On January 3rd, the Rangers announced that gritty depth winger Derek Dorsett had broken his leg and would be out at least month. Also on January 3rd, the Rangers acquired gritty depth winger Dan Carcillo from the Los Angeles Kings for a conditional 7th-round pick. Obviously not a coincidence. For better or worse, Carcillo had his moments of spicing things up. Now, he’s a free agent, and although the Rangers definitely have bigger fish to fry, we’ve seen time and time again that a team needs more than 12 forwards to successfully get through a season. His spot on the depth chart is not an afterthought. Should Carcillo be one of those players going forward? Let’s take a look.
Age: Turned 29 in January
Previous Contract: Two Years/$825K Cap Hit
Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
Basic 2013-2014 Stats: 57 Games, Four Goals, One Assist (Eight Games, Two Goals in Playoffs)
Irrelevant Info Pierre McGuire Would Enjoy: Dan Carcillo and Shawn Thornton faced off in the first outdoor fight in the history of the NHL.
Why You Keep Him
Carcillo knows his role and doesn’t try to be something he isn’t. We’ve seen some other 13th forwards in the past – such as Erik Christensen or Dan Fritsche – who were suffering from a severe crisis of identity and could never really figure out what their place in the NHL and on the Rangers was. Dan Carcillo, for better or worse, is what he is, and he’s well aware of it. He’s going to slot in on the fourth line. He’s going to smash his body into other people’s bodies and sometimes get bloody doing so. He’s going to work his butt off every shift, and once in a while when he finds the puck on his stick in the offensive zone he’ll get the puck on net.
Along with that sense of purpose is that Carcillo is at peace with it. Again, there are other “Black Aces” who either lose confidence the moment the coaching staff tells them they’ll be in the press box for a bit or who get frustrated and don’t have the patience for it. Carcillo is human, so of course he wants to get on the ice as much as possible. Still, he doesn’t let his ego get in the way of the big picture, which is the team trying to win games. When his suspension was cut and he was asked about being eligible to return for Game Four of the Stanley Cup Final, Carcillo remarked that he would be prepared but that “hopefully the team won’t need me.” Like a backup goaltender, you need those “Black Aces” to be able to deal with time off and also be ready to play on short notice once needed. You get the sense with Carcillo that he’d be keep a smile on his face and deal with sitting for 15 straight games like a professional, and that for Game 16 he’d step on the ice and not miss a beat.
Finally, while Carcillo has made some questionable choices in his career, he is very clearly liked by others in the locker room. Again, with those kinds of depth players, you need them to have the right kind of attitude. The players definitely rally around him and he surely helps to keep things light.
Why You Lose Him
Society often comes up with concepts and ideas that get spread around and eventually accepted as fact by some; despite not being true at all. For instance, the idea that shaving makes hair grow back thicker or darker. Or that we only use 10% of our brains. Or that you have to wait an hour after eating before you can swim. These are all factually incorrect assertions, and have been proven to be as much, but nonetheless continue to be believed.
In the area of hockey, the benefits of fighting often championed by many actually fit this criteria. One defense of having enforcers on the roster is the belief that they help to deter from cheap shots and prevent injuries. This is factually incorrect. Instead, the opposite is true. Teams who fight more tend to suffer more injuries, and there were an equal number of incidents which resulted in action by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety whether there was an enforcer in the lineup or not.
Another idea is that fighting helps to swing momentum in hockey games. While we can point to isolated incidents where this might have happened – these are called outliers in statistics – overall this is also factually incorrect. Here’s more evidence. In fact, a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health concluded that there were “four significant negative correlations” which indicated an “inverse relationship.” In other words, the more a team fought, the lower they tended to be in the standings. Again, pointing to individual teams who have bucked that trend is an outlier. They do as much to argue that fighting helps win as your great-grandfather who lived to 90 despite smoking every day does to argue against smoking cigarettes generally having negative health effects. Or that the few people who got rich playing the stock market in 1929 disprove the Great Depression ever happened.
This isn’t an article for debating fighting’s place in hockey, but Carcillo’s biggest asset is his fighting ability, and so subsequently how much of an asset that actually is becomes integral to the discussion. You can say that you enjoy fighting in hockey. You can say you find it exciting and enjoyable. And, thus, you can say that you like Dan Carcillo because you find him exciting and enjoyable to watch. I have no desire to argue these things because it’s a personal preference. I get it. Everyone loves a good scrap once in a while, and the unpredictability and antics of players like him can be captivating. To a very basic extent you do need guys on your team who will drop the gloves when absolutely necessary just to keep teams honest, but what you can not factually assert is that Dan Carcillo or anyone else’s fighting ability is, by itself, important or relevant. That it helps win games or helps to deter cheap shots and prevent injuries. It doesn’t. No matter how much you might want it to be true. The job of the GM is to build a winning hockey team, and thus the role of enforcers is dying out.
So, if you toss the fighting aside, what is Dan Carcillo? He’s a guy who has four goals and three assists over the his last 98 games which have spanned over three seasons. He’s a below average skater. He’s not a good possession player. He can not take faceoffs or play the penalty kill. Arguably the biggest reason for keeping Dominic Moore is that he is capable of doing many different things and that’s what you need out of your depth forwards. What, if it’s not fighting, is Dan Carcillo bringing to the table?
Figuring out a potential new contract isn’t overly complicated. He’ll get one year, maybe two if his agent brings his “A” Game. He’ll get in the range of $700K-$1M. We’ve gone over the Rangers’ tight cap situation again and again and again. If it was absolutely necessary for the sake of fitting other players in, Glen Sather could make worse decisions than to trade Derek Dorsett and his $1.63M cap hit for a draft pick the Rangers sure as hell could use while replacing him with Carcillo at a fraction of the price. He could also do worse than to re-sign Carcillo on the cheap while holding him as a 14th forward who can fill in for Dorsett whenever necessary while being nice for the ambience of the locker room.
Still, the Rangers could also do better. For what it’s worth, Larry Brooks believes that Carcillo is “unlikely to return unless Dorsett is dealt.” Depending on what prospects like (but not limited to) J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, and Oscar Lindberg do in the pre-season, Carcillo could be “replaced” by Dorsett, who could move into the role of 13th forward as one of the kids is promoted into a full-time roster spot. Ryan Bourque is another prospect who could actually make sense as a 13th forward. If the previously mentioned prospects don’t make the cut, then the Rangers aren’t going to let them rot in the press box and will instead give them key minutes in Hartford. Bourque, though, is a different breed. He’ll be 24 in January and doesn’t really have much upside. He’s learned and developed about as much as he can at the AHL level, and he’s at the do-or-die point in terms of making an NHL career for himself. He’s actually pretty similar to Dominic Moore. He can play center or wing. He’s got quick feet, forechecks hard, is responsible defensively, and can play the PK. He’s got decent enough hands to chip in on offense every so often.
Externally, there are literally dozens of players on the FA market who can slot into that 13th forward role. Just for the sake of throwing out some names, a few who might make sense are Steve Bernier, Ryan Carter, Peter Regin, and Jesse Winchester. Glen Sather hasn’t exactly been one to avoid moving late-round draft picks for projects and role players that the scouting staff like, either.
In any case, I won’t be surprised if Carcillo returns or if he leaves. If he does depart, then his tenure was short but certainly not uneventful. He’ll always be remembered by Rangers fans for scoring in a Game Seven win against the Flyers and for scoring and then literally laughing in the faces of a bunched of angry Philadelphians during Game Four. For that, we thank you.
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