Braden Schneider, to no fault of his own, has had his fair share of criticism even before he became a regular with the Rangers. Most viewed his spot in the lineup as a choice between him and Nils Lundkvist, when in reality it was Lundkvist vs. Adam Fox. Naturally, we know who wins that. Regardless of the flawed logic in having just one quality puck moving defenseman, Schneider made the Rangers and has been a kid the Rangers look to for a stabilized third pair.
Under Gerard Gallant, the third pair was designed to be a low-event, defense-first pairing. Again, the logic is flawed in today’s NHL, but that was Schneider’s role. He was expected to be a solid, if unspectacular, third pairing defenseman. Problem was that until Niko Mikkola arrived, he was mostly saddled with Libor Hajek and Ben Harpur.
Problem was, Schneider was never really put in a position to succeed. Schneider’s underlying numbers, again what we use to determine defense-first effectiveness, were just atrocious. There’s no sugarcoating it. On the bright side, he didn’t take many penalties, and he produced more offense than expected with a 5-13-18 line. Not bad for a 21 year old’s first full season in the NHL (this is important).
When expanding on his numbers, Schneider was at his best with Zac Jones, putting up a 48% shot share and a 49% expected-goals share. Not bad for a third pairing, but not great. These were far better than his numbers with Hajek (39% and 38%) and Harpur (42% and 40%). Jones and Schneider should have been given a bit more time to figure things out, especially with the other options the team had.
For what it’s worth, Schneider and Mikkola weren’t great together either, putting up a 42% shot share and a 46% xG share. Not great either. Clearly Jones and Schneider were the best option for a third pair. While that matters, as does Gallant’s inability to put Schneider in a position to succeed, Schneider’s game has a long way to go.
It will be interesting to see how he responds with a combination of Jones and Erik Gustafsson, and witha. more structured system with Peter Laviolette. Still, he’s just 21 years old, there’s a long way to go. You hope for more in a kid’s first year, but not everyone is Adam Fox.