Thoughts before the Caps game tonight

NY Daily News

It’s been a bit of a slow week in Rangerland.  Credit only having two games since I last posted, I suppose.  The Blueshirts take on the Caps tonight, in the wake of Barry Trotz’ completely unnecessary criticism of Kevin Shattenkirk; the Rangers should have some motivation to make him eat his words.  In any event, I have some thoughts…

1. The Rangers have gone 7-3-0 in their past ten games and they are still sixth (!) in the Metro.  It just goes to show what a meat grinder this division is.  The five teams ahead of them are separated by a single point. A single point. At least the Rangers have games in hand on everyone but the Devils, who are still inexplicably sitting atop the pile.  The Rangers also have the second-best goal differential in the division, so hopefully regression will hit some of those other clubs a bit harder in the coming weeks.

2. I don’t feel the need to address Barry Trotz’ comments on Shattenkirk, however, I can’t just ignore it either.  So, I will say this.  It was silly.  There was no reason for it, but it also wasn’t overly offensive.  Just an unneeded analysis with sprinkled with criticism and hypocrisy.  Nothing new in today’s NHL.  Moving on…

3. I saw some interesting reactions to the potential concept of a McDonagh trade.  I don’t advocate for trading McDonagh, but when you take into account that we have seen some drop off from peak McDonagh of a few years ago, contending teams’ desperation for top four d-men and the fact that he will be over thirty when his current contract expires, it would be irresponsible to not see if you could extract massive value.  Probably won’t happen, but you can’t stick your head in the sand, either.

4. All of you heaping praise onto Boo Nieves are correct.  That is all.

5. This probably warrants a full post on it’s own, but I have been noticing the visual differences between Pavelec’s style of play versus Hank’s.  There aren’t many truly “athletic” goaltenders left in the NHL, but Pav is a holdout and it is a completely different visual than Hank.  The sequence at the end of the Penguins’ game, when he made a couple of big saves in the waning seconds really stood out.  If everyone is interested, I could write that up.

5. For what it’s worth, I really like the Winter Classic jersey.  It’s simple and true to the Rangers’ style.  That said, I think the crest with the N.Y. in it would be the nicest logo they have had in a while.  Simple, minimalist.  Really nice looking.

6. Gary Bettman really can’t wonder why everyone hates him at this point.  What I will give him is that he is a shrewd business man.  I get why the owners trust him implicitly to routinely gouge the players at the bargaining table.  He is going to pull off a clean $650 million for a new Seattle franchise and it won’t affect the salary cap one bit.  The cap should be well over $90 million based on the initial inflation projection.  It is only where it is because the players keep agreeing to give up more salary to move the needle 5% every year.  I get the Canadian dollar has been stagnant, but all this expansion stuff the past few years has highlighted how badly the NHLPA got bent over the table the last time around (and the time before that, and the time before that…)

7. After a pretty leisurely schedule, the Rangers now face six games in nine nights, with the first two against teams ahead of them in the division.  It’s a bit of a meat grinder with the Sens and Bruins providing the only respite.  I’m sure Pavelec will get some time, but the Rangers really need to pick up some points during this stretch.

Alright, that’s it for me this week.  Everyone enjoy the game tonight and the rest of the weekend!

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  • Simply, Jesper Fast remains, by far, the most underappreciated Ranger on the team. Anyone that can’t see what he does every game just doesn’t know what they’re watching.

    • Fast is quite good in his role and it seems like he has stretched out his offensive capabilities some lately after some more recovery time from his surgery.

      • that’s exactly the correct phrase Pete: “in his role.” Too often fans look at the “obvious” when assessing a player. But this guy is very good for what he does which is very important.

    • He plays whatever role the team needs him to, and does it well, without ever whining or complaining. Obviously, he’s one of the top two defensive forwards on the team (Nash is the other), but, when necessary, he can step up and fill in on a scoring line, and probably add a few points. I actually think that his checking is so good that it keeps him in a role where he just doesn’t get enough of a chance to show his scoring skill.

  • On Gary Butt-Head and the Seattle thing (hadn’t heard about that) – at least its not another sunbelt team.

    On trading McDonagh. Yes, it might make sense after the season but I don’t see how it helps this season. At best you’re getting Trouba which is great for future cap management purposes but how much does it move the needle this season (isn’t Trouba having a down season?)?. If you move McDonagh for a forward you’re filling one hole and creating another. Who would fill the hole on D? Pionk?, Graves? That’s almost certainly going to be a step down, at least in the short term. Sure, if things really go south and they want to blow it up at the deadline then go for it. Right now I don’t see it.

    Will be at the game tonight.

  • Thanks, Justin. Nice read. Consider me interested in the above mentioned Lundy/Pav analysis.

    Quick question….given the effictiveness of Nieves, you’d have to think Carey gets sent down upon ZIbanejad’s return, whenever that may be. Knowing AV, though, who do you think he deems better to stay with the club?

    • Hatrick, why would you assume that? The Rangers did not make a roster move when Mika got hurt. It was DD who was slotted back into the lineup as I recall. So most likely, once Mika is cleared to return, strange as it sounds on paper, DD would go from 1C to street clothes, the 4th line with Carey would likely remain intact, and no one gets sent down.

      A move involving a player swap with Hartford would be likely unrelated to Mika’s eventual return.

      • Interesting. The team mostly carries 13 forwards. Hatrick suggests they move to twelve forwards when Mika is healthy (and gets thumbs up) and E3 notes the obvious that sending anyone down is unlikely and gets thumbs down.
        JFTR, who AV puts in the pressbox when Zib is healthy has to be influenced by the recent play. He won’t necessarily come to the same conclusion he did before Mika was hurt.

        One great thing about players like Kampfer and Carey is that you can put them in the pressbox without inhibiting their development.

  • Trotz ought to keep his neckless head quiet. There’s no bigger charade in the NHL than the idea of Trotz as a “championship-caliber” coach, unless of course one speaks of the Washington Capitals as a “potential championship team”. Sometimes a person embodies organizational disappointment & underachievement—the Caps are “lucky” enough to have a coach, star forward, and goaltender who embody losing in the clutch. To hell with Trotz, and to hell with the Caps….

    • With great goaltending and Ovechkin and a pretty stacked lineup, and still no cup, Trotz is one of the main reasons they’re known as the Crapitals in my household. ?

  • You guys should stop downplaying the Devils. They have all the attributes of an excellent club: great goaltending, a top line playing well, good special teams, a good system, and now, Vatanen.

    I watched them the other day and they are playing with tremendous confidence. They seem to know that the important action usually takes place right in front of the nets, both their own and the other team’s. That’s where you’ll usually find multiple players going.

  • Hi Justin, I would be really interested about your analysis of the Pavelec’s style you mentioned above!

  • Jesper is a 4th player who gets plenty of icetime. He has limited offensive capibilities, he is no Thomas Steen. Defensively he vacants his position way to often and leaves his check wide open. If one were to watch how he plays it’s quite evident. He is a role player and AV is using him wisely.

  • Justin-

    Excellent article and points here. My thoughts…

    1) The Rangers are actually 12-3-0 in their past 15, so even more impressive than what you listed. I believe that’s the best 15 game stretch of any team in the league at the moment, and when you consider how balanced this league is, the fact that most of this was done with a compromised if not out of the lineup altogether McDonagh and now in the last few games no Mika, that is a mighty impressive record. Kudos to the players and yes, our supposedly “clueless” coaching staff.

    I agree with Buch Nieves (which is a hilarious name because, to the point that someone made the other day, I have no idea who Sam is talking about when one or the other is on the ice—does Kenny or LaGreca do the same thing?)—diss the Devils at your own peril. I have watched that team and they are for real IMO. Of course, if the Devils do finish ahead of the Rangers, obviously every lazy narrative out here will credit/blame it on the coaches, when in fact the Devils are legitimately talented. The credit/blame goes to Shero and/or Gorton.

    2) On Trotz, you can simply cut and paste what MC and Pete said. Nothing more to say. At least AV has taken his teams past the second round multiple times. You’d think by accident Trotz would have gotten to the Conference Finals at least once by now, given all the excellent teams he has had!

    3) I largely agree, and said the other day that with McDonagh, there is no right or wrong answer. It’s all about timing. He probably is not going to be traded this year unless the Rangers crash and burn. This summer or prior to next season’s deadline? Quite possible.

    The only point I would disagree slightly with is the drop off point that you make. McDonagh was certainly at his best back in 2013-14. But he’s still been a top tier defenseman even since then. And we really can’t evaluate him at all this season given the injury he was playing through. He’s not in the Top 10 group of defensemen, but he’s certainly at that next level. Therefore, still very valuable and important.

    4) Agree, Boo has done a very solid job thus far. Still too soon to assess him long term, but so far so good. And why some folks out here don’t appreciate Fast is beyond me. Key guy on the PK and helps any line he is placed on. Two Time Players’ Player for a reason. His teammates know what he’s all about.

    5) Most definitely interested in your take on Pav. In terms of the other day, his performance was very encouraging. At Hank’s age, it is imperative that the organization has a backup that can be counted on.

    6) Agree…Like it. But I hear there will be no alumni game. If true, totally bummed! 🙁

    7) Bettman has been an incredible commissioner—for the owners and the NHL’s business partners. That is indisputable. For the fans, it’s a mixed bag. For the players, he’s been a a disaster. But you have to admire the guy. Anyone who can take the likes of Don Fehr to the cleaners is obviously as shrewd as they come. I’ll bet the baseball owners wish Bettman was their guy back in 1994-95.

    8) I think you, Dave and the rest of BSB need to take a pledge and stop characterizing NHL opponents as “bad”, or “respites”. This is not college basketball or football with cupcake opponents. This is the most balanced league in sports. There are no real “respites”. The Bruins are red hot. The Sens are bad now, but they can find their way at any moment. All six of these games will be tough. Pavelec will play at least two games.

    • 1. What, precisely, in your opinion, has the coaching staff done to innovate during this stretch that were keys to success? My take is that they simply stopped doing some of the completely asinine things they were doing earlier in the season that contributed to struggles (11 forwards, Merry Go Round of Defensive Pairings, Pavel Buchnevich 4th line 7 mins TOI, etc.). Objectively speaking, the team is still struggling to put together full 60 minute efforts (that of course is not solely on the coaches), and there are still some curious deployment decisions being made. Are the coaches supposed to get major bonus points for being competent enough during this stretch compared to the dumpster fire that was the collective decisions they made for the first month plus of the season?

      As for the Devils, I do agree with you that they are more talented than they are being given credit for. I also think they are mighty lucky to be leading the Metro with a +3 point differential, on the other hand. So, I can see both sides of the coin, here. Their roster is not exactly inspiring on paper, and they aren’t really actually playing that dominantly…but they are finding ways to win, and points count just the same whether they come from winning by a goal or winning by ten.

      2. AV/Trotz/Boudreau are basically the Big Three of the “Always a Bridesmaid, Never The Bride” club, right now. I know AV is your homie, E3…but those three often get mentioned in the same sentence for a valid reason.

      6. I personally think the Winter Classic jerseys are a weak effort and look like knockoffs. I’d expect to see something like that being hawked $30 for one/$45 for two on a Chinese website or on the sidewalk near an arena after a game. I don’t hate them, to clarify…but just find them to be pretty “meh”.

      • Eg-

        1) I’ve always been more of a big picture guy. At the end of the day, as my guy Parcells says, “You are what your record says you are”. And since the Trick or Treaters came to visit my humble abode, the Rangers are the best team in hockey.

        I don’t understand why losing streaks are on the coach but winning streaks are all about the players, or we simply say that’s what we should have been doing all along. As I said the other day, I absolutely guarantee you that if a coaching change had been made six weeks ago, and this streak had happened, the articles we’d see here and most of the comments would give most if not all of the credit to AV’s successor.

        The team got off to an awful start. AV and his staff (and the players too) deserve credit for not letting the situation spiral any further out of the control and finding a way to right the ship. When you win 12 of 15 in this league, that is impressive and can NOT be done with a bad coach. Sorry, that makes no sense.

        As for your specific complaints—

        A) 11 Forwards…big deal. Teams do that. Cooper does that. Fast was out. Boo wasn’t ready. Neither was Chytil. They spent a lot of time trying to get DeAngelo going and that experiment failed. AV went with the hand he was dealt by Gorton, and it wasn’t a good one.

        B) Defensive pairings….again, big deal. EVERY team juggles their pairs. Coach Q does it. Trotz does it. Everyone does it. The Rangers had 7D and the team was struggling. Of course there would be some shuffling.

        C) Buch—totally overblown narrative. Team was struggling. Lines weren’t working. When you struggle, lines get shuffled. Would I like to see Buch play more???….yes. But he’s a kid still learning the game getting sheltered minutes. And again, take a look at other teams coaches and you will see the same thing. Coach Q is shuffling lines in Chicago like a card dealer. Same for Trotz. IMO, much ado about nothing. And if it was something, then I’m sure, given the awful start, that Gorton would have fired AV for his transgressions. So maybe Gorton is the problem.

        2) Bridesmaid argument—Yeah, I guess. AV might be a bridesmaid, but by comparison he’s been a far, far better coach in post-season than Boudreau and most certainly Trotz, both of whom can’t even get invited to the wedding!

        But that being said, I’ve always found this to be mostly nonsense. Keenan was bridesmaid until he wasn’t. So was Coach Q, who was essentially AV in Colorado and St. Louis until he became a genius in Chicago with an incredible roster. Similarly, what happened once Keenan won his Cup? Did it make him a better coach? No, his record was arguably the worst by any coach after winning a Cup in history. Torts won a Cup. How exactly did that help the Rangers? Since he won his Cup, his record, especially in post-season, has been pretty unremarkable.

        The thing everyone forgets is—everyone is a bridesmaid until they win their first one. And once you win one, you can easily become a bridesmaid again. That’s just a bunch of nothing to me.

        And yeah, don’t mess with my homie! 🙂

        3) Yeah, I felt that way on first blush. But the more I have seen them the more I like them. But nowhere near as good as what they wore at the 2012 WC.

  • Really NOT HAPPY to see that Matt Hunwick scored the winning goal against the Islanders last night!!!!!
    3 Goals in 15 games and has become a REGULAR on the Penguins defense!
    Another Alain Vignault success story…….not good enough to beat out Holden or Kampher but good enough to be a regular on Pitts………
    Eric Stall …..not good enough to play center for AV but scored 28 goals last year and already has 10 this year!!!!!!!
    Boy would he have solved our center problem…..big ,tough, talented , former cup winning captain……
    Why are these guys able to succeed elsewhere but not under AV?????????

    • First off—it’s Staal, not Stall. How do you always misspell this? Marc Staal has been a Ranger for 11 years, it’s not that hard to spell their name correctly.

      And in a rare defense of AV for me—you can’t blame the guy for Eric Staal’s failed Ranger stint. Staal got hurt on a Matt Martin hit in his 2nd game as a Ranger (I’d link the text but it delays posts—search “Eric Staal NY Rangers hurt by Matt Martin” and you’ll find a good pic of the crushing hit Martin threw on Staal). Eric injured his shoulder and though he didn’t miss a game for NYR he was rendered invisible for the rest of the season by the hit. And you know something else? Despite a nice comeback season for Minnesota last year, Staal got hurt in April again and his team didn’t get out of the first round. And Matt Hunwick was too expensive for what he is as a player, not to mention he’s on his 2nd team since leaving NYR. I’ve got no issues letting either player walk, especially the old, banged-up, and expensive veteran Eric Staal.

      • Eric Staal was an old banged up season vet before the Rangers blew their brains out to acquire him.

        • He was. To be fair, he did have a nice bounceback season last year. But the Rangers’ deal was not a good one, I agree.

      • How do you always misspell this?
        What a question considering the proper spelling for your nickname is
        ”’Manchurian Candidate”’!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Thanks Rich…great job as always. And that concludes another edition of the “Captain Hyperbole Crazy Train Show”! Our show, as always featuring the latest in completely fake information and inaccurate comparisons, was brought to you by the National Enquirer, where you can read the latest on JFK found alive and living in a cave in the Amazons!

      Now, to ACCURATELY respond to Captain Hyperbole, let’s look at what ACTUALLY happened with these moves, and the primary reason why they all happened—it’s this little thing you may have heard of called a Salary Cap—you know, where teams have to make difficult decisions about which players they can keep. If you haven’t heard of it CH, do google it. You will find it enlightening.

      Let’s start with Hunwick, shall we? Hunwick was the 7D on the 2014-15 Rangers, making a salary of $600k. He was coming up on his UFA summer. The Rangers top 6D men were, at that time, Girardi, Staal, McDonagh, Klein, Boyle and Yandle. The Rangers were contractually obligated to bring all six back the next year. Hunwick was obviously going to make more on the open market, and only a GM with a screw loose would pay a premium for a 7D. And, the Rangers wanted to make room for their much heralded future star defenseman, the man who would strike fear in the hearts of every NHL, one of your all-time favorite players…. the one, the only…..Dylan McIlrath!

      Now, if you are saying that we downgraded the 7D spot by losing Hunwick and having to settle for a guy who proved to be nothing more than a future minor league player, well, then I would wholeheartedly agree. But that was Cap Managment 101 stuff. And your facts, as usual, are completely wrong here about the bogus “choice” between Hunwick over Kampfer or Holden. Neither player was likely even on the Rangers radar at that time—they came on board A YEAR LATER!!!!!! Kampfer replaced McIlrath, and Holden replaced Boyle at a substantial salary reduction. That’s cap management. So the false choice you offered there is totally ridiculous.

      And, as MC mentioned, look at what happened to Hunwick. Toronto signed him, and then let him go to FA after two years. Why? Because again, they had to manage their cap needs. I wonder if a Captain Hyperbole counterpart up in Ontario is similarly writing the same Bogus Babble taking Coach Babs to task for letting Hunwick go. Probably not.

      Now on to Eric Staal. Certainly, that trade was not a good one. And MC is absolutely correct, Matt Martin laid a hit on Staal that affected his game. That being said, I agree that a healthy Staal could have been useful to this team long range—except for two things that inexplicably, you can’t seem to grasp. There’s a salary cap to manage and it’s the GM, NOT the coach, that makes these calls. So if you want to blame someone for not keeping Staal, blame Gorton, not AV.

      But Gorton isn’t to blame either. Staal was going to be a costly play. He signed in Minnesota for three years at $3.5 million per. That summer (Summer of 2016), the Rangers had to give significant raises to your “elite beasts” Kreider, Hayes and Miller. If you retain Staal, the team would have been in an enormous cap crunch, which would have resulted in losing someone you’d likely be unhappy to lose. It would have been BAD business to re-sign him, plain and simple.

      As to players playing better away from AV, funny, but the guy you totally go crazy over, Michael Grabner, was a pretty average guy playing in Toronto and then exploded once he came to the Rangers. So, knowing how totally fair and balanced you are with your critiques of the coach, I am sure you would have to acknowledge that AV has done a far, far better job with Grabner than the sainted Coach Babs did, right? I mean, fair is fair. Same for Benoit Pouliot when he was here, right?

      Rich, you are truly hilarious. I actually think you cook up this bogus nonsense just to see if you can possibly outdo your over the top craziness. It’s hard to do, but congrats….today you did!

      Can’t wait for the next installment an ride on the Crazy Train!!!!!!

      • Nice work, E3–I thought Rich’s Hunwick claim was crazy, but didn’t realize exactly how crazy it was until you laid it out. Also nice touch reminding Rich that Miller & Hayes were supposed to make Eric Staal expendable…how ironic that Rich would lament Eric Staal’s departure, right? Especially since Miller & Hayes are such allegedly amazing players, so good that they made two better players (Stepan & E. Staal) expendable.

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