Lindberg? Hayes? Why not both?

oscar lindberg kevin hayes henrik lundqvist

With the expansion draft looming, there’s naturally going to be a lot of talk and speculation about who the Rangers are going to lose to Las Vegas. It’s certainly not fun envisioning one of our beloved Blueshirts in Vegas Gold/Black/Whatever, but it’s just the reality of the situation. Among the most likely candidates to be chosen are Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast, and Michael Grabner.

Now, I’m going to focus primarily on Lindberg in this post, because there’s been some buzz lately about the season he’s had compared to Kevin Hayes. Their respective numbers are pretty comparable this past season, with Hayes actually posting slightly worse numbers than Lindberg in G/60, P1/60, relCF%, relGF%, and relxGF%. This is certainly concerning, and isn’t the kind of thing we want to see, but I think it’s fair to throw some cold water on all the talk about Lindberg and Hayes.

You see, implicit in the discussion comparing the two is the notion that should the Rangers have to lose one of them to the expansion draft, it should be Hayes, rather than Lindberg. Along those same lines, should the Rangers opt to trade someone in the offseason for defensive help, Hayes would actually hurt less and likely net more, given his name recognition and reputation around the league. Both of these ideas are reasonable on some level, but frame the issue rather poorly.

The first thing to consider is that Hayes was not put in a situation to succeed by Alain Vigneault this season, being deployed often in defensive situations and being stuck with Grabner and Miller despite indications later in the season that their early production was not sustainable. This, understandably, resulted in Hayes’s worst season since he broke into the league, which is still concerning, but given the reasons behind it not all that terrible. If circumstances are what drove his production down, then circumstances can again drive it up.

It’s also important to note that sometimes players have down years, which is not great but totally fine in the long term. It’s entirely possible that next year, regardless of his linemates/deployment (although hopefully that improves too) that he bounces back. Given then kind of slack some fans are willing to cut guys like Kevin Klein it seems silly to me that we can’t cut Hayes, who’s been a key part of the Rangers’ strong center depth, just a little bit of the same slack. Along similar lines, it’s also possible that Lindberg is having an uncharacteristically good year, and that he comes back down to Earth a bit next year.

Which leads me to my next point: we need to look at the skill set each of them brings to the table. I’m of the opinion that Hayes’s ceiling is higher than Lindberg’s and that losing the former in order to keep the latter would be a mistake. Now obviously if the price is right and some team wants to offer a veritable number one defenseman for Kevin Hayes, Gorton has to do what’s best for the team. Nonetheless, Hayes has proven his playmaking bona fides time and again, while Lindberg, not to knock him, just doesn’t seem to show that same kind of electricity.

But more importantly, the Rangers will likely not be losing either of them in the expansion draft, so the discussion is moot. Michael Grabner is simply too hot of a commodity to pass up, and would likely put up at least somewhat solid point production alongside Vadim Shipachyov next season, with the added benefit of being a valuable asset to be flipped at the deadline for some more draft picks for Vegas. Lindberg simply doesn’t have that kind of value to Vegas, but just in case, the Rangers can always attempt to incentivize the Golden Knights into taking someone like Nick Holden by way of offering them additional draft picks (although not the first rounder, please Gorton).

All of this is to say that yes, Lindberg did outperform Hayes this season, but looking more long term, it’s likely that Hayes turns out the be the better player. That said, Lindberg is a cheap, solid two-way center under team control, and while he would be easily replaced it’s certainly better to have him than not. In any event, we can, and likely will have both come next season, so why worry?

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  • Last season was Hayes worst not this one. I’ll say it again, Hayes is not a Centre for various reasons. First, he’s a bit too slow to play centre, he holds on too the puck too long & he’s not a natural playmaker like JT Miller. He could be a very good winger because of his ability to get the puck & hold on to it, which would work better in puck battles along the boards. We heard recently how JT told Lindberg & Glass to give him the puck because he wants & likes to make plays. AV with his poor cognitive skills cannot think this through, so he puts JT & Hayes in position not to succeed to their full potential by playing them in the wrong place. JT is a playmaker & wants the puck & Hayes could be a force along the wall. As for Lindberg, he has a lot of upside & deserves consideration as a third line centre. He puts himself in a position to score goals & he plays physically which I like in any centre.

    • Hayes was tried on the wing after the Eric Staal acquisition. He looked even worse than he did this past season.

      • Spozo, my recollection was that, after Staal was acquired, AV didnt want to move Hayes away from his comfort zone at center. So it was Staal that was asked to move out of his comfort zone and become a wing.

        It’s ironic because all the folks out here who think that AV has it in for the kids forget that Hayes came to camp is less than ideal shape last year, had a mediocre season, and still AV was reluctant to bench the guy and felt bad about doing so. For all the talk about how AV favors vets, he certainly didnt do so in that case. He bent over backwards to get Hayes going when he could have easily just moved Hayes and played Staal at center. But he largely stuck with the kid, despite his struggles.

        However, to your broader point, I agree. There are no indications at all that Hayes would be better on the wing. And certainly there is nothing to suggest that Miller would be better as a center. Center is a leadership position where you need a player with excellent instincts. Miller’s hockey instincts IMO are arguably the worst on the team and not anywhere good enough to be a center, At least not yet.

        • I thought they tried everything. Even just for a game or 2 both players were shuffled to the wing at different times.

          • You may well be correct. But I do remember that Staal played quite a bit of wing.

        • Yes, and of course playing wing in college certainly means he can be a succesful wing in the NHL. There’s really no difference between the two levels. It’s just like the argument about a certain overrated defenseman in Grand Rapids. He’s been moved up to the top pairing so…..ooooohhhh…no doubt, that PROVES he can do the same in the NHL.


          • A complete non sequitur. Take logic 101 in your spare time. Did your mother drop you on your head as a baby?

          • Ahhh…I always know when I’ve gotten you. You resort to your usual childish response, as opposed to explaining why I might be wrong.

            I accept your admission of defeat, DonRonty! 🙂

          • Your brain dead—I said it was a non sequitur but that went over your head. Look it up, maybe you can use it on the newscast. I bet you work for Fox News, right Edward?

          • McIlrath showed in 15-16 season he could play in the NHL, his output in the playoffs is just confirmation.

            Undertaker aside, AV has demonstrated for the last few years he has no clue when it comes to evaluating defencemen.

          • If so, then why did every team pass on him–twice? Amazing how that fact keeps getting overlooked. And his AHL “output” of 4 assists in 8 games is confirmation of his NHL potential? Hilarious!

            As for AV and defensemen, I present to the court Exhibit A–Brady Skjei, who had a fantastic rookie season under this supposedly clueless coach.

          • Dylan McIlrath was big for us last series. He’s a big body, he likes playing the game within the game because he’s a very tough guy, so he can kind of get the other team off their game a bit.”

            The 6-foot-5, 236-pound McIlrath joined the Griffins after the Red Wings traded forward Thomas Vanek to the Florida Panthers for a third-round pick in 2017 and McIlrath at the March 1 trade deadline.

            “We’ve talked about it over the course of the year, saying we have to get somebody in here to help us survive during the regular season because we didn’t really have that element to our game,” Nelson said. “We never had an answer so adding a guy like Dylan made everybody grow about five or six inches taller. It was a piece that we felt we needed and it just kind of happened. It was a situation where there was availability for him. It worked out and it certainly has helped our team out. Besides his toughness, Dylan has been doing a great job on the penalty kill – he’s a big, rangy guy, pays the price to block shots. He’s been a very good fit for us.”–Coach Todd Nelson

            Oh ya, I forgot, if AV didn’t say it, it doesn’t count “cause only AV knows anything about hockey according to his doting lover, Edward of Fox News!

          • Yes, DonRonty. I cant argue with the fact he is a fine fine AHL player. On that, you will get no argument from me. Maybe he will be the next Ken Gernander and the Griffins will retire his number one day!

            I’m thinking there has to be a story here. A cult that worships AHL hockey players that aren’t good enough to make the show but the cult members insist they are anyway. I’ll get back to you on this! 🙂

  • Why not keep them both and let Fast go. Linemates of Fast do not score much. Put Fast on Kreiders line and Kreider does not score. Fast is another Glass, with better hands and no knuckles.

    • You obviously weren’t watching the playoffs. Fast was arguably one of the Rangers best forwards. Not to mention the back to back Players Player Award. You and others dont appreciate what he brings to the table, but the players do. Call me crazy, but I think I’ll go with their endorsement over yours.

      • Math and winning in not one of your priorities. I do not care how much a garbage picker works he is just a garbage picker. Your priority is based on perception and not facts. Fast disappeared like everyone else, however, he does not make anyone better with his play. His line scores less when he is on the ice. He is no Adam Graves, he is more like a Pruka. It looks like he gets killed when he gets checked. It affects the team in a negative way when you are a pinata.

          • If that’s what they believe, that is OK. They will not win on that belief so it is stupid to say that don’t you think?

          • Eddie, will you stop with your nonsense. Because the players like a guy doesn’t mean he is superlative. Fast is a good player, no doubt, but he’s nothing special. And the players loved DMAC too, Raanta saying how good he was in the room, so I guess that makes him a great player too.

          • And where exactly did I say that anyone (players, me, press, etc) ever said he was superlative or great. I was merely responding to the narrative that RR has gone with (and, if I’m not mistaken, you have too) that Fast is not even a good player. If guys like Miller, Hayes and Kreider would play with half of his heart and focus, they’d be legit stars by now instead of the faux stars they are.

          • I guess since you are always dissing Kreider, Hayes & Miller, it must mean they owe their development to AVs superlative coaching.

          • They do, since certainly, in Kreider’s case, he now has a coach that trusts him implicitly (one might argue too much) as opposed to his clueless predecessor that banished him to the minors.

            In the case of all three, each have been mostly on an upward trajectory under AV, even though one can argue that the team around them, especially on defense, is not as good as it was 2-3 years ago.

            The one sure sign that a player is “faux” great as opposed to truly great is the excuses you start hearing. How many coaches have guys like Ovie and Crosby played for? They excelled under every one of them. The Sedin Twins excelled under AV. True greatness can not be held back. It shines through regardless of the coach, of the linemates. That’s what true greatness is.

            Kreider and Miller are very good players. Hayes is solid. In the case of Miller, he’s still young enough that he can still become more. Hayes and especially Kreider? They may have already reached their ceiling.

            But at this point, none of them are truly great players. And that in a nutshell is the problem.

            “Good but not great players yielding good but not great results”–Ladies and gentlemen, I present the 2007-2017 Rangers.

          • Maybe the players have nothing to play for because the coach will screw it up anyway. He has a history of not being able to motivate the team.
            Its funny that you increase the value of ok players and very good players are bad.
            Poor coaches can motivate and AV can’t! Losers will be losers. Whats worse is the supporters of losers. You made your bed in hell and that is what you deserve.

          • That’s just it RR. And you finally admit it. The “Anti-Triplets” are, at their best, very good players. They are not great players. No teams wins championships without one or two truly great players.

            Formula for wining it all–

            1). Top tier 1C
            2) A shutdown defensive pair with at least one Norris Trophy caliber player
            3) Defensive Depth
            4) Great goaltending.

            You don’t need all of these things to win, but most SC teams have at least two. The Rangers, as currently constituted have only number 4, and even Hank (who you have no use for), isn’t as dominant as he once was.

            Coaching change wont change that. What changes it is an influx of top tier talent, either through development or acquisition.

          • The Sedin Twins excelled under AV, and will be HOF’ers, but with a loaded lineup, he still couldn’t take them over the top. Sorry, he is a very good regular season coach, but chokes in the PO’s, and or forgets his best pair of d-men at the most important part of a game, and loses same!!!!!!!!!

        • Fast is a defensively skilled forward. He’s not usually put out there to score. But when he does play with scorers, while he’s not much of a playmaker, he does all the little things that PLAYERS appreciate, but fans do not (enamored as we are with goals and stats). He makes life easier for his linemates, and does it consistently.
          The comment about “you put him with Kreider, and Kreider stops scoring” put all emphasis on Fast, and ignores Kreider’s mental vacations.

          • Perfectly said Pavel. The problem is that too many people give Kreider (and Miller and Hayes too) a complete pass for their shortcomings and blame them instead on the guys they are playing with (Fast, Stepan, etc).

            I remember hearing the same nonsense said about Kovalev…if only that clueless Colin Campbell would pair him with someone other than Ray Ferraro. Truth was, Kovalev was an overrated head case and totally uncoachable.

            It’s always someone else’s fault. But truly great players don’t need such excuses made for them.

          • Actually, Fast is much better as a forechecker than he is in the defensive zone where he is easily distracted and sometimes fails to be aware of where players are.

          • Fast is a skilled forechecker. Backchecking, not so much.

            He’s a nice player on a cheap contract. Much like Hagelin, the moment that price goes up, he prices himself out of NYC.

          • That is silly Pavel. No one on Glasses line scores either. Does that mean the mental condition of his linemates is limited?

          • Not at all. The forth line is not typically counted on to generate much scoring. And our firth line this year delivered far more than was expected of then. And I’m not saying that Lindy, Glass, Grabner, etc have mental lapses.
            But the guys who are expected to score: Kreisler, Miller, Hayes are paid to generate offense. And are you seriously going to argue that these guys don’t disappear entirely for games at a time? Kreisler plays like a beast when he feels like it, and does his “where is Chris” act way too often.
            Meanwhile, Fast, who doesn’t possess the skill of the top 6 guys, plays consistently more often than not. When he’s on the ice, his teammates know what he’ll bring.
            Now, I’m not saying that Fast belongs on the top six. He’s the bottom half guy. And like some here said, he’s good, but not a great player. But to blame him for lack of scoring from the big guns? Seriously?
            Our stars don’t score because of subpar coaching and lack of desire. Not because Fast moves up to play with them once in a blue moon

      • Glass hustles & breaks his butt too, and players love him, but that does not make him a great player either.

        • And again, I used the word “great” where exactly when describing Fast? (Reading comprehension…..try it sometime)

          It has been reported over and over again that to a man, the players literally lobby the coach to get Fast on their line. That’s how respected he is.

          He’s not a great player. But he’s a far more valuable asset than he gets credit for out here. And if we lose him, he will be missed.

          • Eddie, I truly admire your fortitude and persistence with this crowd. It is something to behold. My question is, if, in order to win a CUP, you need a tier 1 center, when oh when do the Rangers get this guy in house? When?

          • Persistence? LOL!!! Joe, It’s I know everything stubbornness. You really need to get that Delusional Disorder addressed compadre.

          • Methinks you are describing yourself Donald! All I like to do is debate a subject. And I will be the first to admit when I’m wrong when I am. In fact, I would love it. That’s how one learns and grows.

            I’ve said all along, most of you know far more than I do. Even you Don. Your knowledge of the game is remarkable, and I meant that. However, your ability to dismiss established facts is troubling. You have a tendency to distort reality to fit your false narratives at times. When that happens, I will take you on vigorously. Sorry if that troubles you.

          • I am working on it, going to be retiring soon, getting a boat and going fishing, should help I think.

          • Thank you Joe! I always thought that the whole point of a blog was to engage in a meaningful debate. When the debate gets too one-sided to the point that it defies reality, I will often offer up the other viewpoint.

            But some out here, like the Donald, will not entertain any other perspective. Especially on his man-crush Dylan McIlrath. An alternate viewpoint on McIlrath or AV is taboo, and you will be attacked if you dare go against the grain.

            There’s no reasoning with a cult-leader! 🙂

          • I forgot to answer your question Joe….probably because there is no answer.

            The NHL Draft has been around since 1963 I think. In that time, to the best of my knowledge, the Rangers have only had two #1 picks that made the HOF–Brad Park and Brian Leetch. They got a great one in Richter of course. And they lucked out on Hank. Beyond that? This team has NEVER drafted an elite future HOF scorer. I mean, that’s unbelievable!

            Everyone wonders why it’s been 1 Cup in 77 years. That’s why. The one year we did win, we basically had to buy everyone away from an Edmonton Oilers team. If not for Peter Pocklington, we’d probably have the longest streak of failure in pro sports.

            The Rangers were horrible from 1998-2004. They missed the playoffs in 2010. In those years, they failed to cash in with high end draft picks. If they had, we’d be the Blackhawks.

            We are kind of stuck in the middle. A good team but always falling short to teams with at least one great player to tilt the balance. Until that changes, unless everything breaks right with injuries to other teams, sadly, I expect more of the same.

            So much rests on the “Anti-Triplets” as well as Vesey and Buch. IF even one of them can become truly elite, then the narrative can flip. Or, if there’s a bold trade or FA signing.

            BTW, to your point about Hayes, I wont dispute it. I’m very, very skeptical about young players. I hope for the best but expect the worst. He was TERRIBLE down the stretch and in the playoffs. But you never know what next year will bring. Let’s hope you are right.

        • Seriously? Comparing Glass and Fast?
          There were roughly 37251 posts (according to my butt, where I keep such data) complaining about Glass, and his lack of NHL ability. How many were about Fast?

  • What? Hayes was BETTER last year than this year? I’m just scratching my head trying to figure that one out. And he wasn’t put in a position to succeed? Half this blog was screaming whenever Miller, Hayes and Grabner weren’t playing together. Now all of a sudden Hayes playing on that line is the reason he “regressed”, even though he actually didnt? Unbelievable.

    Last year Hayes was barely medicore, and by his own admission he was not in top shape. This year, he came to camp in shape, played well until he got hurt in January, and then when he returned, unfortunately he regressed badly. Possibly the injury was a lingering thing, who knows?

    I’m not a Hayes fan. I think, like Kreider and Miller, that they are very overrated in terms of their upside. But the stats dont lie. Hayes was better this year than last. Not worse.

    It’s the silly season, so we have to talk about something. Hayes is not going to be made available in the expansion draft. That would be a huge waste of an asset. Would I trade him? In a heartbeat. But let him go for nothing? No way.

    We will lose either Lindberg, Fast, Raanta, Grabner or possibly Holden. It won’t be Hayes.

    • Also, the thing to consider about Lindberg is that he got off to a slow start because he was recuperating from hip surgery which had hinder his development somewhat. I always liked this kid who has shown an upside at every level he has played. He is quicker then Hayes and right now, just as skillful in his own way. He showed flashes this year of very decent offensive and defensive abilities as the year progressed. I believe he will mature quickly and surpass Hayes as an all around player, especially at the center position. If we let him go, I have a feeling we will regret it soon enough. I seriously doubt if he will ever be a superstar, but he will become a very good player. I still don’t believe that Hayes will get much better then he is now, possibly worse. though a decent puck handler, he plays a lackluster game with little or no passion (something the Ranger don’t need more of). Trade him now for something good if possible, but keep Lindberg! Fast is a very good defensive forward and certainly an important asset to have on any team.
      Grabner, who had a good year, we may miss because of his explosive speed on the penalty kill, but he really faded in the second half and may not be such a big loss.

      • Just because a hockey player has no offensive skills..that doesnt make them a very good defensive player. Fast is not a good positional player but hides this shortfall with his skating. I rather see Hayes or Miller on the pk anyday.

      • This is the reason that it’s imperative we trade Stepan, we then protect both Hayes, and Lindberg, who I would take over Daisy in a heart beat. Oh, and we save a load of money in the process!!!!!


    • Like AV Patrick Roy is also dumber than a sack of hammers. According to Roy then, Holden is a better D than Tyson Barrie. Only he & AV would ever think such a thing.

      • Holden was the leading goal scorer among all Rangers defensemen. And we got that production for a relatively meaningless 4th round pick. I bet most NHL execs would rate that deal as a steal for the Rangers.

        Flawed player to be sure, and certainly regressed as the season went on, no doubt. But he was a key cog in the Rangers offensive attack when they were clicking prior to mid-February.

        • The guy was an AHL regular for several years until the Avalanche decided he was an NHLer. Holden is more interested in scoring goals than playing D in his own zone.

          • He was a late bloomer for sure. Much like your boy McIlrath. Which proves it takes time for young defenseman to figure it all out. Especially marginal guys like those two. So was Columbus nuts for giving up on Holden a few years back?

            Holden was a very good playoff performer for the Avs a few years ago. In 2015-16, he had a good solid year on a very bad team.

            He is what he is, a decent offensive player with holes in his game. Well worth the acquisition for a 4th Rounder!

  • Lindberg over Hayes 100% ALL DAY LONG, look no further than the playoffs, Hayes is a slow as a snail, soft as they come, a player who avoids contact like the plague, put Stephan in that category too. Get rid of Hayes and Stephan!!!

    • Only for the right return. No way would I expose either to the draft unless there was some other plan to offset the loss.

    • I don’t know, I kinda like Hayes, I just don’t think he is done progressing. I think next year will be a break out year for him. Don’t ask me to back it up with facts, I have none, just a hunch!

      By the way, Dave, I assume, love the new 5 minute edit feature!

  • Maybe the Rangers could move Jesper at the draft for a young blue chip dman. From what i am reading he is another Thomas Steen in the making.

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