Should the Rangers Keep Hayes with Miller?

kevin hayes

The New York Rangers are an incredible case study, I do not believe that there has ever been a team with such stark differences regarding the talent level between the offense and the defense. The offense is so deep that we may as well call our forwards Mariana. Tje defense… eh I don’t have to say anything.

In the grand scheme of things, especially seeing the moves that GM Jeff Gorton made over the summer, I still consider this season to be a transition season, and it hasn’t been as bad on the eyes as last year so that’s always fun. The Rangers’ possession numbers aren’t something to be thrilled about though, and while the defense has been a focal point of the issues that we have faced, I think there are some things that may at least be worth trying to maximize the potential of our offense.

I want this to be known, I think Alain Vigneault, through all of his faults is a pretty smart coach. I also disagree with the criticism that he hates young players. For every Dylan McIlrath there is a risk taken on an Anthony Duclair. Some flourish, some don’t. Under AV, Jesper Fast has become a pretty respected player. Matt Puempel has been given a shot to succeed. Chris Kreider has become all that we have ever wanted this season. Brady Skjei has steadily been given harder minutes and tougher opponents. One can even argue that AV had a big role in Mats Zuccarello’s development.

JT Miller and Kevin Hayes, through some tough love, have added other elements to their game to make them even more valuable to the success of the Rangers, and are huge pieces for the future. Hayes is returning to the lineup after being injured, but the question is, should he be put back with Miller?

I think everyone by now knows how much I love Kevin Hayes. He followed up last year’s “disappointing” season by changing his work out regimen and we can see how it has improved his play. The work ethic he has shown, or at least portrayed by taking initiative, gave AV the green light to try him on the penalty kill. It’s something many folks were interested in trying out last season, and has worked with flying colors, as he and Miller created the Rangers’ “Power Kill,” providing threats to provide offense even when down a man.

The thing is, even though both are producing, it may be worth looking into splitting them up at 5v5. Using Puckalytics’ WOWY tool,  we can investigate a bit and see that together. Miller drops in CF% when with Hayes, but together they have a massive spike in GF% and GF/60 together. It is really interesting, and I believe that it can best be explained with Hayes’ willingness to hold onto the puck as long as possible as he waits for the perfect opportunity.

For many players this can be a death wish, but given Hayes’ size and talent he pulls it off pretty well. The thing that is interesting to me however, is that Hayes possession stats are lower than ever before and although he has produced with JT, they do get pinned in their zone.

Keeping Hayes and Miller together certainly boosts the offense. However it poses a defensive risk, sometimes getting caught for extended periods of time in their own zone. It’s a risk vs. reward situation for the Rangers, and will be interesting to see what AV goes with.

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  • I would keep them together with Grabner. While not a very good defensive line, they can be a lethal offensive trio. The speed of Grabs can make up for some errors and the hitting of JT can keep the opposition pinned sometimes.

    Rolling 3 strong lines can wear out an opponent. They will need to understand defensive responsibility though.

    • They start about 65% of their shifts in the offensive zone. Lots of coaches role their 3rd line in a sheltered or offensive role. That line may not do so well if they played the minutes that Stepan & Zibanejad lines do.
      I’ve read that 10 second post on how zone starts account for a possession rating for the 1st 10 seconds. That’s bull because a player starting in the offensive zone has a better chance at positive possession on that shift than a player starting in the Dzone. They have to go 200 ft after preventing any shot attempts against.

  • Never would’ve guessed the Wowy figures play out like that. Interesting stuff.

    I say keep them together and deploy them in the sheltered 3rd line role- a la Pouliot / Brassard / Zuccarello in 2014.

  • Jesper Fasth is one of the hardest trying player around. I have not seen anyone try as hard as Fasth since Glass. It is unfortunate that the only person without many skills as Miller says, he knows his role and he is a good shot blocker. He is also is a Pruka. He gets hammered by the other teams and our team is happy with his play which is one big disappointment. He gets placed on lines where he does not belong. Any line that he is on becomes a checking line and is no longer a scoring line. Look at how Kreider does not score with him on his line nor Miller when he is on his line. I agree he is a great 4th line player and that’s all.
    If any of our top players tried as hard as Fasth we would have a hell of a team.
    Fasth is a good example of a tackling dummy. He would be the first person to get rid of IMHO.


  • Yes, unless Stepan is traded & Miller centres a line, where he belongs. Miller is a good winger, but he can become a great centre & you always want a power centre on your team (like Thornton or Carter), which Miller is.

  • On a different tangent

    Skjei, Gropp, Lindberg & a first rd pick for Trouba. Can Winnepeg turn that down

    • This was a terrible idea on the last thread, and it’s still a terrible proposal.

      You are trading away a massive amount of assets simply for the ‘name brand’ D. The difference between Trouba and Skjei isn’t that much to begin with, add in Skjei’s cheaper contract, more years of team control, the fact he’s not eligible for the expansion draft, and you are actually making the Rangers significantly worse by making that trade.

      • Agreed. The days of overpaying for questionable solutions must end.

        We need more then one quality defenseman; it’d be horrible asset mgmt. to give away one who is already NHL ready and still developing to get one for is slightly better today.

        Lindberg, Gropp, a 2nd and Girardi (we pay half half his salary) or Klein (we pay 75% of his salary) is much more to my liking

        Yes I want to compete for the cup every year and it’d be great if we could get one for Lundquist. Not worth mortgaging the future though

  • I like Miller on the wing with Hayes at Center and Grabner as the other winger. They just work well together. They are not the best defensively but they are much better offensively than most other 3rd liners.

    I’d only break Miller away from Hayes if you had to use him at center. I think however that his best spot is as a winger.

  • no on keeping them together they are not the only 2 w/chemistry

    Rangers ARE strong enough at C they can/should move Stepan for D help.

    Everybody should be in the combo that works best

    ATM Miller should be a C on 1st line w/Kreider (no question 1LW) and I would go with righty Zib (also a bonafide 1C in his own right) as 1RW. That is a dominant line. It is possible — not likely but possible — that Boo Nieves, who already is Kreider lite with great speed and a body that is filling out and should not be rushed —- that he is very likely to make the team, at least as to 4th line; but however, it is unlikely but possible that you catch lightning in a bottle and next year the speed of Kreider, Nieves (supposedly awesome on draws) and Miller makes that a line!

    Second line, Grabner (can now protect/keep him, deal Step for great return)-Hayes-Vesey, also w/chemistry

  • Yes…Very great pairing …Especially w.Grabs. would like to see Vesey stay w.Nash as well. They had a great early season and kid can learn so much from one of the best all around players in the game.

  • How would the fans feel now if the Rangers traded Hayes last season like many of them wanted. They would have gotten next to nothing and he’d be flourishing on a different team.

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