Over the weekend, another minor change in the Rangers lineup made waves for many. The long awaited swap of Jacob Trouba and Braden Schneider was made, something many had been calling for since our first look at the K’Andre Miller-Braden Schneider pairing. The Trouba/Schneider swap could also represent a shift in mentality behind the bench.

It’s likely best to start with why the Rangers needed to make the Trouba/Schneider swap in the first place. Trouba’s struggles this season are well documented, and the goal here isn’t to highlight them. Instead, the Trouba/Schneider swap is more about balance on the defense pairs and perhaps a more balanced ice time distribution.

With Ryan Lindgren starting to show signs of life, hopefully meaning whatever ailed him has been medically replaced with cyborg parts, the only logical swap on defense was with Trouba and Schneider. The Miller-Trouba pair was wildly inconsistent, and we saw that Miller looked better when playing with Schneider. Given Trouba’s struggles, the swap made sense.

From a hockey tactics standpoint, the Trouba/Schneider swap may actually be part of the fallout from the failed defense matchup against the Penguins last week. As a refresher, the Miller-Trouba pair was matched with the Artemi Panarin line against Sidney Crosby to hilariously bad results in the first period. When the line was changed to Mika Zibanejad’s line, the results were far better.

The lesson was that, for Peter Laviolette’s systems, the forward matchups mean far more than the defense matchups.

Trouba/Schneider swap is based on performance and skating

Aside: Having some issues with the image galleries right now. We made some changes on the back-end to prepare for some major changes, and this is a bit of a glitch we are working through.

When comparing Schneider and Trouba, you may look at the RAPM (left most) to the Player Cards (two right most) from Evolving-Hockey. Looking at the RAPM, Schneider has better numbers across the board, notably for quality of chances for/against when on the ice. Schneider has also seen some easier competition, so he has a better goals share.

The player cards tell a different story, and this may be a product of some matchups. Schneider has better numbers across the board, but also gets far fewer defensive zone starts and they are sheltered a bit. Still, Trouba’s struggles in his role combined with Schneider’s successes in his warrant such a swap.

When looking at raw possession numbers–small sample size warnings on Miller/Schneider and Erik Gustafsson/Trouba– we see an improvement as well.

  • Miller/Trouba: 47.75% shot share, 49.2% xG share, 50.82 HD shot share
  • Miller/Schneider: 48.33% shot share, 47.84% xG share, 48% HD shot share
  • Gustafsson/Schneider: 50.96% shot share, 48.49% xG share, 48.26% HD shot share
  • Gustafsson/Trouba: 51.22% shot share, 43.42% xG share, 40.74% HD shot share
    • This pair has an 11-16 HD shot share differential. Small sample size, so totals matter a bit more.

Again, small sample warning on Miller/Schneider and Gustafsson/Trouba, since Saturday was their first “real game” as a pairing with the Rangers at full strength. They’ve played together sparingly throughout the season, but never really started a game as a pair. Their percentages are thrown off a bit by the -5 HD shot differential resulting in being near 40%.

While we may not have enough information on Gustafsson/Trouba, we have enough on Miller/Schneider to justify the Trouba/Schneider swap. The numbers are close enough to 50% that with Schneider superior skating and puck moving ability, the Rangers have better balance on the back end. Gustafsson is just fine as a puck mover on that third pair.

This may be temporary

We don’t know if the Trouba/Schneider swap is permanent, but based off a one-game sample, we may see it again tonight. There’s enough statistical evidence to support keeping Miller/Schneider together until we see an extreme dip in play.

What we do know is the coaching staff sees a potential problem come playoff time. While Laviolette will try to matchup forwards to the best of his ability, he won’t always be able to get the Alex Wennberg or Mika Zibanejad lines out there in tough matchups. With Miller/Trouba showing they were unable to adequately hold the fort with a line of lesser defensive ability, a swap was needed.

We don’t know how Miller/Schneider will perform if they get matched against top competition without forward help. But given how poorly Miller/Trouba looked, the bar was on the floor in terms of potential improvements and effectiveness. Most of the time, the easiest answer is the most logical answer.


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