Nick Holden has been surprisingly good

nick holden

Nick Holden was the target of some much deserved criticism at the end of last season. He and Marc Staal combined to be on the ice for what felt like every tying/winning goal against in the Ottawa series. While it’s hyperbole to state they were on for all the important goals against, they were on for at least half.

There was hope that the Rangers would trade Holden and make room for one of the many defense prospects currently in Hartford. However that never came to be, as Alain Vigneault preferred to keep Holden and give the kids more time in the AHL. With the Rangers blue line a mess, Holden is a popular target for criticism. While there are gaffes, last night’s epic fail leading to the game winner for Florida on everyone’s mind, he’s been surprisingly solid thus far.

As of the writing of this post (I’m on vacation, so this was written on Saturday. The numbers may have changed a bit since) Holden is currently second on the team among defensemen (to Ryan McDonagh) in CF% at 49.9%. Ideally you want that over 50%, but that’s just nitpicking at this point. The biggest surprise is Holden’s xGF%, which is a team leading 57.62%, and it’s not even close. The next best Rangers defenseman is McDonagh, and he’s almost a full 10% lower than Holden (48.78%).

What this means is that despite the gaffes, which are more prevalent in our minds because it is human nature to miss the little things being done properly, Holden has been a driving force on both sides of the puck for the Rangers. He’s been playing top pairing minutes as well, and has done marvelously well for now.

The interesting bit here is that Holden has been performing this well while facing top pairing match ups –a product of being paired with McDonagh– and getting destroyed in zone starts (37.21% of his starts are in the offensive zone). Amazingly enough, Holden has been part of the solution, not the problem.

Is there a chance that the bottom falls out? Absolutely. Holden has no history of being able to sustain this kind of production and solid play. His entire career has been someone around a bottom pairing defenseman. However the optimist in me thinks that Holden is a good complement for McDonagh, someone who can more than hold his own with the #1 defenseman.

All numbers via and at even strength.

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  • Dave,

    He’s been better yes. However his numbers are masked by playing with McDonagh, being on for quite a bit of Grabners empty net goals, and being on ice with KZB a lot.

    Since McDonagh went down and his responsibility up, his play has gone south.

  • What? I don’t care what the numbers say, where are the numbers for game winning goals given up? Check that stat.

  • He basically just dropped trou and left a big dump (actually, several big dumps) on the MSG ice last night.

  • “Turning now to Digital Media news, was the target of a hostile takeover by the Alex Jones/Infowars outfit.

    “In between new disclosures on Hillary’s connection to a child trafficking ring run from the back of the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria, the site predicts Nick Holden as this year’s Norris Trophy winner.

    “Longtime blogger Walt will be a guest on tomorrow’s broadcast. Walt will disclose his numerous flight tests of a reverse engineered UFO during his attachment to a US Air Force/CIA cadre at the top secret Area-51 facility.”

    • I feel like I haven’t arrived as a human being until I get mentioned in one of your posts.

      Hope all is well my friend.

      • Anthony, you got to tip your tin foil helmet to Our Dave for today’s talking point.

        I mean, yes: Holden’s play has all but erased those memories of Marek Malik. Per Djoos, even.

        With great respect, this one’s for you, Dave:

        • LOL, I love Dave, not sure that he loves me.

          Here’s the thing, I am into the advanced stats as I think they have a big place in player evaluation, but I have seen this stiff live many, many games, and that turnover he had last night is habitual and typical. He’s under pressure and just aimlessly flings the puck to no one in particular. He is also terrible in defending in front of the net.

          Trust me, he’s not the only culprit, but when I saw the title of this article then I had to see what it was about, lol.

    • great stuff!

      I am wondering at what point of Dave’s vacation did he write this up?
      have a nice time!



    • Gees Nick, you just revealed classified information, now I’m going to be in trouble.

      Great hearing from my paison again, missed you!!!!!!!!

  • Dave – did you write this post before the game and decide to keep it even though Nick gave up the puck with a minute to go and cost us the game? Yes he has played OK this year just like the first half of last year. It will take more than a repeat of last year’s start to forgive his atrocious play in the Ottawa series that may have cost us a Cup.

    Nick is fine as a 3rd pair dman. If you talk yourself into him being a good 1st pair, when playing with McDonaugh I think you are kidding yourself. He is a good skater and a big wing span so he can be effective at times but he’s always been prone to coughing up the puck.

    I like Smith too but he is also prone to poor puck management at times. Still short one strong top 4 dman unfortunately. I’ll be interested in seeing Pionk when he comes up. He seems to be the break-out dman down in Hartford.

  • Better? Yes … but but but this isn’t the Holden we saw the first 2/3’s of the season last year, defensively or offensively.

    • Yes, it is.

      The only thing that is makes last year’s Holden look better is he’s not shooting 23%.

      Last year Holden attempted 225 shots, but was credited with 84 shots on goal. Early in the season while he was scoring seemingly every shot went in.

      This year, Holden’s only attempted 50 shots so far, but been credited with 20 shots on goal. So while he is putting the puck on net more often, he has a shooting percentage of 5%.

      So yes, this is the same exact Nick Holden that we had last year.

      • Beg to differ, if he was the same Holden then according to you he would be shooting at a 23% — note that last year he was shooting at 13%, not the 23% you suggest. He also added 23 assists in 80 games last year, almost 6 assists every 20 games. He has 3 assists in 20 games this year.

        • I’ll do your homework for you.

          In the months of November and December, Nick Holden scored 7 goals on 29 shots. Thats a 24.13 SH%.

          For the rest of the season, Nick Holden scored 4 goals on 55 shots, or, 7.2 SH%.

          So like I said: “Early in the season while he was scoring seemingly every shot went in”

          This is the same Nick Holden we had last year. While pucks are hitting the net more, his current shooting percent of 5% is near enough to his career norm of 8%. The turnovers are the same, the shooting % is close enough to the same. Everything is the same. He’s just not shooting 20+% for any amount of time.

  • That game winning goal last night wasn’t really anyone’s fault.

    Smith turned the puck over at the red line, but he was in a difficult position. He was being pressured, and couldn’t just dump it or would have been an icing with just over a minute to go. But the Florida defenseman beat him to the red line and blocked the dump in attempt. Florida then gained the zone and Smith recovered well making a gutsy block on a hard slap shot. Holden was lined up behind him trying to block the shooting lane as well.

    Fortuitously for Florida, Smith’s block ricocheted right back to the shooter who was able to make a bang-bang pass for a old-timer.

    At this point, Holden can only react. He wasn’t able to block that second shot and it ends up in the net.

    I have a hard time finding major fault with either Smith or Holden on that play.

    • Why did Florida gain the zone? Because of a horrible soft clearing attempt by Holden, knowing his partner was up the ice (which seems to be a reoccuring theme with Smith getting caught up ice). A “clearing attempt” that was more a pass directly to Florida.

      That clearing attempt is elevated slightly and much harder to the boards, we might not be having this conversation.

      • Or we could be having a discussion about Holden icing the puck with a minute left in the game which also could have led to a late go-ahead goal for Florida.

        The point isn’t that I think Holden and Smith played that sequence perfectly and were just victimized by bad luck. Very rarely are plays made perfectly. Mistakes are made up and down the ice all game long by both sides. Most end up being harmless misconnections. But in Holden’s case he has a fraction of a second to make a decision: slam it hard up the boards and probably ice it with a minute left, or go a bit softer and try to get it into the neutral zone.

        You, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, say he made the wrong play. But watching that play, Holden’s clear was just barely picked off without being offside. In that split second timeframe, he probably thought he could make that play rather than risk an icing. He miscalculated obviously, but that doesn’t mean it was a bone-headed blatant mistake.

        • I’m seriously wondering if you saw the same play.

          He had just about 2 seconds with the puck and 2 seconds before touching the puck to decide. There were two Rangers right there. There was another in the zone with him. He had support.

          There’s no way you can absolve either Smith or Holden for that whole sequence. Both are equally as guilty

          • Hmm. I don’t see any support actually.

            Smith and Miller were the two guys in the neutral zone closest to Holden. It actually looked like that’s who he was trying to get it to. If he slammed it up the boards, that’s a pass to nowhere. No one was in position to receive that. Zuke was way out of the frame, no where to be seen, and the guy in the zone with Holden was Kreider. He was circling behind Holden heading around to the right boards / bench area.

            First, it doesn’t seem that Holden can really see where Kreider is.

            Second, even if he does, that’d be a behind the back drop prayer at the high slot with a Florida forward pressuring. That would have been a dumb play to try to pull off.

            Finally, Kreider sees Holden’s clear picked off and he still just coasted to the bench. We only had 4 players down lown on that goal sequence because Kreider just washed his hands of it all.

            No blame for him, though, I’m sure.

          • All I have is…

            Your not just the President of the Nick Holden Fan Club, your also the only member.

          • Count me in as well…I’m the VP of the fan club. But last night, I wanted to turn in my membership. 🙂

          • Clearly, you misunderstand my point.

            I’m less a fan of Holden than I am in opposition to double standards when it comes to calling players out.

          • This whole section? TL;DR

            But if you want to know why the D is so bad in Hartford, if falls back to the system the coach runs in NY.

            Flaws in the system are magnified because they play the same teams week in, week out(are there other teams they play besides Springfield, Bridgeport & Hershey?)

          • Chris-

            I’m normally with you buddy. And I think that Holden has taken a disproportionate amount of abuse out here (because we are nothing as Rangers fans if we don’t have defensemen to dump on!).

            But, Holden was not good last night, and especially bad on that last sequence that cost the Rangers the game.

            I give credit to Dave for not only writing this article but being willing to post it right after this game. I still think his overarching point is right—Holden has been fine.

          • I said he’s “fine”. Not good. Big difference. 🙂

            I just don’t think he’s been the train wreck player that most make him out to be.

          • Holden is a train wreck especially when he’s pressured. He’s got nice shiny stats since paired with McD.

            Now, not paired with McD, not so much. He’s also a terrible defender in front of the net, though the others are as well.

            If the Rangers had 4 or 5 good defenders then Holden could be tolerated, but they don’t, so Holden’s play is magnified.

            The 3 of them have to go, I don’t care how not ready the guys in Hartford are, based on what the crap we have here.

          • Well I agree with you that I would more than welcome an upgrade on defense. Right now, with McDonagh out, we have Skjei, Smith and Shatty, and the latter is not exactly known for his defensive prowess. And Smith, I have to say, I remain mostly unimpressed and have to wonder if we made a big mistake here. Once McDonagh comes back, we will be better.

            But I have seen a lot of solid play and good moments from Kampfer, from Staal and from Holden. I dont think they’ve been as bad as people make them out to be. Indeed, dollar for dollar, I’d take any of those three over Smith considering what the Rangers laid out to sign him. Huge disappointment thus far. But as a unit, they haven’t been nearly good enough enough of the time to have any of us dreaming of a SC run at the moment.

            As for the young guys, I have no idea who you would recall. Your guy ADA apparently has been a frequent healthy scratch in Hartford. I’m not hearing anything positive about Pionk. What purpose would it serve to recall them if they can’t even make a positive impression in the AHL? That would be like saying let’s promote a back up point guard on the JV basketball team and hope he can play better than the medicore guys I have on the varsity.

            Totally understandable under those circumstances to stick with what they have—for now.

            One last thing—we miss Girardi more than most realize. There, I said it.

          • My brother, you are an AV fan through and through, as you love to hang onto players who clearly were not capable of helping the team.

            I have this vision that, as G was told that he being bought out, as he was walking out the door, AV was sitting on top of G’s foot with his legs wrapped around G’s leg, hoping that his weight would keep G from leaving. Crying and moaning how unfair the buyout is.

            Doing the same wrong things over and over doesn’t change the outcome. Staal, Kampfer, and Holden are “not bad.” So then it’s the other 3 D men that are causing the King to face the most high danger shots in the league.

            But yet, when I go to the games, Staal is giving the puck away or getting beat just about every shift. But the King bails him out, so it’s “ok.”

            I love when fans say that these guys are acceptable but then have games where the team is out chanced like 18-4 when they are on the ice. Again, the King bailed them out.

            Guys like Shatty and Skjei cough it up too, EXCEPT, THEY will create more chances at the other end of the ice. You get nothing from the 3 stiffs at that end of the ice. Except for when they are paired with McD. The rest of the time they are pinned in their own zone when paired with others, incapable of even getting to the neutral zone at times.

            And Buch still does not get max 5 on 5 minutes. Just had to throw that in there, lol.

          • You’re still the class of this bunch, E3.

            Inasmuch, despite Dave’s bold if transrational defense of 22, his play has noticeably regressed.

            Now let’s talk value. If this stretch of games was for purposes of his being showcased I don’t envision much, if any return.

            As Anthony opined with far greater detail, when pressured Holden turns into a gelatinous mass.

            By all means, let’s give one of the kids a shot: Pionk, Crawley. Why the f**k not?

          • Thanks Fotiu! You are too kind.

            Great to hear from one of my all-time favorite bloggers. Nobody writes more cleverly than you!

            I’m not so sure I agree on 22 (although I believe you mean 55 for our guy Holden…see, you are such a Fotiu fan that you see 22s in your sleep no doubt!). Holden had a bad game last night, no doubt. But if we are going to say advanced stats are sacrosanct and prove categorically that guys like McIlrath and Clendening should have played more (even though they were future minor leaguers), then surely we can’t readily dismiss Holden’s stats that quickly now can we?

            As for giving one of the kids “a shot”, again, I disagree. My other favorite blogger Richter said I’m an AV fan through and through. Perhaps I am, but in reality, the coach I most admire is Bill Parcells. I covered him early in his career. Got to know him. Was (and remain) in awe of him. He said it best. (Paraphrasing…)

            “The biggest mistake a coach can make is giving a young player too much too soon. If you rush a player before they are ready, you can ruin that player.”

            That has always stuck with me. Think about it. If you were GM of the Rangers, do you really think you would call up a young guy who has not yet proven a thing on the AHL level, simply because you would rationalize it by saying “why the f%$^ not”? I seriously doubt it.

            That’s a fan reaction. Not a GM or coach reaction. The Rangers have proven they will not hesitate to give guys who are ready a chance on the big club. Most recently on defense, that guy was Skjei. They didn’t “give him a shot” just for the heck of it. They did so because he was ready to contribute on the NHL level in a meaningful way. It is obvious that, at the moment, the options in the AHL are not similarly ready. So until they are, we won’t see them unless there are injuries—exactly as it should be.

            Hope all is well!

          • Agreed Fotiu, E3 is a great and classy guy, love him.

            Now on to the discussion, lol.

            Crawley is older, Graves is older, DeAngelo is older. Pionk is older. These are not 19 year old players, at some point you have to find out about them. Because the players they would be replacing are terrible.

            It’s not an acceptable excuse to not try some of these players. Small businesses that do not make change when change is needed get buried and go out of business.

            Sports teams that do not make change when change is needed do not succeed and possibly not make the playoffs. The Rangers margin for error is very slim.

            The issue is, and the coach has said it repeatedly, is that he “trusts” Staal and Holden. Why is that? Their play warrants trust? I would like that explained to me because when I go to the home games, and I go to most of them, I don’t see what the coach sees. I see horrific play by vets who should know better, so my conclusion is that they are just not capable of succeeding, or lack of talent in this NHL.

            Therefore, change is needed, and it needs to be done soon to assess whether the young players can carry the load or reinforcements are needed at the trade deadline, because the Rangers do not sell, as we have already discussed.

          • Counter point argument my friend—

            1) I think the coach says he “trusts” Holden and Staal because, frankly, what else is he going to say? What I REALLY think he believes is “I trust Holden and Staal over the even LESS desirable options we had (Clendo and McIlrath) and currently have (ADA, Pionk, Graves) in the AHL”. I suspect 90% of the coaches in this league if not more would draw the same conclusion. And we know that’s 100% the case with the guys who are no longer in the organization.

            2) Obviously, while AV has a say in this, the decisions regarding prospects being deemed ready for the NHL are made more so by the front office than the coach. If, as you say, the guys before who couldn’t even make other team’s rosters, and the guys currently who are toiling in the “A”, were actually viewed as better options by the GM, and the coach refused to play them, do you really believe Gorton would have signed AV to the extension? Do you think this year, given the awful start, that AV would still be employed? So it seems to me the guy(s) you should be upset with is/are Gorton and/or Drury. You are basically saying that those two are failing in their job to promote players that should be playing in the NHL-despite the fact that there is no evidence at all to support these players are ready.

            3) Ok, let’s entertain your idea for a moment. How would this work exactly? Let’s just say, for argument sake, that the Rangers recall ADA, even though he can barely crack the Wolfpack. How many games do you give him to prove himself? 2 games? 5 games? 10 games? How much ATOI are you prepared to invest? Who do you pair him with? A good player like McDonagh, even though that learning curve might hinder McD’s play? An offensive-minded guy like Shatty? Sounds like a potential nightmare. Skjei? He’s still young. Is he ready to “prop up” a “shot in the dark type player”? Doubtful. One of the other guys? Well, doesn’t that set ADA up for failure? Won’t we all say “he’s isn’t getting enough ice time or a fair chance?”

            If you are the GM, do you tell the coach, “hey, don’t you worry about earning points right now. Just give ADA time to develop. We will support you 100%.” Doesn’t the needs of the player (in this case ADA) supersede the needs of the team in that scenario?

            I contend that you CAN do this IF you are the Coyotes lets say and you have virtually no chance to make the playoffs. Sure, give the kids time to prove themselves (although isn’t it ironic that Arizona, with their new age GM who is a fancy stat darling, and their dynamic coach, couldn’t find a way to get Adam Clendening into their lineup, despite the fact that they are a train wreck and despite the fact that he was the fancy stat darling out here last year that many said MUST play over Girardi, and that failing to do so proves the coach should be fired? No one has ever explained that completely bungled narrative to me but I digress), don’t worry about points, this is all about building for the future.

            So let’s say ADA struggles, which the odds say are probably about 90% or better. Then what? Does he get limited playing time? Does he sit in street clothes? Does he get demoted in short order? How does that help the confidence of a young player trying to find his game? Isn’t the player, and by extension the team, MUCH better off giving him ample time to develop in the A, show what he can do, and THEN promote him?

            3) I don’t know what you do for a living, but I run a media group. One of my primary responsibilities is to make sure that I am helping my managers find the best talent available. You are absolutely right. If you have mediocre talent…you will get mediocre results. But finding the improvements is not always easy. If you make the wrong decisions on talent, you can easily regress. We are in the field with research right now. When it comes back, some of our talent will be evaluated as “keepers”, because they help drive ratings and drive our success. Some are bubble types. Not your “A-listers”, but not liabilities either. You can keep them or let them go, no big deal—as long as you replace them with tante that are at least as good if not better. Then there are those few who the viewers simply do not care for. They have to go. But replaced with who? Would I go to the area colleges or smaller markets (our “AHL”) and find one of their more unimpressive talents that really did not show much on that level? Of course not. You develop a pipeline. I have a pretty good idea of who’s going to stay and who’s going to go. And assuming I am right, I will replace those that need to go with those who are among the best at what they do—people that I’ve already identified that are just waiting for the “call-up”.

            So I agree and disagree. You are right, no business, big or small, will keep people that are delivering average or even worse performance. But also, no business will make a change just for the sake of making a change. You change with the intention of upgrading, not on the “Hail Mary” hope that MAYBE, against all odds, they will suddenly emerge despite the fact they couldn’t do so on a less competitive level. That is NOT a formula for success that would keep any GM employed for long.

            This team is flawed. But a lot of teams are flawed. There is reason to believe that McDonagh is on the verge of getting healthy. If so, he’s the best we have, he eats up big minutes, and by extension, he should make his partner better and make the other d-men better simply because they will have less responsibility. Skjei hopefully continues his ascendency. Shatty is Shatty. The big x-factor might be Smith. IF he starts performing up to the expectations of his contract, then you have four quality defenseman who can carry the load, which was the plan all along, you can make do with two out of three (Kampfer/Staal/Holden), and you can buy yourself time to allow the other options in Hartford to PROPERLY develop. You don’t need to see them here. Gorton and Drury can see them very clearly in the A. It will be obvious enough when and if they are ready. So by the deadline, hopefully the defense has improved, the prospects show they are ready, and some appealing trade option becomes available.

            That is how the defense will improve. It won’t happen by recalling someone who is not ready and hoping for the best. That’s a business plan that’s almost a guarantee to fail.

          • Parcells is inherently correct about young players. (Frankly, I feel like that quote is a bit of a “Maddenism”…really just common sense, but presented and/or interpreted like some sort of rare nugget of wisdom that could only be possibly obtained and/or delivered to the masses by a luminary of the philosophy of the game, LOL.)

            With that said, when a player is considered “young” is a very subjective thing. I have taken to prefer the term “inexperienced”, in relation to top-league-level exposure. AV has shown a repeated history of punishing players without much NHL experience – even if they may be 24 years old – for the slightest of mistakes and/or not having an airtight game, while some of his trusted and tenured vets are making the same type and frequency of mistakes – if not more – with impunity, and seeing little-to-no comeuppance for it.

            This is not mere speculation. For every Brendan Smith scenario of a vet being benched for not being up to snuff, there are five examples of a Miller/Hayes/Buch/Chytil/ADA situation where proper chances are not given before a decision is made and/or there is an over-reaction to common mistakes among NHL players of any age. This is not anti-AV bias, nor is it about him “ruining” players’ careers or any other such hyperbole in that vein.

            This is not the first time we’ve seen such boneheadedness from Holden in crunch time, nor will it be the last. If Pionk (just using him as the example since his name seems to come up most regarding replacing Holden) is called up and put in those positions, he will probably have his bonehead moments as well. The point is, we know Holden has a repeated history of brain farts in crunch time. His offensive prowess is just not high enough to justify him being out there for those late chances for the other team to put the game away or take it to OT as often as he is. This is not “Well, Holden has to play sometime and it just coincidentally happened that, again, he was on the ice for a game-losing or game-tying goal against”…this is AV clearly putting Holden out in those situations, often, with some sort of ridiculous concept that Holden is a shut-down type defender.

            Pionk is, indeed, an unknown. Give him a shot, see if he can play at the same level as Holden but without crapping his pants constantly in crunch time. If Pionk screws up and costs the team a couple games, you’re back at square one, right where you started with Holden. Fair enough. If Pionk doesn’t do that and is as adequate as Holden elsewhere, you have improved the hockey team.

            Nick Holden has appeared in 321 NHL games, and he made a pee-wee level string of mistakes that ultimately lost the team a game in this most recent example. To me, that he has 321 games under his belt and still does things like that somewhat regularly makes me want to give him less benefit of the doubt…but to AV, a mistake like that is somehow less egregious for a vet to commit than an inexperienced player making that same mistake. That is just completely asinine to many of us Rangers fans, and with good reason.

            The issue folks have with AV is not so much that he seems to have a “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude with his vets. It’s that he seems to have a “It’s broken, but I’m not gonna try to fix it because this is my guy” attitude. This is not a new characteristic of this coach that has only reared its ugly head in the past few seasons…it was also a gripe among the Vancouver fan base. If he continues with this type of favoritism to this degree, it will continue among the fan base of his next team, as well.

          • Eg-

            Your point is more than fair and well expressed. But the broader point is—isn’t this an organizational decision more so than AV decision? The organization is saying those guys are not ready. There is no indication whatsoever that they are. So why not wait until they are? Again, why the rush? And again, shouldn’t Gorton and Drury bee taken to task here moreso than AV on matters of call ups?

            As for playing favorites, I agree, he does that. But so does just about any coach I’ve ever studied. Parcells had “his guys” that got much longer leashes (like let’s say his LBs) as opposed to his defensive backs like Elvis Patterson, who he constantly deried as “Toast”. Any mistake he made he was all over him and he would be often pulled. If Gary Reasons made a similar error, he was treated quite differently.

            It’s just the nature of coaching and managing in general. Some guys need tough love. Some need a periodic good swift kick in the pants.

            And again, I will point out, certainly in NY and also I believe in Vancouver, which I admittedly know less about, AV has never really been proven wrong on an option that was deemed as “better” by the fan base. Has there been anyone who left the Rangers that AV didn’t value that went on to shine elsewhere? (Not including cap related decisions obviously). Front and center most recently were McIlrath and Clendo. AV was skewered for not playing them more over veteran options. Now they are toiling away in the minors for other organizations.

            If AV and the organization as a whole had a track record of passing up better options that went on to shine elsewhere, I’d be right with you on this. But that’s not the case. Seems to me both the coach and GM should have earned more of the benefit of the doubt here, based on what happened with the supposedly “better” options after they left.

          • Regarding organization vs. coach, I don’t see that as a factor worth really pondering too much in these types of scenarios. The organization is not at all well-served to put players on the NHL roster who the coach simply won’t play, whatever the reason for that may be. One can spin off and wax philosophical about whether or not there is a divide between Gorton/front office and AV, or how much the front office truly believes in AV’s judgement in this one area based on the types of players they keep bringing in vs. the types of players AV keeps playing, etc., but that’s not really very productive nor will any fan ever truly know those answers. At the end of the day, I don’t think many GMs in any sport are going to leave a developing player on the top league roster only to sit in the press box or on the bench just to make a point, even in the worst of GM/coach relationships. I don’t think many GMs are going to keep re-signing a player to top league contracts when the coach won’t play him. And on the flip side, I don’t think too many coaches would tolerate being told exactly who to play by the front office for long before putting in their notice.

            I’ve said this before and I will say it again – continued employment of a coach or a GM by a team does not unconditionally mean that everyone is on the same page. (And frankly, with an owner as notoriously scattershot as Dolan, who the hell knows how these decisions are even truly made…would it shock anyone if he actually flipped a coin between two names to decide something like coach or GM for his teams? It would not at all shock me.)

            As for examples like Clendening and McIlrath, it does not matter what they went on to do elsewhere. This angle is wholly irrelevant to the discussion at hand, IMO. We have statistics that show us quite clearly that Adam Clendening was more effective during his time on the ice with the Rangers than other right-side Rangers defenders last season who were consistently given ice time ahead of him. To me, talking about what players go on to do elsewhere is similar to trying to evaluate teams based on common opponents: while it may not be completely irrelevant, it also is not by any means whatsoever conclusive. I’m not gonna hang my hat on Tanner Glass being waived by Ottawa constantly as some sort of conclusive evidence that AV is terrible at player evaluation…because it isn’t. Neither is continuing to rail on Clendening and McIlrath as proof that he is excellent at player evaluation. Most coaches/GMs don’t completely whiff on can’t-miss talent on a regular basis – or even talent in that “very good” range – so, to present it as a question of “track record of passing up better options that went on to shine elsewhere” like that is a common thing in pro sports is folly, IMO. There aren’t too many coaches and GMs in any sport who have a track record of that. It are those players in the margins who get missed at a fair clip, sometimes by multiple teams, and some of those players just never get another real chance after the first team. That’s just how it goes.

            What I’d like to see from the Rangers, AV, or however you want to frame it, is more of “This really very clearly is not working out well; let’s take a chance on a different player who may not be as experienced and see if it works out better”. I’d like to see them give inexperienced players more chances when it has become clear that players who they have given every chance in the world to still are not cutting it. I think a lot of fans are with me on that. We know all about Holden. We know all about Kampfer. We do not know all about Pionk, Graves, or Crawley. (I’m leaving ADA out of this for now because I frankly do suspect his attitude issues are flaring up yet again, and if that’s the case, he’s not going to get ice time anywhere.) How’s about we go ahead and find out about Pionk, Graves, and Crawley, rather to continue to rely on the guys we already know aren’t capable of getting it done well enough?

            Would you drive around on a leaky/flat tire because you have more experience driving on it than you do the spare? Because, honestly, what AV is continuing to do with deployment is just as ridiculous to many of us fans as a person taking that stance about their tire situation would be.

    • Chris, Smith tried to get the puck out of the zone and failed. The puck goes to Holden who, without purpose, throws the puck at the blueline where an opponent intercepts it and keeps it in the attacking zone.

      Then, not that the turnover was bad enough, Holden not only did nothing but also screened his goalie on top of it.

      It is 100% his fault.

      • Brother…the issue is the Rangers have three d-men who are either a career AHL’er (Kampfer) and two who are third pairing who should be sheltered like Staal and Holden. Staal is not a fault here and has been somewhat better than last year, but #55 and #47 have to go. Sather and Gorton have three young blueliners vying to be called up- Pionk, Graves and DeAngelo.

  • I am not certain how Nick Holden has some how surpassed Brandon Smith on the depth chart here in Ranger Town? What universe are we talking here? Do not get me wrong I have seen Smith make some idiotic turn overs and play as I have seen McDonagh make bone head plays and turn overs all season long. But with Smiths limited time to reacclamate back to game form he has been far less of a problem then Nick Holden. Holden has made so many blunders during critical times this season and last season-like the turn over with just over a minute to go in the game against the Panthers this week. I watched Joe Micoletti try and blame Smith for that when clearly Smith choked up the puck instead of clearing it. Actually once again there was no reason for Holden to be out protecting a tie game but AV is a very very slow learner. Smith should have been out with Skjei not Holden who has been on for so many goals against this season and during the playoffs last season. Holden is not a terrible but he is not in Smiths league. Sorry.

  • After skimming over the title of this article, I don’t know if I can ever visit this site again.
    And. Damn You , Patrick Roy!!!

  • Sorry, Nick Holden is demonstrably NOT GOOD. He’s a terrible defenseman, actually—someone whose ineffectiveness is total & thorough. He’s got decent size—but doesn’t use it well, not much of a hitter, and he constantly allows opposing forwards to box him out in front of the net. He’s allegedly a defensive d-man, yet his positioning, game-sense, and judgment are awful. His indecisiveness with the puck is consistent. His game has no poise or calmness to it, he’s utterly panic-stricken when handling the puck in his own zone. He had a lucky five week stretch last year where his shot kept going in—a smart GM should’ve been able to move him for at least a third or fourth rounder—and other than that, the guy has more Jeff Woywitka in his game than Michael Sauer. His horrendous play throughout the playoffs against Ottawa would’ve made most smart coaches dump him in the pressbox. I’ve never seen a defenseman in this league give up on as many net-front plays as this guy, and that’s what really angers me about Holden’s game—he’s really useless down low near his own goal, an inexcusable trait in a defenseman.

    Lastly, this article is poorly timed and it relies on stats that reflect the quality of Ryan McDonagh rather than Holden. Seriously mystifying article here, trying to make something out of the giant void that is Nick Holden, Ranger defenseman.

    • MC: Eerie vibe to your referencing Michael Sauer, the day we learn MZ’s been concussed.

      Clearly subjective reasoning here, but if Sauer’s career had not ended so tragically abrupt, or Cherepanov, our best Russian prospect not succumbed to heart failure–if not an ill-equipped emergency response–I believe we’d have another Cup.

      Michael Sauer could’ve been his generation’s Jeff Beukeboom. That stay-at-home/give ’em hell blue-liner has been our deficit ever since.

  • This article reads like it was written by someone who only looks at advanced stats, knows nothing about hockey, never played it, and never watches it. Well, maybe not that bad, but pretty bad.

    Other posts have pointed out that in a team sport, the performance of your mates while you are on the ice will skew your stats. This is clearly the case with Holden. Anyone who has watched him play for two years knows that this is a deeply mediocre defenseman who goes on streaks of scoring, but can not be relied upon in his own zone when under pressure either from the opposition or the game situation. He is one of those athletes who “chokes” – the blood drains out of his brain when the chips are down, and he makes awful, game-losing decisions.

    Anyone who could say he was not to blame for the losing goal on Tuesday is seriously nuts. Watch any hockey game you like. There will be many, many instances where a defender gets the puck alone mid-zone with the forecheck bearing in on him, and if his passing lane is blocked, or there is no wide-open target, he will either throw it up the boards and out of the zone to allow his teammates to regroup, or turn and take the puck behind the net, using it and his goaltender as a pick to keep the forecheck from cutting him off, and allowing his team to re-set and get in position for a break out play. The one thing he will never do is pass it to a high-risk spot. This is compounded if the team is going for a line change – in this case, the defender MUST control the puck long enough for the change to be safely completed.

    Holden violated every fundamental of play in that situation, not just turning it over, but doing so while his team was out of position, AV having called for a line change when he thought Smith was going to get it into the offensive zone. It’s obvious his forwards expected Holden to control it and carry it safely behind the net, as they continued not just to change, but in Grabners case not even rush back.

    Blaming Smith is just piling on, as he did not turn the puck over – he lost control of it, but it went directly to Holden with plenty of space to control it. Smith should have skated back immediately, but Holden never turned away, and, incredibly, he tried to pass it back to Smith while the forwards were all out of the play on the right side, just a grotesque mis-play. I believe Kreider sees Holden control the puck, and heads for the bench, fully expecting him to turn it back and re-set the rush. Smith eventually does get back in the play, and makes an excellent block on the first shot – which catches him on the knee and sends him writhing in pain to the ice. At this point, Holden is next to the net boxing out, leaves his man, and goes to no-man’s-land failing to block the next shot and screening his goalie. Had OP saved it, the Panther at the net is uncovered for a rebound try. Wrong on every count.

    In sum, it’s about as bad a play as I’ve seen an NHL defender make in the past two seasons. His fundamentals are wrong, his decisions are wrong, and his play is wrong. Holden makes bad defensive plays all the time, but they get worse as the stakes increase. Kampfer is no better, and Staal can’t even get into position to make plays any more. Smith is a disappointment, but he did not cause that goal.

    We need new blood on the blue line. Some one with fast-twitch reflexes for a start.Pionk looked like a sure thing out of camp. I’d love to see him given a long look instead of Kampfer or Holden. Advanced stats dont tell the story of Nick Holden. The stench coming from MSG does.

  • I want to see what you are smoking Holden is the biggest turnover machine and continues to screen our goalie. He should be released if they can’t trade him. There has got to be a better option in Hartford.

  • On to Hartford. Graves is on the last year of his ELC. You’re gonna have to get a look at him on the big club, no matter what. Same goes for Gilmour who(if anyone repeats this I’ll deny it) almost looks like an NHL depth defenceman right now.

    If(and when) McD goes on IR, you make the call. If Graves or Gilmour falls on their face, no big deal passing on losing him through waivers because they weren’t coming back next year and Your logjam on the farm clears up.

    If either one works, Kampfer will clear waivers and cap room increases.

  • Adam Cracknell dealt to Laval for one time 1st rd pick Peter Holland. Another 30 goal scorer in junior who’s a fringe NHLer at best.

    Hopefully he adds something more in Hartford than Cracknell did.

  • Good news—McDonagh is practicing, paired with Holden. If it goes well, he likely plays tomorrow night.

    Bad news—Mika is out with a concussion. Timeline of course is unknown.

    Loss of Mika is just huge. The biggest fear all along was our lack of center depth. One injury to Mika or Hayes could finish us—and now we may find out if that’s true. If this is a long term issue, we will have huge problems making the playoffs.

    • Not good news.

      McD will play, when Holden gets caught with his breezers around his ankles, McD will have to transfer weight to get on his backwards horse and aggravate his “slight abdominal strain” and then he’s out for another week. But at that point, he’ll be looking at surgery and who knows how bad it is.

      But real men play through pain in a meaningless regular season even with guaranteed contracts.

      • Give it up already. You predicted surgery for McDonagh, and here he is, back on the ice after a short absence and no surgery.

    • Eddie: By virtue of today’s disclosures we stand at a threshold moment.

      In synch with your numerous if trenchant posts about the JG/Drury braintrust, we’re confronted with the reality of few blue chip prospects at C, or F, for that matter.

      You and I both realize, without anything resembling a leadership core–re Dubi, Prust, Girardi, Tanner Glass–exacerbated by a coach unwilling to bend to new blood, this club’s a middling if not underachieving group.

      Yes, if MZ’s sidelined months, rather than weeks, we’re looking up at The Isles and Devils. And big time sellers come March 1.

      (By the way, E3, my citing of Holden as 22 reflects the image atop this thread.)

  • I am not a Holden fan. He makes some decent plays and has some decent games, but overall he is a mediocre defenseman. I’d Rather watch Tony DeAngelo trying to figure out how to play than watch Holden tread water.

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