Sunday, June 21, 2009

The New York Rangers - Not The Only Large, Unwieldy New York Based Organization To Completely Underestimate The Possibility of Failure

Rangers Prolegomena - A Tiny Essay On Shooting Percentage

The Rangers were last in the NHL in shooting percentage, and it was not even close - they registered a pathetic 7.5%, whereas the next closest team scored an 8.1%. An increase of .6% would've yielded 16 more goals over the 82 game schedule. The Rangers offset this (somewhat) by taking a ton of shots - they were 7th in the league in shots on goal. In the middle of this is Scott Gomez, possibly one of the worst shooters in the league - his shooting % of 7.7 is near the bottom of the league for forwards who play an offensive role. Gomez often tries incredibly low-percentage shots in order to create rebounds - some of those bad 'shots' no doubt result in assists for him and goals for his team.

Normally one would think this is just a fluke and that the Rangers could score 30 or 40 more goals next season, but their top three centers are not tremendous shooters by any stretch - We've already covered Gomez, but Brandon Dubinsky also has a 7.6% career percentage and his hands are one of the few things keeping him from being a bona fide star in the future. Chris Drury may have a 12% career shooting percentage, but that was buoyed by playing in Buffalo; remove those and he's at 10.7%, which is exactly what the Rangers have gotten from him these past two seasons. Recall that shooting percentage is, in itself, not a skill - Chris Drury is still a strong player and worth having on one's team. However, none of the current Rangers are particularly adept at filling the net regularly, and it shows on the team's shooting percentages, both career and otherwise. Glen Sather's master plan seems to have been that Scott Gomez could waken the sleeping sticks on his team, but that plan has certainly not come to pass.

Whither Nikolai Zherdev? Zherdev and John Tortorella did not see eye to eye, and his minutes were reduced down the stretch. It is certainly possible that the Rangers may non-tender their second leading scorer in hopes to acquire something better. Zherdev is a tremendous talent but he appears to lack the finish to justify his lengthy swoons in effort.

Whither Wade Redden? It is a very remote possibility that Wade Redden could be waived. Redden's play was horrid under former coach Tom Renney, but seemed to improve under the new coach, enough that Glen Sather will likely hold off on something so drastic. Were he waived, he almost certainly could not be called back up during the season - the Rangers would have to replace his minutes.

Wow, The Rangers Are In A Bad Spot: The Rangers clearly went with an aggressive free-agent strategy in hopes that the salary cap would continue rising. With a constantly rising salary cap, it would have been possible to salvage bad contracts (e.g. Avery) from teams that needed them gone, plus they could have been one of the few teams to spend up to the salary cap each year. In an increasing salary cap world, bad contracts ostensibly get better because they take up less of a % of a team's salary cap. Now that the salary cap will come down, the Rangers are stuck with four albatrosses - Drury, Gomez, Roszival, and Redden are nowhere near elite at their position, but they are all being paid close to elite money. The Rangers are thus a thoroughly average team.

2009-10 Projected Lines




Future Watch: Artem Anisimov scored 37 goals as a 20 year old in the AHL - it is hard to believe he won't be in a Rangers uniform next season. Defenseman Bob Sanguinetti showed offensive prowess in his first pro season, and right behind him is Michael Del Zotto who scored a point a game in the OHL. The Rangers' future took a serious hit with the unfortunate death of Alexei Cherepanov.


The Rangers have a lot of bad, unmovable contracts. If they get creative like Anaheim, maybe they package some prospects and bad contracts for good ones, but they don't have very much cap space at the moment. Larry Brooks suggested today that the Rangers might acquire Dany Healtey, but this appears to be an opium-induced dream.

Free Agent Discussion

Money to Spend: 8.4 million
Holes To Fill: 5

Even if the Rangers put Anisimov and Sanguinetti on the roster, their contracts add an extra 1.65 million to the Rangers' bottom line, and means they have 6.8 million to spend on the remaining 3 players. This leaves little money for an elite-level signing, and it's difficult to see how the Rangers can jigger their roster to allow for one. Even taking Zherdev off the roster, they still have to fill the hole he leaves with something comparable in price (e.g. Brian Gionta).

Left Wing

Two cheap options:

Taylor Pyatt (3/5.5) - Pyatt has always had the 'look' of a power forward without the finish. While there's more than enough NHL history to suggest that Taylor Pyatt will never be better than a 3rd line LW, there's also the one season where he scored 23 goals - doing that as a 6'4" 230 pound player will have NHL GMs pounding down your doors 10 years later.
Janne Pesonen (2/2.3) - Pesonen led the Finnish League in goals and points in 2008, but in his debut stateside he could not crack the Pittsburgh Penguins roster. He did manage over a point a game for their AHL affiliate, and may be the kind of Jan Hlavac-style place holder who scores 15 goals and 25 assists.

More expensive:

Nikolai Antropov (4/15) - Antropov did everything that he was expected to as a Ranger. He's got scoring touch around the net, and while he's the sort of player that always leaves fans expecting more, it's not unreasonable that he could fill this hole.

Right Wing

Joel Ward (3/6) - Sather already acquired Aaron Ward and Jason Ward as GM of the Rangers - why not Joel?
Chris Neil (2/3.6) - The Rangers need someone to fight Avery's battles - Neil can also play a bit as well.
Mark Recchi (1/1.8) - Veteran presence may help power play.
Brendan Shanahan (1/1.5) - Ditto.


Paul Mara (2/4) - Paul Mara was re-signed last off-season for one year by Sather; it's hard to tell if it's Mara on double-secret probation from the GM, or if Mara is trying to regain the touch that had him score 42 and 47 points in consecutive seasons; regardless, few players Mara's age sign one-year deals. Mara is prone to terrible penalties but there's nothing he does particularly poorly besides that.
Martin Skoula (2/3) - Skoula is the kind of defenseman the Rangers love - he's got supposedly good puck moving ability, even though this has never really manifested itself.
Mathieu Dandenault (1/1) - Dandenault would make a valuable place-holder for a deadline acquisition. The Rangers suffered almost no injuries last season and got away with playing rookies when the need arose; they will need more depth this season. While Dandenault may not be the guy, they certainly need a player who can play 30 or 40 games without being a disaster.


The Rangers really missed the boat not signing Marian Hossa this past off-season. Instead they came back with Wade Redden, which is a lot like getting an endless supply of Chunkys and Mary Janes on Halloween. They're bland and no one will trade with you. The Rangers do have some impressive looking prospects which should keep their team fresh, but they failed to replace Jaromir Jagr's production this past season and it's hard to see them doing so again this season. With the salary cap set to decrease, they will have an even more difficult time acquiring an elite-level player besides Henrik Lundqvist.


An impressive young defensive corps will keep the Rangers' mediocre offense hovering between making and missing the playoffs for the next few seasons.

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