The Rangers Continue to Send Mixed Signals on Defense

With only 16 games left in the 2018-19 regular season for the Rangers, it’s on David Quinn and Lindy Ruff to try something different when it comes to the defense.

I started downloading the Rangers shot attempts and expected goals per 60 by game last season when it became apparent that, while the offense was very much potent, the defense could not limit shots and chances for the life of them. Long gone were the days of Tom Renney and lower-event hockey for NYR, as Tortorella and then Vigneault had changed the culture to offense first, while Lundqvist was left to clean up the rising tide of shots and chances against.

In the end, this year’s defense is actually a slight improvement when compared to last year on the raw totals – which says something for what Quinn is trying to instill in this young team. That said, for the good that Quinn is preaching, there seems to be an apparent stubbornness to continue to trot out the same pairs on Defense, despite more intriguing options. It should also be mentioned that this could very well be a heavy symptom of Lindy Ruff, a man who does not have a reputation as a defensive specialist, but even so I doubt the coaching staff and the front office aren’t on the same page overall.

So, why am I seeking a shake-up on defense for the last 16? Simply put, the Rangers showed a glimmer of defensive aptitude during January and early February:

In the two charts above, a few trends stick out:

  1. In the Shot Attempts (Corsi) chart, you can see a significant drop in Games 41 through 52 for shots against (red), before rising back up to the previous levels.
  2. There’s also a nice rise in shots for (blue) in the Games 53 through 66.
  3. In the Expected Goals (scoring chances) chart, you can see that the similar trend occurs in the against category (red), while expected goals for (blue) has been higher lately.

Because I want to focus on the defense, I will crudely explain the rise in shots and chances for. Around Game 40, Quinn and David Oliver started heavily playing their top six forwards, led by Zuaccarello, Zibanejad, and Kreider seeing nearly 20 minutes a night. Hockey is a strong link game – when the better or best players play more, teams do better. This of course applies to the defense as well.

So what would cause this sharp drop in shots and chances against during the 12-game stretch (Games 41 through 52)? As I just mentioned, hockey is a strong link game, so when two of the weaker defenders on the roster, Neal Pionk and Marc Staal, play less, the results are likely to get better.

The above is a bit of an eye chart from HockeyViz, but focus on the blocks of colors that are consistent. To the left of the bars of colors are the Pairing numbers, 1-2-3, which indicate by game which defenders played the most (1 being the most, or top pair) together at 5v5. To the right are the colors assigned to each NYR defenseman. The reason we focus on 5v5 is that a typical NHL game sees 80-85% of the 60 minutes at 5v5. Also, that increases to nearly 90% in the playoffs. Special teams’ matter, yes, but over time the game is won at even strength.

Anyway, during Games 41 through 52, Neal Pionk missed four games with a lower body injury and was scratched on 2/6. When he did play, he didn’t see any top-pair TOI, and saw 3rd pair TOI three times. During the same stretch, Marc Staal only saw top-pair TOI once while seeing 3rd pair TOI five times. This is significant because as you can see outside of the two vertical/red arrow lines, Staal and Pionk are very consistently listed either together in Pairing 1 or at least as one part of Pairing 1 and 2. To simplify: during the 12 game stretch where the Rangers saw less shots and chances against, Neal Pionk and March Staal either weren’t playing or playing much less than the rest of the season.

Why am I focusing so much on Staal and Pionk, even though Adam McQuaid and Brady Skjei aren’t exactly having strong seasons? Because Staal and Pionk are two of the worse culprits when it comes to limiting shots and chances against:

Reading left to right, you can see that Claesson (far left) tends to give up much less against than DeAngelo. Skjei and DeAngelo can typically look better than Staal and Pionk because Skjei and DeAngelo generate a good amount of offense to counteract their defensive misgivings. Staal and Pionk simply do not. To be fair, because Staal and Pionk have generally played more, they’ve also seen higher-TOI competition opponents, however when I looked at TOI splits there wasn’t a major indication that they do much better with lower TOI.

Look, the reason I took to writing about this is because unless Quinn and Ruff try something different down the stretch, what faith should we have as fans that it will change next season? Barring a magical LTIR visit, Staal will be back. Pionk will likely receive a contract as an RFA (yikes), even though some AHL time wouldn’t hurt him. I personally think Skjei has more to give, but he needs to be playing with a stabilizing defenseman (such as Smith or Claesson) in order to thrive with his skating and offensive abilities. Shattenkirk has been good on a bad team, but isn’t getting any younger.

In a lost season, Quinn and Ruff should’ve been trying different pairings more often, especially when pairings such as Staal-Pionk and Skjei-McQuaid were quite visibly not working. If Gorton and the Front Office have just been letting this happen, then they’re guilty by association. John Gilmour has been suspiciously absent despite succeeding in the AHL. Brendan Smith has been able to stay in the lineup as a forward because he can actually skate, something Staal cannot do at an NHL level anymore, even though he’s been effective out back. Libor Hajek has been good in his three games, but time will tell if it’s enough to push out Staal or Pionk.

In the end, the defense should be priority number one this spring and offseason. If you’re one of the fans who wants NYR to spend this summer (Panarin or Karlsson), figuring out the most optimized D-pairs for winning becomes even more critical. If Quinn is really coaching to win, then the mixed signals of playing some of the worst options on defense needs to stop now.

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    • Yeah, but unless the Front Office completely disagrees with how Staal & Pionk are being used by Quinn & Ruff, I’m afraid they’re going to continue with those two as a pairing next year.

      • Are they still gonna try to lose next season? If they are (and I would, even as I renewed my season tickets last week) then play them until the wheels fall off.

        Make it look like you’re trying to win, subvert your team with this toxic combo, deal the free placeholder talent for picks/non roster prospects.

        I got zero time for Panarin: will help in the short term when the team can’t and shouldn’t be winning, will kill the team in the long run if the contract isn’t structured properly.

        • I laughed at “toxic combo” haha. While I agree with your logic, I just don’t think the team is (or will be, with the offensive talent coming up) bad enough to truly get a top 5 or 3 pick, as they’ve pretty much shown with Staal-Pionk getting the minutes they do now. It’s an interesting situation to say the least.

          • Ah man, I certainly hope not, Rob. The season is a grind, instill a hard working environment where the kids compete every night – forget the high draft order – compete and go for the win, man. That’s how you develop a mindset in a young team. We know they’re not there yet – but they’re getting there. They are giving playoff teams a battle and in the process backing each other up. Let the chips fall were they may, the drafting is up to the managerial staff, anyways, not the players – but you must keep the work ethic strong, no meaningless games, all games for these youngsters are important – that’s how you take it into next year when folks like Vitali and co. start showing up to camp. The environment is there already…… and don’t think free agents to be this season took notice of NYR. 🙂

          • Absolutely right, Carlos! How any fan can be in favor of losing is beyond my comprehension. It makes no sense and has no place in professional sports.

  • “As I just mentioned, hockey is a strong link game, so when two of the weaker defenders on the roster, Neal Pionk and Marc Staal, play less, the results are likely to get better.”

    It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out, the eye test showed this from the very beginning. They were sent out there because there was a certain comfort level by Ruff, and or DQ to play these two. I suspect now that we see what ADA, Lindgren, Hajak all can do, management will probably advise the coaching staff to limit the playing time of this pair. Personally I can’t wait to see these new kids, along with Rykov play, and sit the pylon, while trading Pionk this off season!!!!!!!!!!!

    • OK, I’ll agree with you Walt (and I gave you a thumbs up), but remember Pionk is only 23 years old and has only been playing circa Feb 2018 – and he played fairly well last season. So being this only his second season, I’ll give him a pass till training camp fall 2019.

      • Carlos

        We have enough d-men coming up who can play defense better than Pionk. With the addition of ADA, Skjei, we have puck carriers, there no longer is a need for him. Trade him for some assets!!!!!!!

    • And imagine they played a majority of the minutes together and as a top pair !

  • The D is a 2 year timing issue. This process is hindered by the 3 S’s Staal, Smith and Shatty and the 2 years left for each on their contracts. Then combined with the fact our best D prospects(Miller and Lundkvist) are probably 2 more years away from being NHL ready at best. Beyond that it is troubling that Quinn keeps going back to Staal and Pionk. Staal and ADA were working out pretty well. Probably because when ADA is on the ice he has the puck most of the time. That seemed to work and then they got away from it. I won’t be surprised if Ruff is replaced this summer. I never understood why he was brought back this year.

    Regarding Panarin or Karlsson. Making a run for one of them now makes sense simple because now is when they are available. Even if we sign one of them we will still be a few years away from really competing, because of the D problem.

    • Andy

      Your right about the D being a two year problem, unless we trade Pionk, and Smith, or Shatty. I also believe that if we go after Karlsonn, we’re doomed to the faith that we have with Staal, and Girardi, the cost would be prohibitive, and the guy is shot. He is undersized, frail, would want a ton of money, and term. I just hope that we run from him, and trade for a guy like Troumba instead.

    • Corsica’s overall player ranking rates Shatty the 31st rated defenseman in the NHL this season. No, he will not be confused for a Norris winner…but he is, by far, the most valuable blue liner on this roster overall. Not the best pure defender, no – but the most valuable. Even if that may not be saying much since the Rangers blue line is generally a mess, Corsica’s ranking doesn’t care who else is on this team and the ranking is compared to his NHL peers overall. Consider also that he’s been dragging around anchors at times due to that lack of team defensive depth, plus Quinn has shown some AV-esque blind spots in deployment logic, plus he was coming off a significant injury from last season…and he still manages to rank that highly. To mark him down as a “hindrance” is just a blatant disregard for the stats. Amazing to me that this narrative just will not go away.

      As for Karlsson, the Rangers should honestly just stay away from more offensive defensemen until they learn how to deploy them properly. Yandle, Shatty, ADA…all misused in a way that stunted/stunts their talents. Yet they have just thrown minutes at Pionk at times, who is probably about half as offensively talented as those three. It just amazes me how much the front office and coaching staff have shot themselves in the foot on defense in recent years. They have shown no signs that they even realize they have done so, let alone attempting to change it. Even through different head coaches…it’s astounding, really.

  • We are great at playing armchair GM, but I am thinking these are all valid points being made. He is given 6 defensemen that are not that good. He has successfully turned Tony into a good asset, while allowing Pionk to fall. We are hamstrung with contracts that are unforgiving. While we cannot change out the players, we can change the pairings and the system. Is Ruff really that stubborn? Do they not use analytics?

    Giving DQ 8 defensemen from Day 1 was a disaster . We do need to limit the damage by playing a (real) 3rd pair about 10 minutes a game. Sitting Lias in place of Smith on the wing? Confusing at best. Not bringing up Gilmour? Mind-boggling. DQ has to be as hard on his coaching staff as he does with young players.

    I like DQ, I really do, but much of the defensive issues fall at his feet. He needs to direct Ruff to change, not ask. He needs to plead to Gorton to move a contract. He needs to look at the big picture and know the defense is failing miserably.

    We clearly need to move out 2 defensemen in the off-season – if that is possible. We are probably stuck with Shatty, Smith and Staal, but Pionk & Skjei may have value to others. Move them out, open spots and bring in a new defense coach.

  • I don’t see how that plot proves your point, “Skjei and DeAngelo can typically look better than Staal and Pionk because Skjei and DeAngelo generate a good amount of offense to counteract their defensive misgivings. Staal and Pionk simply do not.” The plot only shows that DeAngelo Skjei, Pionk, and Staal all have very similar total events, changes against, shots against, and expected goals against. So I’m confused how your point is made, since it says nothing about offense. I know you’ve made this point before, but this plot doesn’t show this.

    However, the d truly isn’t very good. I’m more of the opinion that the system doesn’t help them, but watching them is a cringe fest.

  • Is it Groundhog Day? I feel like this Horse has been beaten to death so many times that there’s nothing left for the vultures to pick on.

    • All I am looking forward to is draft night…….The rest of the season will be for positioning……Let us pray.

    • I do feel this way a bit tanto, trust me, but what scares me is that this just becomes the accepted normal and next year the starting pair is Staal-Pionk. If they go and spend or try to accelerate the rebuild, it would be all for naught with those two.

      • It is for this very reason that it is imperative we trade Pionk, and sit the pylon next year. Just forget the contract with Staal, and let the road cone sit in the luxury suit next season, to play the kids!!!!!!!!!

        • A little drastic Walt, don’t you think? You know the latter will never happen and the odds of the former occurring are somewhat slim until a couple of young RDs come along — like a Lundkvist …

          I think the best we can hope for in order to not be too disappointed is to see both their ice times limited to less than 20 minutes as they get paired up against the other teams bottom 6.

    • LOL tanto – I agree.

      Heck man if everything was a metric, from Ryan McDonough to Libor Hajek today – they would’ve never made the pros. o)

  • We need new faces on the backline and on the bench next year if we are going to see improvement. Our CAP space may allow us to move out a player or two and retain some salary. If we go into next year with the current complement of Ruff and his 7 sub-par defenders, we will not take the next step. Gorton needs to have the defense as his priority for the off season.

  • Rob
    1. When you use the term ‘front office’ who do you mean?
    2. Do ‘they’ tell DQ who plays on a given night?
    3. Do ‘they’ say who goes back to Hartford and who comes up?

    I am honestly asking your opinion, because this one of the many parts of the game, I am unclear on.

    • Playground – I’m using Front Office as a broad term – unless someone has direct access to the team we don’t really know the inner workings of who is really calling the shots. With that said, to an extent it’s like any other workplace, as in Management (Front Office) has a say or at least a level of knowledge as to what’s going on. I would like to think that Quinn and Gorton are very much on the same page (even if Quinn has final say on the lineup card), which is why the continual heavy TOI of Staal & Pionk worries me given their poor results.

      I don’t think the FO is telling Quinn directly who to play, just like I don’t think Quinn is telling the FO directly who to promote or demote. In the end, they likely meet, discuss, and make a decision as a group. How Gorton handles the defense this summer will be very, very telling.

      • Thanks Rob. That all makes sense to me. Personally I think Gorton has traded wisely and I hope he and Quinn are of one mind for the most part.

  • Lindgren and Hajek need to be given the opportunity to grab a spot next year. There will be some growing pains but these two are worth the risk. Pionk needs to be given some slack for this year, however all eyes should be on him next year. Clearly ADA is currently our best D-man.

    Shatty and Smith should be competing for the 7th defenseman next year. Smith has been good on the 4th line so he should stick a la Jason Strudwick. Skeij should be trade bait, I really dislike his game. Staal should become a coach. Cleason is serviceable but he’ll be gone after this year.

    Offer sheet Trouba

    Do not sign Karlsson, not even at a discount.

    Doesn’t Dan Girardi come off the books after this season?

    As a rebuilding team this D I am about to post will be good to see what we have going forward when we start competing in 2020

    Lindgren Hajek Skeij (for now) D’Angelo Pionk Trouba (sign him) Shattenkirk and Smith

    • You don’t have to appreciate Shatty’s game, but to suggest he should be 7D is sheer lunacy. As I covered in a comment above, Corsica hockey has him sitting at the 31st best defenseman in the league in their overall ranks. They aren’t in the business of creating inaccurate rankings. When the stats are that ridiculously far away from your personal evaluation, it may be time to consider that you are running a super heavy bias, relying too heavily on eye test, or both.

      • You missed the part that Trouba is replacing him hypothetically

        Pionk and D’Angelo are better than Shattenkirk

        Shattenkirk needs to be shielded not be the Veteran on a team, so with the Rangers he is not a fit

        • Please NOOOOO on Karlsson , just flat NOOOO . We already have enough dead D , we don’t need to add more even if we didn’t have to pay him $1.00!!!!

        • I didn’t miss anything. You can’t assume Trouba is coming, and certainly not via offer sheet. Pionk is most certainly not even remotely close to better than Shatty at this stage of Pionk’s game. ADA is closer, but still no cigar.

          If you don’t like Shatty’s game style, that’s your prerogative. To say there is a better all around player on the blue line of this roster at the moment is simply not statistically supported. If you watch a car go by and say it is going 40mph but the radar gun says it is going 55mph, it is going 55mph. Stats>Narratives.

    • Offer sheet Trouba? Are you kkkkkrazy? lol Ok ok, not crazy but that would kind of stop the rebuild dead in its’ tracks. At a minimum you’re looking at 2 First Round Picks, 1 Second Round Pick and 1 Third Round Pick … I love Trouba as much as the next guy, but it’s best to wait another year+ on him — if he gets to free agency great … if not, move on.

      • I would do a trade and sign, better approach than my previous. Agreed to steep if that’s the price.

        • I thought the price is a 1st, 2nd and a 3rd to sign him for 6 Mil with a huge signing bonus and pay his taxes per se

          • 1st, 2nd, and 3rd rounder. Of your own.

            So in effect, offer sheeting Trouba would basically be a trade of Kevin Hayes, a most likely top-10 1st Round Draft Pick, a high 2nd and a high 3rd Rounder for Trouba, a late 1st, and Lemieux.

            In case anyone has forgotten, Forwards are significantly more valuable than defensemen. I am not Kevin Hayes biggest supporter (whose gone missing ironically) but him at $6 mil would be superior to Trouba at $6 million, as forwards more directly impact offensive production. In the current NHL, and where it is trending rapidly, you only need replacement-level or slightly above defensemen to improve.

          • Besides, we have a lot of d’men coming, it’s the elite forward or two that we need most down the line. Today we need better d’men so he fits, tomorrow I’m not so sure paying all that money would be the best use of all that cap space.

          • It is not just elite forwards. The Rangers also need depth. The current set of forwards contains a few that are marginal at best. In Hartford, Gettinger and Meskanen are not very impressive but the only ones with a decent shot to make the Rangers. Meanwhile, on the reserve list, Kravtsov looks like the only forward likely even to be signed. Top to bottom, the situation is bleak.

            In defense of Gorton though, defensemen take longer to develop than forwards. The plan I think is to draft defensemen first and now that they have some of those they can focus on forwards who will mature quicker.

            Perhaps they can also sign free agents or trade. Hall for Larsson tells us that forwards are easier to get.

          • $6m won’t do it, not even close. He’s making $5.5m now and he asked for $7m LAST YEAR in arbitration. If he hits the open market the price will be over $8, probably $8.5m+ … Listen, everyone other than Winnipeg is in love with this guy and I bet he knows it. If we got lucky maybe you squeeze him at $8.1m and it’s just the 3 picks. There’s just 1 more year to free agency for him so you would be predominantly buying all his UFA years, they don’t come cheap.

  • These metrics obviously prove that the d is abjectly bad. But the question I have concerns the offensive system that Quinn employs, not Ruff’s defense. Can I assume that the less aggressive offense stymies how the team drives game play overall? Does this leave the defense in a constant state of “being on their heels”? I mean Corsi, shots and expected GA are bad, to put it mildly. Or am I totally off base here because our forwards just basically suck too? That’s probably rhetorical.

    • Overall the forward group as a whole isn’t great either – I agree there. You can look at the entire teams shots and “threat” (aka chances) here: &

      Outside of Howden, McLeod, Strome/Andresson (who have been better lately), and Vesey, it’s mostly the defensemen (Pionk/Staal/Skjei) who are doing worse at shots & chances against when on the ice. So yes, while the forward group isn’t great, they’re usually making the team better with the exception of a handful.

      That’s why, if Quinn/Ruff change the D-pairs up to give Staal & Pionk less TOI, the offense will likely benefit as well.

      • In terms of concrete success, the forwards and defense will always be exactly equal. So the notion that things like chances tell you the forwards are helping and the defense is hurting is absurd.

        It should be obvious that the forwards as a group are awful. In fact, the Rangers just played Washington. I remember precisely two things that Filip Chityl did. One was a brilliant pass resulting in a goal. The other was a Caps’ breakaway (stopped by Georgiev mercifully) where Chityl was the Ranger back. When Washington got the puck, he first edged FORWARD and was focused on the puck. He was to blame for the breakaway. Oh, and everyone talked about how Chityl really responded to his benching. No one even noticed the bonehead play – that is the way it is for forwards most of the time.

        But of course, you can use stats to understand – or you can use stats to support the prevailing narrative. (I joke, virtually no one does the former.) If the numbers don’t change, Henrik Lundqvist will finish second among Ranger goaltenders in save percentage for the fifth time in six years, ditto in GAA. Yet the narrative of a horrid defense being bailed out time and again by the Swedish deity lives on.

  • Rob you are my favorite conspiracy theorist. The one with data. DQ is not trying to win. What he is doing is putting them in a position to make it hard to win. There may be reasons for doing that. One point of thought, We know we could not win this season, so why not disguise the losing. Place the players in a situation where they do not intend them to succeed. As long as they try hard, no one can say anything about it. As some of us can see the pairings do not make sense.
    This can have a negative effect as players can see that the coach is not doing everything he can to succeed. Then some wonder why doesn’t Kreider try harder or he some times tries. Players are humans with thoughts and can see and may get depressed.
    As some can see the team can compete with the best teams but are not in position to dominate and management does not want to display how good they are at this time. So its a good time to train the players to play hard even if you don’t win and have barriers or situations where you are not expected to win just to try hard. Management forgets these are humans with brains and may not figure out their intentions.
    This addresses why the coach puts 7 Defensemen out on a daily basis,
    So this addresses the stupid moves the coach makes with the lineup decisions and why Fast is playing out of position. This is bad for Fast because 1 or 2 more new players may make Fast dispensable because this year he played with top lines and proved to be lacking. If you were honest you would concur.
    I’m sure DQ did not want ADA to catch on fire and tried his best to sit him. The data up top does show the intentions of management. The data also shows how complicated things are and could confound the average thinker like those negative knuckle display’ers.
    DQ and Ruff understand what needs to be done even if its to minimize success. Once I understood the goal, I don’t feel like calling DQ stupid anymore, even though stupid is a good description if you were trying to win.

    • I am impressed.

      It took you four paragraphs to finally bring up Jesper Fast.

      I think that is a record for you.

      • I tried a new approach. Suck people in with conspiracy and then slam them on frontal lobe with Fast. I’m sure after every game Fasters need to be reminded he did nothing got no points and no assists. What else can you ask for. A great team guy like Tanner Glass.

  • One can simplify your analysis by not mentioning Staal at all. In games 41-52, Staal got less action and Pionk’s TOI and responsibility fell off a cliff. After game 52, Staal has continued to see about the same ice time and responsibility as in the good stretch, but Pionk is back. So the problem is Pionk, period. Marc Staal is still a solid second or third pair guy who is overmatched playing top pair minutes with a weak partner.

    • There are over a hundred defenders with a higher rating on Corsica than Marc Staal. The most appropriate place for him is still the press box. He’s not quite the complete and comprehensive dumpster fire he was last year – I suspect because the system is easier to handle…but not being as bad as last year is not the same thing as being good. You can give him some more points back the other way since there is no stat that measures how he can use his big body a bit outside of hits…but that’s still not enough of an offset to justify him playing anywhere other than in a sheltered third pair role, from a skill standpoint.

      • Actually, Marc Staal was the best defenseman the Rangers had last year not named McDonagh. He was admittedly terrible in 2016-2017. There is a problem with statistical evaluation of defensemen. A second pairing guy playing sheltered minutes in a third pair role is going to put up great numbers while a guy who belongs third pair and plays first pair will get eaten alive – even if he isn’t paired with Neal Pionk.

        The Ranger problem on defense is not that their defensemen are bad. The problem is that they are not very good. We jump up and down with glee when Hajek doesn’t get burned in a sheltered role and point fingers at the guys who are getting burned, but really the problem is that no one can stop really good forwards like Ranger D five years ago could. Addition by subtraction is not going to really help here. We need addition by addition. If you put the names of all Ranger defensemen in a hat and picked two, replacing them with a quality first pair, the Rangers would have a solid D, regardless of who they lost. Of course, we can hope the likes of DeAngelo and Hajek will improve whereas that seems unlikely for a Staal or a Smith, but still, the issue is not who they have now, but who they don’t.

        • This is like you’re using the position of the sun in the sky and your thumb casting a shadow to try to tell me the time, but the phone in my pocket that I know is fully correct that is saying something different. Going with the phone, man – no offense.

          That said, I know you are a huge fan of throwing stats away when they don’t fit your narrative. Fine, no stats for a second. Getting smoked by opposing forwards is getting smoked by opposing forwards, no matter if they are first or fourth line. There are certain scenarios where Marc may be the best on the roster at certain tasks…for example, I’d like his chances trying to pin the puck on the boards if the comparison point is ADA. Only in those VERY narrow windows does he have more skill than other defenders on this roster, in that one area taken at a time. Marc’s skating limitations alone disqualify him from being the best defender on any team in the NHL, frankly. Probably a number of AHL teams, too. As unfortunate as it may be, there are also times his vision issues alone probably also cause problems.

          He has been a great Ranger. Given it his all, and a good role model for the “kids” to look up to on how to carry oneself, engage in the community and give something back, represent the team in the public eye, all that. I’m not sure he was the best defender on the Rangers at any point in his career though – at least not since the eye injury, and definitely not since he’s quite noticeably lost a couple steps.

          When the stats are close, I can see tossing them out a bit. Like, Corsica has McQuaid ranked a smidge better than Staal, and I would disagree with that. I’d take Staal if the paycheck was the same. When the gap is something like Corsica ranking Staal 129th and Shatty 31st however…sorry, man. You can try to spin that however you like, but I’m just not buying what you’re selling.

          • There is a difference between getting smoked by Connor McDavid and getting smoked by Tanner Glass and that is a distinction that Corsica cannot draw. What we know literally is that Staal is getting smoked by McDavid and Libor Hajek is not getting smoked by Glass. From that information, we can reliably draw three conclusions. Staal is not great. Hajek is not awful. Quinn trusts Staal more than Hajek.

            There is a difference between hockey stats and your phone. There is no evidence AFAIK that hockey stats have real value. Tests are possible. Do organizations that rely on metrics outperform other organizations? No one does any of these things. Metrics may tell us that Shattenkirk is better than Girardi, but then why did the organization which bought out Girardi to sign Shattenkirk collapse?

            To be simplistic, a good player is somebody Scotty Bowman thinks is a good player. Is there really a better set than that? Granted, David Quinn is not a HOF coach, but the fact that he trusts Staal more than other left D on the team counts for something. Of course, even if he is the best D or just the best left D on the Rangers, he would not be the top D on very many teams. The current corps is short on excellence.

            My problem with stats is simple. They don’t measure success but rather things which correlate with success – AND situationally, players are used differently so it is comparing apples to oranges. And the mistakes made by stats are not random. They favor some kinds of players over others. Imagine a device which judges art, but can’t see red very well. It chooses the best artists and to a point, it is fine — except all of the artists who use a lot of red are rejected.

          • You’re bringing Hajek into the equation, not me – I don’t tout samples that small, usually.

            McDavid is obviously faster than Glass. The point is not to put them on equal evaluation terms. The point is, even skaters with speed commensurate to Glass can smoke Staal at times. So if he has no business defending Glass, he certainly has no business defending McDavid.

            I don’t care who Quinn trusts. Scotty Bowman can get in on it too. Heck, ring up the ghost of Lord Stanley himself – matters not. I care who is more effective on the ice. That’s simply not Marc Staal anywhere north of the third pair. Your eyes should be telling you that in the first place; I’m not sure why they aren’t. He’s not the best D or the best left D on any team in the NHL. Even in his absolute peak, he wasn’t. As I said previously, probably not the best on a fair number of AHL teams these days, either. Now, if he had played in 1989, perhaps – that era was much more suited to his skill set.

            I agree with you that stats favor some kinds of players over others. Indeed. They favor better players over worse players. 🙂 Cheekiness aside, again, Corsica isn’t in the business of making inaccurate models. If they were creating an equation that said Tanner Glass was better than Connor McDavid, they’d toss the sucker right out the window. They wouldn’t plow ahead with it because of some philosophy propping up stats. When you sort the Corsica stats, you may run into little anomalies. Like I said, they have McQuaid a touch higher than Staal and I actually do not think that’s the case. Small windows are only where that applies, however. The models won’t be even remotely so ridiculously wrong as to basically flip Staal and Shatty in the ranks. You’re talking almost a hundred defenders between them in these metrics. To even suggest the stats possibly could be that wrong is a little comical to me, frankly. That’s doing more somersaults than an Olympic gymnast, if you ask me.

  • Our defense is horrid. Without an upheaval this team is doomed! If we have to wait for Staal and Smith and Shatty to disappear, we won’t be a playoff team until 2022!

  • To be honest, I do not think that the Rangers are capable of evaluating D men properly.

    Pionk bleeds shots like crazy, he plays.
    Claesson sppresses shots like crazy, he sits.
    Staal, him just being in the line up says a lot.
    Gilmour tearing it up in Fartford and he doesn’t even get a sniff (see what I did there?) with the big club.

    Hajek and Lindgren seem to show promise, so maybe ridding the D corps of the bad apples will do the trick. Claesson should be re-signed IMO, and play with Shatty.

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