On the importance of the Rangers knowing their roles

ryan reaves tom wilson
LAS VEGAS, NV – DECEMBER 4: Tom Wilson #43 of the Washington Capitals lays on the ices after a hit by Ryan Reaves #75 of the Vegas Golden Knights during the second period of a game at T-Mobile Arena on December 4, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images)

There has been a lot discourse this off-season about the roster decisions made by Rangers management and in some aspects, rightfully so. The Pavel Buchnevich trade was bad, no arguments to be had there.  I would have just qualified him and let him walk next summer if that was the best offer on the table (and clearly it was which goes to show what the rest of the league thought of him as wrong as they may have been). But to quote the 2008 classic Forgetting Sarah Marshall, “It’s like the Soprano’s…It’s over. Find a new show.”  Time to move on with the roster the Rangers have and you know what, it’s better. Roles will play a big…role…in the Rangers being better.

The Rangers made additions by subtraction with Howden in Vegas and Libor Hajek on the outside looking in on the blue line. They moved on from a head coach who message seemed to not resonate with his star players. They have the best defenseman in the NHL, an MVP candidate, two top two picks on the verge of breaking out, and perhaps the best young goalie in the NHL.  And on top of all that they brought in veterans who will know their roles and change what was a chaotic and often times toxic atmosphere.  And you know what, this was needed.

As much as some of you may dream of it happening, you cannot have a lineup of 12 Nikita Kucherov’s.  All 12 will think they should be on the first line, the first PP, on the ice with five minutes to go, and feel like they are $9.5 million a year players.  Those 4th line Nikita Kucherov’s will not be happy.  Our very own @thehockeysuit had a great line on Twitter recently saying, “It’s like your 12-13th forward always has to have 52%+ Corsi and raise kittens.” Sometimes you do need a little sand paper in your lineup. As someone who has worked for an analytics company and have experience coaching the game at the college and junior level, I feel comfortable in saying there is a balance to a locker room dynamic that goes beyond what a chart (notice that I said locker room dynamic and not a lineup card) says.

We have heard GM Chris Drury talk often about defined roles for his player and announcing a captain, and I can tell you first hand that this is necessity for a teams success. Players who will hold each other accountable, while also knowing their place in the lineup. This is what Ryan Reeves, Barclay Goodrow, and Patrik Nemeth bring to the table to the youngest team in the league last year.  Veteran players on a young team who know their roles.

If you take a look at the rosters of every Stanley Cup winner of the past decade plus and you will find a few on every team. Matt Cullen, Pat Maroon, or Bryan Bickel to name a few.  The contract may not be great, but Barclay Goodrow is a pro who as averaged 12:42 TOI in his career.  Ryan Reaves is a leader and great teammate who has averaged less than 8:37 TOI in his career. Patrik Nemeth is a veteran Swedish defenseman who already is taking care of Nils Lundqvist. They all know their roles with the Rangers.

None of these guys are going to be stealing ice time over any of New York’s promising young stars, as I see the rangers trading Buch as double down on this exact idea.  They know their roles with the Rangers. They know why they were brought in. And based off the ice time distribution of Gerard Gallant coached teams, I trust he know their roles and what they do and do not bring to the table.  Chemistry matters.  Locker room chatter matters.  And each person knowing what their role is, it vital to the betterment of the team.