Brendan Smith Showing Signs of Life

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Brendan Smith is not worth his 4.35 million dollar cap hit. He also has never and will never grade out well in catch-all metrics such as WAR, GAR, or GameScore because he is not a point contributor at the NHL level. That being said, the Rangers contract situation when it comes to defensemen means Smith will either preside on the NHL roster or be buried in Hartford to the detriment of the cap. While the latter is an option, I believe Smith has shown this season he can be an effective third-pair option for the Rangers, especially with his play in the last five to ten games.

Red Line = NHL League Average

So far this year in his third-pair TOI role (with some higher figures lately) against mostly middle to bottom six TOI forwards, Smith leads the Rangers defensemen in shot share (Corsi For %) and shot share relative, both at 5v5. This is significant because as we’ve seen, the Rangers have generally struggled all year to win the shot battle. Smith hasn’t been as good when it comes to expected goals for and against, as he’s had trouble with limiting quality against when on the ice. That said, Corsi and Expected Goals have a r-squared value of just over 0.8, indicating a strong relationship between the two, which checks out logically when you think about it (more shots = more chances, and visa versa).

Red Line = NHL League Average

His effectiveness also seems to be universal regardless of partners. Smith has played some amount of time with every Rangers defenseman this year except for Lindgren, and every player (including Shattenkirk) ends up with a better shot share with him than without him. The team benefits when he has been on the ice in his role.

In the end, Smith is not going to be able to fix the problem of the Rangers defense lacking a true number one defenseman, as he is not that. As we glance forward to next year, the options for second or third pair left-handed defenseman come down to him, Skjei, Staal, and potentially Claesson. Skjei has certainly struggled, but is still 24 and has a body of work that is better than we’ve seen this season. Staal continues to evade the press box, which many have been longing for. Claesson has certainly showed some good play, but there is no guarantee the Rangers will keep him. Smith, barring a trade or complete buy-out, will likely be in training camp come the Fall of 2019. While I started out by saying he is not worth his contract, Smith certainly is at least providing value by stabilizing the shot share in his limited minutes this year – something that shouldn’t be ignored given the Rangers overall defensive struggles.

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  • He definitely has more trade value than McQuaid. I watched parts of Saturday’s game with a bit more focus on the defense. The things that stood out for me were the following: 1) McQuaid could not skate, shoot, or pass (my son has a 12yo defensemen teammate that does all those things better), 2) Skjei no longer looks like a top 4 pairing defensemen, and 3) Pionk has NHL skill (we just need to find him a solid stay at home defensemen pair) 4) Shatt has trade value.

    Question: is Gilmour not comparable to Pionk? If so trade Pionk while he has value and replace with DeAngelo or Gilmour. We can’t have 3 offensieve smurfs on the defense so one needs to go and that’s the one with the most value.

    And lastly Vesey stock is dropping. Starting to show signs of Stepan’s Hockey IQ. Zucc value continues to rise. Was never a great fan of Zib but I feel like we are seeing a tougher/hungrier side of him this year. I like it! And please JG, go out and get a big young 4th line forward with offensive skill to replace McLeod. Brutal!

    • Gilmour is for sure comparable to Pionk. He struggled defensively in his time last year for sure, but the difference is he does much better at exiting his own zone, leading to better results when it comes to offensive shot share and expected goals. I’d love to see Gilmour up for Pionk at any moment.

      • They both suck defensively!!!!!!!!!!! To make matters worse, they’re both undersized as well, and get pushed around like rag dolls…………..

      • I think they are comparable in some ways, but I also think NHL coaching staffs, Rangers included, are enamored with right handed defensemen, and this is where Pionk has an advantage.

    • I hope you’re kidding, Stepan had a pretty high hockey IQ — in fact it was his main strength as a player.

      • Stepan is the only Rangers forward I ever seen that consistently dumps the puck when he has a 3 on 2 at the blue line. That is not a strong Hockey IQ.

    • Trade value is not about who is the better player. Almost no one would part with a seventh rounder for Smith or Staal or Lundqvist because there is a steep long term financial commitment to a player who simply is not worth that much to them. OTOH, the Rangers will have no trouble getting a 7th or higher for McQuaid because he is a relatively cheap rental.

      True irony: For the Rangers, I agree with the prevailing notion that the McQuaid trade was wrong. However, I think he has exceeded expectations and Boston is actually lamenting the trade. [Note: last time I checked, Kampfer had dressed for 25 games.]. If the Rangers keep McQuaid, we will have a contender making themselves weaker in the short term to gain a future asset while a non-contender deals a future asset for short term gain. A Lose-Lose. Only salvation is if Rangers can get a 2nd rounder for him.

      At this point, I doubt Pionk has much value and I don’t think he is sort of player that teams want at this time of year. Then again, I felt the same way about Justin Schultz.

  • “Brendan Smith Showing Signs of Life”

    Hurry up, before he reverts to his norm, and requires life support!!!!!!!!!

  • Our Left side D is pretty bad. Hoping Skjei will rebound at some point, but growing increasingly concerned with that prospect.

    If there was anyway to trade Smith I would do it. Salary retention will defintely be needed here on that contract. I would not buy him out. There’s no point. With Smith, Staal and Shatty all signed for the next 2 years we are going to have out hands full trying to retool our D. In the next 2 seasons if Smith plays, he is going to be blocking younger guys and that is counter productive for the rebuild. Sadly I see him eventually ending up in Hartford. Improved play of not, It’s the best worst option.

  • Andy

    With Shatty, Smith, Pionk and even McQuade are possible trade candidates. I personally would move as many of the d-men we can, and start from scratch, it can’t get any worse.

    • Walt,
      Amen! There is no one in our current D that I would have a problem moving. And fully agree with you on shipping as many out as possible. If a few things break our way the Forward group could be pretty strong next year. The only way to fix this D is throw most of it out and start over. Let Lindgren and Hajek play next year. 2 to 3 seasons from now you could see Miller and Lundkvist, who both look like they are developing pretty well. And keep an eye on Adam Fox. The Canes keep saying they can sign him, but so far nothing. Here’s Fox’s quote from December “I know people think I have some plan to sign with the [New York] Rangers because of where I grew up. But my dream, my goal, is to play in the NHL. As soon as possible.” I have no idea what he is going to do, but let’s hope he comes our way in 2020. There is hope for the D in the future. We will also need some luck too. But the first step should be to clear the decks.

  • Watching the Ranger Tampa game , I noticed that neither teams Bluelines were flawless. For years we have on this board dwelled how poor the Rangers defence is but are they really that bad when compared to the rest of the league?

    I would agree with Andy that they are overpaid. But that is more of consequence that a team pays for not developing their own cost control younger talent. Skinny Smith has been better this season. He could easily fill McQuaids role and mentor the younger Rangers Blueliners going forward.

    • Sorry Rob wrote the article not Andy my bad. Nonetheless, the point is when a club allows their pipeline of young talent to run dry. The result is they have to go to the free agent market to buy players. In the long run this hurts the club and leaves them with older high priced players who are past their prime.

  • What we need to do is clear out at least 3 defenseman and hope that what we have in the system or what we can draft is better than what we have on NHL ice. No one on this team’s backline should be untradeable.

    Do we even have a 3rd and 4th line? They not only play sparingly, but they bring little to the table. Move out who you can for more picks. We are not a contender nor will we be next year. Build for the future.

  • The entire defense can use a make-over. Shattenkirk and Skjei need to go ASAP. Skjei is awful. just awful.

  • Smith has looked better lately and should be playing every game in case an opportunity opens up to move him – even if we have to take back a few bucks.

    Pionk and Gilmour are similar – both can skate and belong in the AHL where their skill sets can make them effective. Both cannot play defense at the NHL level. Pionk may be the worst dman in the NHL and while he can certainly improve it is unlikely that he can be even a top 6 dman. And unfortunately our prospect pool on D is not encouraging outside of Miller, who is on an excellent trajectory but a long way to go. Hajek has disappointed, Lindgren’s realistic top end is a likely a bottom pair dman. ADA has the skill set but I guess there is something going on in his head holding him back; we should send him to a shrink, or at least a sport psychologist.

    The rebuild of the D seems to have a long way to go.

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