Cause I’m Free…Free Fallin: A look into the stats through half the season

The Rangers stink. We know this. We knew this coming into the season. It took a little longer than expected, but the Rangers are spiraling down to the bottom of the standings. We’ve done a few of these stat check ins throughout the season, and there have always been caveats.

However it is no longer early on. It is no longer a small sample size. At 42 games into the season, what you see is what you get with the Rangers. So let’s take a deep dive, courtesy of Sean Tierney, who is a must follow.

The Rangers are so bad offensively that Sean needs to expand his x-axis to fit the Rangers on it. They are the worst team in the league at generating shots. Yes, worse than Ottawa. That’s what happens when you spend 50 minutes a game in your own zone, concede the blue line on zone entries, and can’t execute a proper breakout.

But it’s all a run of bad luck, you say? Let’s look at PDO, which would be able to explain poor shooting percentage or poor goaltending. That’s the Rangers, right in the middle where the axes meet. League average. Their elite goaltending cannot save them anymore, and nor can their usually strong forwards that usually feast on high danger chances.

Shot share rates are an extension of the first graph, and basically this reads how you expect it. The lower you are, the more time you are spending in the defensive zone. There used to be a large gap between the Rangers and the Senators. Now the Rangers are catching up, and it’s not good.

Rob Luker pointed out how the Rangers had their best string of hockey from games 15-22, and right around then is when the Rangers had great expected-goal numbers. They’ve been so bad over the past 20 games that they are now dead last in the division and one of the worst teams in the league at generating offensive chances. But at this point, I’m just repeating myself.

Last one – and this is expectations versus reality. The Blueshirts have always been in the “bad” category here, mostly because of defensive play. However they’ve been making a beeline towards that bottom left corner. Where they were more towards the middle 20 games ago, not so much anymore.

The Rangers banked a ton of points in October and November, more than we expected them too. They also banked a bunch of loser points, so they are higher in the standings than they deserve to be. Due to that, it is highly unlikely the Rangers finish with a guaranteed shot at drafting either Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko. Such is life.

While it is alarming how fast the Rangers went from losing respectably to just downright terrible, I can’t say I’m all that surprised at how bad they are. David Quinn’s defensive system is easily exploited at the blue line, the defenders can’t keep up with faster skaters, and the whole thing is a mess.

It’ll only get worse too. Kevin Hayes is one of the top offensive players on the team this year. He will be gone in a month or so. Ditto Mats Zuccarello. This slide may get a little more respectable in terms of final scores, but the losses are going to pile up.

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  • Man, if that PDO breakdown chart isn’t undeniable proof that the defense sucks. The forwards are finishing at an apparent league average pace and the goaltending is fending off the inordinate number of shots they are facing. Maybe it is the system, these guys are not fitting well. Or maybe it’s pure suckage.

  • Or maybe the biggest factor is that the offense can’t keep the puck in the zone. Seriously, you guys are so obsessed with running down the defense that you can’t acknowledge the fact that the forward corps is abysmal. Seriously, look at the forwards. One may get excited about Chityl, Howden, Nieves, but none of them belong in the top six on a good team. (Howden and Chityl may have bright futures but I am talking present tense.) McLeod doesn’t belong in the NHL at all, but there are no better options in Hartford presently (Peter Holland maybe, but really). Strome and Vesey certainly don’t belong there. Neither Zuccarello nor Buchnevich looks like a true top sixes this year. I am already down to five and I haven’t even mentioned Jesper Fast. Namestnikov isn’t really top six either. Zibanejad and Hayes are only second liners and that leaves Kreider as the only first liner.

    And unlike the defense and goaltending – with Shestyorkin, Hajek, Lindgren, Rykov, Miller in the pipeline – the future at forward is bleak. Andersson and Kravtsov are the only future additions with mentioning and only Chityl and Howden in the present group have real upside. And Hayes, Zuccarello are nearly out the door.

    It would be interesting to see what Buchnevich could bring in trade. An appealing deadline acquisition as he can play now and has a low salary cap hit.

    • Would it get worst if Kreider is trade bait? That’s what’s picking up steam in the last couple of days. Stay tune Dave….

    • Unfortunately Buch’s trade value is low right now, especially to a playoff contender, because he hasn’t consistently demonstrated that he can bring value to a competitive team, nor has he been in a position to do so. good asset management, even if he’s not a DQ type of player or the org for whatever reason doesn’t see him as part of the core, is to play him regularly enough that he can demonstrate whatever value he really does have and then trade. I don’t believe too many GMs are going to buy the dream on him right now. combo of injuries and lineup changes over the past few years has done nothing positive for his game or his perception around the league unfortunately.

      • Here is what to like in Buchnevich if you are a contender. He has essentially no cap hit, so anyone can squeeze him onto the roster. He is a serviceable forward and lots of teams need depth. He seems by all accounts at least a top nine guy and some surely see him as a top six guy. Finally, as a bonus, he may evolve into a very good player.

        Put him on the market and most contending teams will be interested. For example, pretty much anyone would give up a third round draft choice for him. [If that does not seem like much, bear in mind that the same cannot be said for Lundqvist, Staal, Smith, Shattenkirk, and others.] A good number of teams would go higher, say a second round choice and a prospect who was a second rounder. Maybe more than that.

        Does this constitute low market value? It all depends. If you envision Buch as a future first line forward, then yeah, it’s low. But if you see him as basically as good as he ever will be, it is not. Being a general manager is different from being a fan. For a fan, optimism is good. For a GM, false optimism means holding onto prospects too long.

        • I still think Buch is a bona fide Top 6 player. He needs to be put on a good working line and then left there. Talk to him, cajole him, whatever … but don’t sit the kid or have him play with a pair of inferior players logging 9-10 minutes a game. Maybe try giving him MORE responsibility instead of less. Challenge him.

          Every time this kid gets on a roll he either gets an injury, or moved to another line because someone else got injured and therefore all the lines need to be reshuffled, etc. If he doesn’t bounce back in the first game he gets punished. There’s a terribly talented player locked up in there and DQ should know it and should try different ways to open him up.

        • Yes I will gladly trade you a 3rd round pick for a young skilled guy like Buch who has managed to put up better than 0.5 ppg over parts of three seasons despite his spotty deployment and injuries. I think there’s a lot more there and on a bridge deal and with one steady season to shine he’s worth much more than that. Not saying Buch is the second coming of Tarasenko but with some proper development I still think he becomes a reliable top-6 winger and is worth investing in.

          Heck theres always some GM out there who will trade you a roster player, a 4th rounder, and a conditional 7th for Adam McQuaid (no offense, AQ!)

  • I thought the Vegas game was instructive as to why the Rangers generate less shots: They often fail to take the shot when the shot is the best option. How many passed up shots must we witness before we realize how “cute” they’re playing? I mean how many times should we watch Zucc pass up a shot only to try and ram a cross ice pass through 3 opposition players? lol

    Dave, there are circa 40 games remaining in the season. The Rangers could still easily end up guaranteed a Top 3 pick regardless of loser points. They currently sit at 23 but are only 5 points out of dead last with 1 game at hand. Another prolonged losing streak and they’ll be bottom 5.

    • “Zucc pass up a shot only to try and ram a cross ice pass through 3 opposition players? ” ^ Which is exaclty why guy’s like Johnny hockey, Kane and Marner are much better.

      • When he’s playing like that there are tons of better options up front, not just the elite ones. lol

  • Buch need to be put on a line with Zib and Krieder and left there for a month including PP. Then we will see if he is making strides. To keep moving him to the 4th line is crazy, play him, evaluate him and decide one way or the other. That is the purpose for this season period.

    Zib kreider Buch
    Hayes chytil zuc
    Howden vessy Fast
    Names Boo strome

    Leave the lines like this until the trade deadline why are we shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic?

  • I think all future moves on the offense will be predicated on who they can move on defense at the deadline. They key being Shattenkirk. He has the most salary and if they can get rid of Smith at least one spot opens next year for a young dman(McQuaid will not be back). I still think they will keep Skjei and give him more time. But if they dump salary, there will be room for 2 good FA. If the Rangers want to wait another year, they will have more cap space and wont have to worry about the expansion draft. This would hopefully shorten the rebuild into a two year timeframe. Rangers fans are a demanding bunch and if this drags on and on like the 80″s, there will be big backlash(not that it matters to Dolan as he fills the seats with corporate cash).

    • Agree, think they are in too deep on skjei to trade him now for what they could actually get back in return thanks to that contract.

  • I looked at those charts and tried to find the teams that are between us and a top 3 pick. I wanted to figure out which teams could have a good second half. If Philly and St Louis could find a goaltender we could pass them. If Elias Pettersson stays healthy Vancouver could make a push. Jersey when Taylor Hall comes back. L.A. seems to be playing over .500 since the coaching change.

    • Let the losses pile up….This is exactly what I want…better draft position. We had a nice run in regards to playoffs…Time for new blood and new thinking…..shame that many Ranger fans are calling for Quinn’s head……I will not call them names……but’s it moronic to say that Quinn stinks..Way too early for that sort of thinking.

      • King Sieveqvist!! King Sieveqvist!!King Sieveqvist!! King Sieveqvist!!King Sieveqvist!! King Sieveqvist!!King Sieveqvist!! King Sieveqvist!!King Sieveqvist!! King Sieveqvist!!King Sieveqvist!! King Sieveqvist!!King Sieveqvist!! King Sieveqvist!! says:

        How could you say Quinn stinks? Look at his line up and matchups. We have a #2 center trying to fill a #1 role , a #3 center in the #2 role , top 4 D pairings which on any other team are decent 5,6 & 7 D men , we have 2-3 legitimate top 6 forwards. Team is gonna need 5 years to contend. If the FO makes a bunch of stupid bandaid fixes and more stupid contracts maybe more.

        • Just because the talent isn’t there, it does not mean that the coach is any good. Not just good coaches lose with bad players; poor coaches do as well. I have not seen the Rangers play very much and have little access to any behind the scenes stuff, so I am not advocating replacing Quinn. BUT I have an open mind on the subject. Quinn does not have a positive NHL track record, so he does not merit a super-long leash. The question is “Does he look like he is succeeding or not?”

          Success to me is not so much about the record. As you say, the team is bad. BUT

          Is he getting the team to play hard for him?
          How are Chityl, Howden, Andersson, DeAngelo, Pionk, Georgiev developing as players?
          Do his systems work?
          How are Buchnevich, Skjei, Claesson, Namestnikov, Vesey progressing?
          Does he value the right things in players?

          All this can be viewed without overly focusing on W-L.

          So far I am not impressed, but I have such a tiny part of the picture.

          • King Sieveqvist!! King Sieveqvist!!King Sieveqvist!! King Sieveqvist!!King Sieveqvist!! King Sieveqvist!!King Sieveqvist!! King Sieveqvist!!King Sieveqvist!! King Sieveqvist!!King Sieveqvist!! King Sieveqvist!!King Sieveqvist!! King Sieveqvist!! says:

            Overall there’s been some good effort from the team as a whole , the past 5 games haven’t been so good along with a few scattered games before hand. As long as they skate hard and limit simple mistakes. There definitely needs to be a change in the D zone. His plan is not working what ever it is they call the system he’s using. ?

        • Heard the same stuff about Torts and AV yet they seemed to manage, for a decent period of time, to put together a lineup that could win games on a nightly basis. That said DQ has been here for about 40 games, that’s hardly enough time to judge anyone in his position. He inherited a dispirited and flawed club that was seriously trending down in the 2nd half last season, I’m withholding final judgment at least until game 25+ next season — despite what I perceive to be some annoying tendencies on his part so far.

  • The DQ critics have got to give the man some slack. He was dealt a terrible hand, a sorry defense, forwards that maybe be shipped out because they ran their course. The organization signed some bad contracts, Skjei for one, and brought in some poor players, the Mc twins, and Shatty. How can any fair minded person not give this guy some time to work this out, while trying to develop the youth.

    Now if the front office makes some smart moves, gets a load of high quality picks, and builds from the ground up, and DQ fails, then he has to go. I for one won’t be as critical as some others, but I do get pissed off at the ADA treatment, while Pionk, and the turnstile never sit!!!!!

    • That (the Pionk stuff, etc.) plus DQ has an annoying tendency of breaking up the best line in order to spread the talent around sometimes, especially when he’s forced to juggle the lineup after an injury. In a sensible system you move people up to replace the injured player, you don’t juggle all 12 players and 4 lines — that rarely seems to work out. Just my opinion.

    • Since I’m not on twitter and only read stuff here, I am not aware that DQ critics even exist. But I do want to take issue with the idea that he was dealt a terrible hand. In fact, he was presented with a team that was not expected to win; so in a sense, he was given a situation where failure is impossible. That is not a terrible hand.
      DQ’s primary task was to develop the young Ranger players. If we agree to the premise (and neither of us does) that these young players are untalented, then yes, DQ has an impossible task. But if we believe that something can be made of this crew, then DQ has a challenge which he can succeed or fail at.

      So I can certainly see how DQ can do a good job and still not make the playoffs for three years. BUT, if I looked at the Rangers in April 2019 and came away with the idea that Chityl, Howden, et al had not progressed at anything resembling a satisfactory amount, I would be inclined to make a change. Personally though, I am not qualified to fill out his report card.

    • Walt, maybe the FO people deserve some slack as well. They announced less than a year ago the commitment to a “rebuild” (I still think it’s more like a renovation), after signing Shatty. Now we can argue all we want about the merits of resigning McLeod and getting McQuaid, but the organization has to have a PLAN B where they can send a younger player down to Hartford for whatever reason … or that they have a player they can plug in in the event of injury so that they don’t have to call up a young player (to his detriment). McLeod and McQuaid are those backstops IMO. They also bring in good locker room chemistry (so everyone says) and some more veteran leadership. Again, we can all disagree about the merits of such a move.

      Let’s remember that a rebuild isn’t just about young players playing lots of minutes in the NHL (Chytil, Howden, Pionk), it’s about stocking the prospect pool (Kravs, Miller, Lundqvist, Keane, etc.), it’s about developing better players down in the AHL (Meskanen, Lindgren, Hajek, etc.), it’s about a combo of NHL/AHL development(Nieves, Andersson, DeAngelo – in the sense since he can’t be sent down), etc. Anyone who thought we would see serious NHL results in 10 months is fooling themselves.

      The bottom line with younger players/prospects is that you want them to MAKE YOU sit down the older vets, you want those prospects to really force that issue — to some extent kids like Chytil and Howden have, although I think we would all like to see more production out of them. Andersson didn’t, even though I don’t think he was bad when he played. Pionk has as well, again though we might disagree on whether he should ever be punished when he forgets his position. 😉 ADA obviously hasn’t (I disagree).

      In the end I think we need to look at the big picture lest we run the risk of missing the forest for the trees.

      • Tanto

        If you read the first sentence I said that the FO was basically the blame for this fiasco of a team. DQ is working with one hand tied behind his back, thru no fault of his own. The blame goes right to the front office, and DQ should not be judged until next season, or two.

        We can agree, or disagree on his personnel selection during the game, and how players are deployed. My biggest gripe is the selection of players they brought in such as the Mc twins, and some contracts they signed, but that’s not on the coach.

        • Not sure we should be blaming anyone at this stage of the “rebuild”. Again, a rebuild involves a lot of moving parts. It isn’t just the NHL team being rebuilt, it’s a whole organization from the NHL players to the new prospects drafted. This isn’t a fiasco, this is what a rebuild looks like — Phase 1. That’s all I was getting at … but you’re right, I don’t blame DQ.

    • He was dealt a 5 year, $12M contract to take over a rebuilding team with virtually no expectations to win many games so I don’t feel too bad for the guy!

      That said and to be fair to your point Walt, there seem to be two schools of thought here with one of them being DQ isn’t developing the kids enough and the other being DQ is making bad in-game decisions to win. I’m definitely sympathetic to the former, less so the latter.

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