Trouba suspended

Just as we were all settling down to enjoy our Christmas Eve, Larry Brooks penned an article stating that the Rangers would have been better off with Kevin Hayes and Neal Pionk over Jacob Trouba (and in this case Brendan Lemieux). Ignoring the revisionist history for Pionk, a player who had his struggles, Brooks basically said that Trouba is a disappointment. That’s the crux of the article, and one that needs proper evaluation.

Trouba, who is only 25 years old, is signed to an eight year deal (through his age 32 season) at $8 million a year. That’s a lot of coin for a defenseman, and as Ranger fans, we have reason to be cautious with big deals for defensemen. Wade Redden, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Kevin Shattenkirk, and so on have blown up in our collective faces. But again, Trouba is 25. The other guys were older when given these deals.

But let’s focus on Trouba’s performance on the ice. Trouba is very clearly the Blueshirts’ top defenseman, playing 1RD minutes against top competition. Roughly half of his time has been with Brady Skjei, and the other half with Libor Hajek. He’s put up a line of 5-12-17, with 2-4-6 coming on the powerplay. Jumping into the raw numbers, Trouba is middle of the road in most major categories for Rangers defensemen:

  • CF%: 44.54 – 4th
  • CF/60: 53.83 – 2nd
  • CA/60: 67.04 – 6th
  • xGF%: 43.59 – 4th
  • xGF/60: 2.32 – 4th
  • xGA/60: 3.01 – 7th

Trouba has been mostly offensively inclined this season, with struggles limiting quantity and quality against. There’s the new system/team, which certainly plays a role. So perhaps instead of looking at the season totals, looking at how Trouba has been trending is more important.

Given that the Rangers have actually played better lately, with the expected dip in save percentage being a contributing factor to losses, this lends credence to the argument that Trouba is trending in the right direction, especially since he’s been freed from Hajek, who was struggling mightily in his 1LD role.

If I did this right, which I think I did, then Trouba’s numbers are trending in the right direction. He has enjoyed a wonderful stretch lately, mostly after being separated from Hajek and reunited with Skjei, who has also been solid of late.

So the question becomes what is more important – the full stats or how Trouba is adjusting to his new role and team? Both play an important role, and there is a valid argument that Trouba has not performed up to expectations when taking the full season into account. However lately he’s been performing better, and has looked visibly better as well. If he continues this trend of play, he’s going to be just fine. Of all the people on the blue line, Trouba should be the least of our concerns. At least for now.

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