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AV's Leash; Top D Pair Struggles; Val James

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Bantering Points, Wednesday February 4, 2015.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

AV Chats After Practice

Here is a nice recap of AV's comments from yesterday after practice. He talks about Zucc and a bunch of other stuff.  [SNY]

Of course he spoke about the Mats Zuccarello contract extension issue. He wants him back. We all do.

However, I was particularly interested in this comment, which came in response to a question about how much leash players have to take risks:

"I think a lot of times it depends on the time of the game and the score and certain players have earned the right for more leeway and more space as far as pushing the limit. A Rick Nash, Marty, have earned the right but that said, those guys are so knowledgeable, so seldom will they make a low percentage play. What might seem fair to one player might not seem fair to another, that is because players are at different stages of their career and understanding and pro players and it’s my job to balance that act and make the right calls for the team."

Pretty easy to read between the lines. Guys like Miller have no leash. I shouldn't even say "guys like." J.T. Miller has no leash. The end. Fin.

Top D Pair Struggles

The Rangers aren't playing very well defensively, of late. Ryan McDonagh recognizes that fact. Unfortunately he has been a culprit to some extent.  [NY Post]

So has this guy:

Girardi HERO

There is no doubting that Dan Girardi has been a heavy burden on McDonagh's play. Last season, and even more so this season. But I don't think they ever were an ideal pair in any regard. Nothing about their play screams chemistry. McDonagh performs far better when he is away from Girardi. And the difference in Girardi's overall performance in terms of 5v5 CF% from a season ago to now is bad bad bad news:

Year Girardi w/o McDonagh McDonagh w/o Girardi Together
2013-14 50.3% 56.9% 50.0%
2014-15 44.5% 51.4% 45.4%

To be fair, McDonagh's performance away from Girardi has also taken a dip from last season to now. But it should be noted that he has only played ~161 of his total ~613 5v5 TOI away from Girardi (thus...say it with me...small sample size). So it doesn't change the point: McDonagh plays better when he isn't paired with Girardi.

There are tangible, non-statistical earmarks that set McDonagh up for poor statistical performance when he plays with Girardi. Girardi's lack of foot speed and propensity for being out of position force McDonagh to essentially cover both sides of the ice in the defensive zone, minimizing his opportunities to get time and space to move the puck and join the rush. That he has had to play more conservatively has utterly mitigated his explosiveness and anticipation when jumping passing lanes and pinching. Etc etc etc.

To me though, whether he has or hasn't been able to carry th Gi anchor with great success is almost irrelevant. Players play in whatever role they are given, for better or worse. The guys pulling the levers on the coaching staff should be recognizing that this pairing isn't working, and making changes. Why is AV so ready to do so with his forward lines, and seemingly so reticent to do so with his top D pairing? We can of course suggest new defensive pairings and/or smoothing the top-heavy TOI burden to compensate. We have already, and we will continue to. But until Dan Girardi is no longer a mainstay on the top pair, or that pair is split up, the problem won't be going anywhere.

Black Ice: The Val James Story

If you don't know who Val James is, I strongly suggest you read this article and pick up a copy of his autobiography, which was released this week. [NY Times]