Mailbag: Coaching style, free agents

rocco grimaldi

Two questions for the mailbag this week. As always, you can use the widget on the right to send us questions.

Steve asks:  What type of coaching do we need? What offensive strategy do we employ to best suit the skills? Defensive strategy?

This was sort of answered a bit in a few posts, but it’s good to have one central answer here. In regards to the type of coaching we need, the best answer is the simplest one. The Rangers need a coach who will develop the youth. That is first and foremost.

When it comes to systems, I think it’s critical that the Rangers get a coach who has a less predictable system than Alain Vigneault. AV’s counter attacking system was easily countered, and the man/zone hybrid in the defensive zone was too complicated to work.

Less is more with the Rangers, especially as they look to develop the youth. A simple zone, perhaps still with the overload as the primary deployment in the defensive zone, is the best approach. It’s simple, it’s effective, and it’s not nearly as predictable.

As for offense, that’s tough to say. The Rangers definitely need a system that generates more sustained offense. It will lead to fewer quality chances, but it will lead to more zone time. The latter is more important right now.

Steve (different one, I think) asks: Are there any free agents you think the Rangers should target?

You mean aside from Ilya Kovalchuk?

It’s tough to gauge what the Rangers need because they aren’t supposed to compete next year. So instead of targeting a specific position, the Rangers should probably target someone who can fetch a pick at the deadline. At least, that’s a good theory and I’m sticking with it.

Someone like Tomas Plekanec could be interesting, since he’s still a skilled center who could put up 30 points. At 35 years old, he may not have many offers coming his way, and may need to settle on a one year deal. If he is able to put it together, he could fetch something at the deadline. Teams always want centers.

The Rangers might also want to target Group 6 UFAs, since they are going to be in their mid-twenties and might be worth a flier.

Matthew Peca from Tampa fits this mold. He’s going to be 25, has skill, and has been scoring at a roughly 55 point average in the AHL. He also had five points in ten NHL games this year. He’s a guy that, if the Rangers need some young bodies to fill the roster, might slide in as a “why not?” signing for the third or fourth lines to see what he can do. Rocco Grimaldi from Colorado also fits this mold.

Both players have their own reasons for possibly not getting a look. Both are undersized, but that shouldn’t have mattered in Peca’s case, since Tampa Bay plays undersized guys all the time. I think he’s just blocked in Tampa. Look at that roster.

As for Grimaldi, there’s a chance that the old school Avs didn’t play him because of his size, and no one really knows what Florida is doing. He also put up solid numbers in the AHL. Both could be worth a look. The Rangers will need to be creative, that’s for sure.

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  1. Assuming the Rangers do not land a big fish on the back end, Skjei, Shatty, and Pionk will have to do the heavy lifting as far as the offense is concerned.

    The Ranger forwards are not elite and are not going to dominate anyone, so the offense will have to start on the back end and move up ice. This will require a set structure or style of play. More gap control and forechecking to create turnovers and better scoring chances in close.

  2. Whatever they do, it should be short term thinking for next season. The players mentioned Grimaldi, and Peca are too small, and easy to push around. JG said he wants the team to be hard to play against, no way he signs these two guys. I see us going the Jets route, big heavy possession team, that can skate, and won’t take crap from anyone. Just look at the Tampa trade return, Howden, and Hajek are both nice sized players, and play a physical game. Look at Ryan Lindgren, another physical player, although now quite as big, at 6’1″ and 195 lbs.

    The defense has to be simple, easy to teach, and most importantly, unpredictable. The AV system was exciting when executed properly, but teams studied our games, and made easy adjustments to counter our efforts. I tend to agree, we need to have a much more possession game, with plenty of the puck possession time to be successful from here on. Until such time that the defense plays solidly, we have to keep the puck out of our zone.

    On a side note, they will have the lottery pick soon, can’t wait to see who gets the first over-all pick, so the jockeying for position begins!!!!!!! LGR……..

    1. Bro, the AV system was exciting in Oct and Nov when opponents didn’t play defense. Hence the 5 goals per game during those months.

      It dried up after the turn of the calendar year when the better teams started playing for real.

      1. Tony

        Your spot on with your remark. That was one of my main beefs against AV, just wouldn’t adjust to anything, come hell or high water. All kinds of excuses were made for his style, with remarks like who else did he have to play, etc. I can bet right now that things will be different, and for the better next season, even if we lose early on, it still will be a breath of fresh air!!!!!!!

        1. I don’t know what the Rangers will end up doing with everything, but it will be interesting and probably exciting.

          Can’t wait for the draft my friend.

    2. Amen Walt. With a suspect D corp the best way to manage the D is control the puck. If we are going to be predictable let it be that we are hard to play against, not pushovers.

    3. I’m not so sure we should expect to ever be a truly big, heavy possession team. If that was Gorton’s vision, he wasn’t trying to press the issue by consistently targeting those types of players. While he has indeed expressed an urge to get a bit bigger and made some of those moves – which there is nothing wrong with so long as the skill and skating ability are defensible – who he has drafted and signed so far in his tenure says to me that he still wants a team that operates with plenty of speed, agility, and skill.

      Winnipeg is indeed big overall, and for that size they do move well enough on the average…but they actually are middle of the pack when it comes to possession-based stats right now, to note. 18th in CF% this past regular season, 16th in Fenwick. Putting on my Captain Obvious attire for a moment, I think Laine and Hellebuyck are the two biggest recently-added reasons they are having the success they are at the moment.

      Selfishly speaking, I frankly really enjoyed it when AV’s tenure first started and the offense was high-flying much more frequently in the past few seasons. That is exciting hockey, to me. The Sutter Kings, on the flip side…borrrrrrrrring to me. However, exciting isn’t always good hockey, and I get that. I definitely concur that Gorton feels we should get a bit bigger…but I also just wouldn’t expect him to try and build a 2008 Red Wings copycat (they pushed over 59% CF%), either.

      1. You may be right, but it was made very clear that he wants to be a team that is “Hard to play against”, and stated that he was going to get the type of players who will indeed make that the case. After the draft, and then the tree agent signings, we will know for sure what he had in mind. I wouldn’t be at all surprised that we do get bigger, and meaner than a junk yard dog, but with an emphasis on skill!!!!!!!!!

        1. I hear you, but keep in mind, toughness and size do not always automatically mean hard to play against. Gorton may not be looking at mean so much as size. A big guy who has a belly full of nails but slower than average for his size can be less dangerous in today’s NHL than a big guy who may not be out there looking to throw bombs but is above average speed for his size, IMO. The Ducks, for example, were still trying to play crush hockey, plenty of size and toughness in that lineup…and they barely made the Sharks break a sweat. Just not enough speed.

          1. It goes without saying that there needs to be speed. That is the reason I mentioned the Jets in the first place. Size, skill, and more than enough speed, and plenty of snarl!!!

      2. Important edit – I meant to say: Selfishly speaking, I frankly really enjoyed it when AV’s tenure first started and the offense was high-flying much more frequently THAN in the past few seasons. I.E. much more high flying throughout the season consistently, not just in the early months.

  3. No to Grimaldi. Too small to be effective, anybody who can be outmuscled by David Desharnais shouldn’t be on this team. He’s done very little at the NHL level for 2 separate organizations.

    1. It’s not that he’s too small, it’s that he doesn’t produce enough even at the AHL level to be a viable NHLer.

  4. I would still like to see us add a player like JVR or Riley Nash. This would take some pressure off of any rookie forwards we may draft, providing some real first line scoring threats. Imagine Ziban, Kreder and JVR? Second line of Hayes/Zucc/Nash or Hayes/Zucc/Buchnevic? That can really allow Chytil/Anderson/Fast be a formidable 3rd line with less pressure.

    As far as the defensive side, I would like to continue with aggressive skaters. I would actually take Mike Green on a short 2 year deal, just to strengthen the backline.

    As far as coaching style. Someone who knows how to treat players and make changes within the game. Also someone who wants a defense to clog the middle so Hank doesn’t get hammered every night.

    1. Riley Nash is barely a 3rd liner … and I fear JVR will command a long term deal at a high cap hit just as he’ll be entering his declining years.

      1. Both players are 28 y/o. JVR might deserve a 5 year deal. Nash had 41 points this year and would take him as a center over Desharnais any day of the week. If he takes a 2 year deal, it will allow our kids to learn and we get a veteran safety net who can put points on the board.

        1. Sal

          We are so deep with centers, what really makes you think that is a need? I could see some scoring help from the wings, but to get another center doesn’t make sense to me?????

          1. Zinbad, Hayes and who? Rookies Chytil and Andersson? Maybe one of them can be a center, but the other needs to be on a wing. We have 2 NHL quality centers in my eyes.

          2. I’m with you Walt, we also have Spooner and Namestikov as legitimate centers —- although I prefer Spooner on the wing. Nieves is fine on the 4th line.

            We went from a position of weakness this year to having too much depth for next year. Besides, why overpay for Nash … someone will.

          3. Come December, when the complaints come in about winning faceoffs, backchecking and scoring from the center position, remember this thread.

            JVR is a stud and would be our best player if signed. I think this is more plausible that Taveras.

  5. I think you sign a center who can win a faceoff….but better options are looking at RFAs…..and exchanging some we won’t sign from our end for RFAs that may be a fight here.

    Max Domi may need a change of scenery to regain form
    Bryan Rust may have played himself off of a cap restraint team like the Pens
    Brandon Montour…Yes please

    Ryan Murray, Brock Nelson, Boone Jenner, Tom Wilson, Conner Hallybuck, Noah Hannafin, William Karlsson….

    Intriguing names out there that could really fit here

    Montour and Rust could be had who’ll help this team moving forward

    Obviously most of these names are expensive so creativity will be needed here

    UFA side…stay clear except for a good faceoff Center to take over the 4th line and teach the kids but actually I would target Brad Richardson here…good faceoff guy

    Montour….trade….Richardson UFA

    1. Not to nitpick, but Connor Hellebuyck ain’t going nowhere. The time to kick tires on him was last summer before he played himself into the Vezina conversation as a 24 year old.

  6. Yes you want some veterans on the club to help the youngsters along. But, be sure to sign only those veterans who will be good role models, and who are generous with their time and advice. Sign them for a short time, and be able to say goodbye when the time is right.

    Like it or not, this is a rebuild. It might not take long if they get lucky, but I am willing to be patient. I want them to build a club that is going to be competing for the next 7 or 8 seasons or more. But this time around, we want the Cup at the end of the rainbow.

    1. Besides Peter, we already have plenty of vets to mentor the kids. Not to suggest that adding 1 or 2, while possibly subtracting 1 or 2 from our current roster, shouldn’t be explored. That said, adding vets isn’t really a priority in my mind, would much rather see them take a couple of flyers on Poulliot type guys, i.e. a player that is still in his early to mid-20’s that has the tools but for one reason or another hasn’t put it together yet.

      In the alternative I say bring back Nicklas Jensen who in my mind looked close to being a solid 3rd liner (and in a pinch Top 6). He has the speed and he has the size … and he’s still just 25.

      1. Tanto

        Nicklas Jensen I believe is still our property, and may work out this time around. That is an interesting name for sure!!! If he isn’t still our property, invite him to camp for a look see………..

        1. They qualified him, he had a good season. Still in that fringe of not good enough to be top 6, doesn’t do enough to play bottom 6.

          1. Two years ago with the type of team we had, yes (although I would have certainly kept him instead of Tanner Glass -lol) …. but now, I think he makes a lot of sense. He has the skill, the size, and the speed you want — sign him to a 1 way deal for $1m and the worst that can happen is that we loan him out to Jokerit and take a 100k cap hit.

  7. ill be as patient as a 69 year old can be with the rebuild. Would like to see them get
    “one” player who can be considered elite .A coach with a plan, and who can adjust
    in game.

  8. Zone. Overload. Defense. Please. And maybe pump the brakes on the overload; use it situationally to a degree. It will be such a pleasure just to see our defense have any idea where they are supposed to be and when, assuming that happens. Hopefully the days of things like doubling up on an opposing player behind the net or leaving the middle wide open because four guys are constantly covering three guys along the boards are over. Mistakes will happen, but man/overload with too heavy an emphasis on overload is just asking for them.

    I wouldn’t complain about some tactical flexibility in-game in general, either.

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