Quick Hits: Rangers Suddenly Deep at C, but D May Kill Hank

Phil Kocher
@ me

Phil Kocher

Managing Editor & Cofounder at ClearedForContact.com
I believe in Nate Silver, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Christopher Hitchens, the Oxford comma, and the value of white space.
Phil Kocher
@ me

Harrowing Hayes

Clearly still reeling from the deep cuts Jeff Gorton made over the week of the trading deadline, Kevin Hayes—now a young veteran of the team, whether he likes it or not—had some candid things to say about the state of his club in the aftermath of the trade deadline.

There’s no denying that Hayes, who has excelled in the role of shutdown center, has been one of the Blueshirts’ most important players this season. On paper, it makes sense for them to keep him. But he’s now one of five key Restricted Free Agents who the Rangers will need to make long-term decisions on. Also in that mix are 26-year-old Ryan Spooner and 25-year-old Vladislav Namestnikov – both of whom also play center.

With Mika Zibanejad still under contract for another four years and assuming the Rangers will walk away from Unrestricted Free Agent David Desharnais, the Rangers center depth—wholly deficient prior to the deadline—now might actually be too deep. Especially if the Blueshirts intend to give Lias Andersson and/or Filip Chytil an honest opportunity to make next year’s roster out of training camp. It’s a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. One that might require more cuts at the draft this June.

If I were a betting man, one of Hayes or Spooner—who has six assists in his first three games as a Ranger—stands a significant chance of being turned into future assets as the Rangers continue to remake themselves. Buckle up, folks – the ride’s not over yet.


Come at the King, You Best Not Miss

Henrik Lundqvist, who celebrated his 36th birthday by beating the Calgary Flames on Friday, is the first Rangers goalie to win a game with 50+ saves since Mike Richter (53 in 1996). Moreover, Lundqvist set his own career-high in saves in a win (50) when the Rangers topped the Canucks 6-5 in overtime on Wednesday night, and tied it again against Calgary two nights later. For the mathematically inclined among us, that’s 100 saves in two games. That’s impressive for the King, but speaks volumes about the Rangers and their inability to defend.

The team has won consecutive games for the first time since beating the Flames and Winnipeg Jets back on February 9th and 11th respectively. But 106 shots against in two games isn’t exactly a sustainable pace if they expect to keep winning.


From Russia With Love

If the Rangers have any intention of reciprocating Ilya Kovalchuk’s interest in playing on Broadway next season, they will have to fight the Kings (among other teams, presumably) for his services.

The Kings, if you recall, desperately tried to lure Kovalchuk to the West Coast in 2010, but failed to pull it off. Perhaps the second time’s the charm?


Czech Out Hajek

So, Libor Hajek—the defensive prospect acquired by New York as part of the Ryan McDonagh trade—was interviewed for the first time by John Gianonne between periods against the Flames on Friday night. When asked if there’s a player he compares himself to, the 20-year-old Czech picked an interesting name – Czech defense royalty himself, Tomas Kaberle.

Jeff Gorton was said to be adamant about Hajek’s inclusion in the trade. If his development can bring him into the same stratosphere that Kaberle carved out for himself, the Rangers won’t be missing Ryan McDonagh much longer.


Beseeching the Blue Seats

Speaking of prospects, consider Ryan Lindgren’s description of his game a teachable moment in public relations.

“My game is going to be physical. I’m going to be tough to play against and I’m going to be a leader.” he told Matt Calamia and NYRangers.com.

And with one bone-crushing body check, he just endeared himself to every blue collar Blueshirts fan who has been waiting for this kind of presence on the blue line since… Darius Kasparaitus?


By the Numbers

  • Arguably the Rangers’ hottest skater of late, Kevin Hayes scored his career-high 18th goal against the Flames on Friday night. He has seven goals and 12 points in his last 11 games.
  • Ryan Spooner—Hayes’ running mate since being acquired from Boston—is scorching hot himself with five points in his his last two games.
  • According to @NYRStatsInfo, John Gilmour is the first Rangers rookie to score a regular season overtime goal since Mats Zuccarello’s first NHL goal back on January 5th, 2011.
  • Henrik Lundqvist, who won his 25th game of the season Friday night, is one of just three goaltenders in NHL history who has won at least 25 games in 12 or more seasons. The other two? Marty Brodeur and Patrick Roy. Can you say ‘Hall of Fame’?
  • One more for the prospect watch: Lias Andersson has five goals and 11 points in 16 games since joining the Hartford Wolf Pack on January 19th. All at the age of 19.

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Discussion
  1. On a really good team I don't think Brady is a first pair guy. Solid second sure, until we stop expecting too much he'll tend to underwhelm imo. The defense is a dumpster fire and I don't think any of the young guys have shown really anything worth getting excited about. I think Phil said it best the D we're rolling out now is perfect for a tanking team.





    Quote Originally Posted by Zuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuc
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    But Skjei is no Duncan Keith, nor will he ever be. At best he will be a complimentary 1st pair D or a solid second pair anchor. Draisatl could easily be a true #1C putting up a ppg every season for the next 10 years.

    You could argue that even without Dahlin, this years draft got potentially 3-4 other Skjei's, but no one comes close to a legit first line center or have the talent that Draisatl got.

    There are still options to get D's if we do a trade like Skjei, Zib+ for Drai. We would have the #1C and #3C locked With Drai and Hayes. Vlad/Spooner can also play C and we got three prospect who all will (most likely) be NHLers in Chytil, Andersson and Howden. We could easily trade 1-2 of them + something for someone like OEL, Karlsson(?), Dumba, Ellis, Ekholm, Carlo etc.



    Posts like this ... trade this prospect for that guy, trade that prospect for this guy ...

    Make me wonder when are we ever going to have the patience to see what we have got, go through the process, before shipping them out. Building a base with cap control/certainty and young talent is still worth pursuing.

    We are a long way off, it's going to take time some might as well have patience with the Chytils, Howdens and Anderssons before trading them sight unseen.

    I am in agreement that a true top-tier #1 center is very important, but there are some NHL Rangers that I would consider moving first who, although they are productive and talented, but who maybe don't necessarily have the killer instincts, the toughness, guts and tenacity a cup contender requires. Not including Kreider and Zuccarello, they are players who have been around a couple of years already and although they are productive and talented, are coming up short in the other winning attributes. So yes, at this point I am wiling to discuss a Zibs+Buch or others, for Draisatl ...

    But I would hate to let a future potential top-line forward with leadership attributes like Andersson go...unless there's certainty among our scouts/management that he does not "have it" like Korpikoski didn't "have it." Heck, management let a gift like Marchessault walk out of here and become #1 centers elsewhere. How does that even happen? -- some heads ought to roll there, and IDGAF that Florida blew it, too, or Columbus or some other bunch of monkey nuts blew it ... that's a fireable offense. Can't let it happen again.

    Again, getting to top-5 contender status again is going to take plenty of time anyway, so might as well have patience and see what we have.





    Quote Originally Posted by Dunny
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    He has the tools to he that, but night in night out he plays like shit.

    Maybe it's an experience thing, maybe it's not.



    He, like a lot of other guys, doesn't compete every night. When he's engaged, he's real good. When he's not, every area of his game slips.

    He's like McDonagh in that he needs to use his legs to be effective, and he just doesn't always do it.





    Quote Originally Posted by Dunny
    View Post

    He has the tools to he that, but night in night out he plays like shit.

    Maybe it's an experience thing, maybe it's not.



    Could have something to do with all the defenseman not named Holden looking like shit this year?





    Quote Originally Posted by Dunny
    View Post

    He has the tools to he that, but night in night out he plays like shit.

    Maybe it's an experience thing, maybe it's not.



    I just get a sense that due to the lack of experience on the team and the D corps specifically he is trying to do too much at the moment. I think experience is a big part of simplifying the game.





    Quote Originally Posted by RJWantsTheCup
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    I don't see Skjei ever being a top pair defenseman. He struggled when he had to be on the top pair this season.
    This team needs a top pair d and a legitimate goal scorer to ever be a Cup contender.



    He's a top-pair D, he's just not a #1.
    I don't see Skjei ever being a top pair defenseman. He struggled when he had to be on the top pair this season.
    This team needs a top pair d and a legitimate goal scorer to ever be a Cup contender.





    Quote Originally Posted by Phil in Absentia
    View Post

    Nope. But prime Duncan Keith and they are probably a bubble squad, because there'd be a significant improvement in shot suppression from a player playing nearly half the game every night.



    But Skjei is no Duncan Keith, nor will he ever be. At best he will be a complimentary 1st pair D or a solid second pair anchor. Draisatl could easily be a true #1C putting up a ppg every season for the next 10 years.

    You could argue that even without Dahlin, this years draft got potentially 3-4 other Skjei's, but no one comes close to a legit first line center or have the talent that Draisatl got.

    There are still options to get D's if we do a trade like Skjei, Zib+ for Drai. We would have the #1C and #3C locked With Drai and Hayes. Vlad/Spooner can also play C and we got three prospect who all will (most likely) be NHLers in Chytil, Andersson and Howden. We could easily trade 1-2 of them + something for someone like OEL, Karlsson(?), Dumba, Ellis, Ekholm, Carlo etc.





    Quote Originally Posted by Phil in Absentia
    View Post

    This thoroughly fails to answer my question.

    How have you not assembled Edmonton Oilers East?

    Also, you're aware defensive prospects, on average, take about two years longer to develop and reach the NHL than forwards, right? Whatever defensive prospects you're drafting this summer may not even make the team, let alone make an impact on it, for 2-4 years from then.



    Regardless of development time, there is a much larger pool of players that can be NHL defensemen than true no. 1 centers. No. 1 centers are valuable assets that you can build around, while you can find players to do an adequate job in the defensive end.

    Since we've seen this squad give up 50+ shots a game lately, and show a lot of problems in the defensive zone, I understand that our poor defensemen play is a sore subject, which needs to be addressed. But our lack of a true no. 1 center is a problem that manifests throughout our four forward lines. Solving the defensemen as well as the centerman issue aren't mutually exclusive - they should both be addressed, and both can be during the same time period.
    After not scoring in the first four games, he had points in 7 of the final 9.

    I think he plays on the first line because his game works with McDavid far better than RNH or Strome. Maybe next year they'll be able to put the big body of Puljujarvi on McDavid's line allowing them to move Leon, but I don't doubt Leon's ability to play without McDavid.

    If we look at the small sample size from when McDavid was hurt in his rookie year, Leon had 9 goals and 21 assists for 30 points in 37 games, he was 20 at the time.





    Quote Originally Posted by Long live the King
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    Did you watch them in the playoffs last year? Draisaitl had 16 points McDavid had 9. I don't think Draisaitl is dependent on McDavid to score. They play on the same line they're gonna both be involved in most plays.



    Draisaitl was not nearly impactful as that 16 points suggests. 9 of them came in two games. That inconsistency is exactly why I'd be concerned about handing him the #1C role. They play on the same line because Draisaitl hasn't been able to carry the second line as a center.

    It's the same as Nylander, Marner, Barzal. Do they have the talent to be a #1C, probably. But none of them have been an impactful #1C consistently and all are benefiting from playing behind an elite #1C or on a wing with one. Take away Matthews and Tavares, and who's to say that they aren't all Dylan Larkin.