Deep dive: An honest look at the Rangers roster right now

VIGNEAULT

The term, “team composition” is one used a lot among team executives and coaching staffs. When putting together a team, especially in the off season, they want to check as many boxes as possible in order to have the most competitive team.

The composition of a finished product involves many things; depth, play-makers, shooters, leaders, skill, grit, are just some of the ingredients needed to build a successful team. Top teams will always fortify at the trade deadline with the thought of a long playoff tournament on their minds. The better a team, the more likely that team will add depth at positions they feel vulnerable at. When that team heads into the playoffs, as many eventualities as possible(injuries, illness, and suspensions), are covered. All of this in the name of bettering the composition of the team.

Where the Rangers Are Now

The team composition of the Rangers as of August 2, is not optimal. There is one area that is lacking and problematic. And others that are overstocked to the point of hindering advancement and improvement. Things that will make it harder to have the team excel. Let’s look at it by position, excluding in goal where Henrik Lundqvist and Ondrej Pavelec are not a concern.

Shattenkirk will wear 22 (NYR Twitter)

Defensemen

Getting rid of Dan Girardi was supposed to solve all of the problems, right? As it turns out, not quite. Kevin Shattenkirk joins incumbents Ryan McDonagh, Brady Skjei, Brandon Smith, Marc Staal, and Nick Holden. Where does that leave young newcomers Anthony DeAngelo, Neal Pionk, and Alex Berezgalov?

In the case of Berezgalov, he has an out in his contract where he can return to the KHL if he isn’t in the NHL and gets sent down to Hartford. Can any of these young players beat out an incumbent? Possibly, but remember coach Alain Vigneault is very partial to veteran defenseman. This logjam of players leads one to think there may be too many players for too few jobs.

Now, injuries can thin the herd, and give someone a shot. But short of that, it will be an uphill battle for the 3 young defensemen. Let’s not forget Sean Day will also be in camp trying to win a job, and at worst will be a phone call away in Hartford. With his skill set, he will be NHL ready sooner, rather than later.

If the staff leans to staying with higher priced vets, it could stifle progress of some or all of these kids. Coaches don’t just hand kids jobs and responsibilities. Look no further then last year’s playoffs when most thought Skjei and Smith were outplaying Staal and Holden but were still behind the veteran pair in minutes. There was much speculation that Holden would be traded to fill another hole, and he still might. If that were to happen it would open a top 6 spot for healthy competition.

This dynamic is not good for team growth. It’s great to have depth, but too much depth will stifle growth. Also, it would be very naive to think Staal and Holden would both be cast aside by this management group. They will want one or both on that pairing. It would also be naive, to think that their salaries won’t have an effect on their place on the roster and place in the pecking order. Remember, Staal can’t be waived.

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Wings

If all of their top wings besides Jesper Fast are healthy, they have 7 top 6 wings for only the 6 spots. Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, J.T Miller, Jimmy Vesey, Michael Grabner and Pavel Buchnevich should all be on the top 3 lines. Some would argue that Grabner should not, but his speed and chemistry with Hayes and Miller led to a great 27 goal season, and a solid playoff season. Placing him on the fourth line is doing the opposition a favor. Grabner is also a super defensive player that keeps opposing defensemen honest.

Buchnevich and Vesey are players that spent time on the fourth line, but to get better they must be top 9 forwards getting more minutes and power play time. The idea of shifting Miller to center was floated by GM Jeff Gorton. This idea had freezing cold water thrown on it by coach Alain Vigneault, who thinks Miller is not suited to play center at this point in his career. Would they trade a wing for an established center? There is a lot of sense in swapping a surplus wing and/or defenseman for a center. Another thing to address with this group of wings is there isn’t very much of a mean streak in any of them. Having players that bring different things to the table is a much better for team composition.

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Centers

At present, the Rangers have 3 centers on their roster. Mika Zibanajad, Kevin Hayes and David Desharnais are the Blueshirts pivots, as they cross their fingers and toes and hope they all stay healthy. All three missed significant time due to injury last year. This means the lack of depth is a huge problem.

Cristoval Nieves, the Rangers most established AHL center, missed half a season due to concussions last year. And, his ceiling is probably as a fourth line player. First round pick, Lias Andersson turns 19 this October. He could get a look, but to ask someone his age to play a grinding 82 game schedule is a lot.

Now consider an injury to either Hayes or Zibanajad. Imagine their lineup for a 4-6 week injury to either? A player like Tyler Bozak or Vincent Trocheck would greatly improve team composition. The team would have a solid group at each position, and have room for younger players to compete and excel at positions.

Conclusion

The Rangers current team composition threatens to detract from their season, and badly needs to be corrected. Jeff Gorton himself declared after losing Derek Stepan via trade to Arizona, and Oscar Lindberg to Las Vegas, that he would seek centers via trade and free agency.

He signed Desharnais to be a 4th line center, and has drawn a blank at fortifying their biggest hole from large quantities on defense and an extra wing. Even if Andersson blows away expectations during training camp, there will still be a logjam on defense that has to be addressed.

It is possible Staal and Holden can sense the challenge of the youth and hold off their challenge. It is also possible the youth plays as well, and gets sent down because they can be. In my opinion, Gorton got off to a great start in diversifying the team a bit and opening some cap room. But when he stated he would fill a center spot thru trade and then didn’t, he gave the fan base and media something to point to as an unfilled deficiency.

The fan base will also be clamoring, for right or wrong to see Pionk, Day and DeAngelo play over Staal and Holden. And by not moving either, he has placed a target squarely on his back, and Vigneault’s also.

27 comments

  • i think you are all overvaluing Mr. Lindberg.

  • The season is 2 months away. Aren’t you way too premature with statements like ‘In my opinion, Gorton got off to a great start in diversifying the team a bit and opening some cap room. But when he stated he would fill a center spot thru trade and then didn’t…’?

    • i don’t think it is premature. now i agree that there is still time to make a move which i mentioned when i said there was enough surplus on the wing and defense to make a move for a center. but until it happens…

  • I’m thinking the D is fine, esp since the only real potential issues are the 3rd pair and lower. Meanwhile, to blindly say we are all set in net is a bit of an oversight. Hank, while still a capable #1 goalie, is coming off his most inconsistent season thus far. And OP is unproven in the former Talbot/Raanta solid back-up role. In fact, I’d say contrary to last year, more significant question marks are in goal than on D. But we’ll see…Up front, pretty obvious an actual #1 C is the missing link. That and whether the Hayes/Miller/Kreider can take the next step towards consistency in both the reg ssn AND the playoffs. PP-wise, gotta think it’s gonna improve with Kirk out there along with McD and Brady. but the PK is a tad worrisome since Oscar played a large role when we were a man down. Stay tuned….

    • i will say the goaltending should be better with improved defense. also benoit allaire is a great coach and i think will have both goalies playing better. i am sure allaire hand picked OP becuase he felt he could work with him and improve him.

  • Rod Giacoleetch

    If INYR doesnt get a 1/2 center, well be talking all season about why they didnt get a 1/2 center. Hayes is not the answer with his inconsistency and why mess up 10/13/40 which at times was the best line…. Dumpimg Staal and/or Holden means losing a veteran if one of these new kids cant cut it, u cant bring them back

    • At times they were the best line…….. and when the playoffs came they were the worst line. Let’s not forget Tanner Glass, yes that Tanner Glass scored more goals than both of them combined in the playoffs. He also had more points than both of them while playing significantly less minutes and 5 less games when the games counted most. So let’s not go crazy and say let’s not mess with that line, when in the regular season they took advantage of opponents 3rd and 4th line matchups.

    • totally agree with your statement that if they dont get another center than we will be talking about why didnt we get one. and so will the media. and its a good point

  • I don’t think your piece was honest at all. It was negative for sure, too negative. They need a center and Holden will be moved. One missing piece hardly indicates a problem in team composition. And no, too much depth doesn’t stifle growth, it gives you leverage for trades and draft picks. This is a playoff bound team now, and a center away from a serious contender. Sheesh.

    • it was brutally honest. the Gm of the team himself said he was seeking another center via trade. you better have a deal in your back pocket to say that to the media and fans. if there is no roster spot for DeAngelo and Pionk to fight for, then they have to hope for an injury for a chance. i hope a trade happens, but until it does, they have an issue that will be be magnified by the media.

  • Not sure why you are so pessimistic about this team…the Rangers are just a no2 center away from being a solid cup contender…that over-abundance of d-men that you say will stagnate growth, is actually leverage for trades (hopefully a center), and Holden will be used in that trade scenario…which opens up a spot on D, taking care of that log jam you have mentioned…our top 4 d is one of the best 4-somes in the league…

    And I’m not sure most people realize the impact Shattenkirk will really have. Yes, his d liabilities are real, but remember, he is a possession player and when playing against the top line all game long, w/Big Mac no less, means the opposing teams best line will have the puck a lot less than seasons past, and their scoring opportunities will a lot fewer. My biggest fear? Big Hank.

    Last year was no doubt his worst. A sign of things to come? or just a blip in his career? And, most importantly, is he a big time money goalie? He has lost more overtime games in the playoffs (all 3 in finals) and gave up an alarming amount of late goals against Ottawa last year, with a couple of very soft goals. Will he be a better goalie with a new and revamped D? We will see…

    • the article is pointing to the what the team looks like at present. the Gm of the team has a shortage at center and a surplus on the wing and defense. until that is addressed it is an issue. to hope that one of their current centers does not get hurt is asking for the least likely scenario, since they all missed time last year, and hockey is a sport where injuries are frequent.

      • Agreed, and as last year taught, you can never have too much of a good thing when it comes to depth…look at all of the winger depth signings during the off season last year and yet, Tanner Glass was recalled for the playoffs! Amazing…

  • Why bemoan Tanner Glass? He came here to fill a enforcer role with the Rangers. He never complained once during his time here wheather it was being sent down to the AHL to provide veteran leadership or being taken out of the lineup after playing his heart out vs the Canadiens. In 3 shifts in the 1st period in the 1 st game he accomplished as much as JT Miller has done in 40 career playoff games. He was the consummate pro who was loved by his teammates and how do the fans treat him? Like complete garbage. For once maybe this fan base should thank Tanner Glass for showing up to work everyday, paying the price on and off the ice and never complaining about the absolute lack of disrespect from a majority of this fan base. I didn’t like the signing originally but grew to respect him during his time here. Fans ridicule him yet will not utter one word of complaint about a 24 yr old player who has NEVER shown up for a playoff game. I wish him nothing but the best and would shake his hand for the level of professionalism he brought every night while wearing the Broadway Blues.

  • The problem with the Rangers roster is very simple….. they have fallen in love with bottom six players and have little to none do or die players. The Rangers for years would never draft purely offensive player who do one thing and that’s score. Yes you need players to pay the price in front of the net and in the trenches but EVERY champiosnhip team has at least 1 player they rely on to put a crucial goal on the board. This team has way to many pass first players and players who have little offensive instincts. The last time they had a true sniper, Marion Gaborik, they decided to play an early form of 20th Century shinny and rather have him block 3 shots a game than put in 3 goals a game.

    This roster is over flowing with players who literally disappear in the playoffs. Hayes and Miller have shown the consistency to not count on them. Even players like Zucc who plays his tail off every shift leaves you wanting more on the scoresheet. Players like Kreider who once was a dynamic playoff scorer has lost his touch. Many wouldn’t believe before this post season he had more goals than Malkin and Crosby in the playoffs since Kreider entered the league. McDonagh had a killer instinct in 2014 when he carried the Rangers in their up run, but now has tailed off a bit. Derrick Brassard scored some huge goals for this team in the post season and lifted his game to another level come April.

    Hank for years stood on his head for this franchise and has lost a frustrating number of 1 goal games because this team cannot score in the playoffs. It is time to stop drafting,trading for and signing nice players and FINALLY go after playoffs who may go through the motions in the regular season but will skate through a wall come playoff time. Guys like Matthau and Noonan were players that did nothing in the season but were major contributors in the post season. Guys like Tikkanen would take dumb penalties all year yet come April would take a beating to score timely goals. Kovalev would frustrate the fan base for 6 months to turn into an unstoppable player in the playoffs. In his 44 career playoff games as a Ranger he had 40 points, tell me one player on this team right now that comes close to that production? The one time this franchise decided to get players that thrived under pressure they slated a dragon, so why get away from a winning formula?

    Get rid of the players who have shown they cannot stomach pressure that comes with playoff hockey and start bringing in guys who perform under the bright lights. This fan base deserves to see more than 1 Stanley Cup in 77 years!

    Yes I’m frustrated as hell but still a die hard!

    • There is only one thing that really counts when trying to win – talent. Admitted his work ethic, but he took up a roster spot from one of the younglings is my point…AV’s fault of course..

      • Damn it, wrong spot to post, my bad 🙂 reply was meant for above comment

      • I got what you were responding to. But talent doesn’t fall on the coach, that falls in the front office. And let’s be honest Tanner Glass played much better than players who have much more talent than he does. Too many NICE players.

        • They have the talent (maybe) but if AV don’t play ’em how will really know the talent level?

          • What player should have taken Glass’s 4th line spot? Buch? You want him playing 9 mins a game in a role he’s not cut out to play?

  • If you understood my comment clearly (please re-read it) you should understand that I stated the importance of depth. The reason glass was there in the first place was because of injuries/bad play…granted, he played better than customarily, but a whole season in the minors is a helluva motivator…

    • Why are in agreement. I believe this teams lack of depth up front is glaring, not just at center. I just think the constant dumping on Glass is old, many in this fan base cite him as the reason for the failures.

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