Some late March thoughts

After a semi-frustrating loss to the Islanders on Wednesday, the Rangers now have eight games left in the regular season. They have a 12-point lead in their spot for the first wild card and a 14-point lead for the second wild card. At this juncture, it’s pretty clear they are going to be playing the winner of the Atlantic Division, the only question is whether Montreal will be able to hold on or if Ottawa will overtake their current three point lead. At this weird spot in the season, I have some thoughts…

1. I honestly can’t remember a time the Rangers were playing games with little to no significance this late in the season. The loser point has effectively tightened each race enough that there is still meaningful hockey being played up until the end. Even the last time the Rangers missed the playoffs, it came down to the last shootout shot. Just a strange set of circumstances.

2. I’ll be very interested to see how Henrik’s workload is managed over the next couple weeks. Depending on how ready he is, there is enough space between games (with the exception of the final two) to just run him out there and ramp up to the playoffs if the coaching staff so chooses. Alternatively, they could keep Raanta worked in there and give Hank say, six of the last eight. Selfishly, I will be at the game in Ottawa on April 8, so as long as Hank plays that game, I’ll be happy.

3. I’ve been thinking a lot about fan frustrations with AV lately. I believe, psychologically, that the biggest problem is AV’s refusal to acknowledge that he understands his lineup construction is counter-intuitive. If he said to the press, “look guys, I understand all the stats are saying Buch and Clendo should be in the lineup, but Tanner and Kampfer give us a dimension that I feel we need right now, and I’m going with my gut”, I think people would be pissed, but not this pissed. It’s really the seemingly lack of recognition about what both the eye test and empirical evidence support: the wrong guys are being scratched.

4. For a lot of this, I actually blame Torts. Torts had the media so gun shy to confront him because he was a raging lunatic that they seem to treasure this stasis that they have with AV. They don’t seem to have any interest in calling him out on questionable decisions or adjustments that aren’t made. If they opened a dialog about these decisions, there would 1) be more accountability from AV and 2) fans would understand his rationale, even if they disagreed. Right now, his dissenters just think he is incompetent because he has done nothing to suggest he is aware of the perception of his moves.

5. As for the moves themselves, if you have been reading my work here long enough, you know where I fall in. The bigger problem is the growing pains that happen when a sport transitions from era to era. This is compounded when AV, who seems to fancy himself a progressive coach, makes old school decisions. This is really a subject for a longer post, but the idea of chemistry or energy or “guys picking the team up by the bootstraps” is an elusive concept and very difficult to quantify. Personal loyalty also plays into it. We, as fans are objectively moving pieces around the board to create the most winning formula. AV and the coaching staff are managing the expectations, motivations and personal goals of human beings. Bias is bound to creep in.

6. I think there is also a fear/insecurity component. If the fans clamor for a move and the coaching staff makes it, it’s on them. If it doesn’t work out, we can shrug it off and go back to our day jobs without another thought. AV may be terrified by giving a Skjei and Clendening pairing 20+ minutes a night, even if they deserve it. In his gut, the likelihood that a rookie and a younger journeyman might get exposed is too great a risk for him to allow for.

7. This of course is all devil’s advocate. Of course Buch and Clendening should be in the lineup over Glass and Kampfer. Especially in this stretch of meaningless games. Give Buch 20 minutes a night and see how he handles it. Skjei and Clendening should be your second pairing in the playoffs, so give them more reps together. God help us when Girardi and Klein get healthy.

8. Nick Mercandate had a tweet the other night that just made me smile:

This is the way we need to feel about Rick Nash. I feel like there is a large section of the fan base that equates a $7.8 million salary with 40+ goals and nothing else. Of course, Nash is not worth his cap right as I type this post, but his is a tremendous player with such a multi-dimensional skill set that every time he steps on the ice he helps this team.

9. I’m all on board with the concept of trading Antti Raanta this offseason. His play this year has earned him the right to seek an opportunity to start. For my money, Benoit Allaire is the best in the business and if you give him a guy with athleticism that hasn’t quite put it together, Allaire can turn them into a super backup. Goaltenders like that grow on trees, and if you can get quality assets for Raanta, then by all means.

Since we are in uncharted waters as far as the significance of the remaining games, I would encourage everyone to just watch stress free. We can easily flip the switch back to “what the f#$k are you doing, AV?!?!” mode once the postseason starts. Let’s try to give the ulcers a break and enjoy eight more games without destroying our livers. That comes later. Have a great weekend, everyone.

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  • Justin

    Nice write up this morning, and you made some real solid points:

    “The loser point has effectively tightened each race enough that there is still meaningful hockey being played up until the end.” This is a point I made to E3 the other day relative to a 100+ point campaign, it keeps the interest in the game going, also giving fans some false hopes about their teams making the PO’s, while inflating the value of those points. This is no attempt to start an arguement, just a reality that if they went back to the win, tie, lose system, you’d see less 100+ seasons, and the points would have much more meaning…..

    As to your point about AV, his moves, or lack thereof, is spot on. We as fans get too emotionally attached to our teams, hate to lose, and seek perfection. I love the game, the team, and am guilty of being too outspoken, and critical of the man because it appears, in my opinion, that he just doesn’t see, and or won’t see where we can make adjustments to improve our outcome.

    Now all we have to do is get ourselves a few more points, rest some of the vets, and wait for the PO’s to begin. I fear that my gut feeling is the team, as constructed, won’t go very far, and that JG will make a major overhaul in the off season. This will he the last chance to show their stuff for a few guys, G, Staal, Step, and we will see a new cast of characters next season !!!!!!

      • Ranger

        Point well taken………With the game being meaningless in the standings, why have Mac Truck spend that amount of time out there? Then when the games mean everything, during the PO’s, guys like Mac Truck run out of gas, that makes soooooooo much sense to me,NOT !!!!!!!!!!!

        I guess bench management, and or player time management isn’t Marv’s forte??????????

        Eglestein made some wonderful points down below, that hits the nail right on the head. I guess that the old adage applies to Marv, you just can’t teach an old dog new tricks!!!!!!!!! He is programed that way, and will never change………..

        • Walt-

          The playoffs are two and a half weeks away, and other than this 3 games in 4 nights stretch coming up, the Rangers have plenty of off days coming up. Why should we be concerned about Mac’s TOI at the moment? It’s hardly likely that reducing his ice time now will really matter one way or the other come playoff time.

          If they kept TOI back in the day, do you think Keenan reduced Leetch’s ice time down the stretch of the regular season in 1994? Not that I recall.

          • E3

            Again, a game that is meaningless in the standings, if not fatigue, how about the possibility of injury????? If we were fighting for a PO spot, well then that is a different point altogether!!!!!!!!

          • You can make that point for anyone though–Hank, Nash, Miller, Kreider. The important thing is to get players in a good groove and that means playing. Too much recast can be counterproductive. Players need to be sharp come playoff time.

    • Walt-

      Your point about the 100 point threshold is fair. I don’t know if you saw my response to that from the other day, but my point then was that yes, I totally agree that the point system makes it easier to earn the century mark in terms of points now. But I also said that you have to also take into account the flip side, which is the overall scope of the fact that years ago, there were less teams you were competing with, as well as no salary cap, which alllowed teams to keep their players together indefinitely.

      And with competitive balance being what it is today, the difference between the best teams and the worst teams today is minimal compared to the best and worst teams years ago. There were REALLY, REALLY, REALLY awful teams at the bottom of the league 30-40-50 years ago, especially when you consider how long it took for expansion teams to become even competent.

      Today’s bottom feeders are not nearly as bad. So back then records were padded with easy wins against more bad teams, and since there were less teams, percentage wise at least you’d get to fatten up on the atrocious teams more often.

      If the Coyotes today were to beat the Caps, it would be a shrug of the shoulder reaction. If the California Golden Seals upset the Boston Bruins back in the 70’s, that would be a stunning sports story.

      So you got my curiosity going on this and I took a look at three different segments of NHL history. The current stretch of the last four seasons (including this one) since the lockout-shortened season. The prior stretch of seven seasons between the full season lockout and the shortened season. And then, just for kicks, the seven seasons from 1971-1977. I used that stretch to examine the period when the Rangers had their three consecutive 100+ point seasons (1970-71 through 1972-73). I wanted to see how many teams during those stretches accumulated 100+ points in three straight seasons. This is what I found….

      2013-14 through current season (projecting out final totals to include the Rangers, since we assume they will get at least six points in their final eight games)–

      Five teams did it/will do it. The Caps, Hawks, Rangers, Ducks and Blues all have (or are about to have) crossed the century mark three years in a row. The Hawks, btw, have done it all four years.

      2005-06 through 2011-12

      Again, five teams. It was the Pens, Wings, Sharks, Caps and Canucks that pulled off the feat three years in a row, with the Canucks doing it four years in a row, the Sharks five years in a row, and the Wings doing it, incredibly in all seven seasons.

      1970-71 through 1976-77

      And again, it was five teams. The Bruins, Rangers, Flyers, Sabres and Canadiens all went over 100 points three consecutive seasons, with the Flyers doing it four in a row.

      So this is what I conclude from this.

      1) You are right. As a singular event, cracking 100+ points is easier today than it was pre-salary cap. If I were to list the amount of teams cracking the 100+ point mark in any one year, no doubt, it is more each year than it was under the old rules. So if you are simply talking about one season, then your argument can’t be disputed.

      2) But three straight years? That’s a different story. That still is an impressive benchmark in any era. And I would argue that it is far more difficult to do that today for all the reasons I listed above. Indeed, only 17% of the teams from each of the modern eras were able to crack the 100+ point mark three years in a row. In the 70’s era I analyzed, with about half as many teams in the league, the “dynastic” regular season runs were much more common place, with 31% of the teams hitting or surpassing the century mark in three straight seasons.

      So when I give props to AV for pulling this off (for the second time in his career btw) and tying the franchise record for consecutive 100+ point seasons, you can easily make the case that it is a more impressive accomplishment today than what the Cat accomplished with his star studded Rangers teams of the early 70’s

    • I”m just gonna have some fun here Sal.

      Nick and I usually see eye to eye on a lot of things. I’d say about 90%. But you always disagree with me.

      So…..which is it?

      • Can I play? I’ll make it a math problem!

        Dave says 100 things
        Nick says 10 things

        Dave agrees with Nick 90% of the time = 9 things in agreement
        Sal agrees with Nick and Dave 9 times.

        But Sal only agrees with Dave 9 times out of 100…
        Statistically NEVER!

        (btw I’m bad at math AND statistics)

      • Nick and I share the same last name, and I just like being your counter-point. I don’t always disagree, except on Stepan and on blaming Girardi for all that is bad in the world.

        I am a passionate fan who thinks we are a team that needs a stud offensive threat centerman. As much as I hate Cindy Crosby, he plays with a passion that is commendable. Yes, only 1 or 2 like him in the NHL. Yes our defense needs to be younger and more mobile, but Girardi is not the only problem and if used correctly (3rd pair, 15 minutes a game), he is more than serviceable.

        Depth is great, but without a very dangerous first line, it really is not as valuable as you may think. Our PK and PP is NOT good enough. Showing up and playing okay in the final 8 games is fine, but isn’t it time we settle in on lines? When is Hayes/JT/Grabner going to be a steady line that doesn’t change?

        Nash is the closest this team has to being a stud and should be double-shifted in 3rd periods of all tied or losing third periods. And yes, Hayes should see some PP time.

          • I don’t understand how you can blame your flat time on Girardi.

            If you think logically, it was clearly Glass. Now, G might have wanted to do it, but he wasn’t fast enough to get to your parking spot. I blame all the years of wear and tear.

            Glass though, he had the toughness and the hustle to get to where you car was and let the air out. Most of the blog readers though that Buch should have done that, but he was sitting in the press box.

        • But in all fairness, I like to spread the blame on the D around. I think I’ve spent more time on Klein/Holden this year actually. Girardi/Staal are what they are.

          I’d like a generational talent up front, but I”ll take 4 scoring lines and one of the top offenses in the league.

          As for lines – you know how I feel on the whole Glass/Kampfer thing. That’s on AV, whom I’ve grown frustrated with.

          • AV is a good coach who makes poor in-game decisions. He also is loyal to a fault with certain players (Glass and Stepan come to mind). Yes, 4 scoring lines is important, but I tend to think we have 4 mediocre lines who can score, not 4 lines with a dangerous player on each.

            Klein and Holden each take turns in the doghouse, but it seems our forwards rarely do, and many games they seem boring and uncreative. I watched Ho-Sang from the Islanders and he had an energy that we could use. Call it youthful enthusiasm, but it is what Kreider had when he came up 3 years ago. We could use a shot of that right now.

          • I agree with Dave 100% in this post. And maybe it was Girardi’s fault for the flat tire.

  • We will be looking back at this post after the next few weeks!

    Awesome point on Benoit Allaire, the guy’s a machine that turns goalies into good goalies and good goalies into better ones… Let’s hope he gets another excellent goalie to turn into Hank’s successor.

    As for the AV/Torts media point, TORTS! my man, no patience for the moron media! Whose laughing now, the guy already has 1 cup, almost brought us there, and now has the BJ’s moving closer big time!

    TORTS!!!! luv that guy!

  • You don’t have to put your money on it, everyone already knows Benoit Allaire is the best goalie coach maybe of all time.

  • Couple of points, and especially about confronting AV about the lineup.

    When has he ever said anything that would give away anything? I guy could be hanging by a thread and he would give you nothing. I have always deferred to the coach as being the guy who knows the most about what is going on with the entire team and using his players to their best at the proper time. NYR have a pretty darn good record this year, and should make a run. The watchword is SHOULD.

    RIck Nash is totally under appreciated. He gives ? every single game as evidenced by that goal from nowhere against the Islanders.

    Not on the list, but Sidney Crosby remains a punk.

    • Rick is a fine player who gives it his all. May he stay healthy! That is the concern with him.

      Sid may be a punk, but the SOB would look good on any team’s 1st line.

  • nice write up…just glad they are coming out west this weekend and can’t wait to get to the games to see them live…Here’s hoping Hank starts one of the next 2…

  • Unlike the obsession here, perhaps the press feels there are greater issues to discuss than who the 12th F and 6th (soon to be 7th) D are.

  • Good post Justin.

    “The loser point has effectively tightened each race enough that there is still meaningful hockey being played up until the end.”

    Speaking of this, I think the NHL needs to either decide a tie is a valid result (no more shoot-outs) or go to a 3-point game*. I think the league makes to do this to make a greater distinction of winning in regulation vs scoring the winning goal playing 3-on-3 hockey or the shoot-out. We are going to be watching 5-on-5 overtime hockey once the playoffs start, so the 3 point game would make the standings better reflect the team’s performance playing 5-on-5.

    * In a 3-point game, the winner in regulation gets 3 points instead of 2 and the winner in OT gets 2 points while the loser gets 1.

      • Paul-

        This is one where you and I are in complete agreement. That’s exactly what I was saying and continue to say. A few years back I was driving back from a conference, and was listening to NHL Network Radio. Gary Bettman had his own show that year, and I called up to discuss my (your) proposal. After everyone who called gave him softball questions, I really grilled him on this. He defended the “sanctity” of the 2 point for a win rule in terms of historical context, and I told him that the current system has already blown that whole idea up! He got testy and basically didnt even attempt to answer my question–and for some reason my phone line went dead! 🙂

        The loser point is absurd. There should be no reward for losing. Our approach is far more equitable in my view. Teams would push hard for that 3 point opportunity. In OT, teams would simailry push even harder to win that. Imagine pulling the goaltender in a tie game on the last day of the season to try and win in regulation just to get the three points they need to make the playoffs?!

        The only reason this will likely never happen is that it would probably create more disparity in the standings, and more teams would find themselves out of the race sooner…not good for the box office or TV ratings league-wide.

        Which is why he wouldn’t directly answer my question. Their current system is a gimmick that keeps most every team somewhat in the “race” until the very end.

        Now, as to my other pet peeve..the standings and playoff seeding. What a joke! They should go back to a very simple approach. Division winners are in automatically. After that, other teams are seeded 3-8. Still not perfect of course because if you let’s say have a weak #2 seed relative to the #3 seed, the number #6 seed might choose to tank in order to drop to #7. But no system is perfect.


    • The loser point only gives the illusion that races are tighter, as it also make it harder to gain ground. As little as a four point deficit can be near impossible to make up at this stage of the season.

      • I disagree that it makes the illusion of the races being tighter, you are absolutely correct it makes it more difficult to gain ground. I think that is where the 3-point game can make a big difference.

        Current Metro Standings:
        Washington 104
        Pittsburgh 102
        Columbus 101
        Rangers 94
        Islanders 80
        Carolina 77

        3-point Game Metro Standings (paulronty’s suggestion in parenthesis):
        Washington 143 (133)
        Pittsburgh 139 (126)
        Columbus 137 (128)
        Rangers 131 (124)
        Islanders 108 (95)
        Carolina 103 (88)

        In the current standings, the Rangers are locked into 4th place. They trail Washington by 5 games*, Pittsburgh by 4, and Columbus by 3.5. With the 3 point game they are 4 games behind Washington, 2.67 games behind Pittsburgh, and 2 games behind Columbus. Their lead over the Islanders increases from 7 games to 7.67.

        Based on paulronty’s suggestion by eliminating the loser point while giving 3 points for a regulation win the standings get even closer in the Metro.

        * NOTE: By games I’m referring to the number of games in which it is possible to catch the team in the standings).

        When evaluating the standings like this, the Rangers have been stronger in regulation than it appears when using the current methodology to determine the standings.

        When this is applied to the Atlantic:

        Montreal 91
        Ottawa 90
        Toronto 85
        Boston 82
        Tampa 79
        Florida 75

        3-point game:
        Ottawa 122 (109)
        Montreal 120 (108)
        Boston 114 (106)
        Toronto 113 (97)
        Tampa 106 (93)
        Florida 95 (79)

        Toronto has benefited greatly by the current methodology and I think you could make a strong case that Boston has been penalized the most in the Eastern Conference.

        • I’m all for the 3 point games. My argument was that loser points as currently constructed create an illusion of races tighter than they really are, which is true.

    • These are all great ideas! However, none of them will ever happen. Why? Very simple, the NHL likes what it has because it brings instant parity in the league and most teams are in the playoff race until the end, at least seemingly. This keeps fans from all teams coming to games, buying beer, soda, peanuts, cotton candy, etc. through the end of the year. So yes, it will never happen because of one simple thing…$$

    • In MLB, NFL, NBA, there is no distinction between an overtime win or loss and a regulation win or loss. Seems to work for them. I’m not necessarily lobbying for it…but if the NHL decided to go by win percentage, I wouldn’t be heartbroken. *Dodges rotten vegetables being thrown*

      • That’s true, but the bigger issue is the loser’s point. You don’t see the Yankees getting a “half-win” in the standings because they lost in extra innings. And, hockey is the only game where the rules change substantially once OT begins. That’s why more credit should be given to a regulation win IMO.

    • Something has to account for the softballs that the press corps consistently lobs at AV in pressers. I wouldn’t expect them to go in there with a sheet of advanced stats and bury him with criticism night after night…but the fact that this group of correspondents never seems to ask him a remotely tough question does seem a bit odd, especially given that it is a major market where the press tends to be tougher on coaches than in many smaller markets. I couldn’t imagine the Boston beat writers letting AV-type-curious-decisions slide pretty much 100% of the time like the current NY group does, for example.

      • The team has overachieved expectations, not underachieved. If the team was gasping for its playoff life, he’d be grilled more.

        These decisions are only “curious” to the blogosphere, that’s why he’s not grilled more. These are small potatoes issues that don’t warrant a grilling. As I said earlier, do you really believe Brooks is afraid to ask ANYONE a question? What about Dan Rosen or other guys on, where you are dealing with the niche audience that presumably cares more about these issues? You think they are afraid to drill down and ask tough questions?

        Maybe the harsh reality is these issues aren’t as big a deal as some out here make them out to be.

        • I’m not at all sure “afraid” is the correct term. And to note, I didn’t profess knowledge of a specific reason personally. Flatly put, it is simply an observation, and it’s undeniable: AV doesn’t get asked tough questions in pressers the way a lot of high level professional coaches – NHL or otherwise, successful or clinging to their coaching lives – do. Games can be complete stinkers with atypical lines, failed use of final timeout, the most important defenseman on the team playing 28 minutes in a game that doesn’t matter, so on and so forth; could be dozens of possibilities that could be attributed to the coach, AV just doesn’t often get asked in a presser about the reason for any such things. Torts may have been a hot-head, sure…but they often needled him at least a little to incite those reactions. I had lower expectations for his teams than I have in the AV tenure, personally.

          The ’14-’15 season is a solid example of the fact that the team under AV has not universally met, let alone always overachieved, expectations. A lot of the hockey press members who engage in postseason predictions did have the Rangers going to the finals or winning the Cup. Didn’t happen. A lot of folks believe a large part of that was coaching misfires on AVs behalf in the Tampa series – whether it was actual tactical decisions, allowing injured and therefore slowed players to play heavy minutes, lineup decisions, lack of in-game adjustment, or anything else. Many folks indeed did find some of those decisions curious. If coaching decisions are small potatoes, I’m not sure what the bigger potatoes are.

          • Do Joe Girardi or Ben McAdoo get grilled by the press when the team wins? Not really. Only when there lengthy losing streaks for the most part.

            AV doesnt get grilled all that much because by and large, his teams have been successful. Torts got grilled when he threw the water bottle in Washington. Torts didnt get grilled much in 2011-12 because his team was successful, except following a particular playoff loss when he chose to make a big deal out of a Pat Leonard question.

            But bigger picture, was Torts grilled for barely getting by a bad Ottawa team in the 2012 playoffs? For flaming out vs an inferior Devils team that same year? Not that I recall.

            (BTW, those who say it’s AV who makes strange personnel decisions and somehow Torts did not need to go back and google a few things. Torts’s moves were just as curious, if not more so)

            Why would you have lower expectations for Torts’s teams than AV’s? I don’t think Sather did. He went out and got key pieces for Torts. Richards…Gaborik….Nash. Hardly a sign of low expectations.

            I just find it so amusing how the AV critics/Torts defenders like to white wash history. Reading some of these posts over the years, one would be led to believe that Torts had chicken s$%& talent and miraculously found a way to be barely mediocre most years, while AV had a star-studded lineup and certainly should be doing better than he’s done over the years. I certainly find that theme quite amusing.

            In 2014-15, you are right, there was a belief that the Rangers would have a great chance to get back to the SCF, if not go all the way. But a few things happened that year. The prior season, MSL was a stud player in the playoffs, and he was in effect the de facto captain that got the Rangers to the Cup Finals. Unfortuantely, the expiration date on his career came a few months too soon, and he was no longer effective. Huge loss of a key piece.

            Then, Zuc, a heart and soul player suffers a serious, career threatening and possibly life threatening injury. Would have ripped the heart and fight out of lesser players and coaches, but they found a way to persevere and advance past a great Caps team to the next round.

            In that round, virtually the entire defense was effectively wiped out due to injury. And you were going up against an emerging powerhouse team that had far more offensive weapons than we did.

            Add it all up, and frankly it was miraculous we got as far as we did. But I realize we have to blame someone for all the misfortune, so why not the coach?

            Again, Gorton was there to see it all. I guess he doesn’t at all agree that coach was responsible. Quite the contrary….that probably entered into his thinking as to why to extend him.

  • To me, the whole article is giving AV fans an apology before the poop hits the fan. Apologies for Nash being such a high paid player and scoring little. Ya, I get it, accept it. (No)!
    If the coach plays what the fans want and it works, he is a genius. He gets the credit. The coach got credit for St Louis mom passing away and he didn’t do a damn thing.
    No one challenged this coach and he gets away with making poor decisions in the playoffs with no consequences. In fact, he gets his contract extended.

    • Generally speaking, coaches that dramatically improve the results from what his predecessor delivered, become in less than four full seasons the third winningest coach in the history of a 90 year franchise and win five playoff series in three seasons tend to get extensions as opposed to a pink slip.

      Especially when the roster is devoid of high end talent other than goalie.

      I know you guys are anti-AV, but our GM as chosen…and as they say in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade….”he has chosen…..wisely!” 🙂

  • Blaming Torts is silly talk. Perhaps most of the reporters are simply not that good, and feel more comfortable being part of the gang, rather than perform real sports journalism? After how many years of Vigneault coaching do you think these journalists need to recognize he won’t bite their head off? Vigneault could not be more of a gentleman when it comes to dealing with an extraordinarily predictable press. Please…I realize you may be hesitant to call-out your own, so to speak, but assigning blame to a coach from a handful of years ago is a stretch.

    the frustrations with Vigneault are due to his obvious limitations as a coach and the underlying recognition that, at this point in his career, he will not change and that is insufficient for winning a Stanley Cup. my 2c

    • Hey AD! We’ve missed you!

      But Gorton, the guy that as I recall you said (or implied) was going to go “rogue” on his boss Mr. Sather, the guy who’s probably rolling his eyes at all those crazy things that that “limited” coach AV does, just handed AV a mega-extension!

      So obviously, the guy making the call very much believes that once the roster is somewhat overhauled over the next year or two, is the absolutely right coach for this group to bring the Cup home. Otherwise, why on earth would he give such a deal out what he didnt have to?

      (Gorton making this move has certainly made my argument SO much easier!) 🙂

      Hope you are doing well my friend. I miss our spirited debates.

      BTW, Alexsei Saarela seemed like he regressed year to year. As I said last year, likely no loss whatsoever. 🙂

      • Hi Eddie!

        I don’t recall ever implying Gorton was going rogue; not even sure what that means within NYR context. It is not a word I use but you may be referring to an earlier view last summer that I thought not being able to sign an experienced NHL assistant coach to replace Samuelson suggested to me league insiders viewed Vigneault to be on a short list? I’m not sure what you are referring to.

        If Gorton views Vigneault as qualified to win the Cup, that’s his prerogative as GM. I disagree and, frankly, Vigneault has had better teams & opportunities than what he has had with the Rangers and came up short.

        As for Saarela-related trade, that was a horrific trade; I can’t believe you are still trying to dismiss or diminish that. You seem to overlook quite selectively we also lost two, 2nd round picks, all of which would be valuable in any really significant trade to acquire a top pairing RHD. Those added picks are often the difference between a trade and no trade. You also don’t seem to recognize Eric Staal was never going to move any needle for the Rangers in the playoffs, partly because he was struggling all last season with injuries. It was a desperate trade and obvious waste of assets from the moment the trade was announced, even though many cheerleaders then thought otherwise. That’s understandable, but one year later? Wow.

        I’ve missed the board as well this season but expect to be back strong next season. I cannot watch the games, club and league close enough to offer insight too often, so I don’t try.

        I thought the extension of Vigneault by Gorton was very odd. I wondered then if Montreal was pining for him and Vigneault had a heart to heart w/Gorton and said I’d like an extension to finish the job with the Rangers or I’d like to pursue my childhood dreaml which would you like? Most likely Gorton thinks AV is his man, but we’ll never win the Cup with this guy behind the bench. I don’t think there are more than a few on this board who want to be proven wrong on this more than I do.

        • Glad you are back, even if just briefly AD. Your insights are sorely missed.

          On the “rogue” comment, no you never used that exact word. But I did get the distinct impression that you believed that Gorton was sitting in the press box, shaking his head at what that crazy former GM Sather had done, rolling his eyes at what his crazy coach was doing, and would surely want to bring in his own guy for the youth movement we are now on. So it seemed to me that you were implying that once given the chance, Gorton would “go his own way” (paraphrasing Fleetwood Mac), go against the grain of what he himself at been a part of the prior seasons, change course and fire AV. Thus my tongue in cheek “rogue” reference.

          AV had one real legit opportunity where he had the better team–Vancouver in 2011. He got beat by Tim Thomas, who had arguably the greatest SCF performance by a goaltender I’ve seen in this century. I think something like 75% of the President’s Trophy winners fail to close the deal. Doesn’t mean the coach is the one who blew it.

          On the Staal trade, I was just having some fun with you. No question, that was a bad trade. But at the time, I said you will likely never hear of Saarela in any meaningful way as an NHL player. And likely, the draft choices lost wont become NHL player either. My point was it was worth the risk and we likely will never miss what we traded. I still maintain that.

          You do raise a valid point about the assets being used to upgrade other areas. But as I’ve said over and over, assets can be recouped. We got one of the second rounders back in the Brassard deal. We may recoup the other this summer with other deals involving Stepan and Raanta. Circle of Life in the NHL. There are moments when you push your chips to the center of the table and other moments when you hold back.

          On the AV extension, even I, an AV supporter, thought it was odd. Not the extension itself so much as the timing. I would have waited until after the season to extend him.

          Is it possible that there was a back channel discussion about AV between Montreal and the Rangers as you are suggesting? Sure, anything is possible. But likely? I highly doubt it. The Montreal media is so wired into that team I can’t imagine that doesn’t leak out somehow.

          But the bigger reason i think it’s unlikely is because of the timing. AV’s contract wasn’t up at the end of this year. It was up at the end of next year. The team has overachieved expectations this season. Why would Gorton disrupt what has been a good season simply to help Montreal and/or AV out? And even if AV wanted that job again, he has no leverage with Gorton because he is under contract. Gorton simply could have said we can discuss this at season’s end.

          I have heard that theory you are espousing on the blogs before but my reporter instincts tell me there’s likely nothing to what you are suggesting.

          According to reports, Gorton approached AV with an extension this past summer, but AV wanted to wait a bit before deciding. If you subscribe to the rumor from a few years ago that it was Gorton idea to hire AV, then I would speculate that Gorton wanted him back, but AV wanted to get a better feel for the direction of this team first before agreeing. AV wants to win a Cup. There are no stars on this team. Now the team is going to “rebuild/retool”? So what’s the plan?

          So I think Gorton sold AV on the plan, and basically said look, we know we aren’t quite there yet, but you’ve done a great job with what you’ve had to work with. We are going to build you a legit contender and we can have the retooling done in about a year or two. So we are going to give you a huge raise and extension because we believe in you and we are asking you to be patient while we get the final pieces of the puzzle that we need. And, we definitely don’t want you to be a lame duck coach next season.

          That’s my hunch how it went down.

          Lastly, as for saying AV will NEVER win…all i can say is, “never” is a long time. They said the same thing about Coach Q in St. Louis. Past is not prologue. Torts won a Cup in TB but has been a mediocre playoff coach since. Keenan never came close again. Crawford won one and was out of the league. Sullivan came from nowhere to win one. Trotz has never advanced past the second round, yet the Caps firmly believe he’s the man to lead them to the Cup.

          AV is one of the top five elite level coaches in the game. With the right team, and in the right circumstances, AV is more than capable of winning it all.

          It would help though if our “Untouchable Stars” would show up more often! 🙂

          Be well my friend and don’t be a stranger!

          • I honestly don’t recall having that type of view on Gorton/Sather you described but it is possible (and possibly overstated as well) since I did at one point think Gorton and Vigneault had some personnel squabbles at both the player and coaching level.

            I have very different views from you on Tortorella and Vigneault, as I tend to view their respective performances within the context of what each coach’s opportunity was. And I view the American as having often over-achieved, and the Canadian as having often under-achieved.

            Vigneault’s “elite” status in the game as you characterize it is due to his Canuck years, by and large. The talent he had in Vancouver was phenomenal; his defensive units put up offensive points that are rarely accomplished, especially for back then; and of course the Sedin twins were unstoppable for a handful of years. Vigneault played a big big part in creating a winning structure for his assets then, but he is also lionized for his regular season W/L record too much. Objectively, not walking away without at least 1 Stanley Cup is a resounding statement on his team stewardship post-season when it matters most.

            But I am not surprised you simplified the Canucks losing to the Bruins as the result of Tim Thomas being the single-point main reason. Your acumen for revisionist history is better than Obama! 🙂 But it’s an easy excuse being made for Vigneault who was near universally viewed then as making insufficient team adjustments and being out-coached (sound familiar?).

            Torts a mediocre playoff coach? You and I can go back and forth between these coaches and not accomplish anything so I’ll leave it at that but, sorry, “elite” coaches have to win the Cup when the opportunity set is CONSISTENTLY there. Vigneault had it more times in front of him then most coaches ever get a chance at and his clubs came up short. If it was a few chances only, that’s one thing but he had a solid, wide, multi-year window in Vancouver + a 2yr window in NY. Not many coaches have had that amount of Cup opportunity. The guy you don’t like got it done and, by the looks of things, may very well get it done again, before your elite coach.


  • “Let’s try to give the ulcers a break and enjoy eight more games without destroying our livers.”

    Justin I hope you are not implying I watch sans cocktail…that will not happen.

  • Great article Justin. Lots to cover on this….

    1). I agree the Rangers are in cruise control right now. But really, that’s been the case now for these past three seasons, hasn’t it? Nothing all that much to play for at the end. I mean, I kind of get your point in that last year, there was a question as to are we in the 2-3 game or do we cross over to the Atlantic, and the prior year there was the battle for the President’s Cup. But the reality is that under AV, we rarely have to play meaningful games in the final week or so. The playoff are a forgone conclusion with this coach–impressive this year considering that wasn’t supposed to be the case in what most thought would be a year of significant regression.

    Playing for one’s playoff life was the case pretty much every year but one with Torts–a death struggle right down to the final games.

    2) Raanta has played very well, but as well as he’s played, as far as I’m concerned, his playing time is irrelevant going forward. The whole focus from here is simple….get Hank as many starts as he and Benny feels he needs to get ready for the playoffs. That is the single biggest key to advancing deep, as it always is.

    Now, I will say that Raanta has opened my eyes and a lot of eyes. If Hank struggles epically, or once we get to the playoffs Hank is not able to be Hank, then I have no problem if AV turns to Raanta in a similar manner that Coach Q will have no issue switching from Crawford to Darling.

    But to have any chance to go deep, it begins and ends with Hank, as usual.

    3) I have to respectfully disagree here. AV could give a rat’s behind what we out here in the blogosphere thinks. This is not a courtroom where AV has to prove himself to us. He has to prove himself to his players and his bosses. That’s all that all that matters. And obviously, he already has done that given the mega-extension he received.

    4) Again, disagree. Torts is years ago and has nothing at all to do with this. While one can debate the level of knowledge some beat writers have, do you honestly believe that Larry Brooks is afraid to ask AV tough questions? Seriously? Do you think that when the national writers at are there, given the fact that their audience are passionate hockey fans, that THEY are afraid to ask the tough and knowledgeable questions that hockey fans care about? Heck, even Pat Leonard when he was on the beat asked many tough questions, and in fact called AV out on not playing McIlrath more.

    The real issue is that many of you are insisting on drilling down and holding the coach accountable for things that you think are important, but probably in the overall scheme of things really aren’t. They are reasonable questions–I’m not denying that. But in the overall scheme of things, hardly earth-shattering when Glass plays for Buch lets say. Probably NO ONE on any team in the league even bats an eyelash at that kind of decision.

    Much ado about nothing.

    5) I think you speak some truth here. It’s real easy to make “decisions” sitting where we are sitting. Have any of you ever coached at a fairly high level? I have (not professionally and not hockey, but Legion level baseball). There is a human factor to be considered. Biases creep him. Back when I was covering sports, every coach I covered played favorites. Parcells famously had “his guys” and was brutal on most rookies not named LT. And many other examples. AV is not really that different from most coaches in that regard.

    6) I think you are overstating this. The coach is “terrified”? Please. But, your premise, while overstated, is not entirely wrong. Coaches do tend to be loyal to the guys who have earned that loyalty. And in many cases, veterans get longer leashes than younger players with less of a track record. Especially come playoff time. This is highly typical of most pro coaches.

    7. I think Buch should play. But there is an asterisk on that. There are factors that we know nothing about. How healthy is he? Is it wise to play him on back to back nights given his back issues? Are there moments, let’s say come playoff time, when the lineup needs an injection of energy and we are playing a physical team, does AV do what he did (successfully I may add) and inject a Carcillo type (Glass) into the mix? Again, I prefer we double down on skill which is playing to our strength, but sometimes the playoffs can be overwhelming for a young player who still has much to learn.

    So if it’s me, yes, I’d play Buch. But if he sits, there’s is probably a good reason. Just like there was when Miller, Hayes, and Lindberg sat. We didn’t understand that at the time, but once revealed the next summer, it all made perfect sense.

    Clendening? Oh boy! Another situation where a little bit of knowledge and stats are probably very dangerous. He’s had his moments, good and bad. But the fact is that in that 11 game stretch right before they got injured, the Rangers were playing their best hockey AND their best defense (in terms of GAA) with Girardi and Klein IN the lineup. It is more than reasonable for AV to strongly consider playing them come playoff time.

    8). Total agree on Nash. He gets way too much abuse. Yes, he’s no longer worth what we pay him but we would be a far, far weaker team without him in there. Hopefully, he can get hot at the right moment and erase his playoff demons. Remember, A-Rod supposedly would never come through in the clutch–until he did. It only takes one time.

    9) Totally agree on Raanta. He should not be back next season. He deserves the chance to start somewhere. Sell high Jeff G!

    • Agree with much of your commentary Eddie, but disagree on two points. First, I think that AV does care what we think (unlike Torts). When you coach professionally, sometimes you have the team clicking on all cylinders and sometimes thinks are just not right (if you are good — if you are bad, they are always just not right). When things are going badly, management is faced with a dilemma — keep a good coach who seems to have lost touch with his team, or try a different good coach who might find the magic words to bring things to life. And how you handle that dilemma, if you are a Sather or a Gorton, is influenced by blogosphere, by Larry Brooks et al, because with two somewhat equal roads, why not choose the popular one. When times get rough, a Keenan or a Tortorella is out the door faster because he just hasn’t cultivated any friends. I thinl AV is more politic. [not saying he will change his coaching to please us, just saying he wants to please us.]

      Concerning Klein, I seem to recall his pre-injury days differently. Recently, the Rangers haven’t exactly been using six defensemen in that Clendo and Kampfer have gotten much less playing time than the other five guys. I seem to recall (incorrectly?) that Klein’s playing time was being lessened before he was hurt – that AV really no longer trusted him the way he trusted the other five. If that is so, Smith’s acquisition pushes him out of the lineup.

      • Ray-

        Good points.

        On AV and the press and the fans, I think we are talking about two different things. Sure, you may be correct that AV and other coaches try to curry favor with the press. That’s an absolute that some do, and I experienced that first hand. But, that isn’t going to keep you from getting fired. Torts coached in NY for four plus seasons despite the fact he had bad relationships with the press. Roger Nielson had a great relationship with the press. But both Torts and Nielson got canned because they couldn’t get along with certain key players, combined with the fact they didnt ultimately deliver up to management’s expectations.

        There is no way Jeff Gorton decided to keep AV simply because he’s “likable”. And zero chance he gets a mammoth extension/raise to put him in the elite coaching category salary wise for that reason simply because he plays nice with the press. That I can guarantee.

        And how have things been going “badly” for the Rangers as you would say? There is likely no one in NHL circles that would agree with that analysis. “Badly” means miss the playoffs. This coach has overachieved expectations this year, not underachieved. Taken in aggregate, this coach has mostly overachieved over four seasons here. That’s what warrants his extension, not how he handles the press.

        True on Klein…..he may be the odd man out. But I was saying that the Rangers were playing very well defensively with Girardi and Klein in the lineup..right before they got hurt. At least in terms of GAA and W-L record. Girardi should go in for Clendo and Klein possibly in for Holden. On the latter, tougher choice. We shall see.

        • didn’t say things were going badly. What I said was that it always happens sooner or later and unpopular coaches are shown the door sooner.

    • Professional hockey players are paid to play hockey, not be awesome dudes. Professional hockey coaches are paid to recognize and reward current skill, not recognize and reward the act of being awesome dudes, or past achievements. The term “professional” makes all the difference when talking about coaching favoritism. It’s bound to happen in amateur leagues; it should not happen in pro leagues. It is essentially fine for Legion ball (although still detrimental to teams’ success at times, certainly); it is not fine for the NHL.

      I couldn’t disagree more with the stance that rampant favoritism sways lineup and roster decisions frequently in professional sports. I’ve never seen anything like what AV has done in this area committed by coaches for my teams in other sports; I’ve never seen the coach of any of my teams repeatedly and/or for prolonged stretches leave skill on the bench in favor of less-skilled “glue guys” or legacy players the way AV does. Not even close. Giving a vet the benefit of the doubt to work out of a slump is one thing. Standing unwavering by a vet as the “slump” spans multiple seasons while clearly more effective younger players sit because they have yet to earn some arbitrary level of trust that very much appears to fluctuate based on how much the coach likes the player in question is entirely something else. Being a hardass and expecting accountability and corrective action when mistakes are made with rookies/young guys is one thing; depriving them of well-deserved playing time (which also hurts the team in my opinion) to make a point is another.

      I also do not at all subscribe to the “he’s the coach, so that must mean he’s making the right decisions” logic, nor do I believe the front office does either. The fact that he got extended, in my eyes, should not serve as a direct line of logic that concludes with “so he must be the best choice for that entire time frame”. They may think he is the best choice for now, but the length of the extension has to do as much with the coach’s demands as it does the team’s desires. Front offices make mistakes all the time with coaching decisions, and/or have to give longer contracts than perhaps they would prefer – especially to “big name” veteran coaches. Look at how many coaches get fired every off-season while still under contract in professional sports. That wouldn’t happen so much if it were so easy to hire the perfect coach for the roster at hand, for only the specific time frame the team wishes to.
      Obviously Gorton and Co. (still don’t buy that Gorton is going to decide 100% autonomously who the coach is and for how long) don’t hate AV, and clearly do not find mistakes that he has made to be offenses worthy of firing/not renewing. The extension doesn’t necessarily mean that they think he is perfect or expect that he’s going to be perfect and for that whole period though, either. Frankly, his extension calls into question Gorton’s evaluation skills for many fans…whether or not that’s entirely fair.

      I have said elsewhere, I’d much rather AV just stop making some of these head-scratching decisions (or lack of a decision in some cases, see: his in game adjustment woes) and remain the coach than to go through bringing in someone new, which of course is always completely hit and miss. It’s just…he’s not gonna do that. His hubris seems immense and he’s content trying to fit square blocks into smaller round holes without ever questioning how it is going wrong when it doesn’t work, apparently. I’m not a huge fan of that.

      • Rampant favoritism? I would agree, that shouldn’t happen. The problem is that you and others are seeing AV through a certain lens that I doubt is shared by the NHL coaching, GM or scouting community.

        Simply put, I think you are DRAMATICALLY overstating the degree to which AV supposedly plays favorites.

        Again, in all the years I covered sports, in the years since talking to coaches and GMs in different sports (excluding a HOF who is a mentor and friend), this really isn’t that different than what is normal. Rookies have less of a leash. Sometimes sitting and learning is what’s best for them. Torts played favorites, Parcells played favorites, Torre played favorites, Herb Brooks played favorites, Billy Martin played favorites. I cant think of anyone in fact that didnt, at least no one that was succesful. And as I said, I would bet anything that if you could sit down with the NHL “brain trust”, most if not all would not agree with you.

        • I don’t know what to tell you, sir. If you really believe any of those coaches you named as consistently favored legacy players and glue guys over skill as AV does, we might actually be in parallel universes with different histories and somehow are communicating with each other at this moment. Taking the specific example of Torre…actually, I’d argue he quite obviously put an immense amount of trust in the young core of the Yankees, especially during their 90s dynasty run. It obviously paid off.

          • Torre inherited the Core Four from Showalter. In Pettitte, he already had a starter hat had proved himself the year before. So no risk there. In Rivera, it became pretty obvious that he was the best arm on the team, but who did Torre trust to close games? Wetteland. Mo had to wait a whole nother year before getting his chance to close.

            Actually, the Rivera that was getting the most publicity in 1996 was Mo’s cousin Ruben, who was a stud prospect with a rife arm and serious power. He came up in September, and I remember people screaming that Torre should play him more over that O’Neill guy. Well, we know how that all worked out. Torre went with the vet and that certainly was the right move.

            Posada vs Girardi makes my point perfectly. There was no question who possessed more talent–the younger Posada. But Posada barely played in 1996, and had to split duties with the more seasoned Girardi right through the 1999 season. It really wasn’t until 2000 that the full time job became Jorge’s. FOUR seasons of slowly being integrated into the lineup.

            Jeter was obviously a different story, but he was mature beyond his years and became a future HOF. I wouldn’t plan on booking any trips to Toronto for HOF induction ceremonies for any of the guys AV has benched, that’s for sure!

            Parcells famously held back Tony Romo, and said in fact that (paraphrasing) “you run a major risk in giving a young player too much, too soon. If you do that, you can ruin the player.”

            Back to hockey, after Kreider had his remarkable playoff debut and may have been the only reason the Rangers weren’t bounced in the first round, Torts “rewarded” Kreider by sending him to the minors and barely playing him the next season. Torts was slow to recognize what he had in Zuc as well. So Torts certainly had his “favorites” as of course every coach does. But again, somehow, Torts gets a pass on that when he did exactly the same thing.

            Conversely, Kreider thrived under AV’s tutelage, and AV has had his back for all four years…sticking with him despite the fact he had a very inconsistent and often frustrating career.

            He took an immediate liking to Zuc and brought out the best in him. I think the same can be said about Stepan.

            The following year, he played Kevin Hayes in 79 games and the kid had a terrific rookie season.

            Last year, once he was called up, he quickly integrated a young Brady Skjei into the lineup and trusted him with big minutes in the playoffs against a juggernaut Penguins offense attack. And he continues to trust this rookie with significant minutes and responsibility, and he has had a great year–which AV certainly should get some credit for (he wont out here, but I’m sure he does in the only place it matters–the front office)

            So really, the entire false AV narrative that he doesnt play the kids blah blah blah is all really about a handful of guys—

            Miller—Was 20 years old when AV came on board. Talented yes, but significant issues in terms of his play in the defensive zone. Then we learned there were significant work ethic issues. It took time for JT to mature. Now at age 23, he’s getting it. I still think you all dramatically overrate him, but he is having a very good year–thanks in large part to the way he was coached.

            Hayes–Had a great year under AV in year one. Slipped in year two. Everyone out here had a cow because AV benched him for all of three games last year. Yet AV played him the exact same amount of games as the previous year and gave him even more ATOI. Yet somehow, AV was a “coward” for sitting him (as was said by one blogger i otherwise respect in what had to be the ultimate jump the shark comment!). Turned out the kid was out of shape last year.

            Lindberg–AV sat him quite a bit last year and got skewered for it. Turned out he was hurt and needed hip surgery.

            McIlrath– The truth that the AV haters cant quite wrap their heads around is that AV showed more faith in McIlrath than any other NHL coach thus far…and it’s not even close. But that’s ignored of course because AV obviously had it in for this kid who not one NHL team was willing to claim when placed on waivers—TWICE!

            Then of course, there’s the fact that Hayes and Vesey CHOSE to come to NY to play for this coach. You think they would have come here if AV actually did have a bad rep with younger players? The only place it seems that he has that bad rep is in the blogosphere, obviously not the real world.

            And last but not least, the Rangers are getting younger as a team. They clearly need a coach that can bring that youth along. Gorton obviously made his feelings clear what he thinks of his current coach’s ability to bring out the best in these young players. Especially given that the team has EXCEEDED expectations in what was supposed to be a year of regression.

            The evidence is pretty overwhelming that the way the majority of the blog sees AV is totally different than the way the NHL community sees him.

      • Egelstein

        Wow, that is soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo well stated, I wish I could write this well. No disrespect to E3 but he is set in his beliefs, and so be it. I am 100000% in your corner, and as frustrating as it is, well we have to go along with this guy running the show until such time they pull the plug on him. Let’s all hope it’s real soon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • Maybe you will get your wish sometime in the 2019 calendar year. Barring an epic unraveling, there’s virtually no chance AV gets canned before then given the extension he just got.

            Then again, in. 2019, he might get another extension! 🙂

  • One bright side: I think AV has lost confidence in Klein. It may be that he will get into the lineup ahead of Clendo and Kampfer if he is healthy and one of the top six guys goes down, but I don’t see him as a top six defensemen in AV’s scheme.

    I don’t agree on how AV should handle the fans. People believe what they want to believe and AV explaining why Girardi or Glass should start is not going to make anybody more tolerant of his (in their opinion) lunacy.

    Assuming Montreal prevails over Ottawa, I can tell you what will happen. The Rangers will exit in five games. Here at BSB, most people will blame Girardi and poor coaching decisions. Eddie will note that the Rangers just don’t have enough stars. I will make the observation that the Rangers simply don’t have the goaltending they need to win the Cup. Because, in the end, when you identify weaknesses ahead of time and the team comes up short, it proves your point (never mind that it proves everyone else’s).

    Incidentally, I agree on Raanta. Get what you can get. He probably isn’t all that great. Yes, he has been as good or better than Hank, but that just isn’t a very high bar anymore.

    • I agree on some of what you are saying, especially on how the fans should be handled. And also believe that when the Rangers do get eliminated, yes, everyone will double down on their own beliefs as to why.

      Why do you think the Habs would oust the Rangers in 5? Was it because they looked like a juggernaut when they lost their last two games to weaklings Detroit and Carolina? 🙂

      Actually, according to, the Habs are in a bit of disarray at the moment and Julien is scratching his head as to how to generate some offense. The way the Rangers are going with their scoring, these might be 0-0 triple OT games!

      Three years ago at this time, we were similarly struggling. No one could have foreseen the amazing run they went on to the SCF.

      It’s very simple. If the Rangers can get just one or two guys hot….seriously hot….I think the offense can come alive. I’ve said over and over we don’t have enough stars to win a Cup, but there are enough good players like Kreider and Stepan who have had playoff success.

      And I know you mistakenly believe that Hank is washed up, even though he was back to playing great before he got injured. If he gets back in that group, and merely duplicates his strong performances from the first two rounds two years ago (let alone his brilliance prior to that), there is no reason at all we can’t make it all the way to the ECF. But we obviously have to raise our play…especially on the PK.

      Repeat after me Ray…..BEST GAME 7 GOALIE…..EVER!!!! (Just need to get to Game 7!) 🙂

      • If a guy is under .500 in the playoffs and great in Game 7, doesn’t that say he is not very good at all in the first 6 games.

        I did not find three years ago that surprising. The Rangers were clearly better than their first round opponent, the Flyers. The series was close only because both Flyer goalies stole a game. The Penguin series was an upset, but remember the very talented Pens were obviously beatable – they did fail to win the Cup six years in a row, even make a final (something few would have foreseen in 2009 when their dynasty began). They got lucky against Montreal with the Price injury.

        But as for this year and Montreal, well, Hank has just struggled against Montreal and especially in Montreal. And the comparison between the puck handling of Price and Lundqvist. For all intents and purposes, the Rangers are playing the entire game a man down. And that is my complaint with Hank. Yes, he’s above average when it comes to stopping the puck – though not what he was – but other teams manage zone exits with six players and the Rangers only have five.

        • Ray, I respect you. You are a very smart guy. But I doubt that there is anyone anywhere in the hockey world who believes that historically, Hank’s “not very good” in Games 1-6. I don’t even know what to say about that. He has had so many brilliant series in his portfolio but for some reason you just don’t want to see because you just don’t think much of him. Your prerogative of course, but inaccurate.

          You at least have an argument about Raanta vs Hank this season. That I will concede is open to debate. But the past? sure, he’s had his clunkers like any goalie. But the guy has on the whole been BRILLIANT in post-season, and often under far more stress than his counterparts given the lack of offense this group has “generated” over the years. I have no doubt that if the leading contenders could select any goalie to be the guy for their team in post-season, Hank would be at or near the top of everyone’s list.

          Sadly, I believe your analysis is very unfair and I suspect not at all what the experts, both NHL execs and writers, especially those who will decide his HOF credentials, will conclude.

          • It is humorous that if you compare the Cam Talbot of 2013-2014 to Lundqvist of the same year – a totally lopsided comparison (Talbot was much better), the comparison is rightfully derided as small sample size – and yet Hank’s Game 7 performance (far less extensive than Talbot’s 18 games that year) is somehow meaningful.

            I looked at Hank’s overall SCP performance and what I saw was basically the same Hank that we see during the year. 10-10 lifetime on series, two games under .500 in W-L, roughly the same save percentage and GAA. I’d say that’s typical – opposition is tougher, but scoring tends to decline. On average, he neither picks up his game nor chokes. Since there is no overall improvement, the fact that he is better in Game 7 suggests he makes up for it by faltering in some of the other games. His W-L in Games 1-6 is weak.

            His focus is not even. I suspect less so than other tenders. One does get the feeling that he can do anything when focused, but he doesn’t hold that focus for long stretches. But he has simply not been brilliant in the postseason on balance. He has stolen a series or two, yes, but his SC career is basically what you would expect from his regular season performance.

            My analysis is not unfair. It may be totally wrong, but it is based on solid reasoning. One important thing to remember is that the most overrated hockey player in history is likely either in the HOF or will end up there. Because the way to get into the HOF is be thought of as great (not to actually be great). Now the two things largely go hand in hand, but sometimes people get things wrong.

            I believe the perceived ability of players is based somewhat on those around him. Mats Zuccarello is a brilliant passer. Yet suppose he spent a lifetime playing with either Tanner Glass or Jarri Kurri. With Kurri, one would would marvel at Zucc’s passing, as he lined up Kurri for one one-timer after another. With Glass, one just wouldn’t notice because the puck would never find the net.

            I remember one period in the playoffs last year when the Penguins totally dominated. The puck was almost never in their end and Murray didn’t have to be there — but that isn’t what happened. Occasionally, the puck did go into the Penguins defensive zone and it was Murray that triggered the zone exit. Yes, the Pens have great skaters, but their goal tender made them look even better, made them look so good he seemed superfluous. Lundqvist makes his teammates look worse. He makes it easier for the opposition to keep the pressure on. Yes, he is good at keeping the puck out of the net, but the fact that he faces so many tough shots is neither bad luck nor bad teammates.

            Honestly, I do expect Lundqvist to get in the HOF whether he deserves it or not. OTOH, I really don’t believe all of the contenders would have Hank in their top ten today.

            I think getting beaten statistically by your backup might happen as a fluke. But four years running?? And like you, I do not see either Talbot or Raanta in the HOF. They are just a pair of good goalies.

            Incidentally, I think in general we tend to overvalue goalies. I think that if we could see a lot of Hellberg in action, we would see the kind of performance we tend to expect, somewhat competent, but just beaten by real good shots, maybe 3.4 GAA. But the guys who play regularly in the NHL are just amazing and make so many unbelievable stops. We marvel at one and don’t notice that they are all doing it.

          • Ray-

            You do make a very intelligent argument, even though I could not disagree with you more.

            There are always athletes that for some reason people think are overrated. It seems to happen a lot with Rangers goalies. Giacomin was beloved and was a HOF, but there was a small handful of vocal fans that thought Villemure was better. The Beezer vs Richter debate was very intense, with no real clear cut right answer. Of course, it was Richter who got the chance in 1994 and delivered. Who knows what Beezer would have done?

            I remember the year after Richter won the Cup, he struggled a bit and the fans immediately turned on him. Said Healy should be playing instead. In modern times we have Hank vs Talbot and now vs Raanta.

            We love our goalies in NY…but there are also those who seem to resent how beloved they are. Just part of the territory I guess.

          • You may not see this, but part of my argument is that many athletes are overrated – of necessity. It is well nigh impossible to decide exactly how good a player is and the consensus almost inevitably will either value a player too high or too low. Hopefully, it is usually close, but also inevitably there are some big misses. But there won’t be agreement on those misses, because if everyone agrees a player is overrated, they are not that highly rated after all.

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