Pavel Buchnevich needs to build on his rookie year

pavel buchnevich

There are so many intriguing aspects to watch out for on the 2017-18 Rangers that makes this a truly fascinating season. One of the most critical for me, is watching how Pavel Buchnevich develops this season. Amid reports of his better conditioning, the impressive pre-season play and the positive soundbites hailing from Alain Vigneault, it appears Buchnevich is primed for a breakout campaign. If he does indeed take his game to the next level it couldn’t be better timed. He’d make Jeff Gorton look like a genius for starters (centers? Who needs centers! Pah! Enjoy the desert Derek!)

While Buchnevich is obviously no center (and as such not a replacement for Derek Stepan – who will be missed, even if he can be replaced) if the Rangers can get more consistency and development from Buchnevich, as well as Jimmy Vesey and a solid rookie campaign from Filip Chytil, then the Rangers are all of a sudden legitimately three lines deep.

Buchnevich developing into a 40-50-point player in his second year would be huge for the Rangers and it’s also well within his reach if the reports of his pre-season are true. The Rangers are stacked on the wing and arguably have seven wingers fighting for regular top nine minutes (Nash, Zuccarello, Buchnevich, Kreider, Miller, Vesey, Grabner) so how Buch get’s used by Vigneault will be a fascinating early season storyline.

How Buchnevich (and Vesey) develops early on, potentially impacts the Rangers entire season and beyond. If they play well and the Rangers are subsequently in a strong position midseason, the team can deal from a position of depth to address other needs (a rental center for a playoff run?).

If Buchnevich (and the other kids) do play well, it is certainly much easier – and palatable – for the Rangers to move on from veterans such as Rick Nash and Michael Grabner and use their cap allocation elsewhere (more on that shortly). If the kids play well, at worst, the Rangers are in a stronger negotiating position if they are interested in retaining and extending the two older Ranger wingers.

If Buch, Vesey and Chytil falter however and the Rangers entire approach to the season and how they manage the forward group changes. The Rangers know what they have in JT Miller, Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider. In the trio of Americans, they have three top six forwards with some room for growth but all three have already established solid NHL floors. They know what they have with depth guys such as Jesper Fast. What they do not quite know just yet however is what Buchnevich can truly be at the NHL level and what the fallout of his development (or lack of) will be.

What makes Buchnevich’s progression even more fascinating is that he is cost controlled for the foreseeable future. Including the 2017-18 season, the tall Russian has two more years on his entry level deal and the Rangers could have themselves a bargain for a handful of years even if they overspend to extend him and lock him down if he’s successful (as is the trend in the modern NHL).

Given the likely cost of retaining Ryan McDonagh (whose contract expires when Buchnevich’s ELC does, and who will cost in excess of 7m to keep in Manhattan) any cap bargains the Rangers can have in meaningful positions will go a long way to ensuring the Rangers stay competitive in a brutal division that hasn’t got easier recently.

So while we’re all giddy with excitement for Kevin Shattenkirk’s Broadway debut, while we are buzzing with anticipation at Filip Chytil being the next great rookie hope to hit the Garden ice and we all cover our eyes in fear when Marc Staal jumps over the boards to shadow Sidney Crosby, it maybe Pavel Buchnevich we should be watching closest. His season may be one of the most important amongst all Rangers this season. I’ll be watching number 89 very closely.

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  • All great points. As mentioned, Vesey also needs a hot start because Fast will return by the end of the month. If Carey plays harder than Jimmy, I can see him sitting.

    The McD situation is tricky. If he doesn’t take a discount to stay, maybe he can walk too as behind him there are many.

    Buch needs Kreider to have a big start so he can use the open ice to his advantage.

    • I’ve been preaching Vesey needing to evolve before they traded away G and Stepan. I knew once the picture becomes clearer wityh that he wouldn’t be on any of the PP’s. I have been thinking that he needs to play like Pascal Dupuis, a north/south 2 way player who plays with energy and chips in with offense. Vesey is already bigger than him but as I said during the dog days of summer that he’s going to need to bring that edge that we’ve seen in him at times last year. He also needs to round out his defensive awareness because that’s how he’s going to make a imprint to be a full time Ranger imo, being that goal scorer on a team that has major plans was never in the equation for a true contender. I think he’ll get a chance to become a PK’er either this year or next season but it would benefit him greatly if the opportunity comes now to snatch up a role and beat out Carey in that department. Hayes, JT, Buch and Skjei have better ceiling’s, while Vesey just needs to know his place and be that crowd favorite that the coach will trust.

    • Personally I’m not worried how Vesey may start the season. What I want to see is how he can handle the grind of games 41-82.
      I would also like to say Righties! Who needs right handed shooters? The PP will never be as good as it can be without some right handed forwards.

  • Thought Vesey is on the 4th line. Regardless, his, Buch’s and Chyti’s 17-18 successes would impact JG’s imprint on the team. Not quite dummy or brainy, but his standing among NHL general managers, would be an up hill climb.

  • 7 million for the Captain? I think I’ll pass. He will be 31 at the time, and the NYR have made THAT mistake too often in the past.

    Thank you for not writing another lengthy post about the 13th forward or the 7th/8th defenseman. The most important NYR’s are the ones in the top 6 (extending to a top 9) and the second sidelight is what happens to Skjei on the PP. NYR now have 4 legit power play specialists on the point in the 1-3-1,if Tony D gets some time.

    By the way, for all you 7th/8th defensemen trolls out there, your boy Dylan couldn’t make the Red Wings, who are right there with Colorado and the Devils as having the worst corps in the league.

    And for you 12th/13th forward folks, Emerson Etem isn’t in the NHL any longer either. He couldn’t make the ‘Yotes after having a corsi relative in His 3 games with Anaheim last year of -13.9%.

    • Detroit has 5 D(and 3 of them righties) with no trade clauses. Was always going to be an uphill battle.

      • There is always some excuse for why poor poor Dylan can’t land a spot on any of the 31 rosters. Of course, it can’t possibly be that he just isn’t anywhere near as good as many out here made him out to be. The NHL has weighed in very clearly on this player. He’s not an NHL difference maker and AV’s judgment on this guy was right on the button.

        • It’s kinda like how you’ve got an explanation for every one of AV’s poor roster moves and in-game decisions. Dressing Glass over Buchnevich/Hayes–A-OK! Losing track of his defensive rotation in the last five minutes game 2 of the Ottawa series? Why, that’s just good coaching! Maintaining a double standard with faves like Fast/Glass/Girardi/Holden vs less favored players like Miller/Hayes/Lundqvist/Skjei? Why, all coaches do that!

          E3, you’re an insightful fan & commenter, but you’ve got a massive blind spot when it comes to criticizing AV.

          • While I agree with you for the most part, in the particular case of Dylan McIlrath I think the Rangers obviously got it right, the guy can’t hang in the modern NHL. This board spends 99% of the time praising speed and skill but defends Dylan McIlrath, headscratcher.

          • Matt, that’s exactly my over-arching point here. There’s a tendency out here to overblow just about EVEYTHING—which is why we are fans (short for fanatics) and not professional hockey people. When we double down on bogus over the top narratives as we did for over two years on two borderline NHL players—and decide on the one hand AV MUST play one and he MUST NOT play the other—and if he does the opposite the coach is clueless and clearly a coaching change is in order—that’s going to get a response from me. It’s not reality.

            Reality is that McIlrath and Glass are both marginal guys, whose inclusion or exclusion into the lineup will likely NOT impact whether a team is ultimately succesful or not. That’s been my point from the beginning.

          • I agree with that point, something I also find frustrating is the narrative that the front office/coach are clueless if they pick Kampfer over Pionk to sit in the press box. Pionk needs to play 20+ mins a night, Kampfer should obviously make the team above Pionk.

          • Obviously. Keeping Pionk at the moment would have been ridiculous. Great point.

          • I also think this board makes the wrong inferences about players when AV is giving them sheltered minutes. Adam Clendening had great statistics because he was only given minutes where he had an opportunity to succeed (even then, he looked pretty awful in his own zone, good passer though). Dylan McIlrath is on that list as well, we need to remember that quality of competition is a key factor.

          • I don’t defend McIlrath. I didn’t like the pick, I liked his play here that one year, but he’s been gone for a full year. Time for everyone to let it go. Those that dislike McIlrath seem to bring up his name frequently lately, it’s really puzzling. My comment had more to do with E3 being AV’s chief apologist here, and accusing McIlrath fans of always having excuses for his lack of success post-NYR. That phrase about pot vs kettle comes to mind here rather strongly.

          • I think this is a case of both sides having good points – I think the fans seem to bash on AV a bit too much, he brought so much to this team when Torts was let go. The way this team plays with speed and skill is muchhhh better than it was 4 years ago. But it was also really concerning to see the deployments in the playoffs this season, I think Skjei deserved more of AV’s trust than he received.

          • Matt-

            You are my new favorite poster. Finally, some objectivity! That is all I seek. Just a fair and honest assessment. Glass was not the detriment he was made out to be, nor was McIlrath the difference maker. And AV is not some trainwreck coach. He’s been remarkably successful here with a less than stellar roster. Has he been perfect? No. Has he made mistakes worthy of critique? Absolutely. But we have at minimum a top 5-10 coach here. Just like we have a top 5-10 goalie. The rest of the roster has no such personnel. So unless there is a person who is a better option than the coach or goalie who is available out there (which there is not at the moment) to me that’s a waste of time argument.

            We need our best players to stop being “faux stars” and start being real stars. That’s the issue at hand here. Will it happen? We will see.

          • Man-

            I do appreciate your compliment embedded in the final sentence. 🙂

            I do probably double down on defending AV, but I do it because I feel the criticism of a coach that has been very succesful with a less than stellar roster is often overblown. Are there things he can be taken to task for? Absolutely. Are these firable things? IMO, no. Certainly, to me at least, the Glass/McIlrath stuff was totally overblown and largely meaningless in terms of the outcomes of these last few seasons.

            Taking your points above….

            1) Dressing Glass over Buch/Hayes. No issue. Why? Last year, once Buch came back from his injury, he was a shell of himself. Glass scored the game winner vs Montreal in Game 1. He had what, 1 goal 3 assists I think for the playoffs? He was better than a lot of our no-show forwards. Over Hayes the prior year? Hayes was out of shape. He was absolutely awful, and if anything, AV stuck with him too long. Want me to criticize the coach? His big sin that year was not going with Eric Staal at center. He moved Staal to the wing, kept BELIEVING in Hayes even though he was not playing well. When you trade for an Eric Staal, then you play him to his strength. But his loyalty to his young player blinded him. Mistake.

            The defensive rotation? Clearly not a highlight moment for the coaching staff. Question is, how much was that AV? I suspect it was Beuke, who then got whacked after the season. And again, I will point out, every pairing they tried vs Ottawa failed. Every one. And in Game 6, our “saviors” Skjei and Smith were not good. It’s fair criticism but again I think it’s a huge overblown narrrative. The bigger story of why we lost is that our so-called stars were total no shows. That’s why we lost.

            The double standard stuff? Sorry, not buying any of it. Most every coach holds different players to different standards. It’s based on EARNED trust. The more you earn it, the longer your leash. Coaching 101.

            And you HONESTLY believe Hank isn’t a FAVORED player? WOW! You know I’m a huge Hank supporter, as much if not more than AV. I don’t agree with that at all. Knowing how Hank was very critical of Torts, do you honestly believe AV could survive if Hank wasn’t fully in his camp?

            Miller was a head case early in his career and needed a swift kick in the pants. Reported and confirmed. Hayes was out of shape. Reported and confirmed. This past year? They had the full trust of the coaching staff. Skjei? He played the guy a ton and the kid had a great rookie season? What possible issue could you have there?

        • I just think it boils down to his skating ability or lacktherof. Hes a good kid and all so we all wish him the best but let’s chalk this one up as a bad 1st round pick and move on.
          In the NHL today you either can skate or you can’t and even tho we have to make notice to the strides Dylan took in his final season in NY, he still can’t skate.

  • Butch had a great start last year, with much of his offense coming at a time when every puck the rangers threw on net seemingly went in, and they scored 6 goal a game. Unfortunately, his ice time after coming back from injuries was spotty and while he dressed 40 games, the numbers are a bit misleading. So lots of question marks for the kid this year, almost a do-over of his rookie campaign.

    Reunited with his October ’06 linemate, if he can stick in that role and with the undeniable skill he flashed last autumn, for me reasonable expectation over the long season is 30-35 pts, something to build on going forward.

  • Buch needs to be tougher in puck battles on the boards, and more responsible on the back check. If he grows in these two ways and stays healthy, he could have an excellent year. Nobody questions his offensive instincts and gift for passing the puck.

  • Buchnevich is scoring on the same pace as Tarasenko so far (both in Russia as teenagers and their respective first years in the NHL). While I don’t believe that Buch has nearly as high a ceiling as Tarasenko, I certainly think that 50 points in 75 games is very attainable if he gets consistent top-6 minutes.

    • Just me, I think we will see him bounce around in the top 9, his defensive game leaves some to be desired so – not saying he will become more physical but until there is urgency in the back check he will spend some time with more defensively responsible players.

      • His possession numbers were solid last year, and his defense is pretty good. If you operate by assumptions based on other players from Russia, then that might explain why you missed the fact that he’s a good defender.

        The only thing he doesn’t do well is take the body. This kid’s gonna produce points if he gets his minutes. And that is on the coach.

        • so I went back and checked and you’re right, decent possession numbers with with minutes weighted to ozone starts against solid competition. I stand corrected by the stats. my recollection based on eye test was probably biased by some typical rookie mistakes.

          bodes well then for his ability to stick in the top 6

  • Bush definitely has a lot of potential, unique hockey sense and a good skill set, but so far, he hasn’t really proven that much at all in the N.H.L.
    He had the one streak of scoring a hand full of goals at the beginning of last year that we all seem to be holding on to for his future success. He returned from injury and was not a force at all in the last half of the year or in the playoffs.
    Can he take the punishment physically in the NHL on a long term basis and be a consistent scorer ? How is his defensive game developing?
    Some say he has looked good in pre-season, but has he put the puck in the net, and was he an offensive force in the games? I may sound somewhat like a doubting Thomas, but a few nice moves with the puck and a very short scoring streak hasn’t established him so far as a solid NHL player. Let’s be realistic, I think this year, we can all agree, Bush has a lot to prove if he is going to be the player everybody projects him to be. So far, a few nifty moves and a handful of goals isn’t cutting it anymore. I hope I eat my words about him, but now I remain somewhat skeptical about him until we see more out of him this year. He is still very young, but enough with the speculations. This year, it’s time to put up, of shut up. it’s time to see some consistent results from Bush! Love to see him get 50 points! Go Rangers

    • Good points

      I think people miss a key point on what makes a good hockey player. Buch started healthy and well. After his injury, he was not good enough to make the playoff roster. The reality is that in the Stanley Cup finals, you have 36 banged up skaters going against each other. When a player is completely healthy, you see what he is capable of, but if he cannot perform when hurt, he really is of no use.

      I’m not condemning Buchnevich here, just noting that the step forward that Dave is hoping for is the ability to perform at a high level when his body is not at its best.

  • I hope Butch remembers what stupid did to him last year and plays well despite all that happened. Don’t burp at the wrong time or they will put you on the 4th line. Miller knows that well. Some player will overcome despite Aholes self-sabotage at the end of the season every year.

    I told my son before the Giants season that the biggest problem is the coach. At least some of the football fans can see the truth now.

    Jesper Fasth is not as great as some of you think. When he is on the ice there isn’t much scoring for or against us. So when we put him with offensive people they become less productive. Fasth is basically a Glass alternative who can’t fight and makes you less offensive. Hey but he is a great guy in the locker room.

  • Great article Dave. No question, how well Buch develops will certainly be a key storyline of the season. If he can regain the form he showed before his back injury last season, then we could have a very special player on our hands.

    Buch, Miller, Hayes, Kreider and Zib all need to take their game up another notch or two. If they do that, this team will be dangerous. But the perennial question was, is and will continue to be, can they?

  • Oh BTW, I’m sure you will all be happy to hear that Tanner Glass’s PTO was a success, and the Flames signed him to a one year deal. How can that be? Must be misprint. I thought AV was the only NHL coach who saw value in this so-called “worst player in hockey”? And how in the world can he be signed by a team with legit Stanley Cup hopes this year? Have they taken leave of their senses? Maybe Glass is actually Glen Gulutzan’s love child rather than AV. 🙂

    Another completely overblown narrartive on the 12F/13F debate similar to the McIlrath and Clendening 6D/7D nonsense. Those decisions usually aren’t what will win or lose championships. It’s mostly about the play of your top players, who need to show up when it matters and not disappear as Miller, Hayes, Kreider and Stepan did last year vs Ottawa.

    • Eddie,

      Hope all is well with you my friend. My only grip with AV is his ability to make adjustments when truly needed. The past years, have we needed a player like Glass who was the only true physical player who finished his checks and protect teammates? most likely yes, However two years ago the Rangers did not have the bottom 6 depth like they do now. My issue with AV was why was he running the Holden-Staal out late in the games against Ottawa.

    • That stupid coach wants to be the worst team! That explains it! Are you sure he’s not the NY Giants coach?

    • Why do you feel so compelled to defend every decision made by AV? Glass is a poor hockey player, of that there’s little doubt–Flames blog Matchsticks & Gasoline welcomed him to Calgary with the headline “Flames Sign Tanner Glass, For Some Reason”–and he’ll likely have as little impact there as he did in NYR. To act like a lousy NHL player like Glass signing somewhere is proof of Vigneault’s roster acumen is ridiculous. Calgary was dumb enough to give Deryk Engellund a regular shift for the last three seasons, they’ll find a place for a goon who can’t play every year up there. I’ll watch Buchnevich and enjoy how he plays instead.

      Your grave dancing over McIlrath has officially reached its expiration date as well.

      • Well…THAT certainly proves it! If Matchsticks and Gasoline says so, then who am I to argue with a fam blog? I mean, we all know that fan blogs are the ultimate source of expertise when it comes to hockey. Every word MUST be taken as gospel! 🙂

        When did I say signing Glass is proof of AV’s roster acumen? And why do you think I’m dancing on McIlrath’s grave? I did not and am not.

        My points, as I said above, is that there has been a multi-year narrative of over the top blather about how awful Glass is and how tremendous McIlrath is—and, clearly implied if not outright stated, that if ONLY we had a different coach, McIlrath would be playing and Glass would be out of the league—that these were uniquely AV decisions. That is the only reason I am doubling down here…because in both cases, that is wrong….certainly in the McIlrath example. The Glass one, i just simply found amusing, that’s all. 🙂

        • It seems like gloating a bit in the case of McIlrath. And in any event Glass and McIlrath are not part of the Rangers org anymore, we should all move on from them. I cited a fan blog because they’re a big part of how hockey is covered these days, particularly in the US….and they’ve shown time and again in recent years that good, creative, and thoughtful analysis can be found within them.

        • 3E,
          Couple of points ….
          1. Grabner nets 27? even strength goals and many dismiss him, stepan gets 17? and many panic ….how will we do without him? Where is the logic???
          2. McIlrath….Was he the second coming of bobby Orr or Denis potvin…NO, OF COURSE NOT ….BUT …..HIS PERFORMANCE ON THE ICE WAS MUCH BETTER THAN STALL and GIRARDI’S PERFORMANCE IN EVERY GAME HE PLAYED!!!!!!!!! Thats the problem I had with AV ,playing both of the pylon twins and not a McIltrath, the better option!!!!!!
          3. I am pumped for the season, I think we will have a terrific year, too much talent to not, even with AV.

          • Rich-

            1. Stepan is a center. Good centers are hard to find. I have no issue with the trade for cap purposes, but as of right now, we are a weaker team and have to keep our fingers crossed that players being asked to step up, possibly beyond their means and abilities, can do so and do so effectively. Grabner, for all of his success, was and is a third line winger. While he is certainly one of the better ones, a third line winger is not as valuable as a 1C, even a flawed 1C like Stepan. To me, cap issues aside, there isn’t an NHL exec out there that would take Grabner over Stepan if building a team. If you were to take a poll and pick the top five players to regress in the NHL in terms of point total, I bet many experts have Grabner on top of that list. Still a good player and I’m glad we have him, but he dramatically overachieved last year.

            (BTW, for all the AV critics, I never heard anyone give the coach any credit here. Can you imagine if Grabner left the Rangers to go to Toronto and had that kind of turnaround season? Everyone here would have blamed the coach! I’m not saying AV is the reason Grabner had a career season, but a little objectivity from time to time would be nice!)

            2. McIlrath was used in sheltered minutes and specific usage. There is no one in the game of hockey that agrees with your assessment about McIlrath. NO ONE. You saw him as you wished to see him. AV figured out the best way to get the most out of a limited skill set. Three other coaches and every single organization has been even tougher on McIlrath than AV was….they ALL concluded he is NOT an NHL player. Sad but true. You need to finally let it go. It’s over.

            3. I am pumped for the season too, but I’m not sure what to make of this group. We are much weaker at center. Hard to win without quality there. We have NO high end players other than the goalie. We have good but not great wingers that absolutely MUST step up become actual stars as opposed to “faux stars”. Hank MUST rebound. Pavelec may be a downgrade. But no doubt, our defense will be better. But is that enough?

            I see a regression in points. We’ve had three years in a row of 100+ points—highly unusual in the hard cap era and a CREDIT to the coach. Hard to imagine he can do it again. But I hold out hope that if everything breaks right, we can make the playoffs and make a run.

          • 3E
            Agree—– with less than 100 point season, 95 would be ok with all our youth and new defenseman……
            —- no high end player, ala crosby, towes, ovie…but hopefully our youth lives up to potential….
            Disagree——–We will see how stepan does out there, he will get ample playing time including PP…….BUT ……..I still would bet grabner gets more goals even though he gets little to none PP minutes…..
            ——–McIlrath….I dont remember , its been 2 years now , so i cant say sheltered minutes or not but he got the job done whereas the pylon twins did not!
            I fear for these younger guys lives if the pens or caps etc decide to get physical!!!!!

          • Grabner fit very well in AV’s system. I don’t think there was anything about AV’s coaching in particular in terms of guidance or mentoring that led to Grabner’s breakaways…but the system did. Having a playmaking center on his line most of the year probably also didn’t hurt in this area, although it is very fair to question why AV decided a line with a breakaway artist and a playmaking center should be used in a lot of defensive situations. That’s a far different debate, however. I’ve personally said in the past that my favorite thing about AV is his offensive system, for what that’s worth. With exactly the right players, it can be a very, very effective system. Where AV struggles is understanding the type of defensemen he should feature in this system, and at times that his penchant for extreme line juggling compared to many coaches who prefer to let set lines develop long term chemistry (which I felt was largely subdued last year compared to prior years until injuries and #scratchedforglass, for the record) doesn’t help, either.

            I’ve said it before, and I will say it again…because it is wholly true…coaches can do more to hurt their teams tactically than they can to help. The talent ceiling is the talent ceiling. There is no tactical floor. A bad coach can lead a great team to success, but a good coach can not lead a bad team to success. It’s just how it works. AV gets so much heat from the fans because we don’t have to be Larry Brooks and keep it in a certain lane so that we have access to our “inside sources” without offending them. We don’t look at it like reporters, which allows us to be far more honest. Our paychecks to not rely on it. Larry Brooks needs to kiss some bums, frankly, to keep his flow of information strong. He doesn’t have to kiss players’ rear ends, though, because nothing they’re going to tell him is going to allow him to break anything significant, get the lead that others cannot, etc. He’s just one example. It’s all over the sports media. They are far more likely to criticize players than the team or coaching staffs, because there is less comeuppance in doing so.

            This is a ~100 point roster, even if they don’t have a 70+ point player. It has been for AV’s tenure, even with some huge front office mistakes thrown in the mix. Sorry bro, but I’m not going to give him bonus credit for meeting the regular season norms that this roster should be meeting. You can sprinkle those sparkles on all you like, but the fact of the matter is, you are definitely a minority among the fan base with your hard lean to giving bonus points to AV.

            As for McIlrath, funny you mention sheltering. Girardi should have been used for specific minutes and usage, and, in fact, I think his recent career would have looked a lot better if AV had done so. Instead he strapped him to McD like a 215 lb. anchor, and his spot on the top pair was damn near invincible night in, night out…ineffective snow angel after ineffective snow angel…bad outlet pass after bad outlet pass…torching after torching…etc. So, you have ironically pointed out exactly the mistake AV made with Girardi in trying to carry on with your continued take-down of McIlrath…AV gave his clearly-toasted veteran impunity while he sheltered a younger player who may have in fact been more effective. You may choose to beat the drum all you want about the fact that Yzerman, paid Girardi…some GMs pay for leadership qualities, and nobody denies that Girardi still has those. TB’s performance on the ice last season did not even remotely add up to their potential on paper. Yzerman appears to have surmised that he needs some more veteran presence and leadership as one cog in the wheel to correct that. I’m willing to bet you are going to see him sheltered on the third pair in Tampa except in the event of injury, which is where he should have been in AV’s system as well. Much of the fanbase wanted to see McIlrath given a bigger chance not really because of anything to do with McIlrath, but because of deficiencies clear as daylight with other defenders. You seem to love to relish painting it as NYR fans clamoring for McIlrath as the next great defensemen in the league, and it was absolutely nothing of the sort. It’s absolutely asinine to even treat it that way.

          • Eg-

            Sorry, but I disagree with most of this. Let’s start with the Grabner-AV thing. I said that a bit tongue and cheek. If you actually read what I wrote, I said that I wouldn’t necessarily give AV the credit, but my point is that if the reverse scenario had happened, the coach would have gotten most if not all of the blame. That was my one and only point.

            Why do you think that Larry Brooks has to “keep it in a certain lane”? That’s fundamentally inaccurate. He was properly critical of Torts over and over. Brooks had run ins with Dan Boyle, a guy who he had little use for, and blasted the Rangers for playing him. He was an advocate for playing McIlrath over Boyle in fact.

            I’ve been on that side of the fence in sports. You are so 100% wrong here it isnt even funny. Sure, there are times you might need to walk a tightrope on some things, but the fact is, you are going nowhere as a journalist if you’re going to engage in shallow reporting—or towing the company line. You make your career by finding those nuggets that unveil a hidden truth. You are not there to make friends.

            Brooks said today “The players respect Vigneault, and they enjoy playing for him. Vigneault is a pro. Yes, if this collapses, chances are he won’t be around at the finish, and chances are that he knows it.”

            The chances are, that is probably true, not the made up narratives some have gone with that young players don’t like him. The reason is simple. If it wasn’t true, Gorton would not have offered him an extension. He would have fired him after the season.

            All I can tell you is what I have experienced. As a journalist, what will get me more eyeballs? A story that says the Rangers love playing for their coach, or one that says the coach hates the kids, he favors veterans to the detriment of the team, he abuses players who are not medically fit to play? If I were the one to break that latter story, that would be pretty big right? So again, I ask you, look at sports reporting as it is today. Sports columnists, especially in NY, do NOT hold back. Again, just ask Torts about that.

            Have your noticed how the Mets and Giants are being skewed right now? How about the Knicks last year? The Jets for, like forever? Management has been absolutely ripped a new one time and time again. Your statement that management gets a free pass compared to the players is totally false.

            As for being in a minority among the fan base, I will say I am in terms of the “blogging fan base”. Not so sure that is correct with the more convential fans. When AV is introduced at the start of the season, or when he sets a new record, he always gets loud cheers. I haven’t once heard “AV must go” or anything close to that. I’m not saying he’s beloved….heck, few coaches and managers are. But the vitriol he gets in the blogosphere does not seem to match the average every day fan’s perspective. And it certainly does not match Gorton’s perspective.

            Three straight 100+ point seasons and four straight playoff seasons (not to mention nine straight overall with two teams) in a hard cap league is very hard to do. Does that mean we should throw him a parade or put his name up in the rafters? No. But this team, devoid of stars, in a league where most champions have high end stars, has had one of it’s best eras ever. The coach deserves at least SOME credit for that, does he not?

            As for Yzerman, Girardi and McIlrath, again, disagree. He may have wanted Girardi for all the reasons you say, and I would agree with that. But if there was no market for this supposedly awful defenseman, then why not just sign him to a one year deal at half the money? Obviously, Yzerman knew other teams were interested. No chance he shells out this deal otherwise.

            I agree Girardi should have been given a lesser role. The problem was the other options all had there own issues. Putting cap considerations aside, if Girardi had been retained and we were still able to make the other defensive moves we made, he certainly would have gotten a lesser role this season because we have talented options now we did NOT have before. In Tampa, they have Hedman and Stralman. We have NOT had a player as good as Hedman and we still dont. So obviously, Girardi will have a diminished role this year, just as he would have on the Rangers.

            I don’t understand why fans expect that we must see for ourselves whether McIlrath or whomever is our flavor of the month obsession is the real deal or not. AV’s job is to pile up points and make the playoffs, not experiment with marginal NHL talent. It’s like some people think this is some giant jury box, and we must all weigh in before the coach makes a decision. That to me would only be an issue if the coach had a track record of poor player evaluation, in which case the GM would fire him. Fact is, I’m still waiting for the AV critics to find even one player that AV whiffed on. So far, every judgment he’s made that has been criticized in the blogosphere, has turned out to be the right one. The guys he didnt play went elsewhere and similarly failed.

            So again, why on God’s green earth should he have played McIlrath when NO ONE in the NHL thinks the guy can play? I can’t believe anyone could still cling to that notion given what has transpired with the player.

            And I don’t know how long you have been following this blog, but you are wrong. Many people out here said playing him was essential to the Rangers success, lest we get bounced around like rag dolls. Some suggested he would be the future captain of the Rangers or some other team. One said he’d be the next Chris Pronger, or Mark Tinordi. THAT is what I was objecting to…the absurd over the top characterizations.

            I had no problem at all with McIlrath getting his 30+ games two seasons ago. He was better than I thought he would be. To me, he was no different than Glass. Nothing special, brings a physical game, good effort all the time, but whether he plays or not was not likely to alter the outcome of the game. But we decided that Glass was the boogeyman and that McIlrath, at least in some people’s opinions, was this indispensable asset.

          • Well said Egelstein….you make some very good points …….much more articulate than I can write……..

          • Good luck Eg.

            I’ll sum up the reply…

            Something something 30 other NHL teams
            Something something Torts
            Something something greatness
            Something something elite
            Something something Crosby, McDavid, Matthews, Ovechkin, Kane are only players who should be playing thumb wars or for Stanley Cup cause their elite

          • Eddie, I know you worked in the reporting field. And, I honestly don’t mean you disrespect…

            That said, I have to hold my belly when I read you speaking about objectivity. About being unbiased. Otherwise, I may spin into orbit from laughing so hard.

            Look, man. Read Avery’s book. Read what he has to say about Torts, now. Was he saying those things, the myriad times that a mic was put in his face on Broadway? Was he torching Torts like that, in those moments?

            No. He was not. Because he didn’t want to lose his ice time. Because he didn’t want his next coach to judge him by the times he spoke about his last coach. Everyone on the paid side of the game has interests. Theirs. They’re looking out for them. I don’t blame them, frankly. I do, however, take a certain issue with that same nonsense applied to the blogosphere, where we are all here to dissect things with freedom, and without kissing asses.

            You act like it’s all just complete honesty in the press. Like there are no angles. Like everyone in the for-profit paid media is just punching in, saying everything they mean, and then punching out. Like it’s a normal shift at the factory, making buttons for the masses.

            Give me your address, and I’ll send you a three-step fold-able stool to help you get down from your horse a bit easier.

            Unbelievable. I come to Blue Seat Blogs so that I don’t have to read the cookie-cutter takes that I can get from the Post, ESPN, TSN, etc. I can get an honest take, here. Maybe some stats outside of the Almighty And Infallible Plus/Minus.

            Why do you come here?

          • Point by point Eg—

            1) When did I specifically mention or even say the word “objectivity”? Or “unbiased”? These are my opinions. Every person on this blog has them, and 99% of the time they come from a place of bias. Even a reporter, who’s job is to be as unbiased as humanly possible, will have them, And columnist very often have biases—that’s the very nature of being a columnist—to express opinions. So your point is what here?

            2) Sean Avery actually was quite vociferous in his dislike of Torts, and that came out pretty quickly after Avery left the Rangers. Maybe not to the degree of his book, but it was still out there. It’s not like he said one thing before the book and something entirely different afterwards. So again, I have no idea what point you are trying to make.

            3) The blogosphere is about discussing ideas and topics with freedom. I totally agree with that. That’s why it’s great. Again, I don’t get your point. There are opinions we all have. They all come from different places and perspectives. They won’t all be the same, nor should they. My opinion is no more valid than yours.

            My point is that we are all entitled to our opinions. But facts are stubborn things too. And while interpretation of the facts is, in some cases, a matter of opinion, facts are still facts. And factually speaking, AV has been a very succesful coach. Do I agree with everything he has done? No. But it is inarguable that the coach, with more NHL wins than any other since 2006-07, has been succesful. So that is my overarching belief that shapes the rest of my view as it pertains to him.

            It is also factually true that McIlrath was waived three times in the past 12 months, that after he left the Rangers, three other NHL coaches concluded the exact same thing that AV concluded—the exact same thing he was skewered about out here. I think it is more than reasonable for me to conclude that AV was not wrong in his evaluation here. Why is that an inaccurate position?

            Now, let’s say Girardi crashes and burns in Tampa, and Clendening suddenly becomes a player of significance in Arizona? One would have to conclude in that case that the coach was wrong. And since I was a defender of that move, then I will be the first to cop to it. But all I have said is, to this point, the evidence is that, based on how FA played out, the guy AV chose got a multi million dollar deal with term on a team some think will win it all this year. The guy AV rejected could only get a typical 7D deal on one of the weakest teams in the league—and this is what, his 7th team in four seasons? Again, the evidence suggests that AV made the correct move there. But that narrative can change of course.

            Same for Glass, and we can go back to the old Glass vs Sheppard debate from a few years back. Sheppard had two PTOs after he left the Rangers and failed to land another NHL job. Glass, once his deal was done, got a PTO and made a team with legit SC hopes. He had a goal and 3 assists in the playoffs last year. He was more productive than our so called stars Kevin Hayes and JT Miller with considerably less ice time, was he not? Indeed, based on total playoff minutes played, Glass was the most productive player point wise per minute on the ENTIRE TEAM. Let that fact sink in for a second. That’s probably more a function of how subpar the Rangers were in the playoffs then it is a testimony to Glass. But my point is, we kill AV for playing Glass when Glass was hardly the issue here.

            4) When have I ever said the media is all good and pure and that people dont have angles and biases they pursue? Of course they do. I have no idea what you are talking about here. I pointed out earlier that the press REGULARY goes after NY sports ownership. GMs, coaches, etc. You didn’t bother to even respond to that. Why would AV be the only coach in NY to avoid being a target? And isn’t it more than reasonable to assume that, IF there was a real issue between the coach and players, that we’d hear at least rumors about it? But you ignore that whole point and instead decided to go off on an unrelated tangent about me and the press. Again, I have no idea what you are talking about.

            5) High horse? Okie dokie then. So what you are REALLY saying is, If I express my views (which are simply that—my views), you disagree with them and decide they are “high horse”, but your opinion well, that’s different. It can not and should not be questioned. I come out here for the exact same reasons you do, To engage in fun hockey talk. And to learn things from smart hockey fans like you and others who, although I may disagree with them, have great insight and perspective more often than not. What I like is that we ALL come at it from different perspectives. And we engage in great debate. Isn’t that the point?

            Now admittedly, I do like to “stir the pot” at times. That’s just the way I am wired. When I see an argument spin too far into one direction as to be one sided, I often will take the opposing viewpoint. If the view here was instead all about how wonderful our coach is, and that he is the BEST coach in the league, then I’d probably be arguing on the anti-AV side a bit more.

            (BTW, check out virtually EVERY fan blog in America. Most fans on those blogs want their coaches fired. I’m a Midwest guy. Royals fans HATE Ned Yost for example. They mostly believe the Royals won the World Series in spite of him, and would have won back to back if not for him. If fans ran teams, coaches would be fired on a daily basis. there wouldn’t be enough to go around!)

            I think our coach is a good coach. He has put up an excellent record with a team largely devoid of stars. I stand by that. I also said back in 2013 that I preferred Ruff over AV. Last year I said I would not have signed AV long term at that time, as I would have preferred to see who else was available after the season. I’m not about wanting AV to be the coach as much as I am about wanting the Rangers to have the best coach available. Looking around the landscape of available coaches, I see no better options at the moment, and I suspect that’s what Gorton believes as well. If Coach Q becomes available after the season, I will help you and others pack up AV’s office and drive him to the airport. Same argument for any player too. No one is untouchable. Show me the opportunity to upgrade and I’ll support it. But show me how we swap out one marginal player for another (Girardi for whomever, Glass for whomever), or why we should just fire the coach for the sake of firing him—that position is not one I’m going to embrace.

            I do get the feeling though that, at times, there are some out here that require all members of this blog to pledge allegiance to the following notions—

            1) AV is a fool and should be fired immediately, and the singular reason the Rangers have not won a Cup is because of the coach.
            2) McIlrath and Clendo should have played
            3) Glass should NEVER have played

            Failure to swear complete allegiance to these notions will be considered unacceptable to you and others who believe these notions are absolutes and not to ever be questioned.

            Thanks for the offer of the stool, but it seems to me you may need it more than I do. 🙂

          • You complimented Matt for his objectivity, because he agreed with you, and said that is all you seek.

            My point about the high horse was that you often say things like “I guarantee you none of the GMs in the league…”, and you dismiss others’ opinions based on your experience in the reporting realm, as a reason. You have “no idea” what I’m talking about? Alright.

            You have, time and time again, trashed blogs/bloggers/fans for majority opinions while propping up national/regional paid-for media that can’t/won’t put things in as blunt terms. If you don’t see that, I don’t know what to tell you.

          • Eg-

            I am sorry that you perceived my comments in that way. I will consider the feedback and be cognizant of that in the future. That was not my intention. I type fast, we are all engaged in, at times, emotional arguments. I don’t have time to proof every single nuance of what I say in an effort not to offend your sensibilites or those of others.

            That being said, this is a blog for crying out loud! I have every right to say if I think someone has an opinion that is “objective” or not. It’s my opinion. You are entitled to yours, and I’m entitled to mine.

            I could care less about what the “majority” opinion” is on a blog. Just because it’s a majority opinion does not mean it is what is really going on in the real world inside the closed doors of the Rangers locker rooom. If I believe, solely in my opinion, that the majority is wrong and choose to use actual reports from people paid to cover these things as evidence, again, that’s my choice. And i would argue it is a more than reasonable position to take—whether you happen to agree with it or not.

            I haven’t been a hockey reporter in over 30 years. I haven’t covered sports on a regular basis in over 20. I am not trying to dismiss someone else’s opinion merely because of something I got to do decades ago. I am still in the media business on the news side of things now, and yes, as such, I’m not a big fan of “way out, off the rails” analysis of people or situations. Life rarely works that way. Typically, I subscribe to a very basic notion on things— “If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then most liklely, what we have here is a duck.” Yes, it’s possible we could have a crazy situation where it’s a turtle pretending to be a duck, but that PROBABLY is not the case. So, in my experience, I have found that these over the top characterizations are rarely true—and when such characterizations are put out here, I will likely counter with resasons why I disagree. That’s just the way I am wired. And again, why is that an issue?

            All I’m doing is giving a perspective that may be different than many on this blog would have, that’s all. My opinion is no more or less valid than anyone else’s out here, and I have said that over and over. I’ve often said there are far more knowledgeable hockey fans out here than me, and I learn far far more from each of you than I am sure is the case in the reverse.

            I certainly hope you are not objecting to the right for me, a Rangers fan, to express my opinion, challenge those I disagree with the facts I may have at my disposal, and debate the merits of the issue at hand. Again, I realize SOME out here expect everyone to sign on to the notion that AV is bad coach. Sorry, I don’t subscribe to that, the GM obviously doesn’t, and it doesnt appear many if any people in the NHL community or the press subscribe to that notion either. So a majority of opinion on a blog doesn’t sway my position. Record and performance does.

            As I said, I am here to express my opinion. You are here to express yours. Some things we will agree on. Some we won’t. Perhaps it would be best to just leave it at that and not get into who is trying to be on the “higher horse”.

      • Glass injected life into a team that was not performing well. AV saw this and it is a fact it happened. I am not saying TG deserved a lineup spot but when AV needed something, he saw it in Glass and this decision was spot on.

        • Exactly right. Very similar to how he used Carcillo in certain situations in 2014. But some make it out to be one of the 7 deadly sins that Glass played!

          • Carcillo, the player who when called on put it back in the flyers face and helped the team find that spark!

            Ya gotta love a guy who flips off his old fans after netting
            a big time goal!

            LGR! can’t believe the season is here!

    • That one other coach saw value in Glass does not make him a good player. Or AV brilliant. That he was on a PTO in the first place probably says a bit more about the situation. Nice try though, Eddie.

  • dave
    Nice article Dave .
    Just curious though what is the problem you have with Grabner? Arguably , along with Zucc our best player last year and on a very reasonable contract………I would take 3 more of him…..

    • The problem (or better phrased “the concern”) is that he had what many would consider an aberrational year production wise at least. The odds that he can come close to duplicating that production are somewhat long. He’ll be good, but I doubt he even cracks 20 goals again.

      • Why was his production “aberrrational” he had many more chances (break aways) that he did not score on?

        • Because Grabner has always gotten at least one breakaway a game since he arrived in the NHL. The strange thing that happened last year is that he actually managed to start scoring on those breakaways.

          • Actually, Grabner is a surprisingly consistent high percentage shooter, averaging 12.5% for his career. (I’m kinda shocked by these numbers, I’ve been on your side of the argument on Grabner.)

            In his 3 good years he did this:
            ’10-’11–34 goals (14.9%)
            ’11-’12–20 goals (11.5%)
            ’16-’17–27 goals (16.7%)

            And in the lockout year he scored 16 goals in 45 games played, while shooting at a 14.8% clip. Those are eyepopping numbers, in his good years. He had three bad years in a row, but one season could be blamed on injuries–he scored 8 times in 34 games played, while shooting 12.7%, which probably would’ve gotten him near 20 goals that year. He’s had one down year on the Islanders and one on the Leafs. The Leafs seemed to do that to a lot of people in the days before Matthews. Gotta say that a 16.7 shooting percentage would be surprising to see again, but Grabner might be in the hunt for 20 this year too if he stays healthy and keeps shooting the puck (162 shots last year).

          • Grabner’s 16% last year needs to be further looked at.

            Grabner scored roughly 20-22 goals while shooting 22% through the first half of the season.

            Grabner scored 5-7 goals while shooting 8% the second half.

            Just food for thought.

          • By my reckoning, that’s still 27 goals at a 16.7% seasonal average. The whole point of my post was that I was surprised to see Grabner has a relatively high career shooting % for a player who’s considered “not a finisher”. Arguably his low shooting % years are his outliers, rather than his regular performance. Look up his career stats, it’s kinda shocking how his numbers look.

          • I’ve looked at his entire career. His shooting percentage has been trending downward since his 34 goal year, with his injury shortened 1r-15 season being only upward tick till last year. It can not be overlooked that he scored over 2/3 of his goals with a 100% unsustainable 22% shooting rate.

            So is the 22% Grabner the “real” Grabner, or is the roughly 8-10% Grabner the “real” Grabner? Even at 8-10% puts him on pace for between 12-15 goals which I’m 100% fine with and is reasonable production.

          • Or to put it another way, are you surprised that Rick Nash’s career shooting % is lower than Grabner’s? I am. Your whole discussion of “who’s the real Grabner”–I’ll leave that to you to work out.

          • Nash is a straw man arguement. Nash has comsistently shot around the same 10-ish% throughout his career. What changes is the number of shots and shot attempts.

            And the “real”Grabner is 100% reverent to this conversation. If Grabner shoots at around the 10% throughout the entire year last year, as he’s been doing for most of his recent non-John Tavares career, Grabner nets about 15 goals last year and he’s a pleasant surprise and a great bargain.

            My comment was t so much to you, as to the general premise that Grabner will under perform this year. Grabner will most likely fall back to his “normal” roughly 10% shooting and net between 12-15 goals.

            To expect him to shoot 22% again is setting the expectations too high for him and would cause the inaccurate arguement that he “under performed”

          • Grabner’s normal shooting % is 12.7%. That’s my point. He’s had more years in his career where he’s been well over 10% shooting than not. I don’t know why you need to bring up “a strawman argument”–it’s kinda mindblowing to me that Grabner has a higher career shooting % than one of the NHL’s most reliable goal scorers of the past 12 years. I’m establishing one point here–that Grabner has a surprisingly high career shooting percentage. And you keep trotting out a small sample size from last season, that dropped his shooting % from an astronomical 22% to….an excellent seasonal avg of 16.7%. I don’t know what you’re trying to prove by repeating yourself about an issue I’m not even addressing, maybe you know.

          • Man-

            That’s John B’s same old phrase he uses when he wants to denigrate someone else’s perspective. He’ll just calls it a “strawman” argument if it doesnt match up with his world view.

            That being said, I do find myself in agreement with my “adversary” here in that I believe that Grabner had an aberrational year, and that he will likely regress to under 20 goals. That will still make him quite a valuable 3rd line winger.

          • “Grabner’s normal shooting % is 12.7%. That’s my point. He’s had more years in his career where he’s been well over 10% shooting than not. I don’t know why you need to bring up “a strawman argument”–it’s kinda mindblowing to me that Grabner has a higher career shooting % than one of the NHL’s most reliable goal scorers of the past 12 years.”

            100% agreement, when taken in a vacuum.

            ” I’m establishing one point here–that Grabner has a surprisingly high career shooting percentage. And you keep trotting out a small sample size from last season, that dropped his shooting % from an astronomical 22% to….an excellent seasonal avg of 16.7%”

            First, 283 games out of 473 of shooting around 10% is not a small sample size at all. That’s just about 65% of his total career.

            Second, shooting 8% over 41 games can not be ignored. That’s a significant drop. If Grabner had fallen to his career “normal” of 12%, he would have scored roughly about 12 additional goals over the 2nd half of the season. He scored 5.

            People expecting almost 30 goals from Grabner again are going to be highly upset when he doesn’t hit that.

          • “That’s John B’s same old phrase he uses when he wants to denigrate someone else’s perspective. He’ll just calls it a “strawman” argument if it doesnt match up with his world view. ”


            Introducing Rick Nash’s shooting% while discussing Michael Grabner is comparing apples to oranges, hence a strawman. They are not comparable players, skill or talent wise nor do they play on comparable lines.

    • Because when you look at how the 29 year old Grabner’s career progressed before last season, you realize that 16-17 was likely a fluke and to actually count on him potting even 20 goals this season is foolish. If that does happen (and I think it will) you take it is a nice bonus and move on.

      Grabner is extremely fast and an extremely heady defender, but he is no goal scorer. If an actual skilled goalscorer was presented with the same opportunities Grabner had last year, we would likely be talking about a player who scored close to 50 goals last year.

      You’re 100% correct about his very reasonable contract and I would love to have three Grabners on the team, but they would be relegated to the bottom 6 and would only see PK time.

    • I’ll admit that I don’t know the authors here the way some of you may, but I don’t recall Dave having an issue with him. At least not after the first month of last season.

      If you are talking about this article and whether to resign him, I’ll dive in. Grabner turns 30 the day of the Rangers’ open the season. I think the Rangers want their kids to make him expendable. If Grabner has another season like last year, he will command a good sized raise. Will he repeat? Last year was his second best season in goals and points while it being his best in even strength goals, shooting %, game winning goals, and plus/minus. Perhaps he’s a late bloomer who has 3 — 4 good years left. Maybe he’s at his peak right now and it is downhill from here (being on the wrong side of 30). I anticipate some spirited discussions next offseason regarding his value to the Rangers if he isn’t re-signed (or traded) during the season.

  • I got a feeling Rangers fans will be happier with Buchnevich…….Vesey and maybe Chytil this season. Centers and fowards who will have as good (or better) numbers than last year…..Grabner……Hayes…….Kreider……Nash…..Zibanejad…….Zuccarello…..Jury is still out….JT and Fast ……GO RANGERS !!!!!

  • The young Russian should be better accustomed to NY, the ins and outs, and the league as well.


    I hope the little comrade keeps his nose away from Trump tower though.


  • Buchnevich will be fine provided he’s put on the xtra muscle to play a full season. He has elite level skills something the Rangers have lacked. This is the year of the next core Kreider,Mika,Hayes,JT, Brady, Vesey and now Filip. These are the guys that need to bring it each night and into the playoffs. We know that the older vets will be there. The D with Shattenkirk should provide a lot more scoring opportunities. A power play please. Give this core 3 years with minor changes I think they can get it done.

  • Why was his production “aberrrational” he had many more chances (break aways) that he did not score on?

    • Look at Grabner’s career stats. He’s had two incredible seasons eight years apart. In between were a lot of 15 goal seasons. Ask an islander fan how Grabner did after scoring 36 times in his first full season with them.

      • I think/hope being on a better more consistent team like the rangers rather than the isles and pre matthews leafs might help him stay a 20 goals scorer each year……..Look at how much better/ more consistent phil kessel is with the pens organization……
        And as Chris A pointed out maybe he is scoring more on his breakaways…maybe he has figured it out!
        How many goals would he have with crosby or backstrom or mcdavid as his center ?
        Some guys never get their recognition……anyone remember Greg Polis before his injury?????

        • His goal production started sinking when John Tavares was his center.

          His center isn’t the issue.

          And Phil Kessel has produced consistently throughout his career

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