Monday, October 14, 2013

The New York Wish Fulfillment Rangers, or Aaron Is Never Happy

So, you have no reason to believe this, but: I had planned to write a post today that, among other things, presented a case against eminently likable but ultimately inadequate backup goaltender Martin Biron. I was going to claim that a string of "bad outings" couldn't keep being seen as one-offs, supporting the argument with Biron's subterranean .899 save percentage dating back through 2010-2011. I was further going to (somewhat tenuously) argue that, as a backup goalie's primary job is to provide (mediocre) consistency, giving the team a chance to win every time he comes in even if he's never above average, the occasional stinker is to be tolerated less in a backup than in a starter. I was going to lament that Hedberg was never given a fair shake at camp, and that, given that Talbot needs to be playing instead of sitting, that left us with no option but Biron on the roster.

I was going to say all those things, and it was probably going to take me longer than that, but then today the Rangers put him, and Arron Asham, on waivers. So, I guess I don't have to convince anyone of anything. But, of course, this raises a pretty obvious question: Who goalie now? Vigneault isn't ruling anyone out, including Talbot and the Moose, but in the meanwhile, Biron will either be claimed on waivers or clear and be sent to Hartford. So, who goalie now? Do we believe that 40-year-old Hedberg, whose last NHL game was 6 months ago (he gave up 4 goals on 21 shots to the Rangers) will be more consistent, if he joins Callahan, Stepan, and Hagelin among the ranks of Rangers who didn't have the luxury of a training camp? Do we think that it's time for Talbot to start becoming familiar with backup life? Who goalie now??

Okay, and look. Fuck Arron Asham. Dude with that guy's history should make way for inexperienced kids, even if they're less talented, 10 times out of 10. I've said in this space many times that the Rangers would be easier to root for without him, and I'm excited about entering that reality. But. Since camp started, the guy has been better than plenty of other Ranger forwards. Hell, he has even won fights (something I couldn't say for him at all last season). If he was worth keeping around before, I can't imagine what has changed now. Am I really supposed to be excited instead about Derek Dorsett - he of the three unprovoked, unnecessary offensive-zone infractions Saturday night, of which two led to goals?

In conclusion, two things that I wanted to happen happened today, and I'm worried/unhappy about both. Thus, I have achieved what I believe to be the very essence of the Garden Faithful, and I am ready to transcend.

The rest of the planned post was to be an exciting numerical foray into just how bad the Rangers have been so far. That's the fun thing about such a small sample size: 5 games into an 82-game season, you can really combine the numbers to tell an atrocious tale. For example:
  • The Rangers have amassed a goal differential of -16 in only 5 games. Not only is this obviously the league worst, it puts them on pace to be outscored by their opponents by 262.4 goals by the end of the regular season. This is only 2.6 short of the NHL record, set by the Washington Capitals, who were outscored by 265 in 1974-75.
  • The Rangers have given up 25 goals in those 5 games, putting them on pace to give up 410 on the season, 36 shy of the record set by those same Capitals.
  • The Rangers have, logically, then, scored only 9 goals so far. This puts them on pace to score 147.6, only 14.6 goals more than the NHL-low 1953-54 Chicago Black Hawks.
  • 4 of the Rangers' goals were on the power play (2 on 5-on-3s), and one was that really bizarre shorthanded Jonathan Quick misplay over 100 feet from anyone else. Thus, the Rangers have only scored 4 even-strength goals: 3 by Brad Richards, one by Derek Dorsett.
  • Ranger goalies have given up those 25 goals on 179 shots, for a combined save percentage of .860 through almost 300 minutes. .860.
  • Marc Staal and Dan Girardi are already each -7. Ryan McDonagh is -5. Yes, plus/minus is dumb, but I don't have "on the ice for an even-strength goal," which is really only a little better anyway, and I don't know if you heard me but Staal, Girardi, and McDonagh are on pace to average under -100 each.
  • The Rangers have been outshot in every game, obviously. But also, they have only even outshot their opponents in 4 individual periods (of 15), and 2 of those were the second and third of their shutout loss to the Ducks (can you say "score effects"?). The other two were the second period in LA and the second period in St. Louis.
  • The Rangers have taken 135 shots on goal, bringing their shot differential to -44, an average per game of -8.8. The depressing part about that one? That's exactly what it was last season.
It's hard to be noticed at all among this kind of rubbish, but it's worth pointing out that, to date, Callahan is starting to look very good, Brad Richards looks almost worth the contract, and Stralman manages to stand out as a problem even on this blue line that is on pace to be nigh historically bad. Also, Derek Dorsett is, predictably, not exactly making up the difference between "Brassard, John Moore, and a 6th-rounder" and Marian Gaborik, is he? Yyyyyyyikes.

Look. Here's the thing. The Rangers are not this bad. At least, as you can see, it is statistically unlikely that they are this bad. We know this without even bothering to notice that the team shooting percentage (just as meaningless in a 5-game sample as the rest of these numbers) is as low as 6.67%. The team is bad for every reason, and it's fixing whatever it can. Lundqvist will get better. Biron will not. Callahan and Stepan, and eventually Hagelin, too, will return to regular season form. Everyone is learning a new system, and as they do, they'll stop focusing on it, and their ability to complete basic tape-to-tape passes is likely to return. Do those changes make the team likely to win the Cup, or even the division? No. But they make it better than this.

The point is: you shouldn't worry about any of that. The only thing from the last 5 games that you should worry about is the hit on Rick Nash. Nash is legitimately one of the best forwards in hockey. He is certainly the best on the Rangers. He's now retroactively on IR, out indefinitely, with concussion-y headaches. The Rangers had better take their time with this one, but who knows how long that will be, or if he'll ever come back the same? Best case, Nash returns soon and everything is fine. Worst case, he is, as my father fearfully suggested, "this generation's Eric Lindros" - and then, the Rangers are shitty this season, so Lundqvist signs elsewhere. Then, without Nash or Lundqvist, we can talk about how much this team really sucks. And we will.

1 comment:

  1. Re the pace to score 14.6 goals more than the NHL-low 1953-54 Chicago Black Hawks: In 1953-54, they played only 70 games..... Just sayin'.