Vladislav Namenstnikov started the 2017-18 season on the best line in the NHL in Tampa Bay with Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. Six months later he finished the season in the New York Rangers’ bottom six on a line with Pavel Buchnevich and Matt Beleskey. So, yeah, you could say that it’s been an interesting year for the pending restricted free agent.
We are focusing exclusively on the 19 games that Namestnikov played as a Ranger this season. With that being said, we can’t simply ignore the 20 goals and 24 assists he picked up in the first 62 games of 2017-18 with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Namestnikov’s production and role with the Lightning before the trade provide us with some context for how he played in New York.
Namestnikov had something of a fairy tale start to his Rangers career on February 28 against the Vancouver Canucks. The Russian center picked up an assist in the first period of his debut and scored an unassisted breakaway goal in the second period. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there.
A Cog in a Different Machine
After Vlad’s impressive debut his production fell off a cliff. The 25-year-old scored one goal and picked up one secondary assist in his next 18 games. Normally when we see people fall with that kind of velocity they have a parachute strapped to their back.
In Namestnikov’s defense he was adjusting to a new (and recently gutted) team that had new systems for him to learn. Oh, and he also wasn’t skating with Kucherov and Stamkos. Still, his lack of production after such a promising start was a significant disappointment. And the exceptional play of fellow Rangers newcomer Ryan Spooner only amplified that disappointment — Spooner more than tripled Namestnikov’s production.
After Namestnikov’s first six games with the Rangers Alain Vigneault slashed his ice time. The former head coach wasted little time in yo-yoing the center in his lineup. After a great deal of shuffling Namenstnikov’s most frequent linemates during his tenure in New York were Buchnevich and Jimmy Vesey.
Much like in Tampa Bay, he saw almost no time on the penalty kill and was saw a significant amount of time on the man advantage. But unlike in Tampa Bay he was didn’t establish himself as a key cog in a successful power play. Namestnikov was on the ice for six of the Rangers’ 11 power play goals in the last 19 games of the season, including his own power play goal scored on March 12.
In that final 19-game window Namestnikov finished with the fourth-best Rel CF% among Rangers’ forwards. However it is worth noting that his 2.72 Rel CF% was a distinct step down from the three forwards — Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, and Jesper Fast — who drove the team’s possession after the deadline.
It’s hard to evaluate Namestnikov’s time in New York outside of the shadow cast by the breakout season he was having with the Lightning. It’s important to remember that in 2016-17 he put up 28 points — six of which were registered on the power play — in 74 games.
The bottom line is that Namestnikov simply didn’t produce enough after becoming a Rangers, especially for a player who averaged over two minutes of power play ice time per game. There’s a very good chance that Namestnikov’s play in the last 19 games of the season will cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars.
On the bright side, he made Buch very happy.
Data courtesy: naturalstattrick.com