A Rangers 2013 Shootout Preview (Spoiler Alert: It's Bad)

You're clearly either incredibly bored, or else you're some sort of masochist who enjoys subjecting himself to excruciating torture. I can tell because you actually clicked, voluntarily, it seems, on a headline that contained the word "shootout."

Attach whatever derogatory nickname you like to it - the Skills Competition, the Home Run Derby, the Punt Pass & Kick Competition (my personal favorite) - but the sad reality is this: the shootout exists, and, occasionally, it matters. It was the difference between earning one and two points in nine games last season. Really, I'm wasting my breath, since if there's one fanbase in the NHL who doesn't need the importance of the shootout explained to them, it's this one (and we all know what I'm talking about).

As it happens, the Rangers, in very short order, have gone from being a great shootout team to a pretty lousy one. Is it the end of the world? Nah. But it's worth mentioning, and let's face it: you don't have anything better to talk about that doesn't wear number 61.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not advertising that the Rangers build a team specifically designed to excel in the shootout. There are always playoff teams that struggle after minute 65, as well as others who dominate them but aren't particularly busy come mid-April.

I think it's also safe to say they we've seen enough of "shootout specialists," at least ones who aren't good enough to warrant even bottom-six minutes. Woytek Wolski is entertaining, but unless his new team figures out a way to sneak him onto the ice from the press box in the event of a shootout, it doesn't matter. After Erik Christensen's NHL career comes to an end - which could very well be any day now - his amazing invisibility powers will offer him an attractive future as either a bank robber or a superhero. Either way, it promises to be more exciting than his foray into professional hockey ever was.

This is where the loss of Mats Zuccarello is particularly disappointing. Zuccs went five for ten in shootout attempts during his brief NHL career, and unlike Wolski and Christensen, he was actually worth dressing on gameday.

These are the Rangers shootout stats from 2010-11, sorted by player. Christensen went 5-8, Zuccarello went 5-9, and Wolski went 4-8. Combine that with one Henrik Lundqvist and you would be hard-pressed to find a better top-3/goalie shootout combo in the entire league.

It's now two seasons later, and none of the of the top three shooters from 2010-11 are still on the Rangers. We are instead left with this.

Some things to notice:

  • Brad Richards has a career shootout average of 37.7%, which is the best on the team. In 2011-12, Richards was the only shooter to appear in all nine Rangers shootouts, and he inexplicably scored only once.
  • 2011-12 had the polar opposite effect on Marian Gaborik. In spite of a relatively poor track record in shootouts, Gaborik went 4-7.
  • Zuccarello, obviously, has left the Rangers and gone to play in the KHL.
  • Ryan Callahan went 2-4 last season, but his career total of 3-13 isn't particularly inspiring.
  • After the top three, there is nothing. This is the one aspect of Rangers shootouts that has remained consistent over the past several years. Again, this isn't a complaint that Glen Sather didn't assemble this team on the premise of "let's make sure we have good shootout depth," it is simply an acknowledgement of the fact that if a shootout goes longer than three rounds, we're hosed.
  • The Rangers are much worse at shootouts, but they are obviously a much better team than the one with Wolski and Christensen on it, which is oh-so-slightly more important.
  • At some point, in some game, in some shootout, an NHL coach actually leaned over to Aaron Asham on the bench and uttered the words: "You're up, kid. Get in there."

It's also worth quickly mentioning our goaltenders. As we all know, Henrik Lundqvist is as good at it gets. His .763 career Save Percentage in shootouts puts him at the top of the league. Marty Biron, on the other hand, has a .554 career Save Percentage, which puts him near the very bottom. He can't get much worse without dipping below the 50% mark (which shall henceforth be known as "The Bobrovsky Line"). Coaches have tried switching netminders before shootouts in the past with generally lackluster results, and I don't know if a cold Lundqvist is preferable to a warmed-up Biron. On the other hand, it worked in D2, so perhaps Torts should give it a look.

Fast forward to October 12th. The Rangers' opener with the L.A. Kings has gone to a shootout. This is what the lineup would look like based on the roster as of this day:

In Net: Henrik Lundqvist. 'Nuff said.

Shooter 1: Brad Richards. Was 2012 a fluke or have goalies figured Richards out? Either way, if Broadway Brad puts up a doughnut almost 90% of the time in 2013, the Rangers will lose. A lot.

Shooter 2: Marian Gaborik. Again, was Gabby's season a fluke, or has he emerged as a legitimate top-3 shooter? Well, he'll still be recovering from his surgery on October 12 - and for the first several weeks of the season, in fact - so for a good chunk of the year it won''t even matter.

Shooter 2 who is actually healthy: Ryan Callahan. I guess.

Shooter 3: Anisimov? Dubinsky? Stepan? I don't know, take your pick. Seriously, it doesn't matter.

Shooter 4: No, seriously, it doesn't matter, they're all, like, 1-7 lifetime. Just let the other team score so we can go home.

To borrow a quote from John Tortorella here: "Let's call a spade a spade." This lineup stinks. Especially without Gaborik, this is a pretty awful group even if Brad Richards gets his mojo back. I don't want another Christensen, but I really wouldn't mind another Zuccarello. Isn't there one guy we can add to this lineup who can score 30-50% of the time, as well as contribute during the actual game?



Answer: YES. 38.8% for his career in shootouts. If that isn't worth J.T. Miller, Michael Del Zotto, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and three first round picks, tell me what is.

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