The season has had it’s ups and downs so far. Depending on your expectations, you’re either not surprised or extremely disappointed after such a promising offseason. We at Blue Seat Blogs wanted to give you, the readers, where our thoughts are on the quarter mark of the season. Let the round table commence!
The Rangers are 26th in the league at the quarter mark of the season, how do you feel?
Tyler McGillick: I’m in the middle. Ultimately, if this season persists, we’ll get a high draft pick and one who can hopefully become part of the solution. However, after such a huge offseason and the additions the organization brought on, I’m also disappointed that the talent on this roster has not been able to fully blossom that I would have expected.
Rob Celletti: All in all, not bad. A lot of the numbers – from the team’s record to its ugly underlying shot/chance metrics – are poor, but there are also reasons to be hopeful. Kaapo Kakko has proven he belongs, Artemiy Panarin is a legitimate superstar, and Adam Fox may be the team’s future #1 defenseman. The foundation is coming together, and for that reason I’m optimistic.
Pat Keogh: As far as my general feelings, I’m having fun and finding things to look at each game that bring me joy and satisfaction regardless of the loss. Watching Georgiev track the puck effectively, seeing Libor Hajek make smart outlet passes, seeing Chytil think on his feet, and of course Kaapo Kakko, to round out the youngsters I’ve been watching develop. My feelings on Artemi Panarin are too long for the purposes of this little ditty, so let me just say this: he’s good.
Becky Habib: I feel like this is about right. The amazing thing about fans is that they know this is a rebuilding season but haven’t come to terms with the fact that a rebuild takes longer than five games. Nobody expects the Rangers to get to the playoffs, and if you do, please share some of your Optimism with me.
Rob Luker: I’m not mad, just disappointed. NYR has a points percentage of 0.500 meaning they’re on pace for 82 points – which would be about 6-7 points below where the average model had them going into this season. It would look even worse if it wasn’t for an 8th ranked PDO of 101.2 at 5v5 (9.7% shooting, 0.915 goaltending).
Jeremy Rutherford: About how I expected to feel, but it doesn’t make it any easier to watch. The defense is actually worse than I expected, but for the most part, it was going to be a tough year until the D prospects arrive.
In addition to the above question, has the team met or not met your expectations going into this season?
TM: I thought this team would struggle night in and night out to find consistency, but I thought they’d be a middle of the pack team fighting for a wild card spot. As we sit today, we’re in the Lafreniere/Byfield sweepstakes. Seems like a waste of Panarin and Trouba’s respective primes. Hopefully, it is JUST this year this happens. I don’t want to become the Minnesota Wild.
RC: Earlier on this season, I would’ve said they were falling short of expectations, but this most recent surge of decent hockey has put the Rangers about where I expected them to be in terms of their record. I think a playoff berth is a stretch, but I also don’t think this team should finish at the bottom of the league either. 85-90 points with some meaningful hockey down the stretch is what I expect, and they’re on track for that.
PK: To be honest, in retrospect I’m not sure what I anticipated from this team. I was firm in the belief that if they were firing on all cylinders this season and things broke their way they could be in playoff contention – obviously that’s not really in the picture right now, barring some sort of semi-miraculous, definitely improbably occurrence. Still, I guess this season I just expected to see some bright spots, some warts, and in general just kind of the sometimes electric, sometimes haphazard hockey that we’re seeing right now. Hard to say if this is the kind of expectation that a team “meets” so let’s just say they’re in a place that I considered coming into this season.
BH: This is about what I expected. The only thing I’m disappointed with is that Ruff is still the D coach.
RL: The Rangers have not met my expectations simply because there are some straightforward lineup tweaks that could lead to better defensive results. As of 11/18 the Rangers have the following expected goals splits/ranks at 5v5:
Expected Goals Percentage: 43.8 % / 30th
Expected Goals For per 60: 2.33 / 16th
Expected Goals Against per 60: 2.99 / 31st (worst since shot attempts began to be tracked in 2007.
This was a similar story to last year – the Rangers can create offense at a decent level – it’s just a matter of limiting shots and chances against. Of course Lindy Ruff should’ve been gone over the offseason, however the two quickest fixes would be to send Howden to Hartford and move Hajek to the 3rd pair (or send him down as well). When those two aren’t on the ice for NYR, the team is anywhere from 5-10% better off in shots and chances.
JR: More or less. I was honestly hoping for a little more consistency from the kids, but I’d pin a lot of that on David Quinn.
Artemiy Panarin leads the team in scoring with—at the time of this—23 points in 18 games, with where the team is, are you ultimately happy with the signing and does it make sense for the organization?
TM: Yes and yes. The Rangers and the fans have been STARVING for superstar talent like this. It has obviously come at a cost with where we are in the standings, but Panarin will be a part of the next window of contention.
RC: The signing was an absolute slam dunk. Panarin is unquestionably worth the contract both in terms of length and dollars, and I expect that to be the case even a few years from now.
PK: Absolutely 100% satisfied and beyond. I can’t say enough about how impressed I am with everything he does. I’m still optimistic about how we’re coming out of this rebuild (no, we’re not stuck in it by any means) and think as things develop over the course of his contract he’s going to see the rest of the team rise maybe not to his exact level – that’s tough to do – but to his level of consistent proof that things are going well.
BH: I’m thrilled. Not a game goes by that I’m not in absolute awe of his talent, vision and ability. When the rebuild is done, I would bet the house that he’s a huge part of a winning team.
RL: Yes and mostly yes. He’s a play driver and has shown he can create offense with almost anyone. That said, if this year was intended to be a step forward compared to last year, then NYR is making brutal decisions elsewhere in the lineup (see above, plus other items) that are wasting some prime TOI of Panarin (and Trouba).
JR: Ecstatic with the signing. Couldn’t be working out better, so far. I do think the timing was a little off for his acquisition, but legitimate prime age star talent isn’t available for just money all that often, so I have no issues with it. Hopefully in a year or two the rebuild will catch up to Panarin.
Igor Shesterkin is tearing up the AHL with a 1.77 GAA and a God-like .936 save percentage in 10 games. Should he get called up to see what we have and Georgiev get sent down for a time?
TM: According to CapFriendly, Georgiev is STILL waiver exempt, I say why the hell not?! Of course we’re trying to platoon the goalies and get Georgiev’s value up for a potential trade, but this might be fun to get a small glimpse of the future in net with Shesterkin.
RC: This is a difficult one, especially because Georgiev will become waivers-eligible after a few more games. I think it probably makes sense to see Shesterkin at the NHL level sooner rather than later, but the Rangers should also be trying to maximize Georgiev’s value for a potential future trade. For now, I’d keep Shesterkin in Hartford.
PK: I think that’s an intriguing idea that the coaches would have to really explain the right way to Georgiev, the notion that “hey, we’ve got a decision to make, and it might go your way, but if we’re going to do this thoroughly we need to evaluate everything we’ve got in front of us fully” but also (correct me if I’m wrong, anyone editing or reading this) he’d need to clear waivers, which would be a big risk as far as asset management goes.
BH: I think he should stick around the AHL for at least half the season. Why are we rushing this? He’s very young and doing extremely well. I think pushing for him to be called up early would be premature and would only be advisable if the Rangers truly thought they had a shot this year.
RL: Sure, but at the same time if Georgiev is going to be traded for an asset, I’d rather just have Igor come in once that is done.
JR: It’s a tough call. I do think Shesterkin has earned a call up and a chance to show what he can do at the NHL level. My concern is diminishing Georgiev’s value right when he is struggling. I think moving Georgiev at the trade deadline could be considered, but I honestly think that Henrik Lundqvist should consider accepting a trade (shh…more on that topic next week).
Lias Andersson was sent down, was this the right move for his development?
TM: Yes, but at a cost. No Lias Andersson hasn’t dazzled and shown that he has “earned” more ice time. But all I’ve been told is how Quinn is a developmental guru and to be honest, Andersson has been given the shaft on that. When Zibanejad went out with his mystery injury, Andersson should have gotten more ice time with far better line mates. You aren’t going to develop with a face puncher and a borderline AHL/NHL tweener in Greg McKegg. Hope he takes this and runs with it in Hartford.
RC: Yes. I share in the frustration that Andersson wasn’t given a much an opportunity to succeed, but I also think his game has slipped since a strong pre-season showing. I’m aware that he was playing less than 10 minutes per night with subpar line mates, but it was clear a lack of confidence had taken hold over the past couple of weeks. One factor that needs to be mentioned as well: David Quinn is not a coach who rolls four lines. Even if he had a quality fourth line, it wouldn’t play much more than 7-8 minutes at even strength per night. Any young player put in that situation isn’t going to succeed, meaning Andersson’s assignment to Hartford definitely makes the most sense for him in the short-term. A separate but related issue is the performance of Brett Howden, who hasn’t done much of anything to earn the 3C spot that he seems to have cemented at this point.
PK: I’m likely on the far end either way of the bell curve of opinions here: I’d say yes. He’s obviously not going to grow and develop with 4 minutes of ice time a night, so let him get some confidence, round out his game, prove to the coaches and management that he’s a real live NHLer, or at least far too good for the AHL, and so on. Force JG and JD to make a tough decision, force them to think things through, and then as fans we’ve just got to have faith they’ll navigate that the right way. It’s no secret (to all my rabidly devoted fans, at least) that I’m a big Lias guy, but I want to address the notion that there isn’t or hasn’t ever been a plan. Plans change and shift over time, and that doesn’t mean the front office is playing touch and go here. Maybe this is them committing to a course of action – the start of something coherent instead of the end.
BH: Yes. This is an unpopular opinion, but I think Andersson is getting a lot of love from Twitter because he hasn’t been given ice time that people seem to think he inherently deserves. This will give him the ice time and maybe he’ll come back on a tear like Chytil did. People rip Quinn A LOT, and some of it is deserved, but I feel confident that he knows how to coach young talent.
RL: Probably, but I’m also likely not alone in the frustration of him not getting a shot at real TOI with real wingers given the performance of Howden and Strome (who is still struggling defensively, mind you). There seems to be no discernable plan with Andersson and that seems a bit bonkers for a professional hockey organization.
JR: I honestly don’t think so. It is certainly possible that Lias wasn’t as safe a pick as everyone thought and he just isn’t going to pan out, but I think, especially given the non-competitive season this is, that you give him a regular shift with talented linemates for an extended run and see what you have. The talent gap between the NHL and AHL is just too big to expect the type of development Andersson needs.
Besides Panarin, who has surprised you the most so far this season? Who has disappointed you the most?
TM: The most surprised player for me is Filip Chytil. We had an inkling he could be good, but I did not expect him to be THIS good since his call up. He’s a fantastic hockey player and might be the steal of that 2017 draft early on. The most disappointing to me is Brett Howden. I’m really beginning to wonder what the Lightning saw in this guy to make him a first round pick. He just looks overmatched and is really bad away from the puck and as a center, you can’t do that.
RC: Adam Fox has been the most pleasant surprise. At least a few times per game, he does something that makes me go, “Wow.” It isn’t necessarily his offense, either. He makes heady plays in the defensive zone, and smart little outlet passes that ignite the rush. He’s got hockey sense beyond his years and has already shown he’s the type of defenseman that can carry his running mate (see Marc Staal’s improved on-ice results when paired with Fox). That’s the true sign of a #1 defenseman, which is what I believe Fox will become sooner rather than later. On the flipside, Brett Howden has been abysmal. He’s shown no improvement in his game at either end of the rink, even though he’s been given ample opportunity alongside pretty good line mates in Brendan Lemieux and Kaapo Kakko. Howden is slow and indecisive; I honestly can’t see what made him a first round pick of the Lightning in the first place (I guess he’s one of those guys who “scored at every level” as he developed, but so did Brendan Lemieux, so who cares?). This Tweet pretty much sums it all up. Next time you’re watching the Rangers, take note of where the puck usually is when Howden’s line is on the ice (hint: not in the offensive zone).
PK: Big surprise? Libor Hajek. I just love his game, and could go on and on about how he’s going to be a big part of this team for a while (hopefully, to me) or at least put things in perspective and compel what is surely to be a difficult decision, that again, is going to require some faith from the fans, but just on my part seems like it can only end well (imagine a trade scenario involving Hajek, or whoever he forces out? probably brings back someone nice that we can use elsewhere, be it a draft pick or player). Disappointment wise, I’d go with probably Brady Skjei, despite his recent push. He just doesn’t seem to me to fit in with the rest of the program, but I’d love to be wrong here. Not a lot disappointing to me though in general; Skjei is a good player who might be situationally not right for where this team is going, and makes plays on the ice that I wouldn’t necessarily make, were I an incredibly talented, highly trained professional athlete.
BH: Surprised me the most: Buchnevich. He’s been incredible. I don’t know what happened, but dang, can it keep happening? Disappointed me the most: Sjkei. He just looks lost sometimes, and I think I had heightened expectations because his pal Trouba was joining him on the team. I think the talent is there, and I hope he consistently can tap in to it.
RL: Surprised: Adam Fox will be the hot answer here, but I’m going to go with Brendan Lemieux and Brady Skjei. For Lemieux, he’s proving he can be a reliable option in the bottom six – let’s hope he doesn’t become too expensive for some reason starting next season. As for Skjei, things have been clicking since partnering with DeAngelo, which is good because NYR needs value of his contract.
JR: Adam Fox has been the biggest surprise for me. I thought he would be good, but he has been much better than I would have expected. Disappointment has to be Lias. I thought he would take a big step forward this year, but he has floundered in a big way.
That concludes our quarter season roundtable. We appreciate all of you and let’s go Rangers!