I told myself I wasn't going to do this. I told myself I wasn't going to allow myself to get worked up over what some people are saying about Keith Yandle. But I am only human, and I cannot help myself.
Larry Brooks wrote an article about Dan Girardi's slump. I am not linking this article for you to go read it and attack him, I am linking it because I am going to quote from it and it's the right thing to do. In said article he wrote this:
The Rangers have had myriad issues with their Keith Yandle-Dan Boyle third-pair duo, but Girardi's difficulties were both more troubling and of far greater impact given his stature as the club's longtime top-pair right-side shutdown guy.
Enough. Enough of this nonsense. Girardi's struggles have not been of "far greater impact" solely because of his "stature as the club's longtime top-pairing right-side shutdown guy." His struggles have been of a far greater impact because they're actively hurting the team.
This narrative of Yandle being an issue is almost as crazy as the three-week period in the offseason when we got story after story about how the Rangers were looking to trade Yandle for cap space. Try to wrap your head around that. After the Rangers traded one of their best prospects (Anthony Duclair and Pavel Buchnevich were always tied in my eyes) to get Yandle and have Arizona eat half his salary, the solution to the Rangers' cap crunch was not to waive Tanner Glass or to trade Kevin Klein (thankfully they didn't) but instead to trade Yandle.
If you're trying to make sense of it just stop, you're only going to hurt yourself. It doesn't make sense. A part of me thinks it wasn't actually supposed to make sense anyway.
But let's get back to the original point of this article: Yandle is a problem defensively. According to most in the media, Yandle and Boyle are the anchors that are dragging the Rangers' defensive corps down.
The below is a chart from War-On-Ice looking at even strength statistics for all Rangers defenseman (excluding Dylan McIlrath, who has only played in two games) so far this year. The players are all listed on the left and the individual statistics are at the top.
Each statistic has a red box which represents the worst stat of the group, and a green box which represents the best stat. So for example: Kevin Klein is a +21 in scoring chance differential while Girardi is a -28. Every player's stats are listed there for reference, but only Klein and Girardi would get a color to show the peaks in both directions.
Here's the recap of the first 12 games:
Girardi has the worst corsi%, worst scoring chance differential, worst shot differential, the most goals against, the worst goals for% and the worst turnover differential.
Boyle has the lowest amount of even strength points and the lowest amount of even strength goals for of the group.
Yandle has the best shot differential, the best corsi% and the most takeaways while playing the most time in the offensive zone and giving the puck away the most times.
Here's where I think analytics play an enormous role in painting a picture of what your eyes are telling you: At even strength Girardi has given the puck away 10 times, is a -71 in shot differential and has been on the ice for seven even strength goals against. Yandle has given the puck away 12 times (more than Girardi has) but is a +19 in shot differential and has only been on the ice for three even strength goals against. Zone starts play into Girardi's numbers being a little lower, but has Yandle really been that bad? Have his turnovers really hurt the Rangers that much?
Look at Boyle -- who is apparently the worst of the worst. He's turned the puck over seven times at even strength, has been on the ice for four goals against and is a -10 in shot differential. Has he really been that bad? Have his "countless turnovers" really hurt the Rangers that much?
This is not apples to apples in some respects. Both Yandle and Boyle have had easier zone starts than Girardi which does impact these numbers a bit. Competition is a part of this as well, but Yandle and Girardi have spent a lot of time together (and Klein has spent a lot of time on the top pairing, too) so it's not as far off as you think. This ideology that Yandle and Boyle keep turning the puck over which has hemmed the Rangers in their own zone and cost them multiple goals is a fallacy.
Maybe, just maybe, the eye test enough isn't alone. Don't hold your breath on that being admitted, though.