Analysis

Rangers trending in the right direction

It’s still too early in the season to draw any real conclusions on the Rangers. However we do have enough information to see how the Rangers are trending. If you recall, the Rangers had one of the worst starts in history last season. They were just downright atrocious. By the end of the season, they had turned it on and were looking like an actual NHL team. These trends for the Rangers have continued into this season.

First two games

The first two games, as mentioned many times, were complete opposite ends of the spectrum. We saw the Rangers at their worst, and then at their best. It’s fair to say that these two versions of the Rangers are not the norm. When looking at their trends, these two games actually cancel each other out.

Games 3 and 4

This is where we see the Rangers for what they are. A team that will push the pace offensively. They will also have their fair share of defensive lapses and mistakes. In short, they are going to be a relatively inconsistent team. At least defensively.

What was promising was that despite the defensive mistakes, the overall process was good in these games. Since the inception of this site, we’ve been preaching process. Process breeds results. The end of the Alain Vigneault era had awful process. They were caved in regularly, but won due to unsustainable goaltending and shooting.

The beginning of the David Quinn era started similarly with bad process. The difference was the Rangers didn’t have the skill or goaltending to mask it. So they lost a lot. As for roster improved and the skill came, the process was expected to get better. It took a while last season, but the process got there.

Trending the right way

This leads us to where we are today. The Rangers are moving in the right direction. They aren’t perfect, not by a longshot, but they are at the cusp.

Throughout most of last season, the Rangers were firmly in “bad” territory in all of Sean’s visuals. Once December rolled around, the Rangers moved to the “fun” category (we may win but I may die). What we see from the visual above is the Rangers are moving from “fun” to “good.”

In some of these charts from the thread, the Rangers are actually moving into “unlucky” for expected goals. This makes sense since Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin have both struggled to start the season. Once they get going, expect the floodgates to open.

The biggest difference is the depth the Rangers have. Last year it was top-six or bust. This year they have an actual third line. They’ve actually been the best line the Rangers have. Depth matters, and the Rangers have it up front.

What’s next

At this point, the two biggest steps are finding the right roster decisions (coaching) and finding consistency on defense. Neutral zone pressure is key for the latter, as it limits controlled entries against. This then limits good changes against. It’s a cylce.

As for finding the right roster decisions, this begins and ends with the blue line. At the risk of beating a dead horse, Jack Johnson shouldn’t be in the lineup anymore. It won’t happen, but it should.

Rob broke down what the Rangers should be doing. I don’t think there are going to be many complaints either. If these small roster decisions get made, coupled with the good Rangers trends, they might turn heads this season. There’s still a long way to go, but these trends are very promising.

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  • Agree with removing Johnson. There is only room for one below average defenseman on this team and it’s not him.

  • From Anthony Scultore, from Forever Blueshirts, who seems to have an “in” with inside Ranger info (these are his words, not mine):

    Don’t Worry, the Rangers are going to push for star players soon

    At the same time I was told that Dubois was unlikely, it was reiterated that the Rangers are going to be in a position soon to acquire big time players.

    Here’s what I was told just a week ago by a well placed source, the Rangers have too many highly rated prospects and all are not going to play here. The expectation is if they don’t make a move at this deadline, the Rangers will be aggressive in the offseason. Forever Blueshirts 1/5/21

    So hold on tight fans, and watch players like Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, K’Andre Miller, and Filip Chytil start to come into their own. Because sooner rather than later, your screams for another star center may be answered.

    Jack Eichel anyone?

    • Rangers also need to add a gritty forward with some scoring punch because the top 3 lines are primarily finesse players. Weren’t you a little harsh in your Laf assessment this morning. This kid has played LW in 3rd line, RW on 2nd line and LW on 1st line in the first four games. Laf is a little quiet out there because he hasn’t developed any chemistry with any center man.

      • I actually further clarified my Lafren stance in my post further down, in saying that Lafren was put with Zib and Kreider to get him started. But both of them were terrible, which made no favors for Lafren.

        Meaning that bad Zib and CK = bad Lafren. So, even though Lafren was ineffective, it was not his fault.

        And yes, Quinn is moving him around like crazy. I mean, is that his way of “getting Lafren going?” Dumb.

        Lemiuex was supposed to be the guy that you’re talking about, but it is clear that he does not possess the skills to be an offensive contributor. Which is funny, because Quinn talks about Lemiuex having those skills, and then does not play him (he had like 6 minutes last night).

        • Most of this discussion still revolves around DQ and David Oliver’s deployment of players. As a former forward in the NHL, I would think David Oliver is best positioned at helping Kakko, Laf and Cytil develop because he LIVED it! I don’t get the constant turnover in the lines?

          • No disrespect to anyone, but I do not take the “I assume that they know what they’re doing” attitude.

            There are plenty of people on the net, who cover hockey, especially through analytics, who have questioned Quinn’s deployment for a long time now. So it’s not just “us fans” complaining for no reason.

            I also remember Paul Maurice’s statements on Quinn’s “system” that implied that Maurice was not impressed. Or when Trouba said “I have never played a system like this before.” So if you connect the dots, my opinion is that Quinn is not an NHL level coach.

            I have little faith in this coaching staff. Last year, Ruff was the fall guy. Well, he’s not here now, and the same issues exist. There are also different players. There’s one constant: The coach.

      • Wow, you don’t think so bro?

        Eichel is a money star player, but young. It does not mean going after overpaid vets.

  • Nice write up David.

    I think that it was also Tierney who said that if the Rangers played even average, defensively, then the Rangers would be a very good team.

    Last night, simply, IMO, was a case of their “big guns” being silent. If they were even average, for them, offensively, the Rangers would have won decisively. Because the team D was very good.

    The only “big gun” who played well last night was Buch. Who created numerous chances for himself, but just could not finish.

    I have zero issues with Rob’s D pairing suggestions. Putting Fox and ADA would be great, and having Trouba with a defensive minded partner makes a lot of sense. Though Miller-Trouba was very good last night.

  • It all starts with sitting Johnson. He stinks, has no future with the team and is preventing a better defenseman (Smith) from playing.

    This one continues to baffle me as ANYONE can see he is not even close to one of the best 6 defensemen on this team. What’s the deal?

    Oh and Chytil will be the 2C on this team soon and going forward. The question is do they trade for a 1C or extend Mika?

    • Just think of this as a 10 game PTO for Johnson(although I think that’s 5 games too many.)

      Yes, he is killing the team, but they haven’t dug themselves a hole that they can’t get out of.

      This period is where tracking data can compress the amount of time needed to show why a guy sucks, no matter who vouches for him.

  • Question for the blog readers: is Buchnevich playing himself into the long term plans for this team? If so what does his next deal look like?

    • Rangers spent 3+ years developing this kid and now, he plays a 200’ game, shows grit and now is as scorer! Isn’t he part of the “core”?

      • Buchnevich has lots of reasons to sign your proposed contract. He seems to be really happy this year. Rangers have a large contingent of “core”Russian players similar to the 1994 team. Buch fits here and can play with anybody!

        • IMO, if the Rangers do not lock him up, the price will only go up, and then the Rangers will risk having to trade him because of that higher price.

          Remember when the Rangers locked up McD for 6 years at $4.6M per? That turned out to be a steal.

          You sign them BEFORE their value skyrockets. The Rangers signed Trouba at his peak and it’s killing them now, and going forward.

    • The (relatively) eternal question. In the last calendar year he turned into the 5v5 player that Stans thought he would be 3 years ago.

      So the question is now this: with the current 50 man roster, how many years of aging curves do you want to buy?

      Buchnevich is going to want to see at least 5 years(if not more) otherwise he’ll just do another bridge deal, then go UFA.

      I could do 5 years that is frontloaded so trade value between him & Kravtsov is roughly equal, but I’d be hard pressed to go any farther out considering how small his prime will be.

      I gotta say, a 4th line of Pepe, Barron & Kravtsov for the playoffs would be something. You could roll 4 lines with no worries and still have forward depth of quality.

  • Leave the 3rd line as is, they work well together in the same way Jesper Fast worked well with Strome and Panarin last season.

    Strome isn’t the 2C answer, but neither is Chytil right now who is working so well with Kakko and PDG. That said we have all seen Strome play better and he’ll come around. Mika will come around as well, the time he lost in training camp and his injury a few days ago are affecting his play.

    Sit JJ and insert Smith — he brings toughness, solid defensive play … just don’t over tax him. Everybody knows who the Top 6 d’men are, aside from possibly DQ.

  • A lot of good comments here – just as a reminder is still only game 4 for the youngest team in the NHL with no preseason and maybe a dozen practices to start the season. The down side, however, is a slow start is most likely early death when every game is 2 pts and possibly 3 for teams playing each other for 58 games.

    We all knew what to expect from this team at the start this year – we all hoped it would be better (4-0-0) but reality has set in at the start. Lots to still do here if we want to contend one day. Consistency, however, stems from experience. Insert “Lack” in front of both these words and that sums it up in a nut shell.

    Johnson wont last too much longer on the regular team IMHO. I believe management was “obligated” to give him a shot because Martin probably pushed for it when he signed on. (which in my mind raises bigger concerns with the direction of the D then just JJ who will disappear soon)

    Lafreniere has been a bit of a disappointment so far – yes its very early – but lets be honest, he has not created the type of space and opportunities that most scouts and fans anticipated the “most talented #1 pick since McDavid” would create. He has been put with Zibby and Artemi, and to blame others for his slow start is just short sighted. Players with that billing instantly make those around them better – not the case (JUST YET) Nobody believes that he wont’t excel eventually. We are Ranger fans though and we demand results – immediately.

    The pairing of JJ and ADA might be the worst defensive pairing in recent Ranger history. I heard Tampa is selling life size cardboard cutouts of Victor Hedman – two of those strategically placed in our own end would be a major upgrade at this point. One needs to leave the sport, the other needs to leave NY.

    I saw them as a .500 Team this year in the 5/6 spot – Of course I am rooting for them to be in the #1 spot – But a lack of chemistry upfront (for now) and need for some shutdown D, and more experience for the youngsters (see Carolina – Bubble) tells me 5/6 is more of a realistic expectation unless things change pretty quickly

    As always I close by saying nothing would make me happier here than to eat all these words and have this team prove me wrong this year. Just Keeping my expectations realistic though.

    • Laffy might be the “most talented player since McJesus”, but he’s a serious tier below in my draft model. A tier above the top of the 2020 draft, but the gaps in tiers are big.

      Using him as F1 would be good for his long term development, while eventually switching to a left wing lock and then have him be F3.

  • Smith should play but I think it is his last year with the team. Johnson is here 1 year at best. DeAngelo will need to play mainly because he puts up points which is great for the team and also for a trade chip to replace Strome. Without Strome, Smith and DeAngelo, team saves around 14 million. We might be able to use only about 6-7 million for a new center since many players on this team will be up for higher contracts. Good thing we traded Brady Skjei.
    1 of Howden / Gaut likely gone with the expansion draft.

    Eventual top 2 lines
    Kreids – Zib – Buch
    Panarin – Chytil – Kappo

    3rd line:
    a solid center (who can win face-offs) with Lafreniere and Kravs?

    • Some fans say “what’s the big deal with Johnson playing?”

      The big deal is that he inflicts damage to the team every time he hits the ice, regardless of whether he gives up a goal or not.

      And it’s not like the Rangers are great defensively to begin with. So JJ’s bad impact makes things even worse and magnifies things.

      There is zero reason for Smith not playing for JJ going forward, other than the coach’s (maybe including Martin’s) stubbornness to continue to play JJ. Just dumb.

      I would put JJ on the taxi squad (and if some team is stupid enough to claim him, then even better), save cap space, and admit the mistake of signing him to begin with.

  • For the life of me I don’t know why jack Johnson is on this team. He appears slower than marc staal now even.

    Make it make sense.

  • Rangers are trending in the right direction, However, Jack Johnson keeps trending into more of a downward Spiral every shift he is on the ice.

  • Look, this was never going to be a pain free ascension to Playoff contention year in and year out, but if you don’t see an awful lot of progress in the right direction then you aren’t being intellectually honest. Except for the total head scratching experiment that is being screamed about long and loud, Jack Johnson, I like what I see. Brendan Smith when given the opportunity this year, has been the player that came from Detroit four years ago, before he signed the big deal. For that reason alone the JJ experiment should be shelved. I imagine it is a Salary Cap issue that keeps Smith out and the clearly slower, less effective Johnson in. Other than that, throw out game number one, and I think we will be okay, for a long time.

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