The Rangers at the Quarter-Pole Report Card; Grades For Every Single Blueshirt on the Roster (Spoiler: Fox, Igor & Kreider = A+), “The IBS Arena” First Impressions Review; What Fans Can Expect at the Isles New Stable & Much More

Warning: we are going super-long tonight! Get your drink of your choice ready!

Greetings and salutations everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. If I don’t say it enough already (where I also have this tattooed on me too), what’s one more time? LGR!

I have a special double-feature for you tonight, including my previously promised “IBS Arena” review.

After talking about the newest arena in the league; I’ll then follow that up with my Rangers at the quarter-pole report card, where these report card blogs usually are a fan-favorite. You won’t find anything like this anywhere else, I promise you!

Since the Rangers are always the main event here, I’ll start off tonight’s manifesto with the IBS Arena review and then get into the Rangers Report Card feature.

I’m sure some of you will disagree with some of these grades below; but I think as long as you’re within a plus or minus of the popular consensus, that’s all that really matters. Then again, everyone’s entitled to their own opinions too – including me and you.

Enough of the dilly-dallying. Let’s roll.


I received a lot of feedback regarding the Islanders running 50-50 raffles (the Rangers do not do this)- where most of the response was, “how come the Rangers don’t run 50-50’s?” (I think it has something to do with NYC gambling laws, but I’m not 100% sure.)

Before getting into the meat and potatoes about the IBS Arena, I’d like to share two of my previous blogs on this subject, as I don’t want to repeat what I have previously said on this site.

Up first, here is my game review from Thanksgiving Eve, when the Rangers won their first game at their new secondary home: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/112421/

Up next, here is my photo gallery from my night at the IBS Arena, which includes over a hundred pictures from my night out at “The Stable”: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/ibspics/

With those plugs now out of the way; let’s dive deeper (hold your nose, the smell of horse shit is in the air at Belmont), and take an inside look at the IBS Arena.


Yes, it’s really called the “UBS Arena”, and not the Irritable Bowel Syndrome Arena, as I (and many others) have coined it. However, since I have the maturity level of a junior high-schooler, I’m sticking with “IBS”! “Heh-heh Beavis, you said ‘IBS!'”

I could do what everyone else does here, and regurgitate all of the facts regarding the IBS Arena, such as its capacity for hockey games (17,255), how much it cost to build ($1B), and how it has the most amount of bars (17) and bathrooms (68) in the league. I could do that. However, if you’re looking for just the factoids, I’d suggest visiting the official site of the arena itself, which you can do so here: https://ubsarena.com/about-the-arena/

Rather than just giving you information that you can find anywhere else; I’d like to give you a true fan’s perspective instead. That’s what this site is all about anyway.

After all, when you read what the reporters and arena management have to say – it’s not like they are giving you the full monty. They are either giving you their perspective from the press box, or in the case of the IBS Arena itself – a glowing account. In other words, unlike yours truly, these reporters, nor the IBS Arena, are giving you the 411 from a fan’s point-of-view.

That said, keep in mind that what you’re about to read here doesn’t give you a true 100% account of the arena either. Let me now explain what I mean.

Despite the doors being open, and fans now crossing the turnstiles; the arena isn’t 100% complete just yet. There are still aesthetic, crowd-related and construction issues left to tie up, such as painting, security and of course, parking.

And unlike others, I must also mention that I’ve only been to the arena once. This is key.

It’s my opinion that I don’t think you can truly get a full grip on any arena (or a restaurant for that matter either), unless you fully experience it several times over. I just want to be open and fair here, as this is more of a “first impression” review, rather than as a final “dead and buried” type of deal. That’s all.


If you read my game recap from last Wednesday night, my biggest takeaway of the arena (outside of urinal ledges and a smoking section), was Isles owner Jon Ledecky sitting in the crowd like a common fan. I really respected that. You’d never see Rangers owner James Dolan do the same.

As you probably know already, the IBS Arena was built with the Nassau Coliseum (the good things) in mind – and not the failed Barclays Center as the central focus. That was a huge win for Islander fans, as was evident last Spring, when the Coliseum faithful was the loudest crowd of the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. Love or hate the Islanders – you can’t dispute the energy at the Coliseum at playoff time.

If there’s any factoid that should be shared; it’s that the IBS Arena was built with what previously worked at the Coliseum as the top priority during construction. That intent succeeded.

Not only does the IBS Arena feature amazing sight-lines like the Coliseum, but the arena was built with crowd noise in mind too – where the ceiling is only 93 feet higher than the barn in Uniondale, thus keeping home cheers echoing throughout the venue. Good job.

What the IBS Arena didn’t retain from the Coliseum (where I don’t know if this was COVID-related, or just because everything is still new), was their tie-in to local communities. Again, this is why this is a first-impression review, because I do think over time, we’ll see a lot of this return.

(That said, I do know the IBS Arena are charging second-party vendors an arm-and-a-leg for kiosks/food licenses, including an unnecessary “insurance” charge. The IBS Arena also mandates a 55-45 split, their way, with these vendors.)

During the Coliseum days, at any particular Islander game, you’d see booths and kiosks all over the place for local Long Island businesses, charities and youth hockey teams. Whether it were the “Wantagh Warriors” or the “Hicksville Heroes” – the Coliseum was always open to supporting the community. Needless to say, you don’t see this at M$G.

At the IBS Arena, outside of seeing the old Honda SUV that used to take up a ton of front row seats at the Barclay Center fully on display; I didn’t see anything community related to the days of Islanders past. Again, that might be forthcoming as time moves on.


As a Rangers fan (and as someone who has written a 540 page book dedicated to NYR history), I was envious and irked when I saw the Islanders had a Hall of Fame inside of IBS. They did it right. The Rangers continue to ignore their history – mind boggling.

While the IBS Arena may be waiting to invite local townspeople and their causes into their vast concourses; I was very impressed with the “New York Islanders Hall of Fame” wall, something you’ll see at their 100’s level. (I wonder if there are any statues soon to come?)

And speaking of the 100’s rotunda/concourses at the IBS Arena, unlike M$G, you’ll have the same space to mosey around on the 100’s level as you do on the 200’s level. To me, this was huge.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I won’t sit in the 200’s at M$G anymore, unless it’s a playoff game or something, where then, I’ll suck it up. That’s not me being an elitist or anything like that – it’s me not being a fan of M$G ignoring fire code regulations – where I am exaggerating here, but my point remains the same. The LIE during rush-hour moves faster than the 200’s level at M$G, where that is not an exaggeration!

If you go to M$G, during any intermission while at the 200’s level, you’ll experience a “Walking Dead” herd environment, where you shuffle your feet like a zombie and then wait 20-30 minutes for a beer or a piss. I’m not trying to be funny here – this is the truth.

Like most NHL arenas, M$G provides a “caste system” atmosphere, where if you pay more to sit in the 100’s or in the bridges, you’ll have a much better experience than the “jam them in like sardines” 200’s level. At the IBS Arena, you don’t have any of that at all.

And for fans, used to the one-tier Nassau Coliseum (where fans were actually encouraged to go outside and use a porto-potty at intermission) – the IBS Arena is night-and-day in comparison. You can pee (or take a meaty dump) inside of the IBS Arena.

(Of note: I don’t think you’ll see the NYR and/or NYI beat reporters talking about the old porto-potty issues at the Coliseum! However, they will tell you about the Coliseum’s asbestos-ridden leaking ceiling – something else you won’t see at the IBS Arena – yet!)


I’m surprised that the Islanders and the IBS Arena didn’t go with a dedicated studio inside of the facility. Instead, fans can heckle Shannon Hogan, and whoever she’s broadcasting with, at any particular game.

In the latter years of Coliseum history, downstairs, there was a makeshift TV studio, which looked like it was set up by Tim Allen during an episode of “Home Improvement”. It looked just as rinky-dink as a high school’s A/V classroom – or at least like the A/V classroom (a broom closet) from my high school years! After all, I’m sure things have improved since the late 1990s! (I’m getting old.)

At the IBS Arena, the Islanders have a TV studio (located straight across from the Islanders Hall of Fame wall, which made me insanely jealous that the Rangers don’t have one); where fans can watch the pregame, intermission and post-game segments – should they so desire.

Located 10 feet away from the studio is the Islanders team store – one of the largest team stores in all of the league, and a team store that was packed like the 200’s rotunda of M$G when I was there. (I’m sure the novelty will wear off soon, but for now, fans should expect to wait 20 minutes in line in order to enter the team store.)

While on the subject of the Isles team store, which does sell match-up pucks (love that gimmick and game day souvenir), the Islanders had a nice touch inside of it – a parade of hockey sticks and rope to maintain a quick moving line.

This beats the stuff that you’ll see at your local bank or at an airport. Plus, the Islander store employees were much friendlier than TSA too. (And you don’t have to remove your shoes or belt either – or so I was told after doing so! I kid, I kid!)


My advice if you want to visit the Isles team store? Plan ahead and enter the arena early.

Like Vegas and other new arenas, the Islanders/IBS have plenty of bars and restaurants for people looking for a pop and a bite.

What I really liked, is that most of these bars (I like to indulge with a beer or twenty at a game, but rarely get anything to eat), feature views of the ice below – so if you’re waiting in line, you won’t miss any of the action. That’s a win for every fan.

That said, I made several trips to many of the various bars inside of the arena (for the purpose of this blog, of course), and I didn’t have to wait more than two minutes to complete my purchase of suds. Just like Seattle, the IBS Arena is pretty much a “cashless” venue, where plastic (the irony in this environment-friendly new world), is encouraged. Now that I think of it, I didn’t see one point-of-purchase place where cash was accepted. (This too, could be COVID-related, where again, the irony in the words “COVID” and “Islanders”!)

For fans like me, who don’t want to be stuck on long lines while purchasing an extremely marked-up brew ($18 for a tallboy of Heineken, the official beer sponsor of the IBS Arena); the Islanders/IBS Arena sped up the process, as they have multiple employees standing there with hand-held credit card machines, where you dip your chip card into the machine – and boom, you’re off on your merry way.

If you’re going to use any of the “-ist’s” when talking about me, call me a realist, and not a sexist, for what I’m about to say next.

More times than not (as in 99% of the time), whenever trying to get a beer at a game, if you wait behind a woman, it takes much longer for that woman to finish her transaction than a man takes.

Usually, a man has their wallet within hands reach, while a woman has to dig into a purse to find her cash or card. By having people with credit card machines by the bars and restaurants, you don’t have to wait in long lines. You just go up to the employee with the credit card machine and then you’re done. I know I’m going too long on this, but it’s the little things that impress me! Tell me one beat reporter that will bring this up!


It took me 18 seconds to purchase this $18 beer while 18 women were fiddling around in their purses!

If you’re not drinking, and you’re driving – that’s where the IBS Arena will fail you the most. Everything that you’ve heard about parking at the IBS Arena is true – it’s a miserable experience.

While the IBS Arena and Islanders have admitted it will take some time to figure out the parking situation, it really is a shit-show. This fact can’t be ignored.

As I mentioned before on this site, I have a friend who lives ten minutes within walking distance from the new stable. When I attended the game, I walked from his house to the place, avoiding all of the chaos inside of the few parking lots at IBS. However, I did cut through the parking lot, both before and after the game, and it looked like a worse tribulation than getting a five-hour prostate exam from Dr. Sausage Fingers.

Some of my friends (and some of you readers and others online), have told me that it has taken over an hour to get out of the parking lot after a game. I believe it. And I haven’t even mentioned the jacked-up prices to park your car either – which admittedly, like any major venue, is to be expected.

Making matters worse, is that all post-game traffic is directed to the Cross Island Parkway, where local Long Islanders, looking to go east-bound, will find out that the left lane is closed off.

These fans, looking to go east, will also have to join the western-bound masses on the Cross Island Parking Lot too – as vehicular traffic moves just as slow as the foot-traffic at the 200’s rotunda at M$G. (If you can tell, I’m really not a fan of the 200’s level at the “World’s Most Expensive Arena!”)

The Isles and IBS are still working on all of this, but for fans looking to avoid the traffic, and who opt to use the rail instead – you’ll find a myriad of issues there as well.

Currently, there are no east-bound trains out of the arena, where if you take the LIRR to the game, you’ll have to take a bus shuttle to another train stop – which defeats the whole purpose of taking the train over the car in the first place – as you’ll then have to join the abundance of cars on the Cross Island Parkway.

Like the parking issues, this rail obstruction will eventually work itself out too, as the LIRR is currently working on a new third rail. (This job may not be completed until next season.)

Once this job is completed, fans can then take the train – both ways, to and from, a game. However, for right now, much like the Islanders this season themselves – it’s a shit-show that you should try to avoid.


The IBS Arena and the Islanders boast about having the most impressive scoreboard in the league, and it is – even if some information, such as line-ups, were omitted from the game I attended. Again, another kink that will work itself out over time.

I’ve been to over 22 NHL arenas, including all of the local ones, such as “The Rock” in Newark, the Nassau Coliseum, the Barclays, and of course, M$G. In addition, I’ve also been to the new houses in Vegas and Seattle as well.

I tell you all of this, just to tell you that this is coming from an informed and experienced opinion – the IBS Arena, in regards to just watching hockey, is the best of the lot for a fan. (Conversely, the failed Isles at Barclay experiment, was the worst arena/experience in all of the league, despite Barclays being relatively new.)

Everything about the sight-lines at IBS is true – there’s not a bad seat in the house. It’s an intimate environment, although I wouldn’t recommend getting intimate with any stranger sitting next to you – unless you’re Joy Rosen!

While there are bathroom lines (and the urinal ledges that don’t benefit beer drinkers; check out my game review blog for more), those lines moved pretty quickly.

With a bladder full of Heineken-induced piss, I groaned when I saw a 100 foot deep line during the second intermission. I then was pleasantly surprised when it only took me three minutes of line-standing to unleash my glory.

(Of note, I didn’t take a picture of the bathrooms, because I thought that would be weird – especially with a bunch of grown men and kids in these bathrooms. I didn’t want to get a black eye (or arrested) for busting out the camera either! However, sans nowhere to place your drink when taking leak, the bathrooms are clean – as they should be, all things considered.)

I know I’ve hammered home this point already, but while I sat in the 100’s during my maiden voyage at the IBS Arena; I did go upstairs during an intermission, just to see what the 200’s at the IBS Arena was like. It was just the same experience, where for Islander fans, who are mostly blue collar like me – you really value and appreciate this. You don’t feel “lesser” sitting upstairs, as you do while at M$G.

Another cool perk (although I think, just like “The Rock”, this will be removed over time), are unassigned bar stool seats sprinkled around the building. The Devils used to have this too, before realizing they could make money off of these seats – just like M$G does. However, for right now, for fans who might not have the best seat in the house – you can move down and sit at these bar stool seats, which are first come, first serve.


The Islanders shook off the dust, and relocated their championship banners from the Ronald Reagan era to the IBS Arena.

Yes – I’m a diehard Rangers fan, and equally as much – an Islander hater too. However, I’m also fair and don’t lie to you here. Plus, as some of you Isle fan readers (I do have those here) know already – I enjoy the art of ball-busting and try to keep everything relatively respectful.

That said – the IBS Arena is the best venue I’ve ever attended for a hockey game – and it’s not even 100% completed yet. This includes M$G, this includes Seattle, and this includes Vegas – where only the latter provides an equal fan experience as IBS does.

And about my previous “Larry David” influenced statements about the unfriendly beer-drinker urinals? I have an update!

I am being told by Isles super-fan Cord L. (a Cord who is just a fountain of all information related to his favorite team), that like other issues related to the IBS Arena, the urinals aren’t a completed project yet.

Leveled edges, where you then can place your bottle of booze on, are coming. That gains points in my book! How Cord knows that, I don’t know, but he’s rarely wrong with his news, if ever – after all, he broke the Isles postponement story before anyone else!

For a Ranger fan, the IBS Arena is everything that I wished M$G would and could be – great sight-lines, a Hall of Fame, no class system for fans who can’t afford the best seats, easy to navigate/move around in, and anything else you could desire.

Sure, the home team inside of the IBS Arena sucks donkey balls; but as far as the arena itself goes – it’s the best thing to ever happen to the Islanders since the early 1980s.

More importantly – it’s a great thing for hockey fans. To say otherwise would be lying.

In closing, I’m looking forward to the Rangers trouncing the Nassau residents inside of the IBS Arena in the seasons to come. I just won’t drive there to see it!

Speaking of the Rangers, let’s now get into the quarter-season NYR Report Card.


I know I could break this blog up into two separate blogs, but hey, you know the motto of this site – “10,000 words, no ads, one click!” I’m not a site traffic whore – I just like talking hockey.

If it weren’t for COVID outbreaks in Ottawa and Elmont; right now, the Rangers would be sitting on 22 games played – one game over the 25% mark of the season. Instead, the Rangers will officially hit the 25% mark this Wednesday, when they host the Philadelphia Flyers.

Assuming there aren’t anymore COVID-related issues; the Rangers schedule will now pick up, with the only break ahead coming in February, with the All-Star Game and Olympics.

And speaking of the All-Star Game; if the Rangers could only send one player to that contest in Vegas, at this time, which Blueshirt would you send?

I asked this question on social media, where the reaction I received (over 200 responses), was mixed.

30% of fans favored Adam Fox. 30% of fans favored Igor Shestyorkin. 30% of fans favored Chris Kreider. The other 10% either said Artemi Panarin, or as Jim S. of “The Blueshirt Underground Show” opined, favored a lesser accomplished Ranger, such as a Patrik Nemeth, explaining this reasoning with – “so no one gets hurt.”

However, while Nemeth (nor Jarred Tinordi, another popular answer for people who subscribed to Jim’s theory), will qualify for the All Star Game, at least one Ranger will be in Vegas that day. While it’s possible the Rangers send multiple representatives, if I had to choose one, I’m not 100% sure who that player would be.

This is my round-about way of telling you that Adam Fox, Chris Kreider and CZAR IGOR, have all received A+ grades for this report card at the 25% mark of the season. Or so I say!

It’s also a round-about way of saying that it’s tough to say who is the best Ranger on this team right now – a good problem to have.

Adam Fox, fresh off of his Norris Trophy victory (and competing for another), has only gotten better. Chris Kreider is having a career season. CZAR IGOR is in the Vezina running, where his case for the top prize in NHL goaltending is made even stronger whenever you compare his numbers to his back-up Alexandar Georgiev – a Georgiev who also plays in front of the same squad.

If things continue as is, and as meaningless as an All Star Game is in the standings (it does mean a lot to the players who receive this distinction, especially players in a contract year, which none of these three Rangers are in) – it will be interesting to see who makes it, as Fox, Kreider and Igor all deserve to be there.


Unless things change, and change considerably at that; I wouldn’t expect to see two of the Ranger fat cats, Jacob Trouba and Mika Zibanejad, at the All Star Game this February. Photo Credit: NYR

Before doling out the grades, let me give you the usual criteria that I used whenever I do these report cards:

— Grades are given out based on production, playing to their role on the team and to the contract of a player. For example, I expect less from a fourth line player, in someone like a Kevin Rooney. On the other hand, I expect a lot out of a first line player like a Mika Zibanejad. After all, we are playing in a salary cap world, where teams are constantly giving up quality players, even players they drafted, to compete.

— To ignore the salary cap hit of a player would be foolish, which is why they are considered in these grades.

Keep in mind, to me, the salary cap hit is a stat that belongs on the back of a hockey card, here in this new era. When it comes to building NHL rosters, GM’s look at cap hits first. They aren’t worried about Corsi’s or whatever nerd stat Valiquette has pulled out of his ass this week.

And I had to laugh when I saw some “analyst” predict Ranger doom, based on “expected goal” stats. After all, what are the “EXPECTED GOAL” stats, whenever Trouba shoots a puck from behind his own net? 1.000 this season!

— Players who have played less than 8 games with the team, players who have been traded, players who have been injured, and players who were sent down to Hartford, are all listed in the “Incomplete” section.

Lastly, and perhaps most important – these grades are just my opinion only. Don’t get bent out of shape about them. This is just my way of assessing the current roster at this moment in the season. And if any grade is egregious, I’m sure you will let me know!

At this time, here are my grades at the 25% mark of the season!


Chris Kreider has been the best Rangers forward in my eyes.

FORWARDS:

FILIP CHYTIL

Grade: C

With 17 games played, Chytil is sitting on two goals and two assists, where if he was 100% healthy, you’d have to think his numbers would be much better than that. Also damning Chytil’s grade at this time, is his 42.3% faceoff percentage. A poor number.

As like any of these poor grades on this report card, don’t look at this as an indictment of Chytil, or me writing him off. There is plenty of time to improve.

However, and as talked about all season (and in seasons’ prior), I think Chytil may be injury-prone. He has the ability to get hot and become extremely noticeable, only to receive some sort of injury, thus sending him back to the bottom of the ladder, where once returning, he’s forced to climb up the rungs slowly – rather than returning to a peak level.

Like most, I’m not sure what Chytil’s future is. Is he a third line center? (Goodrow may be more suitable for this role, especially come playoff time, despite the success the new third and fourth lines are having.) Or is Chytil a winger? We’ll find out – as only Gallant can answer that question.


JULIEN GAUTHIER 

Grade: B-

Gauthier has six games less under his belt than Chytil, but also has the same four points to his name (1 goal, 3 assists).

Admittedly, this grade wouldn’t be as high as it is, if it weren’t for the injury to Sammy Blais, which then created a major opportunity for #15 in blue.

After being a healthy scratch at the beginning of the season; ever since the Blais injury, Gauthier has kicked it up a notch – not bad for someone who many thought would be exposed to Seattle during the off-season. (Hand up – I was one of them.)

Where you once wondered where Gauthier fits in, the new third line winger has been impressive. Keep it going!


BARCLAY GOODROW

Grade: B+

Much was made about Goodrow’s huge deal during the off-season, but in his first twenty games with the Rangers, the “swiss army knife” has been just that – slotting in with all four lines at various points. Even better, #21’s work on the penalty kill.

And stop me if you knew this already – Goodrow is sitting on nine points right now (3 goals, 6 assists), good for sixth overall on the team. Not bad for a guy who spends most of his time as one of the bottom six forwards. (Admittedly, two of his goals are of the ENG variety – but hey, they all count and empty net goals close out games. I rather have an ENG than sweat out the final minute of a game.)

Also important? Goodrow’s ability to draw penalties. Just ask Brendan Gallagher!


DRYDEN HUNT 

Grade: B-

I know some may look at this grade and say “What the Father Fink?”; but again, keep in mind the role that Hunt has with the team.

Originally on the fourth line, since the Blais injury, Hunt has found himself on the top line, making the most of his opportunity where he now has two goals and two assists. While who knows how long Hunt’s time on the first line will last, his physical presence does complement Kreider and Zibanejad.

Like many on this team, Hunt has shown no hesitation whenever needing to defend his teammates – a trait that is well-appreciated.


KAAPO KAKKO

Grade: B

At the bakers’ dozen mark of the season, the second overall draft pick of the 2019 NHL Draft looked to be trending downwards, especially after missing several games due to an upper-body injury.

While many were wondering if Kakko deserved to be on the second line (where many fans were tossing the word “bust” around too); #24, who was the best Ranger during the preseason (for whatever that’s worth), has turned it on as of late.

After previously being held pointless for a long stretch at the start of the season, Kakko now has three goals and three assists. Additionally, his offensive presence has notably been on display.

More impressive – Kakko’s focus on his defensive game, something that many didn’t expect to see out of the young Finn.


CHRIS KREIDER

Grade: A+

What other grade could I give to the man who many wanted to see as Rangers captain at the start of this season?

With a whopping 15 goals (ten more than anyone else on the team), CK20 is enjoying a career season. All we can do is hope that Kreider not only surpasses 30 goals (a number that has alluded him his entire career) – but smashes that number too.

And it’s not just the goals.

Kreider is a valuable piece of future Rangers success, where he spends time not only on the PP1 unit, but now on the first penalty kill unit too.

Even with his impressive numbers, a lot of what Kreider does isn’t in any of the box score recaps either.

Between all of his screens, winning puck battles, and creating havoc for opposing defenses; Kreider is the most complete, and by far, forward on this team today. And he probably should be captain too – that is, unless you’re waiting for Adam Fox to get the “C”.


Alexis Lafreniere isn’t all there yet; but we’ve seen glimpses of what we hope is to come. Photo Credit: NYR

ALEXIS LAFRENIERE

Grade: B-

How does one assess a #1 overall draft pick, playing under unprecedented circumstances – a situation I’ve discussed plenty of times already on this site?

#13 in blue has had a yo-yo season thus far, where after starting on the team’s top line, he was bumped down to the third line (and one game on the fourth line – just ask Mollie Walker), where he’s now currently enjoying his most success.

With five goals this season, Lafreniere is tied with Artemi Panarin and Kevin Rooney (of all people) for the second-most amount of goals on the team. Perhaps even better, Lafreniere also joins Reaves and Tinordi with most fights on the team too, with one! And a great one at that – a win against a lowly Islander!

As Alain Vigneault likes to say, it’s all a “pro-cess” for Lafreniere; where in theory, and from what we’ve seen, he’ll only get better with time and experience.


GREG McKEGG

Grade: C+

McKegg qualifies for this list with eight games played, and about 8,000 miles traveled too this season, between all of his Hartford-to-New York (and vice-versa) bouncing around.

McKegg is without a point this season, but it was never his role to pace the team in scoring either – as from day one of his second run with the Rangers, his job is as a fill-in/thirteenth forward/grinding type.

McKegg has pretty much been serviceable in his role with the Rangers, where when this team makes the playoffs, he’ll most likely be a “Black Ace”.


ARTEMI PANARIN

Grade: B-

This was a tough grade to figure out. Feel free to dispute me.

On one hand, Panarin leads the team in points (21, tied with Fox); but on the other hand, “The Breadman” has been deficient in other areas, including goal scoring and on defense – a new wrinkle that no one expected.

Plus, with a salary cap hit of $11.6M (especially when you consider that Panarin doesn’t play on the penalty kill like all of the other fat cats on this team) – his one power-play goal scored thus far is disappointing.

When Panarin is on, no one is better offensively. However, unlike his first season in New York, we haven’t seen Panarin at his best this season. It does feel like his 21 points are a quiet collection, for as strange as that may sound.

Hurting Panarin’s grade in my eyes, is his defensive ability and being turnover prone; where both of these areas were abundantly apparent in nearly every Rangers loss this season, including the home-opener.


RYAN REAVES

Grade: B

Despite the chart geeks and the other people who don’t know hockey hating this guy from day one; the relatively cheap ($1.75M) Reaves has fit like a glove for the Rangers.

After two injuries at the onset of the season, Reaves has returned at full-force, where he’s part of the Rangers most successful fourth line since the Vigneault era. More importantly? Reaves’ role as a locker room leader, where he’s a positive force and influence on the Rangers youth.

And hey, when you pick up two huge assists in a win over the hated Islanders, you gotta love the guy!


KEVIN ROONEY

Grade: A

I know you might spit out your drink when you see the letter A attached to Rooney here; but using my criteria, #17 in blue surely deserves it.

Here are some quick (and REAL) stats about the Rangers fourth line centerman:

Rooney’s five goals has him second-best on the team. His 50.7% faceoff percentage is also tops on the team. And let’s not forget that Rooney is also a valuable cog of the Rangers penalty kill as well.

And like Reaves and his two assists, Rooney’s two goals over the Islanders gets a round of applause out of me!


RYAN STROME

Grade B-

Like Panarin, this was another tough grade to figure out; where I could see how some fans may think Strome deserves a grade with the letter C (perhaps with a minus) next to his name.

Similar to others, Strome has had a yo-yo season, where perhaps his stint on the COVID-19 list has effected him a bit. However, the second line centerman does have 14 points. In addition, he’s helped Kakko get going too, which is something that shouldn’t be ignored either.

Hurting Strome the most is his lousy faceoff percentage of 41.6%. Also hurting Strome is a ton of missed chances, but it does feel whenever Strome scores, it’s always a huge goal. And again, I can’t stress enough how Strome has assisted on every Kakko goal this season too.

What boosts Strome a bit, is that his winger, Artemi Panarin, loves him. With Breadman’s 21 points, where Strome is often involved, we can see the value in #16.

Perhaps making Strome even more valuable, despite the Rangers winning games in his absence? Just imagine if he missed a large amount of games. The Rangers, who certainly need center depth, would struggle long-term without him.


MIKA ZIBANEJAD

GRADE: D+

Before you go nuts here; keep in mind, this only reflects his first 20 games of the season, and like last season, Mika has plenty of time to beef up his numbers. However this time around, he won’t be playing lowly teams like the Flyers, the Devils and the Sabres eight times this season.

For a center considered to be elite (as was evident by his new $8.5M per season salary, which goes into effect next season), #93’s issues at the dot remain. Against other elite centers, Zibanejad has been dominated at the circle, but due to some weaker competition, he’s been able to boost his overall faceoff percentage to a more respectable 48.1% – which isn’t exactly the best number in the world either.

Most concerning for Zibanejad are his four goals. He must score more. With all the power-play time he receives (where he nearly plays the full two minutes), two PPGs is a disappointing stat. Even more disappointing is his Scott Norwood act on the power-play, where the bulk of his shots go high and wide.

If there’s anything to rave about the center of the present and future, it’s his work defensively and on the penalty kill – where on the PK, more times than not, he averages over one clear per kill. (I don’t know if there is an analytic for that, this is me using my tired-and-true eye-test!)

At the same time, there’s this:

First line center, Mika Zibanejad, has 402 minutes played (20:05 avg. TOI). He has four goals in that time.

Fourth line center, Kevin Rooney, has 270 minutes played (13:21 avg. TOI). Rooney has five goals – and unlike his counterpart, #17 doesn’t play on the power-play. That’s an indictment!


Just like all of last season, where he was the best Ranger; Fox is a candidate for best Blueshirt this season. (Kreider and Igor also being in contention.)

DEFENSE:

ADAM FOX

Grade A+

What can I say about Adam Fox that you don’t already know? I’ve heard that Fox’s analytical numbers aren’t the best from the mooks who shout that garbage out – but I don’t care about that – the eye-test tells me all I need to know. Fox, once again, is the best defenseman in the league.

Fox’s 21 points not only ties him with Panarin for most assists on the team; but his 21 points also has him as the top scoring defenseman in all of the league as well. And then there is the whole, you know, defensive aspect to his game too – where Fox constantly and consistently shuts down the best players of the league.

A three-zone and three-way player, Fox paces all Rangers in minutes played per game, with 24:45 in all. Second-best, Jacob Trouba (making eight times as much as Fox this season), averages 22:38. And unlike Fox, who plays on the team’s first power-play and penalty kill units – Trouba only plays on the second special team units.

It’s scary to think that not only is Fox better this season than he was last season, but that he hasn’t even peaked yet either! And really, all Fox needs to do is what he did last season, but as is evident – he continues to improve his game. Watch out NHL!

This may be a stretch (especially with the league favoring offensive players for this award), but Fox may very well one day find himself in consideration for a Hart Trophy, while adding to his Norris Trophy bids. (And yeah, I know the Hart is pretty much McDavid’s to lose, and I’m not denying that. I’m just saying Fox could be nominated.)


RYAN LINDGREN

Grade: B+

Like peanut butter and jelly, Lindgren and Fox complement each other perfectly. While Fox can sure as hell handle himself defensively; #55’s strong defensive play allows Fox to roam around much more so offensively.

As a defensive-defenseman, Lindgren has a respectable four points, backed behind two goals and two assists. While he isn’t an offensive threat, Lindgren makes up for that on the back end (as he is supposed to do), as he’s one of the team’s best penalty killers.

Lindgren, prior to all of the grit and sandpaper added to this roster during this past off-season; remains as one of the team’s best hard-nosed players, never refusing to block a puck or lay the body.


NILS LUNDKVIST

Grade: B-

Some may say that Lundkvist deserves a higher grade. Some may say he deserves a lower grade. To me, I think a B- is fitting, considering the grading criteria that I use.

What hurts #27, through no fault of his own, were these insane expectations that over-zealous European Ranger fans bestowed upon him. Not helping matters either, was when the Rangers pretty much guaranteed him a roster spot – despite Zac Jones having the better training camp/preseason.

It’s a transition for Lundkvist, who is hoped to replace the offensive production that Tony DeAngelo once provided. Fifteen games in, as he’s been scratched five times in favor of Tinordi; Lundkvist only has two assists, which to be fair – the Swede isn’t getting power-play time yet, as opposed to his days in the inferior SHL.

Let me reiterate – it’s a transition (both professionally and personally), and Lundkvist has only played in 15 games. I wouldn’t sweat anything yet – even if the popular reaction is an overreaction, whenever stopping on the streets (and often ill-informed) of Rangerstown, USA.


K’ANDRE MILLER

Grade: C+

I would’ve went lower here, but again I go back to the criteria used, where Miller is only a $925K cap hit. Plus, he’s only in his second season. Miller, like Lafreniere, has never experienced a non-COVID season in the NHL. Despite that, fans have crazy expectations for #79.

That said, Miller, along with partner Jacob Trouba, has been a mess defensively during many games this season.

I’ll say it again during the Trouba segment, but if it wasn’t for CZAR IGOR, Miller’s plus/minus number of +3 would be in the negative territory, and very much so at that.

Food for thought? Just imagine the plus/minus stats of the Rangers second pair, had Georgiev played in all twenty games this season. Actually – perish that thought!

Miller has shown us offensive glimpses at times (who can forget his end-to-end goal, where head coach Gerard Gallant then joked about converting Miller to his natural position as a left winger); but unlike last season, where he earned the “PRAYING MANTIS” moniker, Miller has been anything but.

Like most of the younger guys on the team, I wouldn’t worry about Miller too much just yet, but I also don’t mind people clamoring for Zac Jones either.


PATRIK NEMETH

Grade: C

I went in-depth on #12 a few blogs back, but yeah, he was signed here to help acclimate Lundkvist to the league. Why else would the Rangers sign the native Swede, when they could’ve signed any other veteran defenseman, promoted Jones, or retained the well-liked Brendan Smith on the cheap instead?

Twenty games in, Nemeth, who plays less than the top four defenseman and the forwards; has the worst plus/minus number on the team, at -6. Of course, being on the penalty kill hurts his plus/minus numbers, at least in theory.

I don’t think Nemeth has been that bad as some people make him out to be, but it’s not like he’s that great either. “Serviceable” is a word, where again, I do believe his biggest reason for being here is Nils Lundkvist.


JACOB TROUBA

Grade: C-

This was another tough grade to come up with.

Perhaps friend of the blog, Eddie G. of “The Blueshirt Underground Show”, would’ve expected me to go lower. You may also think that Trouba deserves a better grade, but with the salary cap a large part of this grading criteria, and with the $925K Adam Fox being an A+ – I think a C- sums up Trouba’s first twenty games.

When I think of the 27 year old, I often think of this – “what does Trouba do well?” What does he bring that no one else brings? The NYR beat will lead you to believe that it’s leadership, but you can find much better leaders for $8M a season – as the Rangers have done already with Kreider, Strome, Reaves and others.

As I was writing this report card up, I was shocked to see that Trouba had a plus/minus stat of +5. That just tells me the eye-test is all that matters, as CZAR IGOR has covered up a ton of Trouba’s mistakes.

It’s always going to be the contract, regarding my opinions on Trouba, just like this grade is. For $8M, you’re not getting your monies worth. Can anyone really argue that?


Again, if anything strengthens Igor’s Vezina bid, it’s his numbers compared to Georgiev’s numbers. Photo Credit: Getty Images

GOALIES:

IGOR SHESTYORKIN

Grade: A+

I mean really, what other grade could I give here, unless I wanted to go A+++?

#31, in the first season of his new contract, is earning every penny, where as mentioned, he’s putting forth a resume worthy of the Vezina. And there’s no reason to think that CZAR IGOR will slow down anytime soon.

Igor, with eleven wins (would probably have at least one more at this time, if it weren’t for the two postponements), is second in the league in goaltender wins, one shy of one of my favorite’s (Jim S. will remind you of this) – Cam Talbot.

However, once we hit the 82 game mark of the season, I wouldn’t be shocked to see CZAR IGOR lead the league in wins either.

Do you know what’s really crazy about Igor through these first twenty games of the season? He only has one shutout, but has a butt-load of games where he only gave up one goal, where during every single one of these one-goal allowed games, it was a fluke play or some pretty shoddy defense that led to said goal.

Very easily, CZAR IGOR could be sitting on 5+ shutouts right now. Blame Trouba and Miller!


ALEXANDAR GEORGIEV

GRADE: D-

Some may say that Georgiev deserves a grade of F+ or worse; but when you truly examine the goals Georgiev gives up, I’d reckon to say that 85% of them are the result of the “high quality shot” variety. However, as a top five salaried back-up in the league – Georgiev’s numbers are atrocious.

Again, both #31 and #40 play in front of the same team, but it should be mentioned that Georgiev has played against weaker competition; while Igor has played against the better teams on the schedule.

That said, here are the black-and-white stats:

CZAR IGOR: 11-3-2, a .933 save percentage and a GAA of 2.22.

Alexandar Georgiev: 2-1-1, a .858 save percentage and a GAA of 4.08.

Obviously, there is a major disparity here.

While there should be a disparity between a starter and a back-up; for $2.4M+, Georgiev’s numbers are reminiscent to a back-up goaltender from the 1980’s – and a goaltender that only played against those Oilers teams from that decade.

I’ve written a lot about Georgiev’s woes from this season, and you’re all aware about his problems. To simply summarize here – Georgiev needs to get better or he will be out.


Father Fink P.K. Slewban! Photo Credit: Getty Images

INCOMPLETES:

Sammy Blais, after fourteen games, was off to a hot start, where he was getting time on the top Rangers line. P.K. Slewban ruined that.

While every team must overcome adversity, the Rangers will miss Blais. Even worse for Blais, was that he was in a contract year, and this injury will only hurt his negotiating during the off-season.

Jarred Tinordi has only played five games, where after all of them, you’d think he murdered the Pope, the President and then pissed on a children’s burn ward too. However, with only five games played, Tinordi is second-worst in the plus/minus department, second to only Nemeth, with a -5.

Libor Hajek, who was re-signed for whatever reason, hasn’t played a game yet. Ditto Vitali Kravtsov, who didn’t even make the team and is currently suckling his mother’s bosom in Mother Russia.


I was never a Gorton or DQ hater, but twenty games in, Drury and Gallant look much better than their predecessors. Photo Credit: NYR

In wrapping up here, again – these grades give you an idea of how these players are doing at the 25% mark of the season. There’s plenty of hockey to go.

In addition, I just like doing these report card blogs for the sake of posterity, as it’s fun to go back and look at these grades as the season progresses, and when the season eventually concludes.

From a front office/coaching perspective, with a third-place record of 13-4-3 (29 points) (the Capitals are in first place, with 33 points and with two extra games played) – I think Drury and Gallant have done, as Joe Micheletti would say, a “FABULOUS” job.

And yeah, it’s early, but I’ll still do the “I-told-you-so” stuff here! I told you this team would be good! I just didn’t expect the bottom six to outscore Zibanejad!

Whew, that was a lot tonight!

A few plugs and then I’ll go home.


The BSU Show returned this past Monday night, on 11/29. Photo Credit: BSU

On Monday, 11/29, “The Blueshirt Underground Show” returned, where they were also joyous about the state of Rangerstown, USA. To listen/watch the show, click the play button below:


The hardcover version of my book, available now at Amazon.com

The first plug of tonight’s blog – the mandatory plug for my new book, “The New York Rangers Rink of Honor and the Rafters of Madison Square Garden”. And let me say this – thank you to everyone who has bought one, as my Amazon sales have exceeded all expectations, where for a limited time (that damn Mark Messier who just released a book!), my book was number one on the Amazon hockey book sales charts.

As mentioned previously, the book is now available in hardcover, in paperback and in Kindle formats. To purchase a copy of the book, visit this link:

https://www.amazon.com/Rangers-Rafters-Madison-Square-Garden-ebook/dp/B09CM5N2WD

For those still looking for signed paperback versions of the book, I have 3 copies left for sale for $25 (includes shipping price) through me directly. Here is all the information on that:

Order “The New York Rangers Rink of Honor and the Rafters of Madison Square Garden” Book Today


Here are my last few blogs, in case you missed them:

NYR/BOS 11/26 Review: Gallant’s “One Game at a Time” Rangers Do It Again; NYR Russian Bears Paw Bruins, See-Saw Strome, Second Pair & “Rika Zibanenash”; 2013-14 Comparisons, CZAR IGOR, French Connection Hooks Up, ABC/ESPN & More


 

NYR/NYI 11/24 Review: Rangers Take Care of Biz; Fourth Liners Stand Tall Among All, The IBS Arena Half-Review; Urinal & Smoking Issues, Gambling, Boozing, Fights on the Ice and In the Crowd, Ledecky, Another InKREIDible Game, Fat Cats & More


 

Rangers vs Islanders Round One Preview; COVID Concerns, Gallant, Power of Positivity vs Negativity; Fans & Beat Ignore Impressive Stats; Focus on Seventh Defenseman Instead, Georgiev Poll Results, State of the Arizona Coyotes, Those Disgusting Devil Jerseys, NYR Podcasts & More


If you haven’t already, subscribe to this blog for the next update:


Perhaps Mika Zibanejad can find his goal-scoring touch against an opponent he thrives against – the Flyers.

Up next: The Flyers, on Wednesday night, live at M$G.

Depending on my schedule, I may return tomorrow night, previewing the Flyers game and recapping all the latest news regarding the Rangers. Plus, I didn’t even get into the Jeff Gorton-to-Montreal story yet, where I feel if I go any longer tonight, my fingers will fall off. I’ll save that for next time!

Stay FABULOUS my friends.

As always here, thanks for reading and…

LET’S GO RANGERS!

Sean McCaffrey

BULLSMC@aol.com

@NYCTHEMIC on Tweeter

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