AnalysisGame Wrap-ups

SHOCKER: Increasing Cody McLeod’s Minutes Doesn’t Result in Win

Pictured: Third line scoring winger Cody McLeod!

The Rangers continued playing out the string last night, losing to the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3. The game was an entertaining affair, and featured strong performances from Jesper Fast, Alexandar Georgiev and Chris Kreider. The Blueshirts put forth a solid effort, but lost due to the lack of talent and depth that playoff teams like the Flyers boast. It was a game very much in line with what we’ve seen from the Rangers over the last few weeks, and likely what we’ll continue to see as the season winds down.

But if you came here expecting a full game recap, I’m sorry to disappoint. Instead, I’d like to talk about Cody McLeod and Vladislav Namestnikov.

What continues to baffle, even through this string of meaningless games, are Alain Vigneault’s in-game lineup decisions. Of course, it doesn’t really matter. Losses are preferable to wins given the Rangers’ focus on the Draft in June. But these games can still be useful for evaluating the young talent that the Rangers brought up and the NHL players that they got back in trades for some of their most valuable assets.  One of those players, Namestnikov, was the target of Vigneault’s ire last night as he was demoted to the fourth line in favor of – you guessed it! – Cody McLeod.

Was Namestnikov playing well? Not necessarily. Though neither was Jimmy Vesey, who hasn’t done a whole lot in his NHL career (31 goals, 18 career assists [HOW?] in 151 career games) but usually avoids in-game demotions due to his perceived willingness to “work hard” and Harvard pedigree.  But I digress.

Regardless, Alain Vigneault – who is certainly coaching as though his future depends on it, given his emotional protest to a close (but correct) offside call in the third period – decided that Cody McLeod deserved Namestnikov’s third-line spot with Ryan Spooner and Pavel Buchnevich. Namestnikov played just two shifts in the third period before getting blasted in the back by a teammate’s shot and sitting out the last 15 minutes of the game.

Decisions like this defeat the purpose of otherwise meaningless, late season games. The Rangers gave up an awful lot in the Tampa Bay trade, with Namestnikov a key piece (if you break the trade down into two pieces, it was Ryan McDonagh for futures plus JT Miller for Namestnikov straight up).  The Rangers know what Cody McLeod is.  They know he is not a part of their future.  But Namestnikov could be.  He was a point-per-game player in the AHL, and when he joined the Rangers last month he had posted a career high of 20-24-44 in 62 games with Tampa. Yes, he was playing with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, but Namestnikov is no slouch.  The Rangers should be giving him top six minutes and power play time to properly evaluate whether he’s worthy of a new contract this summer.  While it’s not self-evident, playing Cody McLeod over Namestnikov operates as a counterbalance to everything the Rangers are supposed to be doing right now: mainly, rebuilding their team with a focus on unearthing and fully developing young, high-caliber talent.

The yo-yo’ing of young players is nothing new when it comes to Alain Vigneault (or most Hockey Men, to be fair). However, with a couple of very important, highly visible call-ups coming, it bears watching.  Will Filip Chytil or Lias Andersson give way to McLeod or David Desharnais if they’re having a rough time?

Is that the best way to develop young talent? In this writer’s humble opinion, the answer to that question is a resounding no.

Show More
  • Hmmmm, once again Vigneault can’t find ice time or the proper line slot for a Russian player. Really surprising. It’s almost like there’s a career-long pattern with Vigneault here.

  • Cant wait for him to get thrown out. He doesnt know how to handle youth..and has a D scheme that is horrible.
    For 55 games, Nick Holden played man-to-man. AV coaches that once an opponent enters the zone, they should identify a man and stay with him for the cycle’s duration. Boston plays zone defense and since being traded to the Bruins is playing way better than anything we saw in NY. While I was not a big fan, It expresses two things: the degree to which he processes the game, and the straightforward concepts of what his new employer is asking him to do.
    The ease of the Bruins’ system is how defensemen can reset when things get dicey. Under Cassidy and defense assistant Kevin Dean the net-front area is the priority. ( you wont get away with setting up a tent in front of Rask because Miller, Chara et al will clean you out). Defensemen are instructed to fall back to the slot when coverage overlaps with that of their forwards. In other words, they always have a way back home. They are always supported everywhere they go on the ice and its why Holden is thriving ( and maybe why all those young guys on Boston are thriving and having a blast playing hi speed, full contact, puck on net hockey).

    • Joe

      To your point, Dan Girardi couldn’t keep up with speedy skaters while here, yet he seems to play reasonably better for the Bolts. Gees, I wonder why???

      • Amazing what a coach can achieve when utilizing players based on their strength and fit (even if they are on the decline), instead of for the strength they had a decade ago.

      • Yep, because he is playing as where he belongs 3rd line with limited minutes, and still crapping all around 🙂

    • Well said Joe. He also wants passes out of the defensive zone even when he had guys like Skjei and McD, and ADA and Pionk who carry pucks out of the zone very well. I have been fed up with his defensive zone schemes for a couple of years. I am hoping that Gorton wants to, and is permitted to, bang the gong to open the trap door for an AV exit.

      • Miller Watch…….7 goals for the bolts… him another 3 rd straight season of 20 +………12 points in 11 games!!!!!
        Another one of sathers/gortons/Vinauglts success stories!!!!!!!……for another team!!!!!! FIRE ALL 3 OF THESE MORONS !!!!!!

        • Did you see who he was playing with? Stamkos and Kucherov. Anyone could produce on a line with them. You guys and your overreactions. He’s a new player on a new, worse team. I don’t know what you guys were expecting.

          • Miller just got moved to their line……..He brings a physicality which the coach and gm understand they need and have been looking for …..and now they have it!!!!!
            James in 5 years we will look back and realize this trade was as bad as the middleton, ridley trades!!!!!!

  • Rob

    “What continues to baffle, even through this string of meaningless games, are Alain Vigneault’s in-game lineup decisions”.

    Surly you jest, making such remarks about our mental midget for a coach?

    What else is new, I’ve been bitching about Mr Einstein for some three years now. One thing is certain, he is consistent, he is stupid, and proves it daily with such moves. There will be defenders saying he has a great regular season record, quit picking on Bozo he’s a good coach. Yes he is, for the opposition that is!

    As for the game last night, well the kids did a decent job, played with emotion and desire, in spite of Clarabelle. To your point, what was Cody McLeod doing in the line up to begin with, he sucks to high heaven, and can’t fight, so why was he there. I’m overwhelmed by the brilliance of this coach!!!!!!!!!!

  • It’s AV being AV. He is consistent. If there is any question as to whether or not he will be coach next year example’s like this make him a hard pass. And they really need to focus on a coach who knows how to mentor young players. That should be a major part of the rebuild.

    • Spot on Andy, problem is he seems to be adored by the Ranger hierarchy, Dolan/Sather/Gorton, love the guy…If he is still the coach to start next season, I will be in a straight jacket.

      • Hey Bobby B,
        Are you as pumped as I am since we traded a 220 pound battering ram named miller who will be a perennial 25+ goal scorer or more with tampa for a 180 pounder with not quite as good a skill set????
        Miller now has 7 goals, 12 points in 11 games for the bolts… him another 3 rd straight season of 20 +………
        The three stooges sathers/gortons/Vinauglts continue to be clueless…. FIRE ALL 3 OF THESE MORONS !!!

        • Rich S, I am at a point of total frustration, unless we get to cherry pick in the upcoming draft ( highly unlikely) I see no light at the end of this dark tunnel.

  • “Miller, meanwhile, has been bumped up recently to join Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov as the left wing on the Lightning’s first line — quite a change after spending some time in his final games with the Rangers on the fourth line. The 25-year-old scored his sixth and seventh goals (and 11th and 12th points) Thursday in his 11th game with the Lightning.”

    This is part of an article from Brooks this morning, another example of such brilliance on display by AV. How did we ever get along before his arrival, what a effing joke!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Yes Walt, Miller has just begun to hit his stride, and wait till McD gets totally healthy. Tampa is my favorite to win the Cup. No matter who we get in the draft, Tampa won this trade by a country mile!! On this deal, Yzerman/Cooper A+, Gorton & AV F-!!!

    • its freaking depressing…really. This guy is a destroyer….of careers and joy. If Slats et al keep this cretin…I am going to go full Flyers or Bruins and hope every time they play the Rangers they beat them into submission and humiliation. Until that moron is gone

  • I think its a majority opinion the AV must go and the issue with McLeod playing more than Namestnikov is the same insane move to play Fast on your top line. At this point in time doesn’t he know who should be getting top 6 minutes and bottom is minutes? Here it is quick and dirty, top 6 should be in any order, 20,91,36,89,23 90. Granted some of them may have some defensive downside and the jury may be out on some if they really belong in the top 6 but they certainly need to play like they are top 6 at this point of the season. There is no doubt, in my mind, that Hayes, Vesey, Fast, McLeod, DD and Carey are 3rd or 4th line guys period. Of any of those guys play top 6 minutes means we really suck. Interesting to see what minutes the two guys coming up will get with the great AV.

    • We’ve already seen what he’s gonna do to Chytil—start him at #2 center slot, and then bench him as swiftly as he can after that, guaranteeing Chytil no third-period icetime at all. That’s what Vigneault did earlier this season, why should we expect anything different?

    • Normally I would agree with Fast on the 3rd or 4th lines but the Zib, Kreider Fast line seems to have found some chemistry. 3 very different skill sets seem to be complementing each other well.

      McLeod getting minutes over Nemestikov is absurd. AV get your head out of your ass

    • You’re insane if you think Spooner or Vladdy can play 2c better

      I can’t wait to watch people like you eat crow and trust me I’ve seen alot swallow that whole since Hayes has arrived.

    • Hayes put up career highs, on a team that has had a loser road all season. I think and I said this early this year, looking at how Hayes is growing, he is stronger on the puck then I have ever seen years prior, he is getting better in ways that enhance his style of play.

      I said this and its happening, as he becomes more senior in the league he is becoming a much better player… I honestly think its younger brother syndrome, he got by on raw skill but now that he is getting older, he is really starting to show how good he is…

      #1 draft pick from a team that … well, has been really good at drafting.

      Hayes = Poo

      Take a Whiff Haters!

    • Cody is nothing more than a punching bag. He is wasted space. Grit is a player who has real skills and can actually play who also plays hard and stands up for his team mates.

    • Grit without skill is useless in today’s game. Kreider, for example, provides plenty of both. He rarely gets in fights because very few players want to go toe to toe with him, and what he lacks in punching skills he makes up for in sheer strength. When he and another player go into the boards, he’s usually the one left standing, and with the puck. We need more players like him, and none like McLeod.

      • Yeah Kreider is still a underachiever… At this point in his career I noticed D men don’t even flinch when he’s skating up to the point in the DZ because they know he does more fly byes than anything. I just don’t see that power forward in him. If I could make Cally in a better armored body with McDavid like speed, tree trunks for legs like Crosby than he would be a top 15 or 10 player even if it was for a season or two.

        If Kreider had to retire by the end of the year than no one would give him the love that the NYR like to give out. He would go out as a player who didn’t play to his strengths and was a underachiever who set 52 points as a career high while never coming close to 30-35 goals.

        I’ll take a prime Jamie Benn over him all day and a Nick Ritchie if we can give him Kreids speed.

        • Could you provide any proof of the trend you noticed? I, for example, have noticed defenders backing up when he’s bearing down on them. As well as I have noticed a spike in production.

          As for attempling a Frankenstein with McDavid’s hands, Crossby’s legs, Jean Claud Van Damme’s butt, and Einstein’s brain. Yes, it would indeed be the best player ever. So good point there, I think we should go for this, and then be perennial cup contenders.

  • Aside from this discussion on the forwards, it has become more and more obvious that the tougher decisions will be on defense. I like the speedy Gilmour and Pionk but it is becoming more obvious that we need some size that can play. Last night Gilmour gets whacked in the face in a scrum by the net and his best reaction was to complain to the ref. I know, he probably cant fight and we certainly had no one on the ice to stick up for him BUT as a rookie you should stand up for yourself. Both Gilmour and Pionk get hammered except when their skating helps them elude a check. They cant take care of the house nor will they consistently win physical battles on the wall. That’s a big whole on our D side of the game. How many of these speedy undersized D man can we keep?

    • Kreider was right there…. Try pulling that stunt with a power forward who plays with a legit edge and chip on his shoulder. I think sometimes fans around here are insecure. I see people complain about that stuff and goalie interference as if the NYR only get punk’d on the ice by other teams when that’s rarely the case.

      How can you say that about Gilmour but not Vesey? He did the exact same thing last night after the whistle someone pushed him and the dude put out his arm like do something. Vesey played pretender and than Nolan came by to block him from getting to his teammate and Vesey wussy out to look back at the ref for some help.

      Pionk wins about 80% of his board battles and can actually get dominant position to clear the crease. He does it at a pace where I think a full summer and a competent stay at home D parter could allow him to play on the 2nd pair by next season.

  • It’s called a player has been invisible since the day after he was acquired, and correctly got demoted. Life in the NHL is not all about getting a free ride just bc ur a young player and have performed well in the past. Part of Vlads development is seeing how he responds to adversity, ie demotion, not just continued to be played regardless how well or not well he performs.

    AV absolutely did the right thing.

    And btw, tanking is NEVER a good thing.

    • Anybody who supports Cody McLeod getting minutes over Vlad Namestnikov doesn’t really know much about hockey. I don’t remember Vigneault dropping Marty St Louis out of the top 6 when Marty didn’t score for his first 10 or 11 games as a Ranger.

      How about asking this question instead: why do formerly productive NHL’ers take so long to acclimate to AV’s system after midseason trades to NYR? Marty St Louis, Keith Yandle, Eric Staal, and now Vlad Namestnikov all suffered huge dropoffs in production while learning hockey the Vigneault Way. Ryan Spooner is pretty much the only midseason acquisition I can think of who has had immediate success after coming to NY under Vigneault. But no—that’s not on the coach now either, is it?

      • MC

        The AV supporters are a part of the cool aide crowd, and will follow him like the Jim Jones people did!!!!!!!! All wearing blinders if you ask me……..

      • You know about hockey because you played the game all your life? Pinning ones opinion to get blasted as if they don’t know hockey since it wasn’t the same opinion as yours is a low blow. Maybe that’s exactly what Leetchie was saying but so what?

        Lol the irony of that person who gets told by someone who probably never played the game. Being a 40+ year fan doesn’t give you the right to play watch cop on who knows their hockey or not.

        • What are you talking about, again? Do you really think McLeod is a better player than Namestnikov? Because if you do, then that’s a pretty significant sign that your hockey knowledge is lacking.

          And as far as playing the game of hockey, I’m sure I’ve played it more than you have, I played it from age 10 until I was in college. The whole point of your hockey watching seems to involve praising Kevin Hayes and imagining corny, made-up controversies relating to Ranger players who are better than him.

          • Who cares whether McLeod is better than Namestnikov or not? Everyone knows that Cody McLeod has no place in the future of the Rangers – he is just a place holder. The question is whether or not Namestnikov has a place in that future and, if he does, how do you get the most out of him. And if you think that Namestnikov is not putting forth the proper effort, you need to make that clear to him, that you won’t tolerate it — and if that means using a place holder who isn’t half as good as he is, so be it.

            Unfortunately, methinks the Miller-Namestnikov swap was just another illustration of why a gm should not make trades with a smarter gm. [And no, I did not think JT was someone the Rangers needed to keep.]

  • I disagree with almost everyone on this, aside from Amy.

    I felt what #8 was out there doing was to relax the flyers form thinking they were going to turn this game into a beat down as well.

    he had some key plays as soon as things were turning, at one point he smashed a flyer back of the net and this message, IMO, cooled it down some.

    I like the use of him last night, with this team being in showcase the younger guys mode, I felt #8 helped allow then to do this without the BE PHILLY DISTRACTIOn…

    next season we do not need him, but now for the rest of this year, its good to see AV allowing someone to play this role.

    My opinion…

    • People who disagreed were getting their feelings hurt because Vladdy has sucked since he got here ( from probably being the odd man out on a A1 team and in a lateral move where a ex NYR straight up replaced him ).

      I really hope we get a Antoine Roussel type to sign here by next year. This team needs a instigator who plays the villain and takes some for the team. Also would know how to take proper runs at other teams better player’s. I would love to replace Vesey and Spooner with a player like that as long as this player can chip in and drive the puck like Dorsett use to.

      • I feel like Vesey just needs to have his b*lls drop. It plays like a kid who wants to be a man but is missing just a little bit of that manly testosterone.

        he is close, but theres no way he will become an instigator, he is harvard educated, way too much brain functions happening to do anything cave man like.

        if you watch him, he thinks too much to push weight around…

        Hopefully he will get stronger – I like his play, I think he is solid and could be excellent for the team… 1-2 years more.

  • Namestnikov was awful last night…brutally awful

    I will never want AV as the coach of the Rangers, but to send a message to Namestnikov something had to be done….he was that bad

    But then again I do not want another point of any kind the remainder of the year and what I want is to fall into 6 to 8 range in the draft order.

    Chicago, Islanders, Vancouver, Montreal
    and (now you can stop Detroit {becoming embarrassingly obvious}) all went full TANK mode….our turn now…pretty sure Detroit is Tanking to fall into top 3 though ….we need to be 6 to 8 range and one of Bouchard/Wahlstrom/Dobson is a get my preference being Wahlstrom

    These talks of Gorton trading picks is making me nervous, prefer hearing trading Zucc…Spooner or Namestnikov…Staal and hopefully Lundqvist waiving and moving on

    Play the kids for experience, fire AV….build the core and team identity

    Illusions of winning the Cup next year is very dangerous for the proper re-build not re-tool. Jeff Gorton…I assure you, die hard fans understand what a rebuild is and will remain loyal to the team

    • It was obvious when during every forecheck you would see Hayes or Zucc addressing him on which side of the puck that he needs to forecheck on. Turn over after turn when he played center, I can see why a top team made that lateral move for JT while kicking him to the curb. It’s not like he was in Cally’s shoes of demanding a big contract so they had to ship him out ASAP. Alot of the Tampa fans comments that I read said be aware of Vladdy becoming a stunt dummy because he gets rocked around alot and that he’s not a official NHL top 9 center.

      • What are you talking about? Not a top 9 center? I would love to know what your definition of a top 9 center is then.

  • The coach’s job is to advance the team’s objectives. His job is not to entertain the fans, to enlighten the fans, or to give young players the thrill of playing in the NHL. I realize no one agrees with this, but it is still true.

    In the present, what does this mean? One thing, you try to win games. If you create an environment where losing is acceptable, you can’t undo it. Players start to quit when they think things are hopeless – and that happens when things aren’t hopeless. Second, you train your real players. Namestnikov is a real player. You need to make him put forth the proper effort, play the system, etc. If that means benching him, you do it. Chityl is a real player. You develop him as best you can and that does not mean making him the top line center when he is not ready.

    Guys like McLeod, Kampfer, Holland, Desharnais are not the future and everyone knows this. There are warm bodies that get the minutes you don’t want to give to anyone else. You play McLeod more and Namestnikov less because the situation calls for less playing time for Namestnikov – and those lost minutes need to go somewhere.

    And if you don’t believe me, look at Edmonton pre-McDavid to see what a team that goes all in with a bunch of super-talented kids without regard to merit does.

  • I think thw thing with McLeod is that those of us that seek more grit/jam/etc. are so distraught over the complete lack of it on NYR that when we finally acquire someone who has even a bit of it we overeact. McLeod really is just a punching bag. If you arent winning the battles, the fights, then you are not a deterrent and you are not a protector. This whole thing of just “showing up” and battling to show you wont take bs, even if you lose, is ridoculous. We need good, intense skilled players and some good, intense, tough players. Key word: players, not goons.

  • “The biggest thing the Rangers could do to improve next season is to fire Alain Vigneault. The head coach’s tenure has been successful in the regular season but has never gotten over the hump. Combine that with Vigneault’s logic-defying lineup choices and poor adaptability and you have this terrible season. The coach has failed to properly utilize several important players.”

    Nicholas Zararis, another writer joining the chorus in singing out that AV has to go. It would amaze me if that buffoon returns.

    • On a serious note, we haven’t heard from E3 in quite some time, hope all is well with him. In the past he had cardiac surgery, and let’s all hope that’s not the case again.

      AV needs all the help he can get, and usually E3, AV’s personal councilor comes to his defense, and that’s missing. If your sick Ed, get well soon, we all miss the back, and forth!!!!

  • On a serious note, we haven’t heard from E3 in quite some time, hope all is well with him. In the past he had cardiac surgery, and let’s all hope that’s not the case again.

    AV needs all the help he can get, and usually E3, AV’s personal councilor comes to his defense, and that’s missing. If your sick Ed, get well soon, we all miss the back, and forth!!!!

  • ABSOLUTELY agree that Vigneault has to go, but can we at least put a little blame on Lindy Ruff?!?!?
    The defense has looked lost, confused and downright horrible all year and not a peep in the press about the defensive guru who has guided this team to more 50 point blank shots on goal nights then I can ever remember…
    If this is the way he is auditioning to be the next Head Coach its going to be a long time until we are sipping from Lord S’s cup!!!

  • As for AV….bottom line is a good coach has his team ALWAYS intense and competing. A great coach combines that with strategy and wins championships. See: Belichik, W. AVs teams..Habs, canucks, NYR, never have intensity. They have pretty skill. Halfway there, but no cigar and, more importantly, through little to do with AV. Mister October for sure, but this is hockey not baseball. Fans will stick behind a team they feel is under manned or outcoached but still intense. They will not stick by the inverse. I have watched NYR since 1968 or 69 and had tickets for decades. MSG does not rock, and that is the reason. So even if only for ticket sales, merchandising and dolans pocketbook, AV must go.

  • Back to top button