Quick Hits: Rangers Sidestep Smith Disaster While NHL Flirts with Houston

Welcome to a new feature (well, an old feature made new again) here at ClearedForContact: Quick Hits. Each Sunday, we’ll cover some of the recent happenings, statistics, and anecdotes from the previous week’s games, as well as touch on important goings-on around the NHL as a whole to cap off the week and to get your Monday mornings started.

Sidestepping Disaster

Let’s be honest here. How many more games would Brendan Smith have needed to view from the Press Box before an official trade request was submitted to management – two, maybe three? The Rangers’ six-game winning streak was snapped by the Blackhawks on Wednesday night, but had they won that game, what are the chances Alain Vigneault would have bucked his tendency to not touch a winning line-up to get Smith in against the Blue Jackets on Friday night? Slim to none.

Jimmy Vesey Lost His Two Front Teeth Today

The Rangers won their sixth game in a row this afternoon, beating the Edmonton Oilers 4-2, but it didn’t come without a price: Jimmy Vesey’s teeth!

Skate to the jibs, front teeth lodged in my lip. #thatshockey

A post shared by Jimmy Vesey (@jimmyvesey26) on

One word: ouch!

Rangers' Big UFA Swings Finally Pay Off With Shattenkirk

It’s not often a high-profile free agent that the New York Rangers sign comes in and delivers exactly as advertised. After being burned by the likes of Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Wade Redden, and, most recently, Brad Richards, the Rangers took another shot at the big name prize when they signed Kevin Shattenkirk to a four-year, $26.6 million contract this past summer. His mission was to bring his well-documented offensive prowess on the blueline to his hometown of New York and bolster the Blueshirts power play.

Now 17 games into the season, Shattenkirk is beginning to look like the player that Rangers management had hoped for. In the midst of a six-game point scoring streak, Shattenkirk is tied with his former teammate Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues for the league lead in scoring among defensemen with 16 points. His production on the power play, to the tune of two goals and six assists—first and third among defensemen, respectively—is a major reason why.

For Duchene, Brady Skjei Was Rightfully a Non-Starter

Immediately as the Rangers’ turned their play around (of course) and started their five-game win streak, we kicked around the idea of blowing up the defense by trading Ryan McDonagh or Brady Skjei. The strong run over the last seven games has quenched some talks, at least for now, and the fact that GM Jeff Gorton didn’t pull the trigger on a Matt Duchene trade suggests that he’s committed to keeping Skjei as a building block.

“They wanted Duchene badly, but not enough to give up defenseman Brady Skjei, which was what Colorado was insisting he be part of the package,” Bob McKenzie told TSN 1050.

If (Shooting) Percentages Don't Balance Out, Rangers May Crash, Burn

Fresh off their fourth victory in a row, the New York Rangers are rolling. The early hole they dug themselves into that nearly cost Alain Vigneault his job is one they’ve finally begun to climb out of. Monday night’s victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets officially turned the Blueshirts into a .500 hockey team (7-7-2) for the first time this season. Thanks to a relatively weak Eastern Conference at this point of the year, they’re also just one point out of a Wild Card spot.

Sure, a white-hot power play is largely to thank for the success of these last four games that have righted the Rangers’ season, but that’s nothing to apologize for. Successful teams often ride waves throughout the season, be it productive special teams, an especially productive player (wave to the crowd, 2016-17 Michael Grabner), or otherwise. For as long as this wave continues to roll, the Rangers should be content riding it, picking up as many wins along the way as they can. If the Rangers are going to build on this success, however, they should be prepared to address some of the underlying reasons that will come up when it comes to an end – and it will end.

Rangers Loan D Alexei Bereglazov to Magnitogorsk of KHL

In what has come to be an expected announcement, the New York Rangers have confirmed that defenseman Alexei Bereglazov has officially been loaned back to the KHL.

How Bold is Too Bold to Fix the Rangers' D?

In a tweet on Wednesday morning, Larry Brooks prefaced his New York Post column, setting the stage to address the New York Rangers’ defense:

No, we didn’t all think that, Larry.

Not all of us, anyway. There’s a faction of us who recognized the fact that Kevin Shattenkirk, for all he brings to the power play, has never been successful as a top-pair defenseman and wasn’t necessarily going to be the answer on the right side. Even before the season began, there was no clear indication of who should partner with Ryan McDonagh to stymie top lines and that’s gotten worse as everyone except Marc Staal, interestingly enough, has regressed.

A Year and a Day

A year ago yesterday Phil Kocher published the first article on a new blog created by a few members of his Blueshirt’s Brotherhood forum. We’ll get back to that post in a moment because it deserves some ridicule, but first some backstory. I had been on Phil for a while to get a blog going. The forum was a great place to discuss the New York Rangers, but a handful of us would write up long-form initial posts in threads that didn’t really fit in with the more organic discussion-based nature of a forum. Typical forum posts were driven by a more singular idea, often pulled out from articles from those on the Rangers’ beat, opinion pieces from established media outlets or from bloggers.

Phil was not having it. He did a lot of work managing the forum along with his team of moderators and the prospect of creating a new venture was daunting. Creating synergy with the blog was going to be an issue as was the time commitment needed to get something new off the ground. Eventually, I informed him I was moving forward and I would let the chips fall where they might. He, along with a couple others such as John Gaffney and Ray Sarlo, jumped on board and Cleared for Contact was born.

New York Rangers' schedule wallpaper, November 2017

New York Rangers Schedule Wallpaper – November 2017

November is here – time to update your wallpaper accordingly!

Download it via the links below:

Rangers Must Find Fire Through Trade

A 3-7-2 record is bad enough, but even bad teams never want to be kicked when they are down, and few things hurt more than a shot to the ribs when you’re already reeling. Yet here we are, talking about a poorly performing team’s compete level just 12 games into a season that they are quickly losing ground in.

The Rangers are drowning among the unrelenting waves of mediocrity, like a swimmer caught in a riptide, only ever managing to escape long enough to catch a panicked breath of air before getting pounded by the next crash of water. Losing games isn’t their only problem, though. After Saturday night’s 5-4 loss to the Montréal Canadiens, so too, apparently, is their energy level – which is another way of saying this group, at times, lacks the proper motivation to play.

As the spiral worsens, if these Rangers won’t (or perhaps can’t) bring the kind of energy required to adequately compete in games that will only increase in importance as the year progresses, then it’s on general manager Jeff Gorton to find someone who will.