AP Photo/Matt Slocum
When Taylor Pyatt was signed, he was brought in to help replace the departed combination of Ruslan Fedotenko, Brandon Prust, John Mitchell, Brandon Dubinsky, and Artem Anisimov. In those departed five players, the Rangers lost a lot of depth, but more importantly players capable of eating big minutes against tough competition. Suffice it to say, he hasn’t lived up to expectations so far.
Even off the score sheet, where Pyatt is well below is career averages, the big forward has been struggling to find consistency on the defensive front as well. During last season, Pyatt was a reliable defensive forward, facing decent competition (.140 Corsi Rel QoC) and starting just 41.2% of his shifts in the offensive zone. His RCorsi of -9.3 wasn’t stellar, but this is more a factor of zone starts. It’s tough to maintain a shot attempt advantage when starting 60% of your shifts in the defensive zone.
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Since Chris is on his annual pilgrimage to the US of A, you’re all stuck with me for this week’s musings. I know my questions won’t be anywhere near as poignant or provocative as my colleague from across the pond, but I’m gonna give it the old college try…
After not having seen the Maple Leafs since the middle of January, I’ll admit I was expecting more of the same from Toronto. I was incorrect. That team is a pain to play against. They run an aggressive forecheck and are deadly in transition. They are going to make someone’s life very difficult in the first round. As long as their goaltending holds up…
Torts shuffled the lines around big time last night. While I really enjoy seeing the Nash-Stepan-Cally line together, I understand Tort’s thinking. The Phaneuf matchup was killing that line and Tort’s needed to give Toronto a different look. I wasn’t crazy about any of the specific lines he created, and since the Isles don’t have a shut-down number 1 d-man, I’d expect more familiar line combos come Saturday.
I know Hags hasn’t fully cemented himself as a top-6 player just yet, but even when he’s moving up and down the lineup, I think it’s a waste to play him with Boyle or Pyatt. Read more »
(Scott Levy/NHLI/Getty Images)
Acting GM Jeff Gorton is on record as saying the Rangers plan to be aggressive on the trade market to try to improve the club by the April 3rd trade deadline. Marian Gaborik is obviously the biggest name being floated in rumors, but it’s difficult to find a good fit and it’s probably more likely than not that Gabby finishes the season with the Blueshirts. That said, it’s common knowledge that New York would like to add a top-four defenseman and a top-nine forward to help replenish the depth that was lost during the offseason and has crippled the team all season.
With so many teams still in playoff contention in this lockout-shortened season, trade prices appear to be sky high, even for rentals. So who could New York offer in trade packages over the coming weeks outside of Gaborik?
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AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
In case you missed it, the Rangers re-signed Mats Zuccarello, who will likely join the club within the week. Zuccarello will bring some stability and scoring to the bottom-six, something that is desperately needed. The addition of Zuccarello will lead to some lineup changes. When all the pieces fall into place, the odd-man out is not who you might think it is.
It’s been very clear that the organization wants offensive talent to play alongside J.T. Miller on the third line, so it’s a logical assumption that these two will see some ice time together. Since Zuccarello is rather flexible and can play either wing, that opens up a few options for the Rangers. If Torts wants to try Miller at center, then the Rangers can try either Marian Gaborik (RW) or Chris Kreider (LW). Each line will have a lot of skill and speed, but the downside is that the trio will be defensively inept. The rest of the top-six remains the same.
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Pyatt has proven to be a nice addition so far by Glen Sather
Strike up another successful acquisition by Glen Sather. Taylor Pyatt –all 6’4 and 230 lbs of him– has proven to be a solid add to the Rangers, even though we’re still too early in the year to make significant conclusions. While Sather goes about adding integral pieces to roster like Rick Nash and Brad Richards, it’s the additions of the likes of Pyatt that give the Rangers a chance at success; and it’s not just about the numbers on the ice but those off it as well.
Pyatt has already grabbed 5 points in 8 games and has at times looked pretty impressive. Despite a lack of foot speed he offers a physical presence, an ability to hold on to the puck, and has shown good chemistry with a few different Rangers. Of course, he won’t be able to maintain his 30% shooting percentage. Nor will he be able to produce as much as he has thus far when a second line staple such as Ryan Callahan returns but he won’t have to.
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Hagelin won’t be goal-less for long.
With the Rangers offense appearing to finally be coming to form, the attention shifts focus to the goal count for the newcomers and those with high expectations. Many expect the offense to come primarily from Rick Nash, Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan, and Derek Stepan. But to the surprise of many, Taylor Pyatt (three goals) has thrown his name into the mix, and Carl Hagelin has been MIA on the score sheet.
Pyatt has been the second best offseason acquisition thus far. His three goals are a product of his hard work and his ability to be in the right place at the right time. Pyatt’s three goals have come off seven shots, good for a 42.9% conversion rate. Obviously that won’t continue, especially when you look at his career 11% conversion rate. A regression to the mean is bound to happen, and while seven shots is a small sample size, those expecting Pyatt to continue scoring at this pace will be in for a rude awakening.
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Taylor Pyatt has displayed impressive hockey sense in his first two games
A two game sample size is hardly enough to evaluate anyone, and clearly none of the Rangers played particularly well in the season’s opening weekend, but here are some initial impressions of the newest Blueshirts:
Rick Nash – As coach John Tortorella said following Sunday’s game, “he’s the real deal.” Nash has been an absolute puck magnet, has already displayed soft hands and creative stickhandling, is using his body extremely well to create separation between the puck and defenders and has even thrown a few solid hits. Nash understandably wants to make a good impression with his new club, but I’ve also been pleased to see that he’s continued competing very hard in both losing efforts.
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Although the Rangers are likely to benefit from a lockout –due to the injury to Marian Gaborik– there is still a solid chance that when the season starts, the club will still be without their top scorer from last season. Gaborik, who had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in June, is said to be out five or six months recovering from the surgery.
The acquisition of Rick Nash actually gives the Rangers tremendous flexibility when dealing with this injury. Nash is a rare forward that can play both wings, and play them at a high level. This gives the Rangers the ability to fill the spot opened up by Gaborik’s injury on either the left side or the right side.
The players that are likely to play on the top six –alongside Nash, Brad Richards, and Derek Stepan– are the ones you would expect: Carl Hagelin, Ryan Callahan, and Chris Kreider. All three played on the top two lines in the playoffs, and are either decent offensive threats (Cally), or players with some great offensive potential (Kreider, Hagelin).
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No doubt about it, the Rangers have had some serious roster turnover this season, especially among the bottom six forwards. Gone are Brandon Prust, John Mitchell, Ruslan Fedotenko, Artem Anisimov, and Brandon Dubinsky. In are Arron Asham, Taylor Pyatt, Jeff Halpern, and possibly Michael Haley (at least to start the season while Marian Gaborik is out). While the Rangers will surely miss most of the departed, where they will miss them the most is on the penalty kill.
Fedotenko, Prust, and Dubinsky were all top penalty killers for this club last season, with Anisimov and Mitchell seeing some time there as well. Of those coming in, only Halpern has experience as a top penalty killer. Asham and Pyatt have played there in the past, but not much (if at all) last season. This leaves a hole that needs to be filled, and needs to be filled from those already on the roster.
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The Rangers were eliminated in the Eastern conference finals against the Devils for a few reasons. Most fans question the lack of goal scoring and high end skill and rightly so. The fact that the Rangers still haven’t gone out and addressed this frustrates many, even though Glen Sather has been right to not over react.
Then there is the theory that the Rangers may have run out of gas, with two gruelling series against the Senators and Capitals taking a lot out of the young, hard working team. Finally though, was the fact that the Devils’ depth out produced the Rangers equivalent. This however, is an area that Sather has begun to address and is a reason why a lot of Rangers fans should calm down and not panic about the apparent lack of offseason progress.
Forget for a moment the uncertain future regarding next season and the CBA discussions. Assume that the Rangers start the season on time with the current assembled roster. It has improved. As the Rangers added Taylor Pyatt, Jeff Halpern and Arron Asham, most fans were left underwhelmed and frustrated that the new signings names didn’t begin with Zach or Bobby. Sather still did well.
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