Thoughts on Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox, and track meets

What's up with the NY Rangers star center?

As the Rangers prepare for three tough match-ups this week, beginning with tonight’s game versus Pittsburgh, there’s been no shortage of intrigue to a season that is now beyond its early stages. The biggest news is the continued uncertainty surrounding Mika Zibanejad’s health, which will cause the electric Swede to miss three more games, bringing his season’s total to nine. As you’d expect, I have some thoughts on that and a few more items.

  • The Zibanejad injury is troubling for many reasons, not least of which is the lack of clarity the organization has provided on the subject. David Quinn initially called it a neck injury, but the Rangers have since limited themselves to the phrases “upper body injury” and “day-to-day” when discussing it. After appearing at two practices in a red non-contact jersey, Zibanejad regressed. He did not practice on Saturday at Lasker Rink or yesterday, and the Rangers then announced that he would not make the trip to Florida. Abundance of caution? Perhaps. However, there’s more than a slim chance this “neck injury” is actually a concussion, which would be devastating. That’s not to say Zibanejad couldn’t recover, but bear in mind this would be the fourth of his career. He most recently missed 10 games during the 2017-18 season with a concussion.
  • In Zibanejad’s absence, Ryan Strome has filled in really nicely as the top line center. Dave wrote a piece last week detailing Strome’s production and how, in a similar fashion to Michael Grabner, he’s so far been able to keep up a pace of production that few thought he’d be able to. It might even be sustainable, especially if he continues to ride shotgun alongside The Breadman.
  • Speaking of which, Artemi Panarin is proving every single night why he’s worth $11 million per season. He is the rare player that not only produces points for himself, but makes his teammates better. He’s a magician with the puck on his stick, but what’s more impressive is his ability to win the puck back after the Rangers lose it. Rick Nash was great at that too, but he did not have the innate playmaking ability that Panarin possesses.
  • Another Ranger who deserves to be singled out for praise: Adam Fox. The 21-year old has consistently been the Rangers best defenseman on both ends of the ice. That last part is important, considering that the scouting report on Fox was that he would likely struggle with the defensive aspects of the game at the NHL level. So far, that hasn’t been the case. Fox has proven capable of carrying lesser partners (Marc Staal), and also seems to have developed chemistry with Ryan Lindgren. Excuse me while I have daydreams about those two becoming the modern-day Brian Leetch and Jeff Beukeboom.
  • I noticed that the post-game chatter surrounding Sunday’s 6-5 shootout loss to Florida was focused on the lack of defense played in the game. That’s fair enough, considering the sheer amount of goals scored by both teams in short spans of game time. In reality though, both David Quinn and a large subset of the fanbase oversimplified what actually occurred on the ice. A closer examination of the numbers shows that the Rangers played pretty decent defense on the whole. The Blueshirts actually limited Florida to just 9 high danger scoring chances for the entire game at even strength, and won the Expected Goals share at 5v5 (score and venue adjusted) by 53.5% to 46.5%. That margin jumps 55-45 if you count all even strength play, including the overtime period. The Rangers still have plenty of work to do on defense, but there are some positives from Sunday’s game to build upon.
  • Lastly: give Lias Andersson more ice time, please.

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  • Sadly, I think that Zib’s career is in jeopardy. Teams do not use the “C” word (concussion) to describe the injury. But, connect the dots, including the player’s injury history, and it does not take a genius to figure out what it is. Calling him “day-today” for 2 weeks is smoke and mirrors. I hope that he recovers, as a human being and as a player.

    Adam Fox has been, arguably, the best D man for the Rangers this year, IMO.

    The travesty, that is the Andersson situation, is very perplexing. I mean play the guy, even if you want to trade him. Nailing him with the likes of Haley and a D man is beyond stupid. At the very least, give him decent wingers to play with.

    David, are you suggesting that the goaltending was not good in the FL game?

    • The Lias Andersson issue… Except for an exceptional performance in the 2018 U-18 tournament, Andersson has never been a scorer. His best year in Sweden was 9 goals in 42 games. Last year in Hartford, just 6 goals in 36 games. The Rangers seemingly got carried away with his character and competitiveness when they drafted him. If top 6 means putting up points, Andersson will never make a top line forward. He is not a bust; he is simply the Lias Andersson he has always been, a hard working, honest, plugger.

      • Good points, but I do not want him in the top 6 either, bottom 6 is fine, and even 4th line and PK are fine.

        Just give him legit NHL wingers to play with. Like having Krav here, playing 3rd line to bump down players like Lemieux and Fast down to the 4th line. Or even play McKegg with Lias. Just not Smith and Haley, at the same time no less.

        My sense is that he would be better than Howden, if Lias was given the same opportunities as Howden. I don’t know what Quinn’s problem is with Lias, but it’s definitely something.

        I remember the nonsense with JT Miller. They jerked him around and then Miller got 50 pts. It was comical that the coach took credit for that, when in reality, the coach would have gotten that production sooner if he just played Miller from the beginning.

        I’m not saying that Lias is Miller, because he’s not, but the situation is similar.

        • Tony

          In all honesty, I think that Lias is indeed being jerked around by the jerk behind the bench. Put the kid in a situation where he can succeed, rather than a position where he has not one, but two boat anchors at his side. This is the very reason I referred to DQ as another AV early on, the young man is a permanent resident of the Chateau Bow Wow. How many times has DQ said Lias played a good game, only to sit him? He did the same the other day, and stating that due to the flow of the game, Lias only got some 8 minutes? What bull crap. Howden may be a nice kid, and may be chiseled, but he isn’t worthy of all the time given him, and the accolades.

          Addressing Zib, and his health, wow what can we say, the man is snake bitten. Like you, I suspect he is concussed, and I fear he will be another Lindros, or Lafantaine, and be forced out of the game earlier than he wants due to his health.

          I must admit, Fox is growing on me, and I was openly against giving up two #2 picks for him, rather than wait to next season, and get him for free. I liked the fact that when Lindgren went down against Florida, he wanted to take on the player who put him down, shows some backbone by the kid. Together, these two kids make a nice pair on defense.

          • “I think some injuries are unpredictable and he’s got one that’s a little unpredictable.”

            A quote from DQ on Zib’s injury in today’s post. What are we to make of it??????????

          • Walt, I really don’t get it. Lias is a 7th overall pick, why would the Rangers not want to put him in the best position to succeed? It seems like they are doing the opposite.

            And all coaches have their faves. Howden is one of them and Lias is not, like it or not.

            Zib, what can we say? Very sad. Unfortunately I have had concussions and they do not permanently go away, there are lifetime effects, especially for athletes that try and continue to play.

            Fox is from Jericho, Long Island, so we are beaming, lol.

        • Can you name me one thing/physical skill ability he has over howden ? Skating? Size (a big deal for DQ, and imo why he never hit it off with zucc)? Shooting ?

          Not that howden has been great , I just think lot of fans are using quantum mathematics to justify their hearts/the pick selection.

          Imo mgmt soured on the pick when gordie had to chew out the traverse city showing (no chytil) and msg yanked the video. So I think this goes back farther th an DQ.

          • Lias is 100 times stronger than Howden and cannot be knocked off the puck as easily. That is a HUGE difference when talking about bottom 6 players.

            And I’m not convinced that Lias isn’t better skilled, because he has not gotten a chance to show it.

            As for the pick, the RANGERS picked him at that spot. THEY even admitted that his skating was no better than average, so picking an average skater at 7 overall in of itself is a bad pick.

            But that being said, the Rangers have an obligation to the player and themselves to see what this kid has. And in no way have they even come close to that opportunity, which is just another example of bad player management.

  • There is a lot to like about Fox’s game. He is smart with the puck rarely turns it over and makes quick accurate passes. The return pass he made to Bread which gave him a clear scoring opportunity on the yawning Florida cage was brilliant. He is not a big defenceman and not strong along the boards nor is he crease clearer. This part of his game should improve as he gains strength and experience.

    I am not a Lias hater, but if you look objectively at his play he hasn’t really proved his case that he should be granted more ice time. He is often caught in no man’s land in his own end of the ice and generates little offence on the attack.

  • Lias can be a poor man’s Jesper Fast. Works hard, plays the body, good defensively and can do some nice things, other than score in the offensive zone. Unfortunately, I doubt that is what they saw when they drafted him at 7. Usually, a top 10 pick is a strong offensive threat or maybe a top strong defender – Lias is neither. A change of scenery might be the best thing for all concerned.

  • I feel for Mika, guy has the potential to be an all star center. Definitely one of our top 3 players. Why was their no payback to Patrice Bergeron or another one of Boston’s better players?? Clean hit or not a message needed to be delivered. It was not, . A sign of softness! Time to move on from Anderson. He is a 4th line center on an expansion team. He is a less talented version of Oscar Linberg. Hard to believe he was thev 7th overall pick?? Lets try to rid ourselves of the Staal and Smith contracts, they make a rediculos amount of $$$$ in comparison to what they contribute.

  • so many lias apologists abound. its always someone elses’s fault. DQ’s, howdens, whoever. if he cant outplay mckgegg and smith why should he warrant a promotion? draft status shouldn’t dictate where you play. and if linemates need to carry you …. it just means one thing … YOU ARENT VERY GOOD.

    • And you were so spot on with your complaints about Buchnevich. There’s no chance you’ve missed with your assessment of Lias Andersson, now, is there.

      • That he doesn’t shoot enough? That’s still there. But hes rounded his game out more. Not a skill issue with him.

        • I actually thought the contract they signed this summer was very fair if not too low just based on raw production. So I think I’m being consistent in my talent evaluation.

  • I have my doubts about Lias, but that said he’s surely not been given an opportunity to succeed in any meaningful way — that goes for the limited “4th line minutes” and the fact that his linemates are less than adequate offensively.

    • To put it bluntly, I think the coach’s opinion is that it’s more important to get Kakko up to speed than it is to nurture Lias. Kakko started the season playing too timidly, not consistently engaging the puck carrier, not having an “edge” to his game when he did, looking to make the perfect play instead of getting his nose dirty in the corners or along the boards. Playing him with two bangers like Howden and LeMieux, who hit everything in sight, attack the puck like seeing an opponent with it is a personal insult, and play every shift hard and fast, is exactly what the young Finn needed to get his head fully into the NHL game, and we’re just beginning to see the result. When he moves up, maybe it will be Lias’ chance to play with those two.

  • Things the NYR Execs know but don’t say

    Zibby has a concussion again
    Lias is a bust
    They cannot wait to be rid of the Staal and Smith contracts
    Would re-sign Krieder if he took a discount, otherwise say goodbye
    DQ plays favorite
    We may not be able to afford Tony D next year
    Strome is a good young player, but still may be moved to another team if the offer is right
    Trouba has been a bit of a disappointment

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