Forwards

Toughness isn’t an issue – it’s a discussion

ryan garbutt

The New York Rangers have hit a prominent lull in the 2016-2017 season. It is pretty easy to expect fans to be getting antsy when your team has given up more touchdowns than the Cleveland Browns in one week, followed up by spotting Ottawa a two-spot early on. Members of the analytics community expected the team to slow down, and losing an entire first line tends to make the regression even more excruciating. Other bloggers in the Rangers community have mentioned that perhaps, a key thing the Rangers need to help turn this lull around is toughness.

One of the biggest proponents for adding toughness in the Rangers blogger universe is @NYR_Fulltilt and he laid out his points well in this post. I tend to disagree with a lot of what he says, but I have noticed that much of the backlash he is getting is disjointed yelling, making following and cheering for the team difficult at times. I am just going to flat out say my view, toughness is not an issue, nor is having four similar lines of skill, but I do think there is more to the discussion than what meets the eyes.

My first issue with saying that the Rangers are soft is if you equate toughness with components in hockey such as fighting and hitting. The Rangers are currently 14th in the league in hits with four similar “soft” lines. I can’t imagine how soft the 26th ranked Vancouver Canucks are who employ “gritty” players like Dorsett, Burrows, Chaput, Sutter, Sbisa, Pedan and Gudbranson.  If you look at the list of NHL teams ranked by hits, you won’t really be able to find any correlation between hits thrown and the actual standings. Chicago and even a Tortorella led Columbus is in the bottom five, while the common Penguins and Kings are in the top ten.

The Rangers are also third in the league in blocked shots and second in takeaways. So, I’m trying to figure out how the Rangers are soft. Of course, one can argue about meaningful hits such as those that get puck possession, and in the grand scheme of things I do believe I can agree with Fulltilt in that regard. It wouldn’t hurt to add a player who can add a new dimension to the forecheck, but it is certainly not even close to my priority.

There is also a lot of discussion comparing the Rangers’ toughness to that of previous Stanley Cup Champions. If one is to mention the LA Kings or the Blackhawks having names such as King, Bickell, Shaw, Carcillo and Clifford, one cannot just forget that the Penguins had nobody that can fit that group. But again, these are all players that can play the game and add more than just size and fighting to the lineup. Comparing the fourth lines here might be moot, since the Rangers have a fourth line that produces as much as these other Cup contenders.

So let’s get into the nitty gritty (pun absolutely intended). The Rangers are missing an entire top line, which is testing the forward depth. It may play into why the fourth line looks “weak” and “soft.” Tanner Glass is not the answer. There is no need to “try” him, he’s a known entity. He was tried for 120+ games, and I don’t think he was a deterrent or helpful anywhere else on the ice. If you are in the boat of looking for grit, look elsewhere.

Ryan Garbutt is probably the easiest and most realistic target to acquire. The gritty forward is a mean forechecker, great on the cycle, and suppresses shots really well. This is a player that is not just tough and gritty. He has value outside the “intangibles” and he can likely be had for cheap, as the Ducks waived him earlier in the season. If people are willing to take a chance on a player who hasn’t succeeded here in 120 games, why not take a chance on someone who is not only gritty but also has the stats going in his favor to show he is a pretty good defensive player as well.

Michael Latta (25 years old) is another intriguing player. The former Washington Capital has never been a full time NHL player, and over the summer signed with the Los Angeles Kings. Unfortunately for Latta he is currently in the AHL, but during his short time with the Caps, Latta showed flashes of defensive brilliance.

Latta has been pretty helpful in the AHL as well, He has a GF% of 64.3 and a RelGF% of 9.4 (courtesy of http://prospect-stats.com). The gritty forward  is known for working hard every shift and suppressing shots. However he doesn’t contribute much offensively. This is a player who the Kings signed this summer and I assume has no real tie to the organization. The Rangers can potentially make a move for Latta using one of their own players on the fence. If he works out then great the Rangers got themselves a cheap and resourceful 25 year old, if not then the Rangers can likely easily send him down to Hartford.

I don’t think physicality is the Rangers’ issue, but I am all for a discussion in which we can talk about different things the Rangers can do to potentially help the team. If the Rangers fix their defense and feel that they should add a player who can bring in a new dimension on the forecheck or emotion, then I only hope the player is not your usual tough guy. I hope that the player can provide something more to the team on top of that. Guys like Latta and Garbutt are the new age of NHL toughness, with skill and defensive prowess to go along with throwing the body.

"Toughness isn't an issue - it's a discussion", 5 out of 5 based on 12 ratings.
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122 Comments

  1. Really, like anything else, toughness is a mindset and requires EFFORT. Anyone have a problem with the way the Rangers reacted to the Sens the other night? NOPE. All it takes is a willingness and the effort to implement the willingness.

    No one fights anymore, that’s all done except for the very exceptional scrap that happens. Players don’t go at each other like they used to, they more “bump” than “hit” as it relates to “normal” play.

    But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get into opponents’ faces when needed, or hit opposing players to dislodge the puck from them. Again, it requires effort.

    But if they can acquire a feisty player THAT CAN ACTUALLY PLAY THE CURRENT GAME OF HOCKEY then it’s a no brainer.

      1. Similar to forechecking or having good gap control, playing with an edge requires a willingness to do so.

    1. Exactly!!! Toughness or grit, call it what you will has never been about enforcers or fighting, it IS about a mental process, requiring determination, compete level & what Messier called “will.” Nobody would call Sidney Crosby a tough guy, but when he accosted McDonagh, that’s exactly what he was demonstrating, the will to defend a teammate, competetiveness, & grit. Getting the guys above is not the way to make the team “tough” because one or two guys don’t solve the problem. Pittsburgh is a very tough team & so are the Hawks because they play hard, with intensity & are in your face all the time. They show resilience when things go wrong & continually shift the momentum in their favor from line to line. They attack, physically and/or with skill even when defending. When DMAC challenged Simmonds, this was not about deterrence(this term is used mindlessly), it was about the TEAM, saying to the opponent, do as you will but we won’t back down. Does having a police force deter crime? No it doesn’t, it’s a response to crime. I know I’m a broken record, but to me the troops need leadership not only in their ranks but at the top. For me, AV is derelict in his duty to fire the team up, doing nothing when Hank was crushed. Skjei says he regretted not responding, and he should regret it, it was disgraceful & let the league know just how “soft” the Rangers are.

      1. 100% bro, I agree with all that you said.

        When did Messier fight? Never, but he threw a mean elbow. And your example about Crosby is a good one as well. It’s a mindset and willingness to do so.

        1. When he was young, Mark did indeed drop the gloves while playing for the Oilers, but after he established a rep, no one dared test him. But a good point just the same……………

        2. Did Mark messier fight? He sure as heck did. Especially earlier in his career. as a ranger Mess was still good for a few fights a year. But that’s not all he did, and that other stuff is what’s largely missing on a nightly basis from this team.

          1. I guess what I meant was that Messier used phisicality during the game as opposed to goonery.

      2. Paulronty, you ste not a broken record, your opinion is music to my and many other bloggers ears. Great points and insight.

      3. Paisan, I couldn’t have said it any better. Happy New Year, and many great posts like the one above!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Antoine Roussel or Ryan Reaves would be good fits . But now what 3 players come out of the line up when Nash – Zbad -and Buchnevich get back ..I would think it would be Puempel Hrivik -Pirri – or Lindberg . But with the Hat the other night Puempel might be safe for a few games .Pirri needs to pick up his game some , and Hrivik needs to clear waivers which means we lose some depth going forward .
    CK20-Zbad -Buch
    Nash Step Vesey
    Miller -Hayes Zucc
    Grabs Fast and anyone who is not sitting out of the four mentioned above . you can swap Vesey and Zucc . Fourth line i would like would be with Pirri in the middle and on the PP if he starts to put his game back together .

    1. Ryan Reaves is a terrible, terrible “hockey player.” He’s almost in Tanner territory, though not quite as useless (no one is).

      Roussel, on the other hand, is a legit player who can contribute offensively. His $2mil cap hit with another year left on his contract is not so appealing, though, unless NYR expect him to be claimed by Vegas.

  3. This is an excellent article Josh. Well done and largely agree. The whole “we’re too soft” narrative is completely overblown. If you can find the right guy who can bring some sandpaper and can also play, then sure. But in the modern NHL, I would not sacrifice skill for “toughness”, whatever that actually is in today’s game.

    1. You completely miss the point all the time. Toughness & skill are not mutually exclusive. Zucchie is a perfect example of that and he’s a Hobbit.

      1. I differ with the fact you differ with me. :).

        I essentially agree with what you are saying. I just don’t agree that the Rangers can’t or won’t engage in that when the circumstances call for it. The last few games they’ve played chippier. Skjei said he was embarrassed. AV said in an interview that he would have preferred a response. I think everyone was just stunned at that moment the Hank was run like that. And really, did you want Nash (groin) or Skjei (face mask protecting massive facial lacerations) getting involved at that moment? If Kreider had been out there, I suspect he would have responded pretty quickly.

        And, I don’t think that whether a response happens or not actually makes a tangible difference as to the result of a game or a series. It can fire up a team and the crowd, sure. Not saying it isn’t nice to have. But it’s a fine line there that if overdone, gets you put in the box and can cost you points.

        The Hawks and Pens won because they are more highly skilled than any other team. Not because they are “tougher”.

        1. Nope Eddie, I didn’t want Nash to respond. BUT, there was plenty of game left for someone, and I’ll call out our Captain here, for someone, Krieder, Miller or Klien to make sure Tyler Seguin had a MISERABLE night.

          As to your comment about sitting in the box and costing you points. What if Hank was sidelined for an extensive period of time? Would it matter then.

          Team unity is built sticking up for one another. I speak from experience, as a sports player, a special ops US Marine and an undercover narcotics detective.

          Team disinterest and even worse dissension manifests itself when members do not stick up for one another.

          The way this team doesn’t answer the bell is a reflection on a passive coach who’s mantra is:
          The Ranger Team
          For the Lady Byng

          I am not advocating a player who’s only attribute is dropping the gloves. I do see a place for Simmons like player. Maybe if we didn’t continually WASTE our draft picks we might actually get a player like that.

          The Rangers have been blasted by insiders and outsiders alike for their passiveness.

          1. All that sounds great. And make no mistake, I would have preferred a response. No doubt. But I don’t think the world comes to and end or our season moving forward is affected either way whether we do or don’t. I think the fans love it. Sure, the players love it too. But once it’s done, it’s done.

            Our opposition isn’t going to say…”oh no, the Rangers responded…we’d better make sure we don’t ever run their goalie again”.

            And in your mythical example, Hank is out for an extended period regardless.

            I get the emotion. I get what you are saying. But the optics of what did or didn’t happen don’t match the reality of what will or will not happen going forward.

          2. That’s why they call a guy like Simmonds a POWER forward!!! Kreider could be a guy like that too, He said he was going to be physical, so what is holding him back? Being benched for taking a penalty or two?

          3. What is holding him back is it seems he is always on the bench when things like Hank getting run occur.

    2. Bro, it’s team wide and not just one or two players. If they stick up for each other and play physically as a team then they have accomplished their grit goal.

  4. I thought Hrvik was supposed to add some grit. I don’t see that at all. The fourth line either adds scoring or some fore check but that has not happened yet. why?

    1. Because at this point Hrivik is an AHLer.

      They have 3 players injured right now. So that means 3 are dressing every night that otherwise would not be playing.

    2. I think it may be because Hrivik is a borderline NHL player at best, at least at the moment. He’s here because of the injuries, and that’s pretty much it. Once our forwards are healthy and everyone is back playing where they belong, you’ll see a more productive 4th line.

    3. He’s been ok but not what I thought he would be that’s for sure. But then again he probably needs talented linemates as he cannot create offensive opportunities by himself at the NHL level.

  5. We’re third in the league….I got nothing.

    Tampa Bay, who won the summer along with Florida, are 11 points back of NYR and the Panthers are 13. So, NYR are missing top guys much like TBL and FLA, but NYR keep rolling along.

    All 3 teams have similar stats, not a great deal to separate the clubs. A slightly better shot differential for TBL and FLA than NYR.

    So, what is it then?

    1. Great point about TB, Al.

      You have a coach in John (Genius) Cooper who some people out here thinks walks on water. Over the last three full seasons, both AV and Genius have virtually identical regular season records, and both have won exactly the same amount of playoff series. While both now have rosters that are compromised due to injury, almost any NHL talent evaulator would take the talent on TB roster all day every day over the Rangers. Yet somehow, despite having a far superior roster, Cooper is a Genius and AV belongs in the Hall of Shame, even though you can easily make the case that AV has done more with less compared to Genius.

      So my question for those who believe AV should be fired–shouldn’t Cooper also be canned? While we are at it, for the Torts lovers, when Torts was here, after a first round flame out in ’09, a playoff miss in ’10 and another first round flame out in ’11, did you similarly advocate for Torts to be shown the door at that time? Inquiring minds want to know! 🙂

      1. Exactly what I was getting at, Eddie. Hedman remains great for TBL, BUT they have to pay 3 RFA’s NEXT year with hardly any cap space. Good luck there. Plus, our former captain is still on the books for what seems forever. Hedman’ new deal also kicks in to 7.8 next.

        Yandle is having a good not great year playing too many minutes for FLA. And if it wasn’t for the loser points FLA has garnered, they would be even farther away from the playoffs. They have scored 12 less goals than they have given up. And the coaching change has been a disaster.

        1. Exactly, which again is why you don’t jump into coaching changes that fast. It was suggested last year at this time that AV should be canned. This was just a few months after two terrific seasons. Florida is a look at the alternate universe we might have found ourselves in if we had acted in the foolish manner that was suggested. The coaching fraternity was appalled by the reckless move made by the Panthers. I suspect that going forward, it will be harder for them to hire a top flight coach and harder for them to attract quality FAs.

          The same thing, btw, is happening in Buffalo with the Bills. Rex was a bad hire but multiple coaching changes in a short span of time makes their organization look like fools.

          The Rangers pride themselves on being the classist organization in the league. Ownership is patient with the GM. The GM is patient with the coach. It’s the kind of organization that the best mangers/coaches and best players want to come to. You think a Vesey or Hayes chooses to sign here if the organization is run by panic button pushers like you have in Florida? Highly doubtful.

          Let’s put it this way. If you do decide to push the panic button and fire a highly respected coach so quickly after success, well then, you had BETTER be right about the hire you make. Because if you’re not, you are pretty much done as an NHL GM.

          Now, for AV or any coach, there is always a shelf life. This is year four. He only has one more year left on his deal. It’s more than reasonable after this season for Gorton and Sather to evaluate whether AV is the right guy moving forward, just as AV should also evaluate if the Rangers are the best fit for him in terms of achieving his goal of winning the Cup.

          The bottom line is, managers and coaches know if they come here, they will be given every opportunity to succeed, which is a good thing. The polar opposite of what was done to a good coach in Fla.

          1. Great points man. I totally agree and have said the same thing many times. The other thing I alawyas say is if you fire the coach who are you replacing him with that you think is gonna be so much better? We’ve been real close to a cup and had all successful seasons under AV. Nobody had us picked to go anywhere near the cup final when AV got here. We won the pres trophy and I still think if we had Zucc and our ad wasn’t that banged up we would have won it that year. I know fans will say close is not a cup but that’s when I come back to who is the guy you think can win it then? There’s also a time you have to hold the players accountable too. I’m not saying AV is perfect but I will say no coach is.

      2. To answer your question Eddie, I don’t know enough about Tampa, nor do I care if Cooper is canned or stays until he collects social security. I only care about this team.
        As to Torts, yes I thought he should be fired because the team seemed to have tuned him out.
        AV is a good coach, I just do not think he’s right for this team.
        Torts seems to be doing just fine with a team consisted of a LOT less talent (on paper) then the Rangers.

      3. I love Torts, but I understand that he comes with warts. He wears his teams out with his intensity and his tendency to demean players when they get in his doghouse. He brings an intense work ethic but with it an abrasive personality. Right now, his players in Columbus love him. Why not? He has them rolling. I like the guy and wish him success because he is a passionate hockey man who I hope has learned from his past mistakes.

    2. So Al, you think this team contends as is? I’m asking seriously because you seem very knowledgeable (no sarcasm intended).

      1. I watch a lot of games. I read a lot of stat folks and I listen to a bunch of pods. Right now, there is hardly a consensus on anyone competing deep into the playoffs.

        The compressed schedule seems to have skewed our feelings about NYR and others. Columbus has 5 games in hand on Chicago, 4 on NYR and they still have the most points! But, would you say they are going deep? If the season ended after tonight, NYR would be underdog to PIT in first round matchup. But, if they lost to PIT in conference final, would we be as upset?

        I think we should all wait until the ALL STAR break before starting to move the chess pieces around. NYR have 24 points available to them between tonight and the end of January. 18 would be a very good take against some tough competition. Tonight, notwithstanding.

        2 against CBJ, 2 PHI, LAK, MTL, 2 TOR, etc. 14-16 points is more likely.

        I don’t think much will happen on ANY trade related talk around the league until the end of January. BTW, STL has given up 15 more goals in one less game than NYR and we want one of their defensemen? (That’s a bit tongue in cheek, but you get the idea)

        Let’s see how the NYR do when everyone comes back, and they play a “lighter” schedule. Still too many back to backs, but NYR have actually done well in b2b’s.

        As it stands right now, some better deserving teams are going to go out in the first round against quality opposition. The playoff format stinks,

        1. 100% agree Al. And especially agree with the playoff format. The team in the best position in the Metro might be the 4th place team (assuming the Metro champ wins the East), since they would play the weaker Atlantic teams. Two very good teams will be ousted first round out of the Metro. And the teams that will lose will undoubtedly have fan bases who will want blood. Fire the coach!!!! 🙂

        2. Very fair assessment, thank you. I wait until the trade deadline to really evaluate their chances in the playoffs because you know that they always make moves and I would be shocked if this is the team they go to battle with in the playoffs.

          That being said, their D is BAAAAAAAADDDDDDDD. And you seeing the games probably know this. I mean G is done as a player. Remember Vinny Prospal? Great offensive skills right until the end but could not skate up and down the ice to keep up, so he HAD to pack it in. Shame because we all loved him.

          This is happening to G now. That Reider goal he got burned not once but twice on the same play. He was on the ice for all 3 Yutes goals in only 13 minutes and has been on the ice for 12 of the last 20 against. It’s not fixable, IMO.

          This has been a steady decline for 3 years, not just from last year nor from injuries.

  6. I dont think they need 4th line toughness. They need someone like Messeir, not Domi. A top line player that can play with sandpaper side, send a message we wont be pushed around and when you try I/we will answer, and at times start it.

    When healthy, theres already a tough decision on who will be the third sat, I would not like to see both of those players (Lindberg/Pirri) for 13 minutes of hits against other teams 4th liners.

    Right now thats Zucc, love the but he doesnt have the size. They need Kreider to play with the nasty side that Zuc plays with. They need him to be a bully after the whistle when it calls for it.

    They need the “F YOU” attitude of your not gonna push me around. Teams watch tape, they know who they can and cant push around. Whos buttons can be pushed, who gets knocked off their game when that happens.

    1. I remember attending a Rangers-Sens game in Ottawa, many moons ago, with a crew of Ranger Blog fans. The Sens came out & were totally dominating the Rangers, when Messier took over by pile driving a Sen(one of their top guys, can’t remember who,maybe Yashin?) behind the Sens net & sent him sprawling. Mess got a penalty, the Sens did not respond in any meaningful way, & the crowd was booing intensely. Right there the game changed, the Rangers took over, played with fire & won. The fans booed Messier all night. I remember talking with my Ranger buds about how the game changed dramatically after Mess changed the momentum entirely. That is what toughness & will is about, his ability to take the team on his back & through deed, get them going. The Rangers lack this kind of leadership.

      1. Outstanding point Paul. I largely agree with this. I think we’d all give just about anything to have a rare talent like Messier in the lineup to do just that. But we don’t, and the roster is the roster right? Players like that are hard to find.

        If we can find someone who’s even half of what Messier was, I’d want that player for sure.

        1. Eddie,

          Of course wed all love another Messier. He was the perfect example of the point I was originally making. I want someone who can put the puck in the net but will also knock your teeth in need be.

          1. Why? There is nothing in his resume that even remotely suggests that he would be a succesful head coach. It would be like wishing that Derek Jeter were managing the Yankees, or Harry Carson coaching the Giants.

            Traditionally, your best coaches or managers are marginal to decent players.

            Not saying Mess couldn’t do it. If anyone could, he could. But that’s a long shot gamble. Other than when Torts was fired, has Messier ever been mentioned for ANY opening?

            I doubt seriously the Rangers would take that gamble once the inevitable day comes to make a change with AV. Besides, how do you even THINK about firing him when that inevitable moment comes? A GMs nightmare. I would want no part of that side show.

            Now, if he wanted to be Asst GM again, and be groomed for that, that’s different. But not likely now with Gorton at the helm. Rumor is Gorton’s the one who pushed Sather away from Mess to hire AV.

          2. Agreed he has zero coaching resume. And let’s not bring in baseball and football analogies. Let’s stick to the one issue. Messier and the Rangers.

            Mess’ personality as a captain would do well to inspire the current Ranger roster.

            You nor I have any way of knowing whether he’d be a great coach, a good coach or a bad coach. Neither of us do.

            But he certainly knows the game, he certainly know how to motivate and he has won far more than AV has.

          3. I’m not so sure Al. As far as leadership goes I think Mess wins by a landslide. The only facet Trottier comes in far ahead of Messier is, letter writing.

          4. Messier was coaching the team when Campbell was coach. Not every great player makes a great coach, but Messier would. He knows the game inside out, is an alpha dog & a leader of men.

          5. He was coaching the team in spurts when Keenan was coaching, especially when Keenan mentally checked out during portions of the ECF and SCF. So you may be on to something there after all. 🙂

            Seriously, I agree on much of what you are saying, but being an inspirational leader and alpha dog won’t matter if he isn’t strong on Xs and Os. We have no idea if he would be. He would need a very, very strong associate head coach to have any chance.

            Gordie Howe was all those things too. But I don’t recall him ever being thought of as coaching material.

            As I said, if he was truly interested, Mess would pay his dues as an NHL assistant. It’s a very, very tough transition.

          6. Oh me too brother. I get on my knees & pray for this to happen every night, even though I have my doubts he’s Gorton’s kind of guy.

          7. In this day and age, the game probably has passed Messier by. Heck, it’s passed some of the current coaches by too!!

            I wasn’t comparing Mess to Trots as player, but as a would be coach. No way Mess could walk into a coaching situation with the attitude he had as a player. Doesn’t work anymore just as his off wing wrister would be an easy save in today’s game.

          8. I can’t see any NYR GM making this move. As I said, how do you hold the coach accountable? How do you fire him if that’s what’s needed down the road? Seems like it would be a very, very uncomfortable relationship to have and an enormous gamble on someone who never coached a lick on any level.

            But as I said, Messier never ceases to amaze me, so who knows for sure?

          9. You would give anything. But Mess will not. Be has a much higher job in an organization that his original roots are in. He is not even batting an eye at coaching. He wants the top. I think he will be a GM sooner than later. Surprised Vegas isn’t taking a shot on him personally.

      2. Sure you could get away with more in that era, but its the same mentality. Its like when Leetch talked about the spear Messier gave him the first time they played against each other.

        Some perfect examples of what the player I mean are Wayne Simmonds, a younger Scott Hartnell, or even a Dubinski. For the record, I was never a big Dubi guy and would do the trade 10 times out of 10. That being said they need some of that jam, that he brought.

      3. They haven’t had that Messier kinda guy in a long long long while …. Yeah Zuc has some of it but when its playoff time his size (or lack of ) is the difference maker ….

  7. Good post Josh, but in this fans eyes, TOUGHNESS IS AN ISSUE, The Hank incident is the talk of the league and the stigma of SOFTNESS will follow the Rangers all year. I am on board with Ranger 17, lets go to St Louis and talk trade. Lets offer Derick Stephan & Jasper Fast for Ryan Reeves ( who reminds me of a bigger/meaner version of Kris King) & Kevin Shattenkirk (the answer to our D corp issues). This NY Ranger team as its currently constructed will make the playoffs, but to expect it to survive the GRIND of the entire run to the CUP, is not very realistic. Much like the 94 team ( who had the best record in hockey at the time of the big deadline trades) if you want to win it all, you need get TOUGHNESS & GRIT..

    1. Good idea Bobby. See if you talk STL into that one. And what happens if Shatty walks at the end of the year? And you have another player to expose to the expansion thing.

    2. Bobby, again I feel you are overstating it. It was the talk for like a day or two. That incident is meaningless today. Totally in the rear view mirror.

      I’m all for toughness and grit if its accompanied by talent. The guys the Rangers acquired in 1994 were talented and tough. Not just tough. You can’t downgrade your talent just to carry a guy that does little else but settle scores and send messages that nobody in the modern age would even pay attention to.

    3. Stepan and Fast for Reeves and Shattenkirk?

      If Jim Gorton called up Doug Armstrong with that proposal and Armstrong turned it down, I’d venture the Blues ownership would relieve him of his duties effective immediately.

      An effective MINIMUM #2 center, a highly effective 4th liner, spot 3rd duty for a 5 min a night goon and a UFA?

      I think Stepan will be dealt, because of the cap. I like Stepan. However this proposal is the kind that gets GMs fired on the spot.

      1. I’m assuming you mean Jeff Gorton. Jim (“it’s a 3 on 1 breakout”!) Gordon, the former Rangers PBP announcer, is no longer with us. Although Jim Gordon from the Gotham City Police Department might make a kick ass GM! 🙂

  8. I wouldn’t mess with the current Rangers forward corps. That depth is astounding when healthy, and I see no reason to alter that.

    If we’re looking to add toughness, I’d look to add that component on the blueline since we’re already in need of an upgrade there. A true shutdown defensman who plays a gritty style, hits, clears the crease, and can bang on the boards and battle against the forecheck. I’d be more interested in a Girardi type defenseman (from his prime) than a Shattenkirk.

    1. Couldn’t agree more Chris.
      But I’d like to see Shattenkirk AND a stay at home, mean and nasty, crease clearing, hard checking D-man who also will not allow Hank to get run, Pump to get concussed, etc etc etc, without a response. We have plenty of room on D for upgrades.

      1. You mean like a Mark Tinordi who we gave up on before he started?? I agree, sandpaper on the blue line is where it is needed more that at the forward position. As for Shatty, I’ve watched him closely, and to be honest, I’m not convinced he is the answer. I certainly wouldn’t give up anything for him, if he wants to play here as stated, well why would I ???????

        1. I agree Walt. I like my D-men with snarl along the boards & the strength to come out of a scrum with the puck. In the D-zone it’s a power forechecking game & many games are won by creating turnovers in the D-zone, which the Rangers are susceptible to.

  9. Toughness is winning puck battles and finishing your checks. Its about going into the corners and coming up with the puck. Its about blocking shots and playing through injuries. The Rangers have some players on their roster who play a determined gritty game. But they have too many perimeter players.

    Waving your stick at the opposition player as he skates by you with the puck is pathetic hockey, as is letting your teammates battling it out along the boards. Unfortunately AV doesn’t see a problem, as he rewards his soft players with more ice time.

    A highly skilled tough team will beat a highly skilled soft team every time. This is why Alaina will never sip from the Coup La Stanley.

    1. Exactly Bloomer. All too often we have the strawman argument here that toughness and grit mean fighting, and nothing can be further from the truth.
      AV puts far too much emphasis on the President’s Trophy even when his team wasn’t especially great at home. And his effort to win that trophy comes at the expense of overplaying some players who might benefit from a rest down the stretch.

      1. Huh???

        Again, I’m completely dumbfounded by some of these comments from you AV hating trolls.

        “AV puts far too much emphasis on the President’s Trophy even when his team wasn’t especially great at home.”

        Have you even looked at AV’s playoff record before you spew this kind of stuff?

        1. AV’s payoff record is: 127 games coached 62 wins 65 losses.

          His regular season record is far better.

          Not weighing in one way or the other. Just stating facts

          1. Classy organizations don’t hire and then dump quality HC as quickly as you were suggesting a year ago–not if said organization wants to be taken seriously says Mr. Eddie…

            I hope Trevor Linden has to spend the next decade watching first Sully then Tort lifting the Coup La Stanley over their heads. Maybe he can hired AV back once he is ran out of NY.

          2. That’s a little bit different. Linden didn’t hire Torts. He inherited him. And let’s face it, Torts was the master of his own demise there because he IMPLODED himself and the team. That’s on him.

            It takes an extraordinary situation for an organization to move on from someone that fast. New President, GM fired, coach creates what apparently was toxic environment. That’s not remotely comparable to what has happened in NY with AV.

          3. Winning pct in the playoffs is deceiving. It depends on who you play. For example, a coached judged solely on post season winning pct. could regularly sweep in the first round and lose in 7 in the second round (which would be a .636 winning pct by the way) and be viewed as superior to a coach who lets say wins the SC by winning each series in 7 games (a .571 winning pct). Clearly, the winning pct is somewhat irrelevant when judging post season.

            What is relevant is series won. AV has won five in three seasons as Rangers coach, which is as many as HOF Emile Francis won in a decade as Rangers coach. Only Lester Patrick has won more.

            Career wise, he’s been in 22 playoff series and won 12 of them. (.545 series winning pct). That’s way better than contemporaries Boudreau and Trotz, who both lost far more series than they’ve won. Even Torts has a worse winning pct (.533) which shows that other than that one amazing season in Tampa, he’s been a pretty poor post season coach. Even the coach in Toronto, brilliant as he has been, has only been marginally more succesful than AV in terms of winning series (.565). The coach in St. Louis has only been .500. (I never post their names or I get flagged). Even Coach Q, in his pre-Chicago years, was a poor .438, which shows that guys who supposedly can’t win it all can see their narrative flip with the right team and the right circumstance.

            So it’s true, AV hasn’t won it all. But he’s been a very succesful post season coach nonetheless.

          4. Eddie…I hope CBJ and the Rangers meet this year in the playoffs, so we can settle the AV/Torts discussion once for all!

          5. Why would that settle anything? Different teams, different years. A Torts win wouldn’t anymore validate his Rangers career than a AV win would further diminish it. It’s already baked in. Torts is a good coach that was mostly mediocre while in NY, and AV is also a good coach that has far outdone what Torts accomplished as a Rangers coach.

            As we say when covering the Supreme Court, that’s already decided law.

          6. You cant just evaluate coaches in terms of wins and losses. Glen sather has a great playoff record but take away messier, gretzky, fuhr, tikannen, anderson etc etc and it wouldn’t be the same.

            That being said, AV has always gone into the playoffs with some of the best teams, talent wise in the league. Vancouver was favored to win the cup when it got upset by boston and one of the favorites for another year or two. Even his rangers teams that got smoked by Kings and tampa were highly regarded.

            In other words HIS teams never seem to achieve or especially ‘overachieve’, in the playoffs. And I believe the main reason is his inability to change his coaching or come up with new strategies on how to respond when other team is beating his teams.

          7. Totally disagree. First of all, it was Sather who assembled that Edmonton dynasty, right? So he deserves full marks there.

            You can make that case about any coach. What would Coach Q be without Kane and Toews. Keenan would have epically failed if Messier wasn’t there to keep him from imploding. Every coach needs elite talent to win.

            You can make the case that ONE time, he had the best team. 2011 in Vancouver. That series came down to Thomas playing out of his mind and Luongo/Schneider falling short. That’s not on the coach. Besides, how often does the President’s Trophy winner win it all?

            In NY, in 2014 he had a team that NO ONE thought had a prayer to go deep. He shocked the Pens, dispatched the Habs before losing to a much better and Cup tested Kings team–largely because they had no one that could finish on scoring chances and LA did (we can thank Torts for that one when he chased Gaborik out of town)

            In 2015, he took a good but hardly great team that lost its heart and soul player, had his entire defense decimated, and still got them to a period away from a return trip to the SCF. Remarkable coaching job under the circumstances.

            There are no Ovies, Crosbys, Malkins, Toews, Kanes, or Kopitar on this team. Just a bunch of good but hardly great players. On what planet should he have taken this Rangers team any further?

          8. Curious, do you feel Cooper has similarly underachieved, given that he’s had far more talent to work with? Should he be on the hot seat too, along with Trotz and Boudreau? By this evaluation, there wouldn’t be enough coaches to fill the open positions!

          9. This is right on the money but Eddie will never get it. Debating the failings of AV with Eddie is like talking to a religious zealot. AV is his hero & that ain’t never gonna change(said with a Southern accent).

          10. Hallelujah brother!

            But coming from the leader of the McIlrath Cult, this might be a case of the pot calling the kettle black. 🙂

            He’s not my hero. I just call it based on the facts. Which are he’s a highly succesful coach with a strong playoff resume, although not fully complete because he hasn’t won it all yet–just like many other top coaches out there.

            He’s done nothing remotely deserving of being canned. Certainly not last year as you suggested, and so far not this year where he has the team overachieving expectations at the moment. Unless the team epically unravels, he’s the coach the rest of the season.

            As I said, just to prove I’m objective, I think it’s more than reasonable to assess if he’s the right guy going forward after this season. Classy organizations don’t hire and then dump quality HC as quickly as you were suggesting a year ago–not if said organization wants to be taken seriously.

            I’d say it’s 60-40 Gorton resigns him this summer to a multi year extension. But it depends on how the season goes, what players say about him in the exit interview (part of Torts’s undoing), and who else is out there. Change for the sake change is highly improbable and definitely ill-advised.

          11. And one more thing I have to say to both of you, Rich and Paul, and I want you to listen to this very carefully……

            Happy New Year my friends! 🙂

            We may disagree (a lot) but I always enjoy your extremely well thought out perspectives.

          12. Rangers didn’t get smoked by LA. It was a 4-1 series, but 3 games went to OT.

            Were Rangers ultimately outplayed? Yes.

            But that was the closest 4-1 series I’ve ever seen, could have quite realistically went the other way.

          13. Eddie

            Totally agree with you on two points…..
            Happy new year and I love talking hockey with you and everyone else!!!!!

  10. Out of Florida, Vancouver, and Edmonton who do you all think would be the mst interested in swapping D for someone like Stepan, Miller, or Hayes?

    1. Chris, When trades are considered this year, I think the expansion draft and who will be exposed will be more of a factor then the individual players themselves. I don’t know enough about the exposure rules to make an informed comment.
      I know you have to give to get, but I’d like to keep the 3 guys you mentioned. If forced to name one of the three to go it would be Step because of the size of his contract. But his contract size would be the only reason.

      1. Also, I have a question for all of you Stepan haters out there, and there are a few of you on here.

        When you’re watching the games are you staring at only where the puck is and it’s immediate vicinity?

        Try to look away from the puck once in a while!

        Perhaps then you may start to understand how special of a player he is.

        1. I’m not anti Step, but would trade him due to his contract, and potential return. Now having said that, why are we all haters, and or trolls????? It’s our opinions, we don’t come down on you, so try to respect us. I for one will respond when attacked, and I also am an AV fan club leader, NOT, but am very vocal about it, and have pissed off a few in the process, so be it. Contribute something will you !!!!! And if I’m to be called a troll, please address me as Mr Troll………..

        2. I love Stepan, and absolutely appreciate what he brings to the table.

          But, the Rangers have depth at forward that we haven’t seen in 20 years, and you need to deal from a position of strength.

          The D needs shored up. That’s the reality.

          So, to get something significant back in return you have to give up someone significant. The people supporting a Stepan trade recognize his value, which is why he’s being touted as a good trade piece. The people who say he sucks shouldn’t expect to get anything good back in return, so I doubt they actually think he sucks.

          1. I don’t think Stepan sucks, not at all. He’s a good honest player,but as I said when he was signed, he’s not worth 6.5 mil, not even close. So I’d trade him before his NMC kicks in, that’s all.

      2. There are few awesome defensive talents in these organizations, and since these teams are going nowhere, I wonder if they’d be open to dealing in an effort to stabilize their offense depth. Obviously lots of complexities this year with the expansion draft as you mention, but I have my eye on Chris Tanev, Oscar Klefbom, and Aaron Ekblad.

        1. Ekblad will not be moved.

          We COULD get lucky with right package and land a Tanev or Klefbom but only cause their GMs are kinda dumb. Like Garth snow level dumb. Like mike milbury gm level dumb.

        2. Edmonton and Florida dont need Stepan with their centers. Also Klefbom was just extended 7 years dont think hes going anywhere. Ekblad is definitely not getting moved for anything the Rangers could offer.

          1. I agree, just stating that if anyone is going to a dumb move Edm and Van are the likely duo’s to target

        3. I know he’s an elite player, but honestly Ekblad has been a disaster in his own zone this year. The theory in Fla is that he got a lot of help there from Campbell last year.

    1. Mikeyyy

      That is a player I would love to have, unfortunately I cant see NYR/Philly making a deal for any player of that caliber.

    2. Ron hextall doing about 12 8-balls after taking 3 hits of crack, 2 syringes of heroin, the 8/5ths of whiskey and a full frontal lobotomy. After all of that he’ll consider offers

      1. After all that we better be getting Gostibhere, Simmons, Couterier for Stepan, Glass, and Girardi.

  11. Those that have made the point that toughness means more than fighting are spot on. Pittsburgh doesn’t fight much, but I consider them a tough team because they bring it every shift in your face, playing hard and with an edge to their game.

    The Rangers have some guys that can do that–Zucc, Kreider, Miller, Zibanejad, even Oscar Lindbergh and Nash can all pay hard hockey. I’d like to see them play that way game in and game out. Finishing your checks, driving to the net, being intense on the forechecking and back checking means real toughness to me. I want guys with skill who okay like that.

    1. It is easier to coach highly skilled players to play physical then it is to coach physical players into becoming highly skilled players.

        1. Very much enjoy your site Anthony. Great insights and a must read. Keep up the good work!

    1. Anthony,

      I don’t disagree with your assessment, in that absolutely a well-timed hit, a stand-your-ground fight, or jumping to the aid of a teammate are intangibles that as fans we all love to see, and that can at times affect the momentum of a game. The problem I have with articles like yours is I think you’re arguing against a position almost no one actually takes.

      Are there any serious fans, commentators, bloggers, or beat writers who would contend that these intangibles are meaningless? I don’t think so.

      You write, “Funny how those subtle things have more meaning than having a great shift because your line got a shot and theirs didn’t.”

      Who’s arguing that your line getting a shot makes for a great shift? As you noted in your article, possession stats are long-term predicters, and that’s exactly how most advanced metrics people use those stats. You could pin the other team in their zone for 45 seconds, cycling the puck, wearing them down, and tiring them out, without getting a shot and almost everyone will acknowledge that as a good shift. You’re attacking strawmen arguments.

      You also write, “The Rangers won despite not having Rick Nash, Mika Zibanejad, Pavel Buchnevich, and Henrik Lundqvist on the ice. They did so by finally motivating themselves to play out of some very uninspiring hockey.”

      The Rangers have won games without Nash, Buch, Zibanejad, and Lunqvist with high frequency this year. Ottawa was hardly the first incident of this. So I’d take issue with your claim that it took Zuke defending Skjei or Vesey standing up for himself to finally see this happen. I think the fact that the Rangers have been so successful despite the injuries and despite Hank’s underwhelming play, and getting yanked for 4 games, demonstrates that this team is actually quite skilled and mentally tough. A soft team doesn’t find ways to win with 4 of their better players missing from the lineup.

      So, we’ll largely all agree that hits, fights, and snarl are fun to watch and can impact games. Emotions are a part of any competitive sport. We’ll all largely agree that the performance against Pittsburgh and Minnesota lacked heart. We’ll all largely agree that Stepan, Zuccarello, and Vesey fired up the team and sparked a win against Ottawa.

      But let’s not pretend that a lack of fights or no highlight reel hits makes this team soft. Let’s acknowledge the determination and sacrifice it takes to step up and win games while Nash, Buch, Zibanejad, and Lundqvist sit out. Let’s give this team the props they deserve for overcoming some pretty glaring weaknesses on the blueline and still amassing the success they have so far this year.

      Because, as you say, “while Stepan speaking up was important, his response and production on the ice were obviously even more so.” That’s key, producing on the ice goes much further than retaliation or fiery speeches.

  12. On another topic, did anyone watch the alumni game between Detroit and Toronto today. I’m such a sucker for that stuff. I get chills watching those old timers! Will have to watch the Blues-Hawks alumni game on tape delay Monday.

    Also, anyone going to watch Columbus vs Minny? I’ve heard some call it the “Unsustaina-Bowl”. Nonetheless, should be a great game!

    1. I’ll be flipping between that and the Rangers game.

      FYI, NHL.com is airing the Minnesota-Columbus game for free tonight, so anyone can stream that even if you don’t have the NHL package.

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