The Rangers have a Ruff problem to address

When Lindy Ruff was hired by the Rangers to be Alain Vigneault’s assistant coach before the start of the 2017-2018 season, he was viewed as AV’s replacement. That was clearly premature guesswork, as Ruff never took over the head coaching gig. He did however, remain with the Rangers after AV was unceremoniously let go last offseason.

When Ruff was brought on, he was a guy who could provide a different voice in the locker room, but run the same system as AV. It’s well documented that Ruff, as a head coach in Buffalo and Dallas, preferred a 1-2-2 forecheck, the hybrid man/zone defensive zone system, and an aggressive penalty kill. Compare that to David Quinn’s passive 2-1-2 forecheck and 2-1-2 zone DZ system, there’s a stark contrast.

So we already know that the coaches don’t like to run the same system. That’s fine. Coaches are professionals and adjust. It’s just worth noting.

However as we get towards the end of the first year of the Quinn/Ruff duo, it’s hard to ignore how porous the defense has been. Part of it is Quinn’s desire to concede the blue line, which leads to easy zone entries and good amounts of sustained pressure against the Rangers. They’ve corrected that recently, but it was still a problem.

However it is still worth noting that Ruff has the blue line control, at least within DQ’s overall strategy. And Ruff does not have the best track record with teams controlling play and limiting chances against. Let’s look at his last gigs and see how his teams did in limiting chances against (CA/60):

  • 2018-2019 (NYR): 58.75 CA/60, 23rd in NHL
  • 2017-2018 (NYR): 62.16, last
  • 2016-2017 (DAL): 58.05, 26th
  • 2015-2016 (DAL): 55.56, 19th
  • 2014-2015 (DAL): 56.61, 23rd
  • 2013-2014 (DAL): 56.4, 21st

Now we do know that Corsi isn’t the best measuring tool for overall play, since quality isn’t really taken into account. After all, Ruff’a Dallas team in 2016-2017 was an even 50% CF%, meaning that they also generated a ton of chances themselves. What this shows us is that Ruff’s teams of the past have historically struggled to limit shot attempts against.

But let’s start taking quality into account with xGA/60:

  • 2018-2019 (NYR): 2.47 xGA/60, 20th in NHL
  • 2017-2018 (NYR): 2.75, 29th
  • 2016-2017 (DAL): 2.59, 25th
  • 2015-2016 (DAL): 2.34, 24th
  • 2014-2015 (DAL): 2.38, 25th
  • 2013-2014 (DAL): 2.37, 23rd

I find this to be funny, because Ruff is here to help the defense, yet he hasn’t coached a team in the top-50% of the league in limiting quantity and quality attempts in five years. So the notion that he’s a good defensive coach doesn’t have any statistical backing at all. It’s based on reputation with the Sabres, where he had Dominik Hasek. And we’ve all seen what an elite goalie can do to mask team defensive woes.

A coach’s job is to get the most out of his players. That’s what the best coaches do. However with Ruff, it appears that he has been unable to do that. We’ve seen first hand refusal to adjust pairings to which pairings actually work together. We’ve seen questionable at best lineup choices. We’ve seen good players come to New York and get relegated to bottom pairing minutes. We’ve seen “defensive stalwarts” get top pairing minutes despite being overmatched night after night. It’s repetitive, and when it comes to identifying issues and adjusting, Ruff has been unable to do so, both in New York and in Dallas.

*Disclaimer: There is a portion of this that applies to the players, as they need to perform. If a team doesn’t have the right players, then there’s not much a coach can do. The above is a discussion point about getting the best out of the players he currently has, not about the players themselves.

The best and most recent example of relying on what is perceived to work but really doesn’t is the Marc Staal-Neal Pionk pairing. That pairing is consistently rolled out as a top pairing, but gets hammered nightly. The most recent surge for the Rangers was when Pionk was hurt and Staal was paired with Tony DeAngelo and moved down the lineup. They weren’t caved in as much. Yet when Pionk was healthy, back came the Staal-Pionk top pairing. It is a refusal to adjust.

If the Rangers organization is committing to a full rebuild, then the Ruff issue must be addressed. If the goal is to truly grow the prospects, put them in positions to succeed, and get the most out of them on the ice, then either Ruff needs to adjust, or the team needs to adjust. Something needs to give.

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  • Lets never let facts and data get in the way. Nice post. Makes me wonder what that analytics and hockey insights guy Jim Sullivan on the Rangers staff does all day.

  • Step #1: Have capable players.
    Step #2: Have capable coaches.
    Step #3: Have capable systems that maximize the players’ abilities.

    They don’t
    Incomplete because of the answer to #1
    Incomplete because of the answer to #1

    But I will say this, different D men, same problems. At some point, Ruff has to be accountable. Why that old geezer is behind the bench is beyond common sense. This is another “Sather move.” Employ the guys he “likes.”

    • See my whole point with the Islanders is they don’t have any better of a talent pool on defense then the Rangers. Yet a solid coach and a team that listens to that coach. You can turn a porous defensive team into a Torterella esq defensive first roster. And amazingly be in first place. There is no one on that team worth anything besides eberle…and even he is a maybe. You think Leddy can out skate Staal? They are the same player.

      • Barzal & Lee > Eberle

        Also Pulock is the best defensman between both teams.

        Slight notes, but otherwise agree with your point. Trotz is coaching a garbage team to 1st place. But still, as Dave highlighted in the recent mailbag, we’re in a better go forward position from a roster /contracts standpoint than they are. The grass isn’t always greener.

        Our 2013-14 and 2014-15 rosters would have rolled them with absolutely no problem, if that makes you feel any better.

        • Are we way better off then them for the long haul? Don’t forget the contracts to staal, Shatty, Skjei, and Smith. We have them for the next 3 years no matter what. Without a doubt atleast Staal. So? And the way this front office thinks …I can totally see them executing something like Richter’s idea of Stone and panarian and giving them 7 year 10 million per deals. Then are we really better off?

          Granted we haven’t done it yet with Hayes or Zibenajad so that is a positive sign. But things can change in a instant. Sather can have a hard on for resigning Hayes or Zuc to some ridonkoulous deal and now we are exactly like the islanders. No player over the age of 27 is worth a mega long term deal. It has been proven over time. Toward the end of those mega deals the team eats the contract. I mean how badly does Chicago or LA want out of their mega deals to their top players?

      • Really? I am sorry, but the Rangers have one of the worst defenses in the league….Staal….Smith..etc….no speed at all……..I don’t remember which coach made this statement, but regardless of how good a manager or coach can be, you still need the horses to get to the wire….and the Rangers are lacking two things: competent defensemen and puck possessing forwards ……..

    • I will guarantee that Ruff will not be back next season..or else I will change my name to Ruff Lindsay…

      • yes sir, you and I both know this… nice if people rather than complain about Gorton and Quinn, How about complaining who really caused this rebuild? Sather…if the Rangers had a “real” owner, Sather would have been asked to retire years ago. Think about it, you got Staal for this year and next, no team will take him and that contact until the 2020 mid- season when Staal only has a half season left on the nice fat 5.7 Million per thanks to Mr. Sather.

  • When Ruff was hired I said he was a disaster waiting to happen, and it did, surprise!

    He is out of the same mold as AV, rigid, and stubborn as a mule. The game has passed him by some ten years ago, but once again, Glen has to have his way and bring in the bottom of the barrel when it comes to his buds. As for the system employed, he does what DQ wants, and that doesn’t seem to be a winning solution. I have no idea who’s insisting on Pionk-Staal combo, it proven to be a failure, but some thick sculled moron keeps putting that duo out there as a first pair, BARF!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Maybe we should also include DQ in the same breath as Ruff when it comes to demonstrating rigidity, he is the bench boss after all??????

  • I agree with everything you posted. I think Ruff needs to go but I would like to also know how much input Quinn has because isn’t he basically the one that decides lineups and not Ruff. My main point is the usage of Pionk.

    It is a shame how no one realizes how badly the Pionk/Staal pairing is. To be honest a lot of people blame Staal but I think Pionk is one of most over rated players (reminds me on Del Zotto). I understand wanting Staal to play better because of how much he is paid but he is performing much better than last season. Plus the fact the Deanglo/Staal pairing is one of the better Ranger pairings this season from advance analytics (in a small sample size) tells me it isn’t on Staal as much as Pionk.

    Pionk played most of the season as a top penalty killer, power play and regular shift. McQuaid should be the top RH PKer and Pionk should never been put on the powerplay over Denaglo or Shattenkirk. The “special” treatment he gets is just odd, he makes plenty of mistakes but never gets blamed the same as other players like Shattenkirk, Denaglo, Buchenvich etc.

    Reminds me of the January 4th game against the AVs, everyone (Rangers analyst and AV analyst) kept saying Pionk was especially struggle that game and after the game during the press conference Quinn was asked if there were any positives after an awful game and he said “I thought Pionk was strong and played a great game.” I understand I might be mistaken but at least 6 people, 4 being former NHL players that understand hockey well enough to be professionals, all agreed he was awful but Quinn saw something that thought he was great……?

    Never could figure it out but a few days ago my friends said maybe it is as simple as certain players being from the college level because he has seen them play more…..?

  • Some questions for all
    Is Quinn getting the most out of the team? I would say we are over-achieving a bit
    Is Oliver getting the most out of 4 lines of offense? One great line and then there is everyone else
    Is Ruff getting the most out of 3 lines of defense? Does he even have one good line?

    This may point to the complement of talent as much as it points to the competency of the coach..

  • Quinn and most out of this roster? I think your feeling is just how limited we have become with our expectations for this roster. But I think a real coach could get a lot more then what we have seen. I would say Torts, or Trotz takes this roster to the playoffs. Not that we get anywhere but I believe the players would give them their all. I also would say Trotz would mandate that we have 4 clear centers to fill out this roster instead of the 7 d and 11 forwards thing we have going on.

    Oliver is doing a fantastic job with getting Zib,Krieder, and Zuc to be on fire like they have been. They are unstoppable. I never saw this happening. I think he has shown the most out of this coaching staff.

    As Dave pointed out Ruff is a has been and doesn’t deserve his position. I think Skjei, ADA, and Pionk are real talents. Under the right mentoring they would be dramatically better then what they have shown this season. Smith, Staal are your 3rd pair. but say a pairing of SHatty and Pionk and ADA with Skjei and we have 2 good defensive pairs. Not great. No shutdown defense but much more competitive then what we have seen.

    • Oliver has 1 line out of 4 scoring. To me, that isn’t successful. Quinn does not have the horses to compete at the level of a Winnepeg. We are 2 good players away from a playoff team and 2 elite players away from a run at the cup. Ruff needs to change his style based on the level of talent he has. Maybe Torts gets more for a short time, but he isn’t the coeach to develop youngsters.

  • 11F and 7D — that’s because we have 2 d’ too many (but Claesson is injured) and we’re showcasing Smith and McQuaid (at least those 2). DQ finally realized that ADA has to play every night so ergo we play 7D for now. It’s a FO decision (and a smart one), not a coach’s decision.

    Re: Ruff, he isn’t the terror some people make him out to be, but the game has passed him by … time for some new “younger” blood now that DQ has gotten his feet wet.

  • The jury is still out regarding Quinn. Let’s see what happens next season after the new roster is set and we see what he has to work with next season. He does some things well and does seem to communicate well with his players. My questions are mostly about his overall system, not his interactions with his players.

    Regarding the defense, I think Ruff is the wrong guy for the job. I think that even though some of the pieces he has are aging defensemen who should no longer be on a NHL roster. I think that Skjei, ADA, Pionk and Claesson would thrive with better coaching. They might not be first pair material but those four players all have decent skill sets that could fill out a bottom four. So I don’t think Ruff is getting the most out of their defensemen overall and would like to see him replaced by a coach who is not so much a dinosaur.

  • To me this is just like politics. Your boy gets fired because he was sabotaging the team and then his minions do their best to continue the sabotage, to get rid of the good players on the team. Draft players who nobody thought should go in that pick.
    I would say E3 is the one managing this disaster. All they have to do is get rid of the talent like Hays, Kreider, Zucc and keep people like Fast. Play players where they wont succeed like on the 4th line with Cody or first and second lines with Fast. Two of the biggest anchors on earth.
    I have always said that Ruff was doing this on purpose and wanted to get rid of DQ. But DQ was glad to do the wrong thing as player combination.
    Look at what else, play Ruffs terrible defense with 7 defensemen when we need scoring. Ruff your a smart dog or should I call you a devil-dog!
    Can’t wait till your gone so we see if all those stupid decisions were Ruffs fault. Ruff was trying to keep the Rangers just far enough to not go to the playoffs and to not get any quality draft picks. Its your fault E3!

  • Today Brooks alluded to the fact that Tampa is back again scouting the Rangers. And suggesting that they are in the market for a RHD. Possibly Shatty, Iā€™m guessing maybe McQuaid?

    • Emile – that would be great if they took Shatty and his contract from us – but banter out of Tampa was it was Zucc and ADA they were scouting (from Bolt Blog).

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