In case you were wondering, last week I kinda had a post recapping our new division rivals’ offseason moves. I emphasize the word “kinda” because I only finished about half of it before it got published. Little scheduling SNAFU. Whoops.
Let’s try this again shall we?
The Rangers only major acquisition of the offseason was the hiring of new coach Alain Vigneault. Barring any late-summer trades, the Rangers will mostly rely on a new voice in the locker room to be the key difference maker this coming season. However, a few of our new ‘Metropolitan Division’ rivals made some very interesting moves this summer. Some of them voluntary, others not so much (sup Kovy?).
Here’s a look at which teams in our new division should improve, which teams appear to have taken a step back and which teams will likely to duplicate last year’s efforts.
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Things are a little slow here in Rangerland as we count down to the pre-season, so I thought I’d tackle a more global topic.
Not withstanding the (now completely predictable) labor squabbles of recent years, the NHL has consistently investigated and implemented ways to improve its overall on-ice product. They aren’t plagued with the constant felony arrests of the NFL and NBA, nor the drunk driving and steroid issues of MLB. Most of the athletes are humble professionals who respect the game and the fans. Now, the NHL is not without its problems. There have been several nagging issues that have persisted through rule changes, new committees, summer R&D camps and beta tests in lower leagues. The most demonstrative examples include not enough goal scoring, concussions and obstruction-type penalties.
Now, all three of these major problems could be solved by one simple solution, and it’s not one anyone around the league wants to consider, myself included: moving the NHL to olympic sized rinks. I know what you’re thinking, I don’t like it either. It seems borderline sacrilegious. The NHL has always played on North American sized rinks. It’s what has differentiated the NHL from the Olympics and the inferior European leagues. We like the physicality, the fighting, the hard-nosed style of play that comes along with the smaller rink, but consider each league problem…
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This is what stat geeks wear to formal occasions.
As the quest for better stats has come, so has more analysis into the stats that are currently available via NHL.com. Hits and blocked shots have become more of the industry standard when looking at defensive prowess. Hits is a relatively “new” stat in the sense that people are using it more than PIMs lately. PIMs have gone the way of the dodo in terms of positive value, and people have replaced it with hits. The theory is that PIMs used to tell how physical a player was, but as more clutch-and-grab was introduced (and then eliminated with some inconsistent officiating post-lockout), PIM numbers grew with stick penalties and not fights/roughing. Hits have been used to evaluate the physicality of a player’s game.
The same theory applies for blocked shots, as the more blocked shots a player has, the more defensively responsible he is (such is the theory). While this is more system dependent, a team playing a low-zone collapse will block more shots than a team playing a strong side overload, the generalization still exists that if you are blocking shots, you are good defensively. It was the Rangers MO during the 2011-2012 season, although they backed away from it during the 2013 season.
However, these are defensive stats, meaning that these stats only increase if you don’t have the puck. You can’t deliver a hit if you are controlling the play in the offensive zone. You can only block a shot if the opponent has the puck in your zone. Both of these stats go up when you don’t control the puck. The theory is that teams with lower FF%/CF% will generally have more blocked shots and more hits. But the theory in itself hasn’t really been tested (at least I haven’t seen it tested) because we have CF% and FF%. Since those are still new-ish stats, I think it’s worth diving into this generalization.
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Defense usage chart.
Last week, we looked at how John Tortorella used his forwards from a matchup perspective. Since AV is very similar to Torts in the way he utilizes matchups and zone starts, we figure it’s good to know how players were deployed, as it will likely remain the same under AV. This style plays to the strength of certain players, and particularly keeps the weak defenders away from big draws in the defensive zone. Explaining how players are deployed is tough, but luckily Rob Vollman has HockeyAbstract.com, where we can create player usage charts.
The Y axis is Corsi Rel QoC, the X axis is OZone start percent. The size of each bubble represents the average TOI per game (larger bubbles for more ice time), and the color represents the RCorsi (red is bad, blue is good). The chart is broken down into four quadrants, which tells us how each player was deployed: Shut Down, Two-Way, Less-Sheltered, and Sheltered. Put it all together, and you get how each defenseman was deployed on the ice, for how long, and how effective they were at driving puck possession.
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Does AV mean a changing of roles for the players?
For several off-seasons running, I’ve been creating these “master plans” that talk about the future rosters of the Rangers. The purpose of these posts is to really come full circle on all of the topics and rumors we’ve been covering over the course of the season. During prior offseasons, creating these plans was pretty easy for me as John Tortorella frequently talked about the Rangers “team concept”. Based on his vision, I just filled in the blanks.
With his team template in mind, these posts were generally unified by three main ingredients for success — roster balance, strong skating ability, and making an effort in all three zones. As trade deadlines and free agency periods came and went, my plans always revolved around the idea that the Rangers should stick to those three ingredients when evaluating their own team and what’s available on the marketplace.
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Forward usage chart
John Tortorella loved his matchups. One of the major points of his coaching style is giving tough minutes to those he could rely on defensively. If there is one area where he and new coach Alain Vigneault are similar, it is here. Both coaches are known for matchups and zone-starting, deploying the offensive players in the offensive zone draws and defensive players on defensive zone draws. This style plays to the strength of certain players, and particularly keeps the weak defenders away from big draws in the defensive zone. Explaining how players are deployed is tough, but luckily Rob Vollman has HockeyAbstract.com, where we can create player usage charts.
A quick note about the chart above, the Y axis is Corsi Rel QoC, the X axis is OZone start percent. The size of each bubble represents the average TOI per game (larger bubbles for more ice time), and the color represents the RCorsi (red is bad, blue is good). The chart is broken down into four quadrants, which tells us how each player was deployed: Shut Down, Two-Way, Less-Sheltered, and Sheltered. Put it all together, and you get how each forward was deployed on the ice, for how long, and how effective they were at driving puck possession. Also, I set the GP minimum to 20, so that’s why Mats Zuccarello doesn’t appear on this chart.
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Spot the righty (AP Photo/Kathy Willens).
With the exception of a few depth signings, it appears Glen Sather will keep the Rangers roster mostly intact for the 2013-14 season. Rather than take a shot at Jarome Iginla, Derek Roy, or Daniel Alfredsson (all of whom signed one year deals), the organization has instead decided to keep Brad Richards around for at least one more season. Barring a trade, it looks as though AV will have to work with what he’s got.
Getting the Rangers back to being one of the best 5-on-5 hockey teams shouldn’t be an issue for this staff. Even if there hadn’t been a coaching change, the underlying numbers suggest even-strength goals scored should theoretically rebound. The Rangers after all were one of the better puck possession teams in the league last season. However, as we’ve learned since the ’05 lockout, solid 5-on-5 hockey can only get you so far.
Ultimately, Alain Vigneault and assistant coach Scott Arniel will have to reconfigure the power play and get the boys clicking at an acceptable rate if we want to go the distance.
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Pouliot is one of those signings people will love (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images).
During the free agent frenzy, the Rangers added just three depth players, and spent less than $3 million in the process. All the big names went elsewhere for a significant amount of money, so it was refreshing that the organization decided to fill depth holes and not chase big money guys. After acquiring Justin Falk, Danny Syrvet, and Danny Kristo in trades, the Rangers signed Dominic Moore, Aaron Johnson, and Benoit Pouliot.
Pouliot and Moore –who sat out last season while tending to his late-wife’s cancer– are both on cheap deals to help address the fact that the Rangers really haven’t been able to roll four lines that much. With Arron Asham and Darroll Powe on waivers, the two new additions will likely slide into a bottom-six role with the club. On paper, they appear to be upgrades, and address the tertiary scoring needs.
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As the window to Free Agency opens in a few hours, it got me thinking about the post-lockout economic landscape and how it will affect the Rangers. I actually think it will be a blessing in disguise that the Blueshirts have almost no cap space to work with in the UFA market, with most available resources going to re-sign our own (very talented) RFA’s. Even if another team decides to take Darrell Powe and Arron Asham off our hands, there will likely still be less than three million to play with, and some of that needs to be saved for the deadline.
The biggest wild card GM’s are dealing with is the salary cap in subsequent seasons. All signs point to that cap meeting, or even exceeding the current $70.3 million cap of this past season. With six outdoor games planned for this coming year, revenue seems to be increasing at a rapid rate. The general effect of this type of revenue spike in pro sports (and especially under the new revenue sharing provisions) is that more teams find themselves competing for higher-end assets. Basic law of supply and demand will tell you that this will drive up UFA prices in the future. Read more »
So long Emmy, it’s been fun (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images).
Over the past two days, Glen Sather has made two minor trades to acquire much-needed depth defensemen in Justin Falk from Minnesota and Danny Syvret from Philadelphia. Defensive depth was clearly an issue, as the Rangers were exploited against the Bruins without Marc Staal, and hopeless once Anton Stralman went down. They needed to address this, and they have done just that.
In Falk and Syvret, the Rangers get two young(ish) defensemen –both left-handed shots– who are on the cusp of cracking an NHL lineup. Falk has more NHL games under his belt, but both are capable of dressing in a pinch and holding their own. Neither is going to wow you, but they are certainly better than what we saw from Roman Hamrlik (or what we didn’t see from Matt Gilroy). It is likely that Falk and Syvret will mean the end of Hamrlik and Gilroy on Broadway. However, Steve Eminger is a curious case.
Warning: #fancystats coming up.
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