Thoughts on a Friday

Since Justin usually gives his thoughts on a Friday, and he’s kinda sorta retired but not really retired, I think it’s time I gave some random thoughts. Plus it’s slow in Rangerland until the draft lottery. Bombs away!

1. Mika Zibanejad added his 30th of the season against Boston the other night, the first player since Rick Nash to do so. A right-handed center with speed, vision, and a howitzer from the off-wing on the powerplay, Zibanejad has been more than we ever could have hoped. If there is one trade to look at for Jeff Gorton, it’s this one. At least from a positive standpoint.

2. Brendan Lemieux was called a top-six winger by coach David Quinn before the Boston game, and it sent a lot of people into a tizzy. I see nothing wrong with the comment. As of right now, he’s in the discussion. The top six on the roster today are Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Filip Chytil, Pavel Buchnevich, and….who exactly? By production, Ryan Strome is in the discussion. If he’s in the discussion, then so is Lemieux. Ideally Lias Andersson makes his way into the discussion. But right now, yea Lemieux is probably a top-six forward on this team. In the future, you hope that enough talent is added that he’s a bottom-six guy. Sometimes, folks just need to relax and digest what someone says, instead of reacting to everything because it’s not something you expect.

3. The Rangers, at least up front, are likely going to look similar next year. The only free agents of note are Lemieux and Buchnevich. Vinni Lettieri is also restricted, but he’s not on the “keep” level as the first two. It’s really the 2020 offseason that we might see significant turnover. Kreider, Vlad Namesnikov, Strome (RFA), Jimmy Vesey, Jesper Fast, and Boo Nieves are all free agents. The Rangers won’t part ways with all six players, but we can assume at least some will be gone. That might be the next, and final, purge from the roster.

4. Speaking of purging the roster, we’ve mentioned before that the Rangers are not going to see a lot of turnover on the blue line right away. Maybe Kevin Shattenkirk is traded. But I don’t see Marc Staal being bought out or Brendan Smith being traded/bought out. Add in Brady Skjei, and that’s four already. Neal Pionk and Tony DeAngelo make six. Libor Hajek, assuming his first three games weren’t a fluke, make seven. That doesn’t include anyone in the AHL or Yegor Rykov. There’s again nothing wrong with having Shatty, Staal, or Smith playing while others are developing. It’s when the kids are ready, and these guys are still playing, that it becomes a problem. But right now? Nothing wrong with it, especially when some of them are helping the Rangers get a higher pick.

5. The Rangers have a whopping 16 players on the roster (injured or healthy)who are 25 years old or younger. It’s easier to list the players that are older: Kreider, Namestnikov, Fast, Brickley, Shatty, Staal, Smith, Claesson, Hank. This is what a rebuild looks like.

6. Henrik Lundqvist. Still an elite goaltender. Know how I know? Mike Milbury said he was slowing down. Remember folks, whatever Milbury says, the opposite is true.

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  • Gotta get this of my chest. Too much crying over how “dirty” the Bruins play. We would love to have a group that gets their hands dirty. I Know we are very young, but Anderson, Chytil are soft. Maybe its their youth and inexperience. I think its more how they always played, stylish and skill which is not a fault. When you go down our line up our guys fit that description more than the guy who gets his hands dirty. This is especially notable on the back end. We are not a “heavy Team”. We need a couple Lemieux types who can play.
    The bigger thought is that Tony D has some grit and Smith can be nasty but both are really 3rd pair D and need to be disciplined. WE , again I will say, can’t have an overabundance of smallish swift skating offensively talented D. We have too many. Shatty has size but again its not in his DNA to be a D that is hard to play against. Got to fix the back end which is not easy to do. Easier to get tougher up front.
    If you listen to analyst who have played the game the consensus is that we play hard but are soft and our D can be pushed around. Hate to point to the Icelanders, but they have one line that can set the tone. These guys are by no means great speed merchants with above average skills but they bring the rest of the team to the battle. Look at their D, 2 guys from the Bruins that seemed to be over the hill but they are not easy to play against. Look the caps have Wilson and he gets to play with OV. If you think his presence doesn’t matter on that team than we are not in the same mindset. So lets not get our panties in a ruffle when Lemieux gets to play with Mica. Hes earned it.

    • you hate to generalize but they keep drafting euros – where ovi as a big hitter is the major exception – most play a soft brand of hockey even if they have ‘size’. I personally hope they veer from that strategy this draft for reasons you write above.

      • I still want the most talented player available, even from Europe. We can draft the best, then get a few nasty, but SKILLED players to support, and protect them…………………..

    • Flatbush

      How right you are, but we are consistently reminded that the game has changed. I love speed, skill, good body checks, and manhandling of others if need be. Give me a nasty d-man over the sweet non contact players like Shatty, who I never cared for before he even got here, or Staals of the world!!!

  • Rangers need to start the purge this summer. No need to keep so many bottom 6 forwards. Would rather see fresh faces or guys who need a change of scenery.

    Defensively, we need to make some room. Not sure how, but it must be done.

    • They already purged twice – right now is almost like tryouts for training camp, so not gonna go crazy about having 9 bottom 6 forwards right now.

      I also disagree with the post re the defense – they must start turning these bodies on defense over – as they consistently do with the puck.

        • I meant dave’s . I feel like personal feelings are getting in the way a bit , esp re shatt. cant be afraid to buyout etc.

          • Sorry but buyouts right now would be stupid. You trade and retain salary. The 3 big offenders back on d’ all see their contracts expire in 2 years, salary retention not only makes the most sense it also increases their value as assets.

          • I believe buyouts serve three purposes. They have short term cap benefit. They free up 23 man roster spots. They rid the team of cancers.

            Now look at the present situation and the possible buyout targets – Lundqvist, Shattenkirk, Staal, Smith. First of all, the Rangers do not have a cap problem next year and won’t with so many kids. Hence from a cap perspective, all buyouts this spring are dumb. Waiting a year and reevaluating is simply a better idea. As for the cancer situation, AFAIK none of these players is a problem. In fact, Hank and Staal have gotten lots of praise in this department.

            So only the 23 man roster is relevant. Now last year Brendan Smith was sent to Hartford and could be again, so frankly he is not an issue at all. Since both Georgiev and Shestyorkin can be shuttled back and forth between NY and Hartford at will, Lundqvist is literally not an issue at all the coming year. This won’t happen but if Hank loses it completely and Shesty is wonderful, the Rangers could legally start Georgi and Shesty 41 games each with Hank the backup in all 82. Finally, if Shatty and/or Staal are really not good enough to play, you can easily keep one as the seventh defenseman and if need be, even keep eight defensemen and play neither.

            Or, as you said more succinctly, buyouts now would be stupid. I am not arguing against a retained salary trade, especially of Shattenkirk. A Smith trade is less desirable as it does not save that much if you have to retain half his salary and you could save 1/4 of his salary simply by sending him to Hartford. And it would limit the number of other such retained salary transactions.

          • Ray, are you serious? bench Hank for 82 games? How is anyone supposed to take anything you say, going forward, as honest and serious? You did yourself a disservice today. Usually you are better than hyperbole.

          • Seriously, please read before commenting. I was arguing against buyouts this spring and in the particular passage in question specifically against buying out Lundqvist. I pointed out that even in the ridiculous case where something happened and suddenly Hank was no better a goaltender than you or I next year, the Rangers would still be better off than had they bought him out.

        • I never been a advocate of the Rangers going after big name free agents. But this off season I really like to see them make a play for Panarin. Not only would the gifted Ruskie give Zib some nice feeds, he will raise the talent level of the entire Ranger squad. IMHO Panarin, Kreds and Zib would be my choice to provide leadership to a young Ranger group of forwards

    • The Ranger problem is not dead wood. It is a shortage of good players. The players people object to are not playing ahead of guys who should be playing. They are playing ahead of kids who are either not ready or never will be. The focus of the rebuild needs to be on acquisition and development, not on cleaning house.

      In the short term, the Rangers need to play guys who are not in their long term plans just top have enough bodies to put out there. The first requirement for those players is to play hard and help the kids, creating good team morale. The second is that they do not compromise the future. Hockey ability is only third on the list.

  • There’s a bunch of reasons not to buyout Staal and or Smith/Shatty, not the least of which is the dead money. But I think you can add the embarrassment of Girardi playing regular defensive shifts on a President’s Trophy winning team. And Holden doing ok on a good Vegas team. As Dave stated, they’re not going anywhere next season.

  • We have a 30 goal scorer and a bunch of bottom 6 forwards on offense. We have 6 bottom pair defensemen. You can try to paint a rosy picture for the future, but we need help.

    It is time to play 2 youngsters on the blueline and train two others for inclusion the following year. Sure it will be costly and painful to buyout Staal or Shatty or Smith, but something needs to happen.

    I feel we need at least 3 very good forwards to provide some relief for Zibby. Maybe Kraftsov can grow into one of them, but expecting him to light it up next year is just unrealistic. Panarin is not a nice to have, he is a must.

    For all you Karlsson haters, yes he is 30 and yes is will be expensive, but he immediately gives you a 1st pair defensemen we really need. Don’t break the bank for him, but we need someone good back there for at least 2.5 years while our youngsters learn the NHL game. 5 years is what I would offer him.

    • Unfortunately, I don’t think Karlsson’s going to any team that won’t break the bank and give him a long term contract. At this point in his career, I don’t think it’s worth doing either for the Rangers. (I had to give Dave a thumbs up just for comment #6. If you want to complain about GM’s, think about where we’d be if Dolan had ever hired Milbury)

  • I’ve been waiting until late in the season to say this, but Mika has been healthy all season long,for the first time since coming over and we finally get a 70 point player. I’m very happy to see that and agree this was Gorton’s best trade. I love what Lemieux brings to the line up. Is he a top 6 forward? Not on a great team. He’s going to be fun to watch the next few seasons. Buch has also been fun to watch. We can cut bait on most of those bottom six forwards. Strome has actually been pretty good the past few games. I would look to use some of these guys to move up in the draft. They are not bringing back a first, but they could help you move the Winnipeg first up a few spots. On the D I would disagree and look to move out Shatty and if possible Smith. We need to open the spots. Yes they fill up space next year until the younger guys get better, but the young guys need to play and you have Staal and Skeji as veteran’s. If we don’t move them this year we will need to move them next year to make room for Adam Fox.

  • Reasons to be cheerful:

    Zibanejad has had the type of season he is capable of having after being healthy all year. Great trade by Gorton.
    Brendan Lemiuex: Of course he probably is not a top six forward on a good team, but this is a team in transition that is not good yet. The kid has been as advertised and brings needed grit.
    Tony D: Is starting to realize his potential and still has room to grow. The kid has got balls too.
    Ryan Strome: Proving to be an astute pickup and nice trade by Gorton. Seems to have some leadership qualities.
    Pavel Buchnevich: His newfound intensity is letting him use his skills. He dropped the gloves! He is not done getting better.
    Alexandar Georgiev: Has shown he has the skills to steal games. If he can be consistent he will prove to be a great find.
    Filip Chytil, is growing stronger and could be ready to show great improvement next season.
    David Quinn: Heck of a job Quinny.
    Some more young defensemen in the pipeline.
    Lots of picks again in the draft.
    Falling in the standings to a better pick position.

    • I think you can add the expectation that Andersson will improve over the summer. I think Chytil and Andersson have learned some valuable lessons over the course of the year. Chytil to be a bit more aggressive offensively, a little more physical (not fighting) and assertive in the offensive zone … I think Andersson will make some real strides over the long summer. Given his character and his ability to actually show some improvement over the course of the season (losing a little weight, getting a little faster — not an easy task during a season), I think a long summer of training will be just what he needs. I don’t expect he’ll come back as a 2nd line caliber center but I do think he’ll be a mainstay for the course of next season centering a 3rd or 4th line while providing more offensive pop.

      Other reasons to be cheery: Kravtsov and Shesty … lots of draft picks.

      Big wish: Get rid of Ruff, bump him up in the organization or whatever, just get him off the bench. We need a new defensive coordinator because even though are d’ talent is weak, they can all play better — looking at you Shattenkirk, Skjei, Staal and Pionk.

      • Perspectives are interesting. I thought the medal tossing incident showed character weakness while most here seem to view it as an indicator of strong character. Of course, he was young and will change over time, so we can’t completely judge him by a single moment. But ignoring that, my opinion is that people who think only winning matters are people I would rather not have on this earth. Strong motivation is important, but it is only a game.

        • The coaches in Hartford, bless their hearts said that Lias is a gym rat and the guy who left the practice last, who worked with skating trainers. Both Quinn and the Hartford staff said that Lias would ask to review game films with the coaches to see how he can improve his game. That is the reason for their assessment of his character, not the medal throwing. The kid is driven. The question is whether or not his skill level will become NHL level or not. That is going to take a little time to find out. I am optimistic that he is not going to be a “bust” as so many want to decide prematurely.

      • As Brooks pointed out correctly today, for once – Chytil, Andrersson and Howden have all been virtually unable to score at all this season. So they cannot be counted on to be the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centers next season, unless we do that to tank from the beginning. Yes they are very young but it would have been nice for at least one of them to break out a bit and score some. And frankly Chytil is the only one who seems to have the talent to score much in the next couple of seasons.

        And the defense has little chance to be good next season also.

        • Yes, but they also have to be put in a position to succeed — that is playing the right position in the right spot in the lineup and surrounded by better players. I think Chytil and Howden have to some extent (not always though), but not Andersson. I’ll start worrying though about their development when they turn 22-23, until then I still expect that the “light” will go off in their head in the next year or two. I won’t be overly surprised when Chytil scores 40+ points next year, or when Howden plays a full season without going absent for 40+ games and when Andersson is given consistent minutes with set linemates for a whole season in the NHL. Not everyone marches on the same path of development.

          • Of course they are all young and look at the ups and downs Buchnevich went thru, and ADA too, and they both seem to be tracking well, finally.

            That said – it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if none of Chytil, Andrersson and Howden ever became top six forwards ever. Chytil is the only one who it seems more likely than not to get there.

            And on defense we don’t really have even one top pair prospect. Hopefully Miller but he is a long way off. At least Skjei finally started playing well after a mediocre year and a half.

            Looks like the rebuild has years to go, with all the uncertainty that such a timeline entails.

          • Just remember that Howden was suppose to play in the AHL this year … and admittedly he looked up to the task of playing in the NHL at the start of the year. Personally I think they made a mistake in not sending him down during the year, to be honest he deserved it.

            With younger players their skills have to adapt to the different level of play in the NHL. I think all 3 have the skills to be top 6 guys (Chytil has the best skills), but those skills may not translate right away. Andersson flashed those skills at the WJC and in Sweden, even some in the AHL — just not in NY, yet.

            Re: the rebuild, it always had years to go. A lot of people fooled themselves with this idea that we would be good in a couple of years (I know I thought they could) — well yes, if we had kept Hayes and Zucc, added Panarin and/or Karlsson … but how long would that have lasted? No it looks like they are building for the long haul — and whatever becomes of Andersson and Howden, if at worst they can be key cogs on 3rd and 4th lines for the next decade, well that’s OK too. You need real good 3rd and 4th liners to win Championships because elite players can’t always carry a team on their shoulders.

          • Things may turn out well, but your at worst is rather optimistic. At worst, each of the young Rangers (even Chityl whom I hope will become elite) is a guy destined to play in the AHL or overseas with perhaps occasional call-ups to play third or fourth line on either bad or very injured teams. Andersson had only 6 goals and 20 points in 36 games in Hartford with a -24, near the bottom of the team, so it is not like he is good AHLer. And I suspect that many kids in juniors could step into the NHL immediately and make a nifty play now and again (in the middle of a generally disastrous experience).

            As for Howden, not only was he supposed to start in the AHL – he was never supposed to even top out at top six. So a key cog on the third line for a decade is basically shooting for the moon.

            The Ranger kids are young and young players often get better (though not always – Jesse Puljujarvi has fewer points per game at 20 than he did at 18. Nail Yakupov scored 31 points in 48 games at 19 and never came close to that again.). We can get excited about them, we can hope, the Rangers should develop them, but when all is said, there may be nothing there.

        • Anyone have Kevin Hayes’ contact information?

          This isn’t how you build culture. This is how you lose all those great rivals from the playoff days like vs Wash, Pitt and MTL. Not only is it suicide to go into a season with that as your center depth. It’s also not fair to Zib, who you would be wasting away to be apart of a great 1,2 punch down the middle in the top 6. The idea of a strong top 9 would also go out the window. Unless if the plan is to have a chance to draft a generational center in the top 3 by 2023-24?

          • Agree about Hayes. Hope they consider bringing him back to support Zib. He has turned into an awesome 2 way 2C. And he loved playing in NY. If he would agree to a 5 year deal at & 7 per I think it would make sense for both. The Rangers really fell of the cliff when Hayes and Zuc left. Hayes is a year younger than Panarin who would take about 10 mil and I don’t seem Panarin as the cornerstone of a SC winner.

      • Lias is a bust. The quicker we realize this the better off we will be. We need to move him at the draft for another pick that we will do better with. Howden and Chytil hit the freshman wall, but Lias never even got started, He was a wasted pick. Could of had Mittlestadt, Rasmussen or even Suzuki. We love the European skill players who can’t play NHL hockey. I would rather see what Gropp would do that Lousy Lias.

        • Agree LA likely a bust but its not PC to say that here so you have to say he’s too young to call him that yet. But Gropp is a bust too.

          Middlestadt was the obvious choice but the LA backers loved to point out his early struggles also. However for all Middlestadt’s problems adjusting this year he still has 12-13=25 points. Seems like it will take Lias 3 seasons to = one for Middlestadt. Oh yeah – it’s not LA’s fault because of who he plays with. Imagine the challenge to the guys he plays with having to play with him and to produce!

  • with all the young talent we have, we will be able to actually make a move to get the top pick.

    I wish we could move Staal , Hank, and Smith. Trade em for whatever picks you can get. And stock up. You know what’s better than a lot of talent , a sh1tload of young talent.

  • Put NYR top player, Mika Zibanejad on Tampa Bay’s roster, and he is probably the third line center. Sheesh. The talent level in NY reflects all those years of trading away No. 1 draft picks. Unlike the NFL or MLB, if you don’t have a top 3 to maybe 5th pick, the odds are heavily skewed that you are probably not drafting a difference maker.

    • No, the talent level on NY reflects 2 summers and 2 trade deadlines of trading away our more established talent — Stepan, Grabner, Nash, McD. Miller, Hayes and Zucc.

  • Tanto, did you notice only two of the players you referenced were draft picks? The others were trades or free agents.

    • So? What do I care how they got them, they got them … that’s all that counts, along with the results. There are 3 ways to get players, Draft, Trade and free agent signings … they all work in tandem.

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