Kevin Shattenkirk’s dreams came true when he signed a four year, $26.6 million contract with the New York Rangers – the team he envisioned playing for growing up in New Rochelle. He’d wear the Rangers’ blue sweater – the same that Hall of Fame defenseman and Stanley Cup Champion Brian Leetch wore for most of his career, and call Madison Square Garden ice home.
Not only was this a major step in Shattenkirk’s career, it was a major step forward for the Rangers. The 2016-17 season was derailed because of a dreadful blue line. Management made changes because of it, including buying out the remainder of Dan Girardi’s contract and signing Shattenkirk. At the very least, he seemed destined for the top four, and it was thought he’d become Ryan McDonagh’s new right-handed partner.
Plans are one thing, reality is another. And the reality is that Kevin Shattenkirk didn’t live up to expectations before his season’s premature end after getting off to a hot start. Reality also is that Shattenkirk wasn’t put in the best place to succeed, he wasn’t actually a “work in progress,” and he was playing injured all season.
A torn meniscus ended Shattenkirk’s season early, but it turns out he played through it the entire year. Between the eight and 10-week mark of the season, he noted that the pain of the injury became a problem, and coincidentally his play dropped then as well.
In November, Mike took a look at Shattenkirk’s strong start to the season. At 5-on-5, he was tied with McDonagh for the team lead in points, his play was above average relative to his teammates (second in relative Corsi for), and he led team in blocked shots.
And, as advertised, the player that scored 146 of his 298 career points on the man-advantage before joining the Rangers, transformed their power play (it was third in the NHL at 25.8 percent efficiency). At that point, he already accumulated nine power play points – seven of which were primary.
At that point in the season though, he had only played just over 40 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time on McDonagh’s right. A disaster game against the Toronto Maple Leafs (the second game of the season), led to this pair being split up, and they rarely were together afterwards.
When all was said and done, the pair played just 56.25 5-on-5 minutes together; in that time, the Rangers took 52.68 percent of the shot attempts which was above average relative to the pairs deployed during the year (plus-7.47 relative). But because they were on the ice for more goals against than for (minus-3 differential), they didn’t see much ice together – not even when the Rangers were absolutely flailing.
Instead, Shattenkirk skated alongside Brendan Smith, Marc Staal, and most often, Brady Skjei. Besides Skjei-Shattenkirk (minus-0.24 relative Corsi), each of those pairs was above average to the team in terms of Corsi for, and the Staal-Shattenkirk pair was a plus-3.5 in terms of relative expected goals.
The Skjei-Shattenkirk pair was effective at the start of their 459 5-on-5 minutes, but they became stagnant, and eventually that effectiveness dwindled. What’s interesting is both were actually better without the other on the ice. The Rangers took 47.75 percent of the shot attempts and 50.2 percent of the scoring chances with Shattenkirk on the ice and away from Skjei. Conversely, they took 47.06 percent of the shot share with Skjei on the ice away from Shattenkirk, and 50.31 percent of the scoring chances. With them on the ice together, the Rangers took just over 46 percent of the shot share and 45.52 percent of the scoring chances.
Shattenkirk ended the season with 46 games played with the Rangers. He scored just 23 points (five goals, 18 assists), which was his lowest since the condensed 2013-14 season when he scored 23 in 48 games. Otherwise, these 23 points were the lowest of his career.
Twelve of his points were scored on the power play and seven at 5-on-5. Only four of those seven were primary points. The Rangers took 46.8 percent of the shot share with Shattenkirk on the ice at 5-on-5, which was slightly above the team average (plus-0.71 relative Corsi); however, they conceded almost 54 percent of the quality chances while he was deployed (minus-4.35 relative expected goals).
Unfortunately, he was on the ice for number of goals against; that minus-11 differential and 40.98 percent goals share was what defined Shattenkirk’s season to many.
Before the 8-week mark, Shattenkirk wasn’t receiving as much ice times and wasn’t used to the best of his abilities. Once he did struggle, he was criticized by his coach who was more than likely fully aware of the injury he was playing through. His offensive production dipped and his play in his own zone was concerning as well.
Players always want to play, even when it’s not in their best interest. Shattenkirk was no different, but he shouldn’t have had the choice – not just because it was affecting his play, but because he was risking further damage after the Rangers just invested in him for the next four years.
Shattenkirk’s numbers were the worst of his career. The Rangers’ defense was a disaster and every single defenseman struggled to execute a flawed system, including Shattenkirk. And trying to execute it with a torn meniscus that affected the strength in his leg and his skating abilities undoubtedly only worsened that.
If I had to put a letter on Shattenkirk’s season, I’d probably learn towards a B or B+, but the fact is, his season was cut short because of an injury that impeded on his abilities when he did play. And he wasn’t put in a place to succeed when he was actually healthy.
We barely saw the player Shattenkirk truly is though in New York because of the injury and the team’s defensive deficiencies as a whole. It was an incomplete season, so his grade subsequently is an “incomplete” for the year.
*5v5 data via Corsica.hockey and NaturalStatTrick
2018 Report Cards: Marc Staal / Mats Zuccarello / Ryan Spooner / Rob O’Gara / Jimmy Vesey / Brendan Smith / Vladislav Namestnikov / Brady Skjei / Steven Kampfer / Jesper Fast / Alexandar Georgiev / Pavel Buchnevich/ Ondrej Pavelec / Kevin Hayes / Mika Zibanejad / Alain Vigneault / John Gilmour / Ryan McDonagh / Neal Pionk / Ryan Sproul