We've all read and talked about Kevin Klein and the Rangers' salary cap issues more than most of us can stomach but things have been a little bit too quiet for a few days on the Klein front, so I figured it was about time for me to write my take on the man with the mohawk.
Kevin Klein was born in the sleepy, seldom-spoke-of city of Kitchener in 1984, which was about 150 years after John Eby filled the once swamp-choked lands of the Ontario city with apple trees, forever changing it from a pigeon-infested mire into a perfectly adequate industrial city. Some will tell you that Klein grew up on them-there famous Kitchener apples, sinking his teeth with a wet pop and snap into the same apples that hard-working Ontarians did to make Kitchener what it is today. Others would tell you that there is no reliable evidence to be found with Google regarding Klein's dietary habits as an adolescent, but it is safe to assume that he ate at least several apples in his youth. Let's call it ha'-bushel o' Kitch'nee apples.
Where was I going? Oh yeah, Kevin apple-loving Klein is a player the Rangers absolutely need to move because he has a contract that the Rangers can, y'know, actually move.
I know, I know guys. You all know! Why are we getting into this AGAIN?! There's no need to talk about it, right? Everyone knows, right? ...Right?
Thankfully, I was at a doctor's office during this exchange so I received the medical care that I needed swiftly.
Honestly, it's okay that not everyone knows (or should I say agrees) that the best thing that Kevin Klein can do for the Rangers next season is to be playing for another team. As educated as opinions can be they are still opinions at the end of the day (better opinions, mind you, but still just opinions). Perhaps trading Klein will trigger a series of events that results in the sudden and violent appearance of intelligent alien life and while we are all in shackles, being ushered into clammy goo mines for our new unblinking overlords, those of you who wanted to keep Klein in New York no matter how many RFAs we need(ed) to sign will have every right to sneer at us (if our new living gods are kind enough to allow us to keep our teeth or our memories).
I want you to know that it's okay that we disagree, disagreeing often leads to growth and understanding when it doesn't lead to having a bottle smashed over your head or having someone purposefully spit in your mouth. You know what, let's share. It's sharing time, gang. Here's a little something about me for you to sink your teeth into like a sweet, firm Kitch'nee apple. I can't walk down long, dark hallways without subconsciously hurrying a bit and repeatedly peering over my shoulder because I'm convinced that something is going to emerge from the inky shadows and swiftly seal a sooty, oily, taloned hand around my mouth and pull me through a trans-dimensional demonrift and into the Torture Realm where the only currency is screams.
So, the question that I have is why don't people get it? Why don't people get that a 30 year old player who shot 11.8% last season (the second highest rate among all defensemen that played at least 30 games) and was a decent defenseman on the Rangers' third pair against poor and middling competition for a season and a half will not score 10 goals in 2015-16? I wish I knew, my friends. I wish I knew. It seems that most people seem to get hung up on two things from Klein's anomalous and majestic 2014-15 season; his 4 GWG and 9 total goals in 65 games. Before I say anything else, I'd like to point out that game winning goals are random, unpredictable and carry very little value in determining a players' worth. They are in no way a means to quantify whether or not a player is valuable or "clutch".
By the way, everyone remembers that Dan Boyle also scored 9 goals in 65 games, right? He also had 3 goals and 7 assists in the 2015 Playoffs for the Rangers... but screw that guy, let's trade him and his no movement clause to the Bruins for the clothes that Dougie Hamilton left behind in his apartment and the Bruins' 2017 4th round pick... because, y'know, they lost their 3rd round pick to acquire Zac Rinaldo. Those poor, poor bastards.
Anyways, back to Klein. It's July 9th, we still have about 90 days until hockey starts up again, let's go ahead and look at all of Klein's goals from 2014-15. Yes. All of them.
All heroic epics have to begin somewhere, this particular one begins with Klein left wide open in the highest scoring area on the ice in overtime against Schneidelzebub and Los Diablos. You have to hand it to Klein here, he's on the attack and puts himself just where he needs to be to get this tantalizing scoring chance. It was one hell of a way to get his first goal of the season. Video.
That's what you'd call a screen. Video.
Even when Kevin Hayes' screws up he gets primary assists. Bird's eye view, just to keep you on your toes. Just goes to show that good things can happen when you get pucks on net. Video.
"It had eyes." That seems to be a running theme. If you look closely you can see where I sloppily fixed a mistake by the way the name "Hurricanes" looks because, like most of you, I forgot that they still played hockey. Video.
Good thing no one got in front of that shot, it would have shattered a human leg as if it were made out of porcelain and rock candy. Video.
Honestly, this was one hell of a shot. He's the chosen one. Video.
Now, before people jump down my throat about the snarky, silly comments scribbled below the low-quality screen captures of Kevin Klein's goals that can be seen above, I'm aware that goals count no matter what they look like. However, when we look at these goals and keep in mind Klein's career shooting percentage and what his peers have accomplished both last season and throughout recorded human history we can safely say that he had a lovely, lucky little season. Kevin Klein is a fine hockey player, but a goal scorer he is not.
It's worth noting that the vast majority of us don't need to venture into the spooky path through a dark, snaggly, brambly wilderness that is metrics to understand this. It's self-evident.
Still not with me? Not even after the horned skull drawing and a reference to the John Eby and his Kitchener apples? Okay, I'll use one last trick to see if I can change your mind.
Here are some numbers for you: 11.8, 8.7, 7.2, and 8.6.
Those are the shooting percentages of Kevin Klein, OEL, Erik Karlsson, and Dustin Byfuglien from last season. You don't need a Kitchener apple orchard farmhand to pick out the rotten fruit from tha- okay, enough with the apples. One of those things is not like the other in more than one way. Obviously, shooting percentage used on its own is a very poor way to analyze and understand the value of a hockey player, but when we see an anomaly like 11.8% jump out at us, we should all be seeing the same red flag and frankly, we don't need to dig much deeper before we realize we have all the proof that we need.
I really, really like Kevin Klein. I liked the trade that made him a Ranger and I thought that the contract that he came attached to could be a very good thing for the club at the time ("fixed cap rate", it just... it just sounds so good, doesn't it?). Having a guy like Klein on the third pair is a big part of what made the Rangers' blue line corps the envy of a lot of teams in the NHL last season. However, as Joe and others have pointed out, Kevin Klein is not irreplaceable. He's a stay-at-home guy that often leaves a lot to be desired in his own zone and he is coming off of an offensive outburst that makes even less sense than this article and its numerous references to produce. On a Rangers' blue line where three players are on the books for at least four more years at an average cap hit of $5.3 million, a guy like Klein taking up $2.9 million for another three seasons is a pretty important thing to take notice of. And when you have a key player like Derek Stepan that needs to get paid, it is something that you simply have to address.
Kevin Klein's stock will never be higher than it is right now and, if given the chance, Raphael Diaz just might do more for the Rangers' blue line in the 2015-16 season than Klein did for it in 2014-15. I just wanted to make sure that we were all double-super-ultra certain about it.
Let's go Rangers.