what happened earlier in the season. Teams are organic. Their are ebbs and flows. Players improve or decline. Get healthy or get injured. What each team is today is not what they will necessarily be come the Spring.

      And then there’s this little matter of all the cap space the Rangers will have, and the forward depth they can choose to trade to upgrade their defense.

      So you make a big move to upgrade the defense. On top of that, Hank rounds into his usual HOF caliber form. When healthy, you know you have an offensive attack that has depth, speed and talent. And while I never root for injuries, who knows what the status will be of our opponents at that time.

      Do I think they are the best team in the field and will win the Cup when healthy? No. Do I think if everything breaks right for them they can make a deep run. Yes. Will it happen? TBD.

      • The cap space available at the trade deadline may help, only if there’s a deal out there to be had. I hear that teams are asking for the moon for top D men, or at least the D men that the Rangers needs to make a deep run in the playoffs.

        I had asked above I think it is, would you trade Stepan or Miller to get that impact D man? Because what else would another team want to trade a Trouba or Shatty (if he’s even available) or any other top level D man? They’re not taking picks for these types of players. They may take top prospects that we either don’t have or are already playing for the Rangers and who are not available anyway.

        From what I hear, King, McD, Kreider, Hayes, Buch, Zib, and Vesey are basically off limits. So that leaves Stepan and Miller are the likely trade assets to go for a top D man.

        Having a healthy Zib, Buch, and Nash will certainly help but unless they become a total possession team (and they’re not IMO) then when the games really matter, from Feb through June, this D will not come close to making a deep run.

        And games played in Oct-Dec have zero relevance in Feb-Jun, you know that.

        • You may well be right. The price may be too high. You can only dance at the deadline if you have a partner to dance with. But it depends on what teams fall out of it and whether or not they have a piece or pieces we would want. Maybe it’s not a big deal. Maybe several lesser deals. Who knows?

          As for who is off limits, I don’t count anyone who has a NMC, so Hank is not even a discussion piece. The Rangers won’t trade him and he’d never agree to be moved. I’m not sure what your sources are on the other guys, but if it were me–


          Kreider–I would want the moon, the stars and the sun. My only question with Kreider is the same as always…what is he and what is his upside? And is he now a finished product and therefore won’t get any better?

          Hayes–I’d trade him in a heartbeat for a defensive upgrade of significance. I don’t trust players like Miller and Hayes who have had questionable work ethic concerns in the past.

          Buch–no, simply because with his back he would have limited value on a return. Plus, we dumped Duclair so can’t trade them both unless the return was significant and not a short term play.

          Zib–I would doubt he’d be traded. But, he does need to be re-signed next summer so there’s that.


          I agree about games played in the Fall vs the Spring. But that applies to the here and now too. Saying the Rangers are done based on their play in December is as suspect as saying they are winning the Cup based on their play in October. At this time three years ago, could ANYONE have imagined the Rangers in the SCF?

          • Hayes is very talented but I can understand why you might trade him. But he is more talented than Stepan IMO. Hayes has more gifted talent I should say. He’s also a lot cheaper at least through next year.

            I think they want to substitute a forward cap hit for a D man cap hit so Stepan is the likely candidate if that’s their intent.

  • The knock on Pirri for changing teams four times is specious. Look at Lee Stempniak. Dude moved more times than an Army mutt, and he’s put up 18 points already and is a solid producer any team would be happy to have. Never should have let him go. Klingberg is gone fro the NHL.

    Pierre is a talent who just can’t finish. It’s a mystery how guys like this develop. He has all the tools, but when the lights are on and things are at full speed, he just doesn’t have that extra whatever. Unless he starts putting up points soon, he’s your scratch and trade throw in.

    If we trade anyone for a top pair defenseman, I say Kevin Hayes goes. The guy has a ton of skill, but he is just too gawky and things take too long to get from his brain to his hands. I love him, and would hate to see him go, but Miller is capable of a beast mode that gives him a high ceiling, and could be a top 6 Ranger for 10 years. I don’t know how Hayes ever overcomes his genetic compulsion to hold on to the puck too long, or look for the perfect pass every time.

    I hate to say it, but this team needs a physical intimidator to pound on teams like the Penguins and Caps to beat them in a 7 game series. With their chippy play and referee lassitude, someone has to let them know the hammer is coming down. Kreider has the strength to do this, but you don’t want him in the box. Miller probably does too. A Hedman/Shatty/Buff type would be a dream, but I’d settle for someone like Chris Tanev to be the shutdown guy we desperately need, and do a lesser trade for a physical presence. NOT Tanner Glass. He scared no one, couldn’t even hit anyone, and has zero talent. He did play his best hockey in the payoffs, but that’s a low bar.

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