You got questions. The Suit has answers.
No goal breakdown today folks. Unfortunately Dave is traveling and I only caught the second half of the game. Apologies for that.
Anyway, I originally had an x’s and o’s post scheduled for this morning, but I decided to call an audible since the team really hasn’t been playing well of late. I feel like during such a critical part of the season everyone would rather talk about the team than strategy, so I thought a mailbag/twitter bag would be more appropriate.
Before we get started, a big stick tap to those who sent questions in. Much obliged.
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The Rangers need their coach to coach, not to moan about talent. Photo: AP
As the Rangers struggle to mount any kind of offense or physicality, the team is being increasingly exposed for the obvious flaws that they have. We’ve discussed ad nauseam how the Rangers should turn to some of the prospects to help the ailing offense (Kristo) or the putrid levels of physicality (McIlrath). One player that hasn’t had much airtime is Marek Hrivik, at one stage a dark horse for a spot in the line-up to start the year. Hrivik could help both of the Rangers critical areas of concern.
While it may have gotten to the stage where veteran help (aka a trade) is what’s needed to mix it up, Hrivik has shown that he can control the puck, work the boards and use his body to good effect. He’s also a player with legitimate offensive upside. At 6’1 and 200 lbs Hrivik may not seem physically imposing on paper but in limited exposure he has shown he uses his entire skill set effectively. We can’t say that about the Pouliot’s and Pyatt’s of the NHL roster.
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If you are unfamiliar with Bleeding Blueshirts, it is a podcast done by John Giannone discussing the news and state of the team. These are very well done and worth a listen. However the most recent podcast is one that really struck me as interesting, as Giannone’s guest was Assistant General Manager Jim Schoenfeld. Schonny has been the Assistant GM since 2007, and it’s the first time I’ve seen someone of that level be a guest of the podcast.
Schonny spent time talking about prospects, noting that he would rather have kids who are fringe NHLers play 16-18 minutes a night in all situations (ES, PP, PK) in the AHL than play sheltered minutes in the NHL. He prefers over the “let’s see what we have” approach, which is leaving a guy in the NHL over 6-8 games and seeing how he does. Schonny called it a “learn by doing” approach. For call ups, it’s about being able to “seamlessly integrate into the lineup” (knowing systems, conditioning, etc). This explains why we haven’t seen guys like Danny Kristo (Schonny specifically called him out as needing to learn how to be a two-way player, same with J.T. Miller) or Dylan McIlrath yet.
On trades, Schonny mentions about a 100:1 ratio of conversations to actual trades, and that conversations happen on a daily basis. That sounds about right, as discussions always happen. Schonny mentioned how accessible Glen Sather is to all GMs regarding trade talk. A big part of Slats’ philosophy is “you never know when you’re going to miss the best trade you can get.” That’s an experienced GM talking. Schonny also talks about cap worries and how it has made trading more difficult.
Schonny also talks fighting, his playing career, and some other topics. Definitely a great listen.
Rarity: A Ranger goal celebration. AP Photo/Mike Strasinger
With the Rangers seemingly in a tail spin and with the injuries mounting it really isn’t time to panic no matter how bleak it may seem at present. That said, changes do need to be made.
The Rangers have an opportunity to insert the likes of JT Miller, Danny Kristo and Dylan McIlrath now and give them consistent ice time and at no real risk. All of the aforementioned cannot do worse than the likes of Benoit Pouliot, Taylor Pyatt and (this season at least) any combination of Falk, Del Zotto and John Moore. If all they achieve this season is to become role players – or even that they simply avoid being liabilities – then it’s almost already an upgrade and developmental time long term.
With the team generating little to no offense, inconsistent (at best) defense and with spaces to fill thanks to an injury list that could backfill a local hospital there is an opportunity to exploit. Alain Vigneault has bemoaned the lack of appropriate player types and perhaps that’s true but is that because he’s simply icing the wrong type or is it that he hasn’t got them within the entire organisation? It’s time to find out.
Barring a disaster of epic proportions, Vigneault has time on his side so it would surely benefit him to look at the prospects available. He’s not getting fired this season unless the Rangers go on a winless streak that would threaten riots in New York.
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Ryan Callahan’s injury woes are concerning, but New York will still likely do everything it can to keep its captain
Quick note: Dave was at the game last night, so the goal breakdown will be done for the afternoon post.
The Rangers’ season is quickly spiraling out of control and it’s probably a matter of time before GM Glen Sather steps in and makes a major shakeup. But with so many pending free agents and so many players underperforming, it’s a certainty that the 2014-2015 version of the Blueshirts will look drastically different than the edition that stunk up the joint last night against Nashville. So let’s take a look at New York’s upcoming free agents and see who might still be around next year, and who could be gone.
Ryan Callahan - Yet another injury has clouded this situation. A few months ago it would have been unthinkable to imagine life without Callahan, but his health is becoming increasingly concerning. New York’s doctors will have to evaluate Callahan’s physical condition, but assuming he’s in one piece, I still expect the Rangers to do everything they can to lock up their captain long-term. Some of the beat writers think Callahan would be very tempted to join the Sabres next summer to move closer to home, but though I’m sure Callahan loves Rochester, New York City isn’t all that far away and I can’t imagine Callahan joining a rebuilding team. If things really fall apart for the Blueshirts and there’s not much progress in negotiations, I could see Callahan being tempted by a contender. But it’s still most likely the Rangers will retain their captain, albeit at a very steep price. Remember, the Rangers paid RFAs Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle and Michael Sauer over Callahan in 2011 and gave him a lesser deal due to the resulting cap crunch. No. 24 swallowed that bitter pill then, but it’s unlikely New York will be getting a hometown discount this time around.
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It’s no secret, hockey is a war of attrition. Come playoff time, games are usually settled in dirty areas of the ice by close scores. The Rangers style of play has certainly changed since they last made a run in 2012 where they pretty much embodied my last sentence. This season we’ve begun to learn what we don’t have and that’s grit.
To date we have seen mostly inconsistent play where either we’re putting away 4-5 goals or we’re giving up 4-5 goals. This isn’t a good sign for long-term success. And while I certainly appreciate some of the skilled plays we are seeing, we all know how hard it is to maintain that style consistently over the course of a long season, or a 7 game series. The Rangers need to address this before the deadline because hockey isn’t just a war of attrition, but also a game of matchups.
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Scott Levy/Getty Images
Now that all the hemming and hawing over Henrik Lundqvist’s contract situation has been completed, Cam Talbot’s future has been an oft-discussed topic. Whatever you may think about the specific details of the contract, Hank is going to be manning the pipes at the Garden until 2020-2021.
This brings us back to Talbot. His emergence this season as a viable NHL goaltender have prompted quite a few fans to jump to conclusions about his long-term future in the Rangers organization and his potential trade value and contract status. Just to get the facts out of the way, Talbot is under contract for this season and next at a very reasonable $562,000 cap hit. As Dave pointed out in his fantastic analysis of Hank’s contract, the discount between Marty Biron’s salary and Talbot’s hedge quite a bit of the raise that Hank received in the context of overall goaltending cost.
After next season, because of his age, Talbot will be eligible for Unrestricted Free Agency. Generally speaking, when a player makes his NHL debut, there are usually several cost controlled years at the team’s disposal, either through the ELC or RFA status. Because goalies are more often than not, late bloomers, the Rangers don’t have this luxury with Talbot. Read more »
In case you missed it, and I doubt you did, the Rangers re-signed Henrik Lundqvist to a massive seven-year, $59.5 million ($8.5 million cap hit) contract extension yesterday. It is a long commitment to the best goalie in the world. It’s also a contract that makes him the highest paid goalie in history (not counting Roberto Luongo’s contract, which was for a much longer term). The contract represents a clear message: This team is committed to winning, and is also committed to keeping their franchise players in New York for the foreseeable future. Naturally, there are a lot of pros and cons of the contract, so let’s get into them.
- The contract is only a $1.7 million (approximately 25%) raise on his current deal. With the cap expected to hit $70 million next season (10% increase), the cap hit only represents 12% of next year’s cap, compared to 10% now. The 2% increase is well worth it to keep Hank around. The interesting part is when you start combining goalie salaries. Martin Biron (pre-retirement) was slated to make $1.3 million, for a combined total of $8.175 million this season (12.7% of the $64.3 million cap). Next year with Hank’s contract and Cam Talbot’s $562,500 contract ($9 million total) is only 12.9% of the $70 million cap. The numbers actually remain the same in terms of dollars spent on goaltending. Read more »
It seems sacrilegious to call him out, but even Ryan Callahan must elevate his game
As is always the case when the Rangers are struggling, fans, players and the media alike are all searching for answers to the team’s woes. And though everything from bad puck luck to injuries has been a factor, coach Alain Vigneault hit the nail on the head yesterday when he put much of the blame for the team’s poor start on its underperforming core members.
“If we are going to get some traction and get past that .500 level, we need our top players to consistently play like top players,” Vigneault told Andrew Gross. “Not a period in, a period out. Not a game in, a game out. We need that core group, the leaders of this group, to perform accordingly. And we have not done that on a consistent basis and on a game to game basis. Just look at our lineup, look at our core group and look at our key guys and there’s the answer.”
Vigneault couldn’t be more right in his assessment of the team 28 games into the year. Because as much as fans like to argue about what Michael Del Zotto might fetch in a trade or which youngster should play a handful of minutes a game in place of Taylor Pyatt and Benoit Pouliot, it’s highly unlikely that any such substitution would have a major impact on the team. Maybe J.T. Miller, Dylan McIlrath and Danny Kristo will re-join the Rangers this year and maybe not, but the Blueshirts certainly can’t count on any of the unproven prospects within the organization to arrive and turn the season around. The team has already gotten a surprise shot in the arm from Chris Kreider, and even that hasn’t been enough. Read more »
Is AV still looking to point his players in the right direction?
If any conclusions can be drawn from the apparent goaltending ‘drama’ that has been going on in New York it is that Alain Vigneault is still getting to know his team and he’s still learning which buttons to press with which players. Henrik Lundqvist is usually harder on himself than anyone else could be; such is his will to win. He won’t have been happy backing up Cam Talbot for Monday’s depressing defeat against the Jets but if the result is a hot streak from Lundqvist who are we to second guess the decision?
While some prefer to focus on a controversy, Cam Talbot is someone that has clearly grown with every start and you can see his confidence grow with every save – despite the defeat last night. It appears that Vigneault may be flirting with a goalie controversy but is it just a coach still familiarising himself with the assets at his disposal? Could it even be a message to the rest of the team rather than the star goaltender?
For those paying attention, Vigneault has prodded countless players over the past few weeks and months and given the middling results so far this season that is exactly what he should be doing. The Michael Del Zotto situation has been one where the coach has been unafraid to publicly challenge a player to be better. Vigneault has publicly expressed his opinion on Benoit Pouliot while players such as Mats Zuccarello, Carl Hagelin and John Moore have been asked for more from the coach publicly. With the inconsistent and at times disappointing performances from numerous players on the roster this season it stands to reason that the coach will look to coach and prod his players for better performances.
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