Greetings and salutations everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com.
In today’s blog, I will be doing my sixth annual “Mid-Season Report Card”. Like many blogs of this nature, what you’re about to read are my opinions only. As I’ve said in the past about report card articles, Top 10 Lists, “Best Of’s” and anything else of that nature, blogs like this one are usually designed to drive debate. The grades you see here aren’t the end-all, be-all. Everyone views everything differently. These are just my opinions!
When reading this blog, some of you will agree with some of the grades. Some of you will not. That’s okay. I do think though, that for the most part, if you’re one to dissect this list, I think you’ll only be arguing about a plus or a minus, rather than a full letter grade.
Before continuing, I would like to share my most recent blogs with you, as I think these last five games pretty much determined the Rangers fate, here in this 2019-2020 season:
NYR/VAN 1/4 Review: The Rangers Play One Of Their Best Games of the Season; Find a New Way to Lose, Markstrom Gets Away with Armed Robbery, NYR Swept in Western Canada, The Final Dagger, Looking Ahead To The Final Half of the Season, DQ/Ruff, “SLAP SHOT” & More
NYR/CGY 1/2 Review: Cam Talbot & The Flames Burn Lundqvist, The Rangers & Their Playoff Hopes, Brady Skjei Gets The Hook & Evil Eye, Booing Fuels Fox, Trouba Dominates, Top Guns Silenced, Trades, Duguay, Huge Fear, $5 Beers & More From The Last Straw Loss of the Season
NYR/EDM 12/31 Review: Oil Spill in Rangerstown; Rangers Show Up Fashionably Late in Edmonton, Panarin Racks While Georgiev Cracks, DQ & Terrible Officiating Cost The Blueshirts, Stinknevich Gets Scared, Micheletti, Paul Newman & More From The Final Game of 2019
BCBS For New Year’s Eve: Artemi Panarin’s Potential NYR Record Setting Season Earns Him All-Star Nod; Mika Possibly Next, DeAngelo Owns & Triggers Twitter (Again), Re-Sign Strome & Lemieux, The Georgiev & Kreider Trade Rumors, CZAR IGOR, NYR/EDM Preview & More
NYR/TOR 12/28 Review: The Rangers Put Together A Full Team Effort; Stun Toronto In Overtime, Test 2 of 5 Passed, Strome’s Monster Night, TDA Trolls The Chart Geeks, Panarin’s 50 Pts, Georgiev’s 40+ Saves, Resting Crying Face Stinknevich, JD Interview, Fogarty, Sam Rosen Continues To Slip & More From An Electric NYR Victory
NYR/CAR 12/27 Review: Rangers Impress & “Rockette” Through Carolina; Pass First Test of Five, Brand Name Rangers Deliver Including CK20, Breadman’s Biscuits, TDA Continues to Rack ‘Em Up, Special Teams Fantastic; Skjei Not So Much, Lemieux Out For A While, Time for Lettieri & More
BCBS For 12/27: “For Whom The Bell Tolls!” It’s Do-Or-Die Time for the Rangers; Toughest Part of the Schedule Upcoming, Previewing The Next 5 Games, Potential Roster Moves & Trades, Contracts, DQ Talks Out Both Sides of His Mouth, Kreider Breakdown, Hacknett, Duguay Podcast & More
As I sit here on January 6th, 2020, at the exact half-way point of the New York Rangers season, I have mixed feelings about the team. I have seen and read a wide array of opinions concerning this team and David Quinn. There are many people in this fan base that want David Quinn fired. I am not one of them. I already wrote a huge blog about why I’m a Quinn advocate and why I don’t think a firing will happen.
To read my blog on why I think Quinn won’t be fired and why I think that talk is silly, check out a blog I wrote back on October 29th: BCBS For 10/29: “FIRE QUINN” Crowd Off Their Meds, Dissecting David Quinn & More
The funniest thing about this? Look at that date. October 29th. That means that this “FIRE QUINN” talk has been going on for 10 weeks now.
Very recently, at the end of the year, Rangers Team President John Davidson sat down for an interview with Al Trautwig. In that interview, JD praised David Quinn and gave him high marks. I can tell you this for a fact – these guys are aware of what’s written about them in the media, on blogs and on social media platforms. While they aren’t scrolling all day, they keep tabs on what people say about them. After all, if you had over a million people discussing your job and day at work, wouldn’t you be interested to hear what they were saying about you too?
Just don’t get what I’m saying twisted. These guys aren’t online all day and Googling their name. However, there are long stretches of time, where these guys are sitting in the airport, on the tarmac, in the air or in a hotel room, with nothing to do. While card games are still popular, you don’t have the same environment from eras ago, where all these guys would be smoking cigarettes, pounding beer and winning each other’s contract money from one another. As the world has changed, so have the players and the coaches.
Today, instead of poker games laced with billowy smoke, you have guys who can watch any game in the world on their phones. Tony DeAngelo likes football. Mika Zibanejad likes soccer. These guys can follow their favorite teams from anywhere in the world. Of course, because of the generation these players grew up in, guys play video games now, as Kaapo Kakko recently admitted to in a recent interview with GQ. (He likes the EA FIFA and NHL franchises.)
While these guys all have different interests, in this world where we can find out any information, at any given time, while we as fans, waste this fact by spending our time fighting and arguing with one another; these guys are also aware of what’s being said about them. We’ve already seen Tony DeAngelo, on Twitter, lash out on the chart geeks who bury DeAngelo’s teammates. For hockey players, they aren’t covered by just one, two or three newspapers anymore. You have tons of people talking about them, and at every minute of the day. And hey, I’m doing exactly that just now!
So where am I going with all of this? It is my contention (I don’t know this for a fact, as it’s not like I can call JD and ask him) but I believe that JD is aware of the groundswell in support of firing David Quinn. I don’t think JD gives any of this stuff a second thought, but I believe he’s aware of it. That’s why I think he made sure to say that Quinn is doing a good job in that interview with Trautwig. It’s why I think he kept reiterating that statement during the entire interview.
Before starting this blog, I thought about where this team was last year. I referred back to my old writings. If anything stunned me from last season, as compared to this season, it’s the fact that the Rangers had 9-1-1 streak, right before Thanksgiving of 2018. In this season, the Rangers haven’t won more than three games in a row. It’s why I don’t think they have a chance of making the playoffs this year. Good teams win 4,5,6,7+ games in a row, for multiple stretches at a time.
Going into this season, I think most fans had a realistic expectation level, but I also think many people had the playoffs on their mind. As I’ve said all season, I thought the Rangers could sneak into the playoffs. That was my hope at least. Even if the Rangers did make the playoffs this year, and I know anything can happen once you qualify, I didn’t see them making a deep run. If anything, I was hoping for some playoff experience for this new and young core, experience that they could later build off of in future seasons.
The Summer of 2019 was one number 1 hit after another. The Rangers landed John Davidson as team president. They jumped up in the draft lottery, to the number 2 pick of the draft, where they took Kaapo Kakko. The Rangers then added two right-handed defensemen, in Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox. The Rangers then brought Igor Shestyorkin and Vitali Kravtsov from Russia to America. And in what’s been the biggest move of them all, the Rangers, rebuild or not, did what they always do – land the biggest player in free agency, this time, in Artemi Panarin.
With the way the Rangers finished last season and with all these new toys, there was an excitement around this team that rivaled playoff fever. You could see glimpses of light at the end of the tunnel. Instead, while the Rangers may finish this season with a better record than last season, where they finished 32-36-14, for a grand total of 78 points, I do think there is a cloud of disappointment surrounding the team. You can already hear the sound of defeat in Quinn’s voice, during the two most recent Ranger losses.
As of right now, the Rangers are 19-18-4, with a total of 42 points. That means if they keep playing the way they are playing, they will finish with 84 points, which is six points better than last year. However, just like the final standings of the 2018-2019 season, the Rangers remain second-to-last-place in the division.
Ironically, the last place team from last season is in last place now, in the NJ Devils, whose rebuild & retooling has already blown up in their faces. (Taylor Hall traded, coach John Hynes fired and rumors of PK Subban wanting out too. And Subban is going to be hard to move with his huge contract.)
While I’m not in the fire DQ camp or anything like that, what does concern me is that the Rangers added a ton of talent this season and they really aren’t much better than last year.
Do you want to know the saddest stat about the Rangers this year? It’s not Lundqvist and his contract. It’s not Lindy Ruff related. It’s not special teams related. It’s not problems with the draft picks either. It’s this one:
The Rangers have played 41 games this season. As mentioned, they have a record of 19-18-4, which means they have 22 losses combined. In those 22 losses, Panarin has only recorded one point.
In other words, in games where Panarin doesn’t pick up a point in, the Rangers have won only one game, and have lost 21 others. While I’m including overtime losses as losses here, the Rangers are 1-21 when Panarin doesn’t get a goal or an assist.
Another sad thing here? Artemi Panarin won’t get any consideration for the Hart Trophy (MVP of the league) if this continues. As we know, and as we’ve recently seen when Taylor Hall won the Hart two years ago, instead of Connor McDavid who had better stats that season; players on playoff teams usually get the nod during award season. The dumbest thing about that? McDavid led the Oilers and the league in numerous stats. He had better numbers than Hall. However Hall, whose Devils wound up losing in the first round of the playoffs, in five games that season, edged out McDavid for the award. That’s a bit silly to me.
I’ve said it a few times on this blog, and it’s worth saying again – without Artemi Panarin, this team is worse than the Devils. This team is worse than Detroit. This team is worse than LA. This team is perhaps even worse than the Charlestown Chiefs.
I bring this up, because what happens if the Rangers didn’t land Panarin this season? How far back would this rebuild be? Players are benefiting and having career years with Panarin too, such as Ryan Strome. As I’ve been saying all season, Strome played with Connor McDavid and John Tavares, but playing with Artemi Panarin has brought out the best in Strome. That’s how good Panarin is. And I’m not discrediting Strome here. You just can’t ignore how much of an effect Panarin has had on his numbers and play. Like a great point guard or quarterback, Panarin is making his teammates better.
I understand that this is a rebuild and this will be another season of development. We are seeing a future in guys like DeAngelo, Lemieux, Chytil, Fox and others. The Rangers still haven’t pulled the trigger on Kravtsov or Shestyorkin yet either. However, how does a weaker roster go on a 9-1-1 tear last season? How does that weaker roster from last year, only have one less point than this roster at the half-way mark of last season? These are questions that JD, Jeff Gorton and David Quinn must find the answers to.
While I don’t think you can fully blame Quinn for anything, as he does have bad contracts that he does not want on this team, and he is coaching the youngest team in the NHL, the team has been consistently inconsistent during this season. It’s been a one step forward, two steps back type of a season. The loss in Edmonton, from several nights ago, was just inexcusable. Why does this team space out for long stretches of time? Conversely, how come this team can’t give you the effort they showed us in their last game with Vancouver? I understand the grinds and nature of the insane schedule, but more times than not, the Rangers just look out of it for periods at a time.
At this time, let’s go to the 2019-2020 New York Ranger Mid-Season Report Card. However, for those new here, let me share with you how I came to each grade.
When it comes to giving out grades, here’s the criteria I used, which is the same criteria I’ve been using ever since doing these report card blogs:
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 Greg McKegg. I expect a lot out of a player like Artemi Panarin. 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 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.
Players who have played less than 10 games with the team, players who have been traded and players who were sent down to Hartford, are all listed in the “Incomplete” section.
I also want to say here, these grades are just my opinion only, so don’t get so bent out of shape about them. I’m grading players on a bad team after all, and on a team that is looking forward to a brighter future. That said, it’s just tough to be rah-rah about the team in its current state.
PAVEL BUCHNEVICH. GRADE: C-
It would be easy to give Buchenvich a grade lower than C-, such as a D or D+, but I think when you look at his production on this team, a grade of a C or under is fair. After all, he is sixth on the team in scoring, with 23 total points.
The criticisms of Buchnevich are well known. He doesn’t shoot at open nets. He is scared of contact. He fogs out. He always looks like he’s about to cry. I’m hoping that his game in Vancouver, the last Rangers game, becomes the new norm, as I thought that was his best game of the season.
When I look at Buchnevich, he reminds me of the final scene of “Saved By The Bell”, where Mr. Belding tells Zack Morris that he knows that Zack has all the potential in the world and he hopes to be alive one day to see it.
I wonder what the league interest in Buchnevich is at, because 9/10 games, I think the Rangers would be better off without him.
FILIP CHYTIL. GRADE: A-
When you see A-, keep in mind, I’m factoring in contract situations. At under a million bucks, Chytil has been great since being called up by the Rangers this season.
While getting a late start with the Rangers this season, due to playing in Hartford at the start, Chytil didn’t mope around like his 2017 draft counter-part, in Lias Andersson. Instead, Chytil lit it up in Hartford, thus earning his promotion. In 32 games played with the Rangers, he’s fifth on the team with goals, with 10. And that’s coming while playing on the third line.
A few times this season, we’ve seen Chytil’s sniping ability, such as in the game in Nashville. If there is anything concerning about Chytil, it seems like he gets crushed a lot. While that doesn’t effect his grade or anything, and he has come back to play in each game after getting dinged up, I just hope he’s able to stay healthy for the remainder of the season.
When you look at this rebuild and when you look for progression, Chytil is trending upwards. This is great news.
JESPER FAST. GRADE: B
Jesper Fast is a tricky player, when you look at his future with the Rangers. He will be 29 next season and will be free agent this summer. How much money (and years) is this defensive forward worth?
Jesper Fast, not really known for his scoring, still has six goals this season, while bouncing around Quinn’s four lines. He’s a big asset on the penalty kill. He’s also a great locker room guy, which is why it feels like he wins the “Player’s Player” award every season.
When assessing players, sometimes you have to throw out the fact that they are a Ranger. How much would another team covet Fast? Is Fast replaceable for the Rangers? I think Fast would fit in great on a playoff team, as defense wins many games and Fast has plenty of that. For the Rangers this season, Fast has been up to snuff as usual. Quinn seems to like him too, by using Fast’s defensive set to complement Strome and Panarin.
MICHEAL HALEY. GRADE: D
Truth be told, I feel bad giving Haley “the D” here, because after all, he’s only played 18 games this season and was already waived once. Furthermore, when he does play, he is rarely on the ice for five minutes a game. That said, what does Haley do for this team? Eat ice time? Have a fight here and there? The Rangers have guys like TDA, Lemieux, Lindgren and Smith, who don’t mind throwing down. Is keeping Haley on this roster worth it? Evidently not, as the Rangers did try to get rid of him once.
The biggest issue about Haley isn’t about what he does on the ice. It’s about the players who could be with this team now. Maybe if Lettieri, Gettinger, Kravtsov or whatever forward you like from Hartford, would be better suited with the team. Perhaps that player would allow Quinn to roll out four lines, thus not tiring out his top stars in third periods. As I’ve been saying since day one, Haley is a one & done Ranger.
BRETT HOWDEN. GRADE: C-
If there is one great thing you can say about Howden, he does play hard. To me, he’s still a work in progress and a player Quinn wants to invest in.
What Howden also has going for him, is that when playing with Kakko, Kakko has had his best games on Howden’s line. Entering the second half of the season, Howden has 5 goals and 6 assists. He also has a +/- of -8. I know the plus/minus stat isn’t as valuable as it used to be and the number can be off (guys jumping on the ice last second while a goal is scored get a minus, just like guys jumping on the ice while a goal is scored earn a plus) but it does feel like Howden is on the ice for a lot of goals against the Rangers.
Like many on this roster, Howden isn’t in his prime yet and the Rangers hope the best days are yet to come.
KAAPO KAKKO. GRADE: C+
This is a tough one. How do you talk about the person who is supposed to be the crown jewel of the organization? Kakko is still a teenager, learning a new language, a new country and also has to battle Celiac Disease, which effects his day-to-day life.
It’s up for debate if Kakko should’ve started off this season in Hartford. Obviously, he did decent in his one game at Traverse City and had an okay preseason. As the #2 pick of the 2019 draft, the Rangers fast-tracked him right to the NHL. Instead of perhaps starring in Hartford, Kakko the kid has had to learn the ropes and at the highest level possible.
Kakko has 9 goals and 16 assists this season. He also has a ghastly +/- of -15. That makes you question his defense a bit. We already know he can play offense, and we have seen some rookie mistakes while puck-hogging during games.
Again, this is tough. What did you guys expect from Kakko going into this season? 20 goals and 30 assists? Kakko might surpass both those numbers this season, so offensively, he’s heading in the right direction. Keep in mind too, Kakko missed a few games this season as well. If anything, perhaps when looking at Kakko, you have to forget about how other top lottery picks have performed in their rookie years. It’s about the future and not the now. However, saying that, doesn’t that come off as trying to find something positive to say? I think many people had Elias Petterson like expectations for Kakko.
CHRIS KREIDER. GRADE: B-
As I’ve been saying for the last several seasons and as I’ll say again now, Chris Kreider is the most frustrating Ranger to watch and you never know what you’ll get out of him. There are games where he just dominates in and you notice him on every shift. Then there are multiple games in a row, where you don’t notice him at all. You have to check the box score to see if he even played.
As we all know, Kreider turns 29 in 2020 and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Will he still be a Ranger after the 2020 trade deadline? My opinion is no. That said, as I’ve said all season, I see both sides, in keeping him and for trading him. I know that sounds wishy-washy, but as I write these words and after watching that JD interview from last week, I don’t even think the Rangers know what they are going to do with him.
Heading into the trade deadline, with Taylor Hall off the board, Kreider is one of the most valuable rentals out there. He has 12 goals and 14 assists, but if you’re a scout, you know those numbers are inflated a bit, as Kreider has scored 1/6 of those goals in one game against a Ducks team that dressed an AHL roster. Very rarely, do you see CK20 take over a big game against tough competition.
With the Rangers pretty much out of the playoff mix, expect more talk about Kreider’s contract. I expect we will have another Zuccarello & Hayes situation with Kreider, come February/March of this year.
BRENDAN LEMIEUX. GRADE: A-
Unfortunately, Lemieux was injured a few games ago and will miss significant time, as he may miss up to a month’s worth of games. Prior to his injury, in 35 games played, Lemieux had five goals and eight assists. However, Lemieux, who does want score goals, is more here for his agitator status.
I can’t find the stat, but prior to his injury, Lemieux had to either be first or second on the team, when it comes to drawing penalties. Conversely, Lemieux has a healthy lead in minutes in the penalty box for the Rangers, with 87 PIM. That said, the 87 PIM stat is skewed, because Lemieux has gotten a bunch of BS penalties, penalties of the reputation variety. It seems Lemieux can’t even take a dump during intermission, without getting a ten minute misconduct.
In his role as team agitator, Lemieux has gotten under the skin of everyone. For under a million bucks, you notice him out there. I’ve never seen him take a shift off. He blocks shots. He is the embodiment of the phrase “team player.”
While you may see the grade of A- and think that’s high, keep in mind that Lemieux makes under a million bucks and is always involved in every game he plays.
GREG MCKEGG. GRADE: D-
I know what you’re saying – how did I give McKegg a grade worse than Haley? Simple. We know what Haley is. He’s here to fight. McKegg has received more playing time than Haley, (10 more games and more time on ice per game) and still has the same amount of goals as Haley, as in one goal.
Like Haley, it’s been my belief that McKegg is another one and done guy. With Haley, I understand wanting some physical aspect on the team. With McKegg, you’re just taking a roster spot from a kid who could use the experience. I think now, with the Rangers hopes at the playoffs shot to crap, the Rangers may be willing to part ways with McKegg, and sooner than later.
ARTEMI PANARIN. GRADE: A+
Do I really need to explain this grade to you? As it stands right now, Panarin is one of, and has the potential to be, the best free agent signing in NY Ranger history. He leads the team in goals (22), assists (33) and obviously points, with 55 of them. He makes everyone better. He is a player that the Rangers will need one day to kick ass in the playoffs.
Just think, Panarin is having a career year with a bad team. What happens when the rest of the Rangers get better? Panarin can only improve and it will take some defensive pressure off of him, as we’re seeing many opponents stick to him like velcro. After all, as I said above, if Panarin doesn’t log a point, the Rangers have a 1-21 record. If you can shut down Panarin, beating the Rangers is a piece of cake.
RYAN STROME. GRADE: A-
The poster boy for chart boy hatred, Strome is currently second on the team in assists and points, with 26 assists and 37 points. Yes, playing with Panarin helps, but at the same time, Strome is finishing and executing. It’s not like Fast or Buchnevich, players who have played with Panarin a lot this season, are racking up the points in the same matter that Strome has.
When you look at the value, Spooner for Strome is the second best trade during the Gorton era, with Brassard for Zibanejad being the first.
You can’t ask for anymore out of Strome this season, who is having a career year. He’s also a free agent at the end of this season. He will be 27 next season, so if the Rangers can get away with a four year deal, the Rangers could keep Strome throughout his prime.
MIKA ZIBANEJAD. GRADE: A
The topic of “Is Mika Zibanejad an elite center?” will be something discussed all season. Does it matter?
Zibanejad missed a chunk of games this season. He’s only played 28 games, but even so, he’s second on the team in goals, with 16 and third on the team in points, with 31 points.
Some of you may have Zibanejad as an A+, but if he’s an A+, then you will have to find a grade higher for Panarin.
If there is one thing to note, the Rangers had their best winning stretches of the season when Zibanejad went down. In addition, Strome picked up more points playing with Panarin than Zibanejad did. That doesn’t mean Strome is better or anything. It means that perhaps Quinn was right in breaking up a line of Panarin and Zibanejad, and spreading the offensive weapons onto two different lines.
TONY DEANGELO. GRADE: A
Tony DeAngelo is putting forth the best offensive performance, by any Rangers defenseman, since the days of #2.
After being a healthy scratch a lot last season, TDA is now a staple of Quinn’s line-up. DeAngelo currently has 8 goals, with only five Ranger forwards having more goals than him. DeAngelo is third on the team in assists, with 21 apples and is currently third on the team in points, with 29.
If there is any knock on TDA’s game, it is that he will take chances, leaving himself open to defensive lapses. However, that’s the price you pay when you try to get involved offensively. It’s also the reason why he’s paired with a true defensive defenseman, in Marc Staal.
In a contract year, Tony DeAngelo couldn’t be having any better of a season. You know my deal already, as I’ve typed up about 79678967956795 words on TDA this season. Like Hillary Clinton, LOCK HIM UP! (See what I did there?)
ADAM FOX. GRADE: A-
Just like TDA, Fox is making under a million dollars a year too, hence the high grade. And really, Fox has been a beast in his rookie year, on both sides of the puck.
Do you know what’s the best thing about Fox right now? He’s getting better with each game. Just recently, he picked up three assists in a game. However, his defense didn’t suffer, as he was also blocking shots and breaking up plays too.
As a result of being an everyday player for the Rangers, the Rangers now have to send a second round pick to Carolina. Well worth it. I’ll take a proven player over an unknown draft pick any day. Behind DeAngelo, Fox is also the second highest scoring defenseman on the team. Keep that in mind.
LIBOR HAJEK. GRADE: C
Hajek is tough to grade, because he’s only played 27 games this season. He’s due back shortly, even as soon as this upcoming homestand.
If anything has hurt Hajek right now, it’s the fact that Lindgren has looked better and more NHL ready. However, as I’ll get into shortly, Brady Skjei has been so freaking bad, that perhaps Hajek will cut into Skjei’s playing time soon.
There are times where I question Hajek’s toughness as a defenseman, but that could be because he’s young. I also wonder if he’s injury prone, as this is the second time in two seasons, where he’s missed a bunch of games after injury. Just something to think of.
RYAN LINDGREN. GRADE: B
In 31 games so far with the Rangers this season, Lindgren has shown us who he is. He’s a tough-nosed player, who isn’t afraid of contact. He reminds me of an old school throwback type of player. In fact, I think he’s the player that the Rangers hoped Dylan McIlrath would’ve been. (I know McIlrath is a forward, but he was drafted to bring a big defensive presence to the club. I know, I know, I know – Tarasenko!)
You don’t expect scoring from Lindgren, (1 goal, 7 assists) and that’s fine. Many times this season, he’s broken up plays, clogged passing lanes, made big hits and hasn’t been afraid to throw down.
While I’m not saying Lindgren is all there yet, as he develops, but as we’ve seen so far, he is the type of player that every playoff roster needs.
BRADY SKJEI. GRADE: F-
If there was a grade lower than F-, I would’ve given it to Skjei here.
When you look at Skjei’s season on the ice, and then think about his contract, Skjei has been a complete albatross for the Rangers this year. Skjei has five goals for the Rangers this year, and has scored three more on his own goaltender.
Skjei has been a complete bust since getting that enormous contract. He doesn’t block shots. In fact, he skates away from them. He turns the puck over way too much. And yes, turnovers happen. The other team is paid to play hockey too. However, there are so many lazy Skjei turnovers that have went the other way, leading to an opposing goal.
When he’s not running away from playing defense, Skjei usually parks right in front of his goaltender. I don’t know the stats. I’m an eye test guy and I have seen every game this season. That said, based on what I’ve seen, there’s no other defenseman on this team that screens their goalie as much as Skjei does. The majority of the time, these screens burn the Rangers and it winds up being the difference between a win and a loss.
Running a hockey team is a business. The Rangers need to lock up Strome, TDA and Lemieux this season. They will eventually have to lock up guys like Lindgren and Fox too. The Rangers must get out of this Skjei contract and send him packing.
For anyone who wants to defend Skjei to me right now, ask yourself this – are you getting any value out of Skjei? Furthermore, with K’Andre Miller and Yegor Rykov in the system, why would you pay Skjei disgusting money, when you can get better talent for 1/6th the price? This of course, is the same argument I use when talking Hank’s contract.
Let me be clear here in case I’m being fuzzy here – BRADY SKJEI IS THE RANGERS WEAK LINK. His contract is bum too.
BRENDAN SMITH. GRADE: B-
I list Smith with the defensemen here, because that’s how the NHL and Rangers list him as. As you may know, Smith plays on the fourth line and plays defense on the penalty kill. He also plays defense if someone gets hurt.
Smith may be the comeback story of the year for the Rangers, but let’s take a look at why this is a comeback. Smith got a huge contract, which has not worked out for the Rangers. Smith then came into camp overweight, got punched out by Vinni Lettieri and had his season cut short. In his return with the Rangers, Smith has been a stellar player, a model citizen and willing to do whatever the coach asks him. And not for nothing, while we know the contract is bad, which hurts his grade, he’s playing well.
Am I out of line for saying this? This fourth line version of Brendan Smith would’ve fit in perfect with the 2014 NY Rangers. He could’ve plugged in with Dorsett and Carcillo.
I applaud Smith for being a team guy and doing whatever is asked of him. However, I’ll probably applaud more when his contract runs out.
MARC STAAL. GRADE: B+
I don’t hide my biases. I’m a Marc Staal apologist! Just like Dan Girardi, this guy is all beat up in the latter stages of his career, after blocking shots for so many years. While Girardi obviously blocked more, Staal, just like Girardi, is a huge reason why Lundqvist got his lone Vezina in 2012. Give the assist to Tortorella here too.
Often on the internet, I see fans trash and go on & on about Marc Staal. NEWSFLASH: Since the McDonagh trade, he’s been the best Rangers defenseman on the whole team. Staal isn’t here to score goals. His partner, in TDA, does that.
Let me ask you this – how many times have you seen Staal get burnt by a bad goal this season? The answer is zero. Furthermore, how many times have you seen Staal’s name mentioned on the broadcast after an opponent goal. The answer is zero! Often, these unheralded hero types, like Fast and like Staal here, don’t get the buzz because they don’t play a sexy game. These guys are like offensive lineman, who put in all the grunt work, but very rarely get any attention.
Listen, we know the Staal contract isn’t the best, but he’s not a freak show out there either. I will say, I think Skjei’s horrible play has deflected a lot of the negative comments I usually see about Staal.
JACOB TROUBA. GRADE: B-
I would give Trouba a higher grade, but once again, a reminder, I use contracts in my grading. I can’t go higher than a B- for Trouba, because Fox and DeAngelo have been better, and for significantly less money.
I think Trouba is really getting into his wheelhouse now, as we hit the mid-way mark of the season. We’ve seen his ability to take over games. We’ve seen him singlehandedly dominate offensively and defensively, especially during this recent Western Canada trip.
Trouba has six goals and 15 assists this season thus far, and I would expect him to post more points in the second half of the season, as he finds his footing. When I do my Final 2019-2020 Report Card, I expect to bump Trouba’s grade up.
ALEXANDAR GEORGIEV. GRADE: B+
When you look at both goaltenders this season, it’s a fact that the defense has let down the goalies more times than not. However, it’s the same old argument – Georgiev has better numbers, and for $8M less, than Henrik Lundqvist.
I think Georgiev has been solid for most of the season. In his one meltdown game, the game against Edmonton, it was tough to blame him for any of the goals allowed, unlike his loss in Tampa.
Georgiev has the two shutouts of the season for the Rangers goaltending duo. You know my deal already – I find Georgiev to be more cooler, calmer and collected of the two backstops. I think his ability to shrug off craziness and scores keeps the Rangers even-keeled.
This grade probably would’ve been higher, had I written this blog two or three weeks ago. Even with Georgiev’s GAA now at 3.17, the games where the scoring is coming left and right in, feels like games from the 1980’s, where it’s all run and gun & no defense. Just think of three of those games. The Rangers beat Montreal 6-5 and Toronto 5-4. They also lost to Edmonton 6-5.
I think Georgiev has been solid in his role and we’re now seeing him taking the tougher starts, which usually happens every December. It’s not like he’s being torched by bad teams like LA or Anaheim, as Lundqvist is.
HENRIK LUNDQVIST. GRADE: C+
I should really go lower with my grade for Lundqvist here, because of the contract. Instead, I’ll just go a full letter grade below Georgiev.
Again, you know the deal. Lundqvist is making a ton of money, for average production. He’s a top three paid goalie in the league, but is in the bottom 20% of the league, when it comes to GAA and save percentage.
Playing now against weaker teams, Lundqvist now has a save percentage of .910, as opposed to Georgiev’s .909. Georgiev has two shutouts. Lundqvist has none. Georgiev also has won more games for the team. Do I really need to go on here? Lundqvist serves no purpose to the rebuild and CZAR IGOR should be here, unless you want to give CZAR IGOR a chance at a taste of a success in Hartford.
LIAS ANDERSSON: What a bust. Refer to my past blogs on him. Goodbye and good-riddance. BUST.
STEVE FOGARTY: Hasn’t done much, but hasn’t really gotten much playing time to do so either.
TIMOTHY GETTINGER: Quickly canned after two games. He’s a big guy, but I rarely see him take advantage of his size.
VLADISLAV NAMESTINKOV: Traded after two games. He isn’t missed. I’m glad I don’t have to spell out his name every blog.
BOO NIEVES: After signing a one year deal with the Rangers this past off-season, Nieves didn’t do much in his four games here. Might be a career AHLer.
GENERAL MANAGER JEFF GORTON. GRADE: A-
As Gorton now becomes entrenched in the organization, he’s had more hits than misses. No NHL GM goes perfect, so while his long-term defensemen contracts and Lias Andersson haven’t panned out, he did land Panarin here. He also put together a nucleus here, which we really won’t be able to judge until time goes on. I can’t see how anyone could look at Gorton and not think he’s doing a good job.
HEAD COACH DAVID QUINN. GRADE: B-
I said this last year and I’ll say it again – Quinn is another tough one to judge, as he isn’t here for the now, he’s here for the future. Quinn is now starting to feel some wrath, in this world of instant gratification and immediate results. While I don’t fault him for going nuts in the game with Edmonton, it did hurt the Rangers. I don’t think Quinn gets much respect from the officials, due to not having the tenure that other NHL coaches have. You can tell Quinn wants to win, but it feels like a never-ending cycle of win one, lose two.
ASSISTANT COACH (OFFENSE) DAVID OLIVER. GRADE: C-
The power-play has been horrendous of late and this is Oliver’s area with the team. I know Oliver does more than coach the power-play, but he needs some results. His first PP unit hasn’t scored since the Christmas break and there are too many long stretches without power-play goals. There’s also many times where this PP doesn’t take a SOG. I know the players are on the ice and not the coaches, but if guys aren’t listening to the message, sit them.
ASSISTANT COACH (DEFENSE) LINDY RUFF. GRADE: C
I don’t think Ruff is as bad as everyone says, as the Rangers penalty kill is good more times than not, but there have been games this season where the defense has cost the Rangers games. How much of that is the on the coach and how much of that is on the players? After all, this season is a learning process. I did like Ruff calming Quinn down the other night, in the Vancouver game.
GOALTENDER COACH BENOIT ALLAIRE. GRADE: A+
I’m going to reprint word-for-word what I wrote a year ago at this time – Allaire is still tops in the NHL and I can’t wait for the day that he gets his hands on CZAR IGOR SHESTYORKIN!
Aside from that, goaltending isn’t the issue with the Rangers and it seems to be their best asset.
That wraps up this report card. Looking ahead, here are the Top Ten things to look for, as this season moves on, in no order of importance:
— What happens to Chris Kreider? Do the Rangers re-sign him or do they trade him? I will say this, the Rangers won’t have an Islanders/Tavares situation here. Gorton will make a move one way or the other.
— Can Artemi Panarin set any NY Ranger single season records? He’ll break every Russian Ranger record, which are held by Zubov and Nemichinov.
— Will the Rangers finally tell Lundqvist that it’s time to move on or go to the press box?
— Will Igor Shestyorkin get an NHL start this season or will the Rangers rather have him try to win a championship in Hartford?
— What will the Rangers do at the deadline? Will they keep Strome, Lemieux and DeAngelo? And how about Jesper Fast, who would help a playoff team?
— Is there any shot of the Rangers making the playoffs? Can they rip off a 9-1-1 streak like last season?
— When do the Rangers realize that Brady Skjei has a worse contract than Ryan Spooner and Kevin Shattenkirk, COMBINED?
— Akin to Shestyorkin, will the Rangers audition any new and young talent, like Kravtsov or Lettieri? Or is it JD’s mission to see these young players taste success in Hartford?
— Will Henrik Lundqvist ever go to the proctologist and get Steve Valiquette’s head removed from his ass?
— Will the Rangers ever honor the legacy of their Hall of Famer, a man who spent 29 years with the Rangers and is responsible for 75% of their Stanley Cups, in Frank Boucher?
The second half of the season will be much harder than the first, with tough competition lined up. The Rangers get it all rolling on Tuesday night, against the red-hot Colorado Avalanche. See you then.
As always, thanks for reading and…
“LET’S GO RANGERS!”
@NYCTHEMIC on tweeter
Just as I was about to hit the publish button on this blog, the Rangers have announced that they have called up CZAR IGOR SHESTYORKIN!
First, before opining, here’s the official press release from the Rangers, courtesy of NYRangers.com:
The New York Rangers announced today that the team has recalled goaltender Igor Shesterkin from the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL).
Shesterkin, 24, has appeared in 23 games with the Wolf Pack this season, posting a 15-4-3 record, along with a 1.93 GAA, a .932 SV%, and 3 SO. He has been selected to play in the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic, as he leads the AHL in GAA, ranks second in wins and SV%, and is tied for third in shutouts in 2019-20. Shesterkin has allowed one goal or fewer in 12 of his 23 appearances this season. He has earned a win in each of his last four appearances, posting a 1.00 GAA, a .964 SV% (106 saves on 110 shots), and 1 SO in the four games, and he allowed one goal or fewer in three of the four contests. In addition, Shesterkin was named the AHL Goaltender of the Month for the month of October, which was the first month of his AHL career.
The 6-2, 182-pounder appeared in 117 KHL games over parts of six seasons (2013-14 – 2018-19), posting an 88-16-7 record, along with a 1.68 GAA, a .935 SV%, and 27 SO. Among goaltenders who have made at least 100 career KHL appearances, his career 1.68 GAA and career .935 SV% are both the best in league history. In 95 regular season appearances over his last three seasons in the KHL (2016-17 – 2018-19), Shesterkin posted a 79-9-4 record, along with a 1.49 GAA, a .940 SV%, and 25 SO. In 2018-19, Shesterkin posted a 24-3-1 record, along with a 1.11 GAA, a .953 SV%, and 10 SO in 28 appearances with SKA St. Petersburg. Shesterkin’s 1.11 GAA was the second-best in one season in KHL history, and his .953 SV% was tied for the second-best in one season in the league’s history.
The Moscow, Russia native was selected by the Rangers in the fourth round, 118th overall, of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
From what we know, based on the tweets from the NY Ranger beat reporters, who are all regurgitating the same information given to them by the Rangers, this Shestyorkin call up has nothing to do with Lundqvist being sick. The Rangers are going with a three goalie system. Whether that means they finally have the talk with Lundqvist or eventually trade Georgiev, well that remains to be seen. For the time being, the Rangers are carrying three goalies.
In addition, this call-up doesn’t effect the Rangers roster. They were only carrying 22 players in a league where they can carry 23. The Rangers also can’t send Georgiev to Hartford, as waiving him would expose him to the other 30 teams in the league. Unlike Micheal Haley, who was waived earlier this season and stayed with the Rangers, an opposing team would scoop up Georgiev if waived.
Obviously, as a fan and as someone who should’ve trademarked “CZAR IGOR” when I started using that term years ago, I’m excited about this news. There’s so much to digest with this call-up. For starters, should I wear my KHL Igor jersey this week or should I wear this brand new one that I got for Christmas:
From what’s being reported, CZAR IGOR will start against Colorado tomorrow. I’ve mentioned this a few times on this site – they should’ve called-up Igor to play that depleted Ducks team from a few Sunday’s ago. It would’ve been a perfect way to debut Igor. Instead, Igor gets one of the best teams in the NHL and a team trying to win a Stanley Cup. If there’s any consolation, Igor gets the Avalanche on the second half of a back-to-back. However, if it were me, I would debut Igor on Thursday, against the last place Devils.
I know there are two ways of looking at this. By playing Igor against a Cup contending team, you’re really throwing him into the fire. You’re really going to see what he can do. However, you could be throwing him to the wolves too. Why add more pressure to a kid’s first start? Why not make this first game as easy as possible?
And would it shock anyone if Lundqvist took the start against the last place Devils on Thursday?
I might sound all over the place right now, but this news is just breaking, this blog is super-long already and there’s a lot to go over.
As I said in the report card, goaltending hasn’t been the Rangers weakness this season. In fact, it’s their biggest strength. I wonder if the Rangers, knowing their playoff hopes are over, are trying to pull a St. Louis Blues here, and hoping that Igor can catch lightning in a bottle? However, remember – the Rangers are 1-21 when Panarin doesn’t log a point. That Blues team was much different than this Rangers team. In addition, while the Blues were in last place on 1/1/2019, going into that season, they were thought to be a Cup contender. No one had the Rangers as a Cup contender this season.
There are two things that I’m definite on right now, in regards to this call-up. First, the theory of allowing Igor to win a Cup in Hartford and to taste success there, well the Rangers don’t care about that right now. Secondly, the Rangers are accepting the inevitable – it’s time to really get this rebuild going and give Igor ice time. By allowing Igor to play with the Rangers NOW, it allows Igor to be comfortable and get to know his teammates for next season and the season after that. By having Igor here, he can now build chemistry in this locker room, a locker room that we hope he’s in for this entire decade.
And while I did think there was a chance the Rangers would’ve kept Igor in Hartford, just for the chance to win a championship in America, the Rangers have been preparing fans for this move for some time. As you know, I always recap the M$G Networks stuff on this blog. For the last six weeks, nearly every M$G Networks broadcast has mentioned Igor in some sort of fashion. In that JD interview with Trautwig, which I mentioned above, JD said Igor would get a crack here. Well here it is. The M$G Networks gently massaged Igor into the mix and now the fans are ready and know who he is.
And for as much as Ranger fans fight with each other and for as much as the Rangers are the worst Original 6 team, you can’t deny the passion of the fan base. The fan base is hardcore. I’m telling you right now, outside of the corporate suits, that are there to eat sushi and drink kale smoothies, every single fan in Morgue $quare Garden will know about Igor tomorrow. There will be “IGOR, IGOR, IGOR” chants. This fan base will be there to support their new CZAR!
I know the excitement level is through the roof right now. However, I do think expectations need to be realistic. Igor is going to have a tough team tomorrow with Colorado. If he gives up a bad goal, if he gives up five goals, if he gets blown out, I don’t think you should be worried about that. We know what this Rangers defense is. That said, I think these Rangers will break their asses for Igor tomorrow and will try to limit the mistakes.
Let’s see how game one of the IGOR era goes. If Igor has a great game, roll him in the next game with New Jersey.
With Igor now here, the $8.5M Swedish Elephant man in the room remains. The biggest issue – who in their right mind is going to trade for Lundqvist’s contract, even if Lundqvist would waive his no move clause? Even if the Rangers retain 50% (which is what they’d have to do to make a deal happen) what team would want him? The only team I can think of right now, is maybe Arizona, with both of their goalies hurt. However, those goalies will be back. Plus, Darcy Kuemper, the number 1 netminder in Arizona, is in the Vezina running. The Vezina has ran away from Lundqvist ever since he won it in 2012.
Another team that might need goaltender help is Toronto, a team that has been linked to a potential Georgiev trade. However, as explained in past blogs, I wouldn’t move Georgiev. Why should he be the third sacrificial lamb in a row, in order to keep an aged out and more expensive goalie here, a goalie which serves no purpose for the rebuild?
After all think about this – COMBINED, Georgiev and Igor are 25% of the cost as one whole Henrik Lundqvist. That’s $6.5M extra in cap room. That’s how you retain some of your free agents now. It also allows you to play around in free agency, come this summer. Plus, in the rare event that Igor doesn’t pan out and the Rangers ruin him by starting him against the best team in the NHL, what happens when Lundqvist does go in 2021? At least we know Georgiev can play.
This blog has gone on long already and I don’t want to wait to post it. The latest IGOR update I have, as I’m about to post this, is that it’s now being reported that Lundqvist could start vs Colorado, as he was the first goalie off the ice. Vince Mercogliano is reporting that. Larry Brooks is reporting that the Rangers didn’t call up Igor to sit him.
If it were up to me, and knowing that Georgiev played last, which makes him the odd-man out, I would go Lundqvist vs Colorado and Igor vs the Devils. Then again, eff it – I rather see Igor play both teams!
And now finally, that wraps up this manifesto. Let’s try this again:
See you tomorrow night!
As always, thanks for reading and…
“LET’S GO RANGERS!”
@NYCTHEMIC on tweeter
PS: LATE EDIT: Igor is going tomorrow. LET’S GO IGOR!