Henrik Lundqvist (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Rangers have been perennial contenders but their window to win is closing quickly. With a poor defense corps, it will be up to Henrik Lundqvist to carry them.
THN is rolling out its 2016-17 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of 2015-16 overall finish, until the start of the season.
THN's Prediction: 5th in Metro
Stanley Cup odds: 35-1
Key additions: Mika Zibanejad, C; Brandon Pirri, LW; Michael Grabner, RW; Jimmy Vesey, LW; Nick Holden, D
Key departures: Keith Yandle, D; Derick Brassard, C; Eric Staal, C; Dan Boyle, D; Dominic Moore, C; Viktor Stalberg, LW
-What can be done about Dan Girardi? Not much, unless Jeff Gorton has incriminating photos of another team’s GM. Not only has Girardi’s play slid off a mountain lately, but he also has one of the worst contracts in the NHL. Just to add insult to injury, his no-movement clause means the Rangers must protect him in the Las Vegas expansion draft. Best-case scenario, New York has to hope the veteran rediscovers some of his earlier form. Otherwise, Girardi’s long-term deal will continue to smart. At least New York can minimize his ice time while promoting youngster Brady Skjei, who is ready for more responsibility.
What impact can Mika Zibanejad have? Immediately, he can play a similar role to the man he was traded for, Derick Brassard. In the short term, Brassard is the better player, but Zibanejad has more upside, assuming he puts it all together. This bodes well for New York in the future, especially since the team also landed Jimmy Vesey via free agency, so the Rangers aren’t going to be as old as they usually are. But Blueshirts supporters must calibrate their expectations properly when it comes to Zibanejad.
-Is Pavel Buchnevich ready for prime time? Buchnevich, 21, has been developing in the KHL for a couple years now because he didn’t want to come over to North America until he was ready for the NHL. Thanks to his size, deft hands and the edge he brings, he looked to be a fit in the Rangers’ collective right now. But with New York’s depth up front and recent free agent signings of Vesey and Brandon Pirri, he’ll likely face an apprenticeship in the AHL.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
The New York Rangers have been a perennial contender for many years, but those days are probably over. With Henrik Lundqvist in net, the team will at least have a chance to be competitive, but it’s more likely they miss the playoffs than go deep in them.
The biggest problem for the team used to be one of their biggest strengths: the defense. The play of both Dan Girardi and Marc Staal has deteriorated immensely to the point that they’re both adversely affecting the Rangers results. Here’s both player’s 5-on-5 results over the last few seasons.
Considering the Rangers let Anton Stralman walk, traded their future away for Keith Yandle, and then let him walk too, the whole situation looks even worse. Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Klein are the team’s lone capable D-men, with the former being pretty underrated here due to how many minutes he spends with Dan Girardi.
The defense being as bad as it is makes Lundqvist’s job that much harder. Not that he can’t handle it, but he’ll be left hung out to dry on a number of occasions this season and it wouldn’t be surprising to see his goals against numbers skyrocket thanks to the increased volume of shots he has to face. Considering the defence on this team, Lundqvist will be the biggest reason this team has success if it does.
Up front there’s little high end skill, but loads of depth that contributes to a strong group overall. Rick Nash should bounce back, while the team will employ a decent and balanced top nine that will be trouble for many teams to contain. While New York is deep at forward with seemingly no room for someone of little use, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Tanner Glass somehow find his way into the lineup anyways. With him, the Rangers are a sub-90 point team and their chances of making the playoffs would drop by about 10 percent.
And while the forward group looks strong, it’s concerning how they’ll receive the puck up ice with not many natural puck-movers on the back-end. That’s huge in the new NHL and without many options the team’s transition game will suffer leaving them hemmed in their own-zone on many nights. Whether their natural scoring and goaltending talent will be enough to mitigate their likely possession woes remains to be seen.
Up next: Los Angeles Kings
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