New York’s fourth line center would cost an extra $6 million to buy out this summer
It’s growing increasingly difficult to believe that this is just an off year for Brad Richards, that the 33-year-old will bounce back with the benefit of a summer to clear his head and a full John Tortorella training camp in the fall. There are just too many signs that the former star center is on a steep decline.
And yet, despite Tortorella’s own silent admission through a fourth-line demotion that Richards has been awful, it’s still extremely unlikely the Rangers will exercise a buyout on Richards this summer.
As Dave Lozo explained so well last week, it would make very little sense for New York to exile Richards this summer rather than waiting until 2014. The chief reason: buying out Richards this year would cost New York $24 million over the next 14 years, while waiting a season would cost the Blueshirts $18 million over the next 12 seasons. Is it really a wise move for the franchise to swallow an additional $6 million just to banish Richards AND fork over the cash to pay his replacement?
If Glen Sather were armed with the cap space to obtain one of the summer’s big fish free agents – of which very few remain – then swapping Richards for a younger star would be a no-brainer. But New York’s pending cap issues are well documented, so the Rangers likely wouldn’t be able to afford a replacement more expensive than a guy like Washington’s Matt Hendricks if they sent Richards packing. Is someone like Hendricks so much of an upgrade over Richards that you’d be willing to pay his salary plus that extra $6 million for Richards’ buyout – probably $8 million to $9 million total – to make the swap?
Money isn’t usually much of a deterrent in stopping the Rangers from making personnel changes, but that’s a massive amount of cash to make a silly move. As down on Richards as most Rangers fans are, even the biggest pessimists must agree that there’s at least a chance Richards plays better next season. He can’t be much worse.
Rest easy knowing Richards is almost certainly a goner next summer. The Rangers will need the cash, and after seeing what Richards’ downside looks like the Blueshirts know another seven years of Richards on Broadway isn’t an option. The club will use another “get out of jail free” card to erase a mistake, in due time.
Josh Nicholls (undrafted UFA) of the Saskatoon Blades scored three goals and added an assist in Saskatoon’s first two games of the Mastercard Memorial Cup round robin play. In the first contest –a 3-2 loss to the OHL champion London Knights– Nicholls notched both goals for the Blades and finished with a +1 rating. In the second game –a 5-2 win over the QMJHL champion Halifax Mooseheads– Nicholls notched a goal and an assist with 2 PIMs.
Shane McColgan (5th, 2011), also with Saskatoon, notched an assist and a +1 rating in the game against Halifax. McColgan was held scoreless in the first game. Saskatoon is hosting the Memorial Cup this season, which guaranteed their entry to the tournament, despite their first round loss in the WHL playoffs.
Per Andrew Gross, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh are back together as a pairing on defense. After an abysmal Game Two with Michael Del Zotto, Girardi will be reunited with McDonagh to form that top shutdown pair the Rangers split up after the Washington series. Del Zotto will be with Anton Stralman, and the John Moore-Steve Eminger pair remains the same.
The change is likely two-fold: Realizing that the current pairs weren’t working, and that the Rangers have home ice (and last change) for the next two games.
Something that was very obvious during yesterday’s loss was that the Rangers defense had a lot of trouble matching up and shutting down the Bruins forwards. Prior to the series, coach John Tortorella swapped his defense pairings to prepare for a much deeper Bruins club. In doing so, he split up Dan Girardi/Ryan McDonagh, and put Girardi with Michael Del Zotto.
Let’s be clear about one thing, Del Zotto is a top-four defenseman in this league. He’s a top-50 guy, which puts him in the upper echelon of second pairing defensemen. He’s not perfect, he’s not going to do well against the top scorers in the league, but he will be able to hold his own. That said, the pairing of Del Zotto/Girardi has never worked. It didn’t work two years ago, it didn’t work last year, it won’t work this year.
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Update 12:00pm: Per Andrew Gross, Hank is on the ice for practice. False alarm.
Original Post: On the postgame show last night, it was mentioned that Henrik Lundqvist would have his shoulder looked at today to ensure everything is ok. Hank took a Danielle Paille shot off his shoulder late in yesterday’s 5-2 loss, and remained down on the ice for a short period of time. Hank stayed in the game, and trainer Jim Ramsay never left the bench. Marty Biron didn’t even put on his helmet.
The shot likely hit Hank in a soft spot in the padding, which happens from time to time. We’ve seen Hank take awkward shots and remain in the game. This likely wouldn’t be any different.
One of the rare bright spots in game two: the captain
The Rangers lost a tough one to the Bruins in game two. Why was it tough you ask? It was tough because the Rangers were brutal in their own end. If the Bruins had capitalised on half of the odd man rushes or wide open chances they had it could have been worse. That said, the Rangers were much improved offensively. They created chances, generated some turnovers of their own and if Tuukka Rask wasn’t in strong form, this may have been a higher scoring game at both ends. The Rangers need to tighten up at the back end if they want to get on the board Tuesday. On to the goals…
Boston 1 Rangers 0; Torey Krug
The Bruins took the lead just over five minutes in as rookie defenseman Torey Krug looked anything but. Entering the Rangers zone late, the blueliner was completely open and received a cross ice pass from Nathan Horton that opened up the ice for the rookie. Receiving the puck out of stride Krug pushed the puck between his skates in spectacular style before beating Lundqvist five hole as his shot beat the despairing dive – and block attempt – from Girardi.
The goal was an example (one of countless examples in the first) where the Rangers defensive coverage was found wanting (particularly Pyatt). The Bruins had multiple odd man rushes and were able to find wide open shooters several times, resulting in quality looks in front of Lundqvist. Luckily for the Rangers, Krug’s was the only such chance the Bruins capitalised on in the first.
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Today the Rangers look to avoid going back to MSG down 2-0. In game 1 the Blueshirts stayed with the Bruins until OT where they were out-shot 16-5, half of which was on that one power play. Although it wasn’t a great game by any means, I thought the Bruins looked very beatable. Sure they have depth and an ability to roll four lines, but at no point did I feel like any of their guys were legit threats to send us home packing. That nervousness for me just wasn’t there the way it was against the Caps, or even the Devils or Senators last year. I know that’s not much of an analysis, but that’s what the gut was telling me. Anyone feel differently?
Side note: The media has made a big fuss over Henrik Lundqvist’s losing record in OT during the playoffs. Interesting that no one is mentioning Martin Brodeur’s career playoff OT record of 12-21 (.364)
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Zuccarello scores pretty goals.
There’s a mountain of clichés attached to the not-so-mountainous Norwegian that describe his appearance, his NHL ability, the challenges he’s faced and even the fact he’s now a main act on Broadway. All that considered, it’s fair to assume Mats Zuccarello has secured an NHL future as the Rangers prepare to take on the Boston Bruins.
Throughout the playoffs Zuccarello has been forechecking, making plays, playing physical and has been much harder to knock off the puck. He’s been consistent and on top of all that, he’s been productive – something that (at least consistently) has eluded him in the past. He returned to the Rangers from the KHL with something to prove and he’s proving it.
While the Rangers have undoubtedly advanced because of a certain member of royalty in net and an upstart kid from French Canada at center ice, the Rangers wouldn’t have gotten this far without Zuccarello’s contribution. So what next for the little winger?
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Yesterday, I used four stats to discuss how the Rangers are not a team that sits on a lead. Those four stats I introduced to the blog (note: These are not new stats, just new to being used on this blog) were Fenwick, Situational Corsi, CF%, and FF%. Since the Rangers are off today, now would be a good time to go into detail about each stat.
Fenwick is the easiest to describe, since it is a lot like Corsi. Corsi is the plus/minus of the number of shot attempts taken by a team that are missed, blocked, or on net. It is something we have used very often on the blog. Fenwick is almost the exact same thing as Corsi, but it removes blocked shots from the equation. The logic here is that it eliminates coaching strategy from the equation. Some coaches preach blocking shots, and others preach preventing shot attempts. Fenwick eliminates that variable.
Personally, I prefer to use Corsi when analyzing players. That said, Fenwick is a bit more reliable when comparing players on different teams, since it does eliminate the coaching variable.
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“The Rangers play boring hockey. They sit on leads, they block shots, and the don’t even attempt to score once they have the lead.”
I’m sure you’ve heard this before. Almost every media outlet says this about the Rangers during the postseason. The logic here is that the Rangers block a lot of shots, thus are a passive team and are content sitting on one-goal leads. The logic is flawed, as blocking shots has nothing to do with the aggressiveness of a team once they obtain a lead. Blocking shots is how a team plays in their own zone. There are two other zones in hockey with completely different systems, as we’ve noted on this site many times.
Aside from the Caps series, where the Rangers were completely manhandled in terms of Corsi (not a single player had a positive Corsi), the Rangers as a whole are not a team that sits back on leads. Even in the Caps series the Rangers were still generating offense, but the Caps had an overwhelming puck possession advantage that it marred their attempts. This is something we’ve detailed with chalk talks and systems before, but now we have some data to match the eye test.
This brings us to situational team Corsi. I will touch more in-depth tomorrow, but situational team Corsi is exactly that: The Corsi of a team based on the current situation (note: Score) of the game. Since Corsi is a puck possession metric that measures the +/- of shot attempts (on net, missed, blocked), situational Corsi just breaks this down into the Corsi of a team at any particular score (up 1, down 1, tied, etc).
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