Some quick thoughts before the pre-season opener

Photo Credit; New York Rangers

After a long and arduous offseason, the Rangers finally kick things off on the 2017-2018 season on Monday against the Islanders.  There has obviously been a ton of coverage over the summer on the Blueshirts’ moves and non-moves, but as the season approaches, I have some thoughts…

1. I know everyone keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop on Nick Holden, but with Vegas more or less a sure thing to drop a couple of NHL capable d-men through waivers in the coming weeks, I think defense needy teams who would otherwise be in on Holden are playing the waiting game. It’s a viable strategy, and those who are left without a seat when the music stops might make a desperation play for oft-maligned defensemen, but I am trying to grasp the reality that he will be a member of the blue line for this coming season.

2. That said, I hope his role is appropriately marginalized with the reinforcements that Jeff Gorton has brought in over the summer. AV had some harsh words for Marc Staal yesterday, but we know his track record with veterans he trusts. It will be a frustrating thing to spend all season writing about how angry we all are about Tony DeAngelo rotting in the press box while Holden logs twenty minutes a night.

3. I am profoundly disappointed in the Rangers’ PTO activities this year. Not necessarily because I’m angry about the guys they brought in, but because there are still so many attractive PTO candidates sitting out there that they are ignoring.  If you want to tell me that Jaromir Jagr isn’t a good fit because he is too slow for the system AV employs, fine, but don’t tell me that there aren’t good candidates out there to take a shot at adding some forward depth with no risk.

4. Speaking of forward depth, it scares the hell out of me that it seems the organization is actually expecting Lias Andersson to make the team out of a camp and contribute in a meaningful way at eighteen. I know that the aging curve for forwards is trending down, but teenage success is generally reserved for elite talent.  I’ve heard nothing but good things about Andersson, but I would love to give him a month or two in Hartford to acclimate and hopefully dominate before turning him loose on the NHL.

5. I’m rooting to Tanner Glass to succeed out in Calgary. He is by all accounts a great guy and the type of player that the rest of the team likes to have in the room.  It’s not nothing to feel like a teammate always has your back and will do anything it takes to win.  I’ve played with guys whose skill was never where it needed to be for the team, but we loved those guys because of who they were.  From an organizational standpoint, though, that doesn’t cut it.  I wish him well, but I am glad he is another organization’s problem at this point.  Hopefully, this is the last time I ever have to write about Tanner Glass.

6. This may sound sacrilegious, but I’m still not thrilled with the Ondrej Pavelec signing. I trust that Benoit Allaire can take his existing talent and make it thrive.  I don’t trust that Pavelec will actually let him do it.  It’s a good thing I would bank on a bounce back year from Lundqvist, because I think Pavelec will be a massive downgrade on the performances of Cam Talbot and Antti Raanta the past few seasons.  I do oddly like his bucket this year, even if it appears to be sans Springsteen.

7. Looking at the training camp roster, there isn’t as much filler as I expected. Sure, there are warm bodies to fill out practice groups and to spread out game action, but the majority of guys in camp are guys that the organization seems to feel have a future.  Now, this is qualified a little bit by the fact that the Rangers have a very shallow farm system at the moment, so a lot of these guys will probably never make an impact at the NHL level, but I am interested to see many of these younger players, first hand.

8. I’ll be honest, I dig the Adidas jerseys. Especially the practice ones.  Like the soccer kits, they add some texture and sleekness to normally bulky sweaters.  Obviously, the Rangers jersey will never really change that much, but I’m hoping for a really interesting Winter Classic edition this season.

9. Congratulations to Jeff Brown, the winner of our 2017 Offseason Plan Contest. Jeff prevailed by the slimmest of margins, but that is more a testament to the quality of the submissions.  Be on the lookout for a guest post from Jeff in the near future.

That’s it for me this week.  Everyone enjoy the weekend, because Rangers hockey is just around the corner!

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    • But it is… He said at camp he’ll start him at center, I think that meant that the club obviously wants to try it’s options for the center depth issue. Then he goes on to say that JT will probably have to play center at one point hint- he’s preparing for what might happen again if Hayes or Zib are out during the regular season. AV even admitted how he knows that JT prefers the left or right side. There’s still a good chance that he plays top 6 minutes on the wing for majority of the time.

      • Quoting AV
        “I have told [Miller] that we’re going to start him at the center position,” Vigneault told reporters Thursday, the day his team reported for medical testing. “This is a good chance for us to get him some work in the middle. At some point, whether it be early on in the season, he’s probably going to play a little bit of center. It happened last year, it happened the year before, so giving him that experience right off the bat is a good thing.”

        The rest is just conjecture.

        • No need for the quotes and repeating what I said about him eventually playing center, I already decrypt what AV said about JT. I still think his main position will be at top 6 wing and if you’re following what AV said then you must be agreeing with me. The fact that JT has expressed his opinion about that position tells me enough.

  • 1. 100% right Justin.
    2. Self-serving for his own survival. Gorton has spoken and AV will listen.
    3. Doesn’t matter. PTOs don’t make an impact anyway.
    4. Miller at center and the Desjarnais signing practically puts Andersson at Hartford. Gropp may get the nod at wing.
    5. Yep, love the guy, not the NHL player.
    6. In Benoit I Trust.
    7. The Rangers have more NHL legitimate prospects now than I can remember, so that’s progress.
    8. We don’t get t shirts during the playoffs any more so I am sensitive to talking about clothing wear.
    9. Congrats.

    • I am thinking Desjarnais is a safety net for Anderson. Really thinking NYR want to make a splash with this kid.

      • The tale will be told at camp. If the kid plays like he belongs then they’ll bring him up. Watching him the little that I have been able to he seems like a good two way player who is smart and tenacious. He also looks strong on the puck. He just might be given a shot.

        • I do feel that putting JT at center really weakens our wings. This is where either a rookie or someone on a PTO can make an impact, especially until Fast returns.

          • Tamellini, Gropp and Gettinger are all talented kids. Tambellini seems to have a NHL shot. It would be awesome to see one of their young wingers fight his way onto the team.

          • Forgot to mention little Ty Ronning who seems to have the same fearlessness as Zuccarello, as well as great speed and a good shot.

          • Boo has a better shot for things to go in his favor like JT at wing and the lack of 4c’s to make the team than those kids. Gropp or Tamellini would have to have a type of lights out camp and a mix of JT doing great stuff at center in order to win a spot. Imo Buch and Vesey are why Jagar or other depth moves weren’t made by JG.

          • Yes,he is a center, pardon the brain cramp on my part in including him with the wingers.

            But Boo Nieves and Tambellini and Lias Andersson, along with JT Miller and DeSharnais of course, might be why the Rangers don’t view their center situation the way some others have been characterizing it. I am glad they have not pursued the older players who may have been available.

      • Nah the center depth is going to look comfortable with
        1. Zib
        2. Hayes
        4. A mix of Boo, Andrew D, Andersson
        I think that trio has until early November to win a job for the 4c hole. Boo most likely could fail early on and fizzle out of the competition but he’s fair game to get the job as long as he has a solid camp. Fast being out

    • I think I’ll respond to Justin post by agreeing/disagreeing with Richter, who for the most part is usually spot on with his analysis of most things Rangers, other than the make believe Cold War he’s imagining between the GM and coach 🙂

      1 and 2. D’Angelo sitting, Holden or Staal playing is all overblown, just like the past silliness involving marginal nobodies like McIlrath and Clendo. D’Angelo needs to EARN the trust of the coaching staff. Let’s see where these guys are before we do our usual overreactions as to which bottom pair guys should play or should not. And again, I think this self-preservation stuff is silly, The GM gave the coach a major raise and extension. I have no doubt AV is still as valued as he ever was.

      3. Yes and no. PTOs often don’t matter but I agree would have liked to have seen some better options.

      4. The whole center situation is frightening at the moment and may be the death of this team if not addressed. Counting on Zib and Hayes, two good but hardly great players, to do more, counting on an 18 year old, counting on Miller who makes bad decisions far too often and now asking him to play a position he’s had little NHL experience with is not a very comforting thought. We are going to have to keep our fingers crossed here.

      5. Right there with you. Go Tanner!

      6. I’m with Justin here. But also with Richter. I believe Benny will improve Pavelec. I just dont believe we will see anywhere near what we saw the last few years with Talbot and Raanta. More like Biron and Valiquette. If so, expect a point reduction, because both were brilliant filling in for Hank.

      7. Legit NHL prospects, Richter? I’m not seeing it at all. We have a long way to go in that regard.

        • I’m confused. What is it that I posted that offends you, oh great oracle of hockey knowledge, who clearly knows more about the NHL than every current executive employed in the league. Please share. I seek your great wisdom. :).

          SSDD……pretty much describes your over the top, totally removed from reality perspectives on our head coach seems to me.

      • Hey bro, this is always my mindset: You play your best players, no matter age.

        You know what you have in Staal and Holden, and it’s not much. Saying that Staal is playing for his NHL life one day, then saying what a great defender he is the next, is the kind of “I know my faves suck but I have to justify their playing time somehow” BS from the coach is what’s going to get him fired.

        I am not creating any Cold War between the Coach and the GM. It’s not a Cold War, it’s the GM telling the coach to do his efn job, and do it correctly. For some reason, AV would rather lose a playoff series, going down with the Staal/Holden pairing than winning it with Skjei/Smith.

        And there are other examples of this stupidity as well. Game 7 against TB was a beaut and another playoff series loss that can be placed directly at the foot of the Coach. So kudos to the GM for trying to bring sanity behind the Rangers’ bench, because AV cannot do it himself. AV needs therapeutic help, IMHO.

        I am all for allowing young players that may have a shot at playing in the NHL in Oct/Nov, in for vets who outright suck and who are a detriment to the team’s success. You will know after a couple of months whether the young players will cut it or not. Playing vets that can’t skate nor keep up with the current NHL pace will not suddenly develop those attributes that will make them better players. Sad but true.

        • I’m all for playing the best players too. Where we disagree is in assigning value to these players. We can review each and every move I suppose, but that would take too long and just rehashes what we’ve debated before. You advocate for guys like James Sheppard and Adam Clendening. Sheppard never played another NHL game. Clendo has bounced around the league like a pinball. When Clendo and Girardi hit FA this past summer, Girardi got a significant deal in terms of dollars and term. Clendo got another deal emblematic of a 7D. I don’t recall your position on McIlrath, but we certainly know what is career arc has been. He clearly, at least at the moment, is NOT considered by anyone in the league a better option than what we had.

          So in short, there really is no real evidence that anyone in the league would agree with your assertion that AV isn’t playing the best players.

          There is a very fine line playing young players over trusted vets. Sure, AV could go with your approach but at what cost? This league is so balanced. Are you advocating playing young players over vets just to see what they can do, even if doing so costs the team valuable points in the standings? Coaches lose their job if they dont make the playoffs when they are expected to. Easier said than done IMO.

          Last point, there is no way anythng here is about the GM telling the coach to do his job. If Gorton did not fully trust AV following the 2015 playoff loss (which I still maintain had zero to do with coaching and everything to do with the defense being wiped out due to injury), he would have been canned. And certainly, there’s no chance any GM in his right mind would give a coach he didnt trust a huge raise and extension.

          And now with Ruff their, again, if he didnt trust AV, he would have fired him. He didn’t. I dont believe at all that Gorton has lost any faith in his coach or is sending him messages.

          • “You advocate for guys like James Sheppard and Adam Clendening.”

            Because they were the best players available at the time. How do you put Clendening, who can skate and actually pass the puck out of the D zone, on the bench for Girardi who is a complete defensive mess?

            And let’s talk about that. Who do you E3 say “we don’t know what they have in these young players” when you sit there and watch completely INCOMPETENT vets like G, Staal, and Holden? How? How do you find out about young players? Training camp? Practice? BS, it’s real games. That’s why you play them in Oct and Nov TO SEE if they are NHL ready.

            Sheppard? He only scored the game winning goal in Game 6. Why would you bench him for Game 7 for AV bro-friend Tanner Glass? Do you know because of AV’s player deployment in that game that he rendered practically a third of his lineup useless? For a Game 7 to determine the fate of their season?

            How do you get shutout at home in Games 5 and 7 when they scored 6 in Game 6? Because the coach was schooled at home, not once but twice. And the first step was the players he had out there.

            AV is a good regular season coach and an awful playoff coach, when it really counts.

          • See, this is where we just see it differently. Point by point–

            Clendening is a marginal journeyman player who many out here completely overrated because of a small sample of fancy stats and the utter disdain some have for Girardi. The contention here was, to paraphrase, “If only we had a different coach, we would see the players we want to see in there.” And time and time again, once those players became available, the NHL community essentially judged Girardi vs Clendo (or McIlrath before him) in the same way AV did.

            Why would Yzerman, by all accounts a brilliant GM, give Girardi the deal he did? Why wouldn’t he instead want a relatively inexpensive puck moving defenseman who you and others insist is head and shoulders better? Day one…Girardi gets big bucks on a team many feel will seriously compete for the Cup. Clendo gets another deal comensurate with where he is right now–a 7D. And interesting he chose to go to arguably the worst team in the league, since he probably realized there would be his best chance to finally, after what, being rejected by 6 other organizations in 3-4 years, maybe play and be something more than a 7D?

            So, if I assembled a Supreme Court of current NHL GMs and coaches and asked them to weigh in on the case of Girardi vs Clendening, would you be willing to bet that your guy would be rated as the better talent here? I would have no problem making such a bet, because the NHL community has weighed in, loud and clear. Girardi, even a diminished Girardi, is still deemed more valuable than Clendo or McIlarth before him. That’s pretty obvious. So to the bigger question, you can fire AV and bring in any coach you want, and based on what we have seen of what the league thinks of both guys, I suspect in most cases the mythical next Rangers coach would likely make the same call. It’s as clear as day.

            Girardi, Staal and Holden are not incompetent players. That’s just an overstatement. Are they flawed players? Yes. In the case of the first two, are they aging players on the decline, absolutely. But again, let’s submit this case in front of our make believe court. We will make every player in the league a free agent next summer. The cap won’t exist. Every player makes the same salary. Now, go draft your team that can win you a Cup right now. I virtually guarantee you that most every GM would select any of those three over Clendening or McIlrath, and it wouldn’t even be close. So again, based on what we just saw with Girardi this summer, AV should not be taken to task for playing a guy that clearly is more valued in league circles than the guy you are advocating for.

            It’s the coach’s job to determine what combination will get him to 100+ points and a playoff spot. Failing to make the playoffs when you are expected to make the playoffs puts your job in jeopardy. Why should AV risk pissing away points on players he believes (and apparently the rest of the league does too) aren’t as good?

            I realize some fans feel that the coach must show US, the fans, why he is doing what he is doing. I couldn’t care less about that. I’ll only hold him accountable if, after he has decided to not play the player, that player moves on to another organization and shines. In four years with AV at the helm, I can’t think of one example where that has happened. But we kill him anyway. I don’t get it.

            James Sheppard scored a goal in Game 6. Thats’ nice. You know who set up that goal? Tanner Glass on the forecheck helped force the turnover. Then Glass charged to the net and nearly put the puck in himself before Sheppard collected the garbage and put it in. It was a nice play all around. But Glass was as much if not more responsible for that goal than Sheppard.

            But since you are focused on the goal scoring aspect here, then I assume you agree that AV made the right move playing Glass in Game 1 last Spring, since he scored the only goal of the game. And that if anything, Glass should have stayed in the lineup and not been benched in Game 4. I mean, after all, how can you bench the ONLY Ranger to have scored a game winning goal over the first three games? :). It works both ways, right?

            Again, I would love to assemble our mythical NHL Courtoom and ask them if ANY of them believe that James Sheppard would have made a difference in the ultimate outcome of Game 7, or if they would have done anything different with the lineup if they had been coaching the Rangers, injury riddled as they were. I doubt seriously anyone employed in the league believes a different outcome was possible. The only way to have a different outcome was if one of two things happened–our defensemen had not been significantly injured or our overrated forwards would have produced.

            The former is nobody’s fault. The latter is on the players, not the coach.

  • I’m anxious to see how the special teams would work itself out. How do you fit Buch on either PP? It’s going to be Mcd and DeAngelo working the point on the 2nd PP? Does JT play on the PK and is it center or teaming back up with Hayes again? Will Andersson get a PK role? How does Shatty look with so many options on the PP? Can Andrew D win a 4th line role so that he can help the PK?

    • PP in my eyes:

      Kreider – Zib – Buch – Zucc – Shatty
      Nash – Hayes – JT – Vesey – DeAngelo

      I think the PP is a great time to let Mcd catch his breath. We have 2 PP quarterbacks now, I’d even put Skjei on there before Mcd

        • Ah, that is going to be an interesting decision, no doubt.

          DeAngelo had 14 points in 39 games as a rookie for a bad Coyotes team last year. Holden had a best ever career year as far as point production is concerned, as a veteran player on a very good team, getting 34 points. That tells me, along with all the scouting, that Tony is going to be a point producer and produce far more than Holden even at Holden’s best.

          But, at least through half the season, AV loved Holden. The Rangers also have the unmovable and very expensive Mark Staal. Unless they shed Holden or by some miracle, Staal, it could be that one of the three ends up the 7th Dman. If he shows he more needs work on his defensive end play, they could send Tony to Hartford for the beginning of the season and have someone like Kampfer as the 7th D-man.

          The kid has loads of talent offensively and can really motor. I’d love for him to stick with the big club.

        • I’m really hoping he does, that would guarantee one of Holden or Staal, preferably both won’t be in the starting lineup which brings a huge smile to my face.

  • Andersson’s defense alone can keep him on Broadway, the offense will come around. His floor is Fast’s ceiling.

    • Sounds like someone AV will be comfortable with. AV doesn’t seek bottom six forwards who will win games. He is focused on guys who won’t lose them.

  • Justin, agree pretty much across the board.

    On #7, I noted elsewhere that last year’s camp roster was 63, this year’s 54. Everyone on the 50 man roster (this year 48 players – about average) is always on the camp roster so there is basically a two thirds drop in non-roster camp invitees.
    Why? Is it a commitment to avoid excess bodies or just a lack of interesting players? In any case, only two unsigned draft picks (Ronning, Crawley) and only one Hartford signee (Kosmachuck), and no one else we haven’t heard of before.

    On #6, Talbot and Raanta were kids, Pavelec is a veteran – he may think he knows how to play goal. Maybe it’s ok, but it’s uncharted waters.

    On #2, reading between the lines, if AV trusts DeAngelo, he will play him ahead of Staal if he is better. But that is a big if. Watching the playoffs last year, it was not clear he trusted Skjei yet (to say nothing of Buch).

    And I agree on Andersson. Hope he is ready, but there seems no backup plan. I’m amazed at how little competition Puempel and Andersson seem to face.

  • Just looked at the H/W for the roster and everybody looks like they are near the right numbers to not be dominated physically on the ice except Buchnevich(who’s only put on 3 lbs since last year) and Gropp, who is inching closer to the magic number.

    If Buch can’t put weight on and keep it, it’s really going to keep him from being an effiective 5v5 player. Chytil is the same height, 5 years younger and has 11 lbs on him. Just something to keep in mind during camp and exhibition games.

  • I’m still hoping Gorton gets bold and makes a play for McKinnon. I say a package beginning with McDonagh gets him. Me thinks Rangers fans overrate McDonagh. We can move forward without our captain, especially considering the impact a McKinnon can make on this group. Sometimes you just have to be bold. Young centers like McKinnon don’t come along everyday, and I think our defensive depth can overcome the loss of McDonagh.

  • The lack of forward depth on the current Rangers squad will be a problem when injuries come over the course of a long season. Right now as is, there are some definite realistic concerns. Hopefully Gorden can pick up a couple of quality depth forwards and a couple of decent backup players for the minors. Hopefully, Hartford will improve this year over last years mess in the talent development department.

  • Justin – thanks again for taking the time to do what you do. Question on PTO’s…are PTOs made public even if they are not accepted? Is it possible the Rangers and other teams have made PTOs to Jagr and other unsigned veterans, but they were turned down so we are not aware? Perhaps Jagr does not want to end his NHL career with a failed PTO?

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