By Brad S.
By the end of the year, I’m sure that more people than just me were actively rooting for the Rangers to take penalties rather than go on the power-play. It always seemed that we were more likely to get a shortie from Brandon Prust than we were to see Marian Gaborik light the lamp with the man advantage. Now, with the addition of Brad Richards, we have added another name to the long list of guys who have been brought on board to “fix” the Rangers’ power-play (Ales Kotalik and Bryan McCabe, just to name two). Given the guys we have on board, how do we raise the Ranger power-play back to its former glory?
What Are We Dealing With?
Recently, George Ays at Blueshirt Banter published an article setting out the number of shots taken on the power play last season (here’s a link to the article, which is very well done: http://goo.gl/e8iVR). Looking at the numbers, a few things jump out at me:
1. Even when he was struggling in other areas, Michael Del Zotto was effective on the power play. Count me among MDZ’s believers. MDZ put one more shot on goal than Mark Staal in more than thirty fewer power play minutes. More importantly, he was pretty efficient in putting up points. His 7 PPP ranked 7th on the team, and he played fewer minutes on the power play than every one of them except Prospal. That makes me think that, if he continues to develop, MDZ can be a solid contributor to next year’s power play.
2. We gave a TON of PP minutes to people who were sub-optimal choices. First and foremost is Wolski. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the move that brought him over. However, between his PP time with PHX and his time with us, he played the 5th most minutes of any forward and only generated 1 PPG and 3 PPA. Compare that to a guy like Brian Boyle, who scored the same number of points in less than a little more than 1/3 of the time, or even Ruslan Fedotenko, who would have projected to 6 PPP had he been given the same amount of time as Wolski, and Barb Underhill will have to do a Boyle-like transformation for Wolski to merit any PP time.
3. The parts are here. Both Boyle and Callahan scored on more than 25% of their PP shots, and we know Gaborik can score on the PP (14G in 2009-10, and a 15% shooting percentage on the PP last year). With the addition of Richards, who has scored over 40% of his career points with the man-advantage, we finally have a quarterback to bring it all together.
Who Should Take Next Year’s PP Minutes?
I think the Rangers should have two PP units with drastically different game plans. Unit one will be more of a finesse unit, with playmakers placed around Gaborik who also have the potential to score. Unit two will get pucks to the net from the point, and use guys who are gifted at putting the puck in at close range to finish. This all assumes that everyone gets re-signed and nobody gets traded.
C: Brandon Dubinsky. He’s our presence in front of the net. Dubi is very solid up close, and provided a very respectable 11 PPP last year. With a PP line that has some snipers, Dubi’s presence will be essential.
RW: Marion Gaborik. Like there was any doubt. When he’s on his game, he’s a lethal finisher on the PP, having scored 10 or more PPG five times in his career. Even last year, his 16 PPP ranked #1 on the team. Adding some playmakers around him can only help.
LW: Mats Zuccarello. This pick looks controversial, but I think the addition of the Norwegian Hobbit will boost the line overall. Despite playing the 8th most minutes of any forward last year, MZA tied for the team lead with 9 PPA. He didn’t light the lamp on any of his PP opportunities, but with his second full camp under his belt and further acclimation to the NHL game, I think he’s the right choice.
D: Brad Richards. Our newest addition chalked up 22 PPA last year, better than our top two combined. Add that to the fact that he’s scored nearly 1/3 of his career goals on the PP, and we might have finally found our PP quarterback.
D: Mark Staal. Staal was less than fantastic getting shots to the net last year, falling more than two shots per sixty PP minutes short of the league average. However, I think that is in large part due to playing with Dan Girardi, who bombed the puck on goal to the tune of 5 PPS/60 over the league average, and the shot-happy Bryan McCabe. Staal is a smart player who can jump into the rush if necessary, and I think that makes him the logical choice as the other defenseman on Unit 1.
C: Brian Boyle. This man desperately needs more PP time. On only 14 shots last year, Boyle netted 4 PPG. That’s impressive, especially given that the guys he tied with (Staal, Christensen, and Dubinsky) all played more than double Boyle’s PP minutes. Having his big body and long reach around the net will create some killer screens and allow him to jump on some juicy loose pucks.
LW: Derek Stepan. In this group, Step is the distributor. He’s got great vision, and can score a bit on the PP (he was one of only 6 players on the team to hit double-digit PPP). He can find the passing lanes, and shoot if he’s got the chance.
RW: Ryan Callahan. Cally is the other guy to have in front. Despite his size, he’s good at mixing it up and creating traffic in front. Plus, his 10 PPG led the team, and that was with significant time off due to injury. Given the opportunity and the right line combination, he should be able to replicate and improve on last year’s performance.
D: Michael Del Zotto. As I said above, I’m not willing to write him off. I think he’s got good vision, and can make some incredible passes. I think there is potential here, and though I’d be willing to see what McD or Erixon can do here, he’s my front-runner.
D: Dan Girardi- He shoots in bunches, leading all Ranger defensemen with a whopping 14 PPS/60. The name of the game on Unit 2 is getting the puck to the net, and Girardi does it as well as anyone on the team.
These two units should give the Rangers a solid chance to score every time out, and the contrast in styles should give opposing teams a daunting task in keeping them off the board.
Looking forward to training camp more every day, and to seeing what y’all think on the message thread.
Just a reminder that I will be accepting guest blog entries until July 31st. Please e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. The winner will receive a home blue Derek Stepan jersey.