The enigma that is Jacob Trouba

When the Rangers traded for Jacob Trouba, he wasn’t supposed to need a specific defense partner to succeed. Instead, he’s been an enigma. Through a season and three games, Trouba has been far from it. He’s not nearly as bad as people make him out to be, but he’s quickly becoming the next big defense contract that isn’t working out.

It’s easy to watch games and point out that Trouba seems to be a little lost. His issues are more in the defensive zone, where, even after a year, he still seems to be missing assignments and coverages. It was a little easier to overlook it last year, given the league-worst team defense. It has also only been three games this year.

There is much more nuance than “he sucks,” which is something passed around these comments regularly. He’s certainly struggling. There’s also nuance in finding him the right partner to put him in a position to succeed. He seems to be just fine as the offensive defenseman. But when he’s with another offensive defenseman, he struggles.

Enigmatic Stats

The stats tell the story of a guy who drives offense but struggles on defense. This checks out, given what we’ve seen the past 73 games. This season –and it’s way too early to look at individual stats– Trouba has a 57.28 CF%, which is very good (again – it’s early). But he’s sporting a 47.03 xGF%, ahead of only Jack Johnson thus far. This shows someone who can drive offense, but struggles mightily in defensive zone coverage.

This checks out with what we saw over the full season last year as well. Trouba drives offense, but struggles in his own end. Last year was exacerbated by a bad team and being with a partner that didn’t mesh with him.

He’s still a good puck mover, but as with Tony DeAngelo, there needs to be more to his game. Finding the right defense partner for Jacob Trouba is certainly a start.

What’s Next for Trouba?

This is the tough part. Trouba isn’t going anywhere any time soon, not with that contract. So as mentioned, he needs to be put in a position to succeed. Or at least get the most out of him. He’s looked better with Ryan Lindgren, so that’s a start.

This certainly opens a debate as to whether or not Trouba will live up to that contract. There’s a very good argument that is basically he can’t if he needs to have specific types of defense partners. The counter point is that as the Rangers get better, then Trouba will be a big part of that.

The Rangers need Trouba to play well. Over the last two games, he’s been superb with Lindgren as his partner. Considering Adam Fox can play with anyone, then perhaps Lindgren and Trouba should be a defense pair. This one seems to work. Let’s hope it sticks.

Charts from Evolving-Hockey and Natural Stat Trick.

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  • Superb? That’s the xGA talking I guess. The reality though is the actual GA of 2.
    “Blasting” the puck into Hughes’ shin pads for a breakaway the other way is hardly superb. He rarely gets his shots through to the net. So many blocked shots. I don’t think he makes good decisions with the puck. Or maybe it’s just a lack of skill. When not blocked they’re not on target. And he’s slow. He gives up too much and he doesn’t produce anything 5 on 5. $8 million a year. Wow.

  • I wanted this guy for 3 years, and what a mistake. Trouba is only in year 2 and the contract is already a disaster. For his play, you could get a young player to play and give just as good production.

    Trouba may drive play but he needs around 50 pts to justify $8M per. And I doubt that he comes anywhere near that. So he will not offset the goals that he allows on the defensive end.

    I admit, I was totally wrong about Trouba. Now I wish this trade and contract never happened. But, clearly, the Rangers got sucked in too. Big time.

    • Safe is death, but so is thinking. Trouba is thinking.

      This limits Trouba’s ceiling.

      Defense for him needs to be a simple decision tree and he shouldn’t have to worry about what his partner does in his own end. Once he gains possession, his initial decision tree should also be simple. Once he gains the zone out, then just do his thing, knowing he doesn’t have to think about his partner.

      With Morrissey, he never had to think.

      • Morrissey was the perfect partner. A good defender, which is what Trouba needs.

        It’s like Trouba is trying to be things that he is not.

        • Similar to my points about Kappo, Laf, and Gauthier, its about DQ putting guys in a position to succeed! Trouba has had his struggles….no argument there. Part of this is attributable to being paired Skjei (over-rated), Smith (ranked worst than Jack Johnson by DQ) and a raw rookie in Miller.

  • He definitely doesn’t suck, but he’s not fully living up to the contract. It’s a big contract I get it. But he’s being paid big bucks to make a big impact. You don’t get that contract without massive expectations. That’s the reality of life.

    I hope things work with him being partnered with Lindgren. If not Lindgren then who? He’s had a few partners now and the results are generally the same. Not bad but not great either. There comes a point when you have to say, for $8mill per year, we’re paying you to figure it out. And that’s a fair position for the team and the the fans to take IMO.

    He’s an important part of this teams future and we need him to be consistently at his best in order for this team to have success in the future.

  • Not sure if Trouba will be as much of the contract issue than Kreids. Think it may be time to unload Kreider while he is still very good. Package him up with Tony D for a top center. Eventual lines
    New lines:
    Lafreinere, Zibanajad, Buchnevich
    Panarin, new top center, Kappo
    Lemieux, Strome or Chytil, Gauthier or Kravtsov

  • The goo thing is that everyone looks better when paired with Lindgren. That’s a really good thing. Problem is that other then Fox and Lindgren there are major Issues at the position right now.

  • Trouba doesn’t suck. He is what he always has been, a smooth skating big body defenceman who can contribute on offense, but makes occasional blunder in his own end of the ice. The fact that the Rangers management over paid to acquire him is on them.

    The challenge is now on the coaching staff to get the most out of the talented Trouba. That includes finding him the right partner and some PP time. I also believe with the right coaching Troubs could become a very effective penalty killer. His contract is what it is, nothing anyone can do about it now.

  • I believe that Lindgren is the perfect partner for Trouba at this time. I believe that the pair will work well together. It has only been a couple of games, but it seems promising. They both are capable defensemen who should compliment each other.

  • It’s kinda apparent how weak the left side of the defense is and was. K’Andre is not fully there yet, JJ is not good and is getting worse, Staal is proving just how bad he really was by stinking it up this year. Smith, as mediocre as he is, has looked acceptable on this team.

    Lindgren has looked very good but IMO is an excellent third pairing defenseman on a playoff team. He is, I think, an okay second pairing guy.

    Fredrik Claussen looked good a couple of years back compared to other guys who were here disguised as left handed d-men. It’s a pretty big problem.

  • I don’t get why JJ is playing ahead of Smith. Smith isn’t great, but he is adequate and capable of keeping up with the play. He even will make some deft outlet passes. JJ has been failing in all aspects of defense. I’d pair Lindgren with Trouba, DeAngelo on his off hand with Fox, and Smith with Miller. Smith could also pair with Tony D on the third pair.

    However, Tony D will be paired with JJ, and that seems to me to be a poor choice by DQ.

  • In a way, I think Trouba is Wade Redden 2.0. In both cases, the Rangers spotted a pretty good second pair guy and gave him first pair money and first pair expectations. Trouba is better than Redden of course, but it is the same basic error – overestimating what a guy can bring to the team.

    With the departure of McDonagh, the Rangers have really struggled with a pair who can go up against the top opposing players. To appearances, the worst defensemen on the team have consistently been those who have been assigned this role.

    I think we know that Trouba is quite marginal in this role and cannot succeed unless he has a defensively responsible partner. OTOH, he may actually be fine with a more offensive-minded partner IF he isn’t give the assignment of playing against the best offensive players. DeAngelo-Trouba should work as a third pair.

    • Gorton surely regrets that trade of McDonough and oh JT Miller, our 2nd line center that we are now looking for. Oh, but we have/had Kevin Hayes to play center…..ooopps

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