It’s hard to believe that we are past the midway point of the 2019-20 regular season, but here we are. The Rangers have played 45 games of their 82 game season and the trade deadline — which is on Feb. 24 if you haven’t marked it on your calendar yet — is rapidly approaching. This is an ideal time to reflect on the individual progress of the players on the roster as well as the head coach and general manager. It’s time for some mid-season grades.
So, there are no real surprises here. Goaltending remains a position of strength for the Rangers.
Both Lundqvist and Georgiev received high marks from Blueshirt Banter’s staff for their play in the first half of the season. Obviously, all of the buzz in the Rangers crease right now has to do with Igor Shesterkin and the future of Alexandar Georgiev. We put together these grades just before Shesterkin made his debut, but it goes without saying that he’d receive an “INC” unless we were to include his play in Hartford — in which case he’d have the best grade of the bunch.
It makes plenty of sense that rookie Adam Fox and emerging star Tony DeAngelo lead the Rangers’ blue line with their grades. The Rangers gave up a lot for Fox, but he has been everything that the Rangers could hope for and more. It speaks volumes that the lowest grade he received from BSB’s staff was an “A”.
Jacob Trouba, on the other hand, appears to be a rather polarizing presence on the defense. Of all of the Rangers defenders, Trouba has the widest variety in grades — from as high as a “B” to as low as a “D”. It’s difficult to play up to an $8 million cap hit, especially when you’re not on the top power play unit. It’s worth noting here that Trouba tallied 18 of his 50 points last season with Winnipeg on the man advantage.
Early in the season, Trouba’s most frequent d-partner was Libor Hajek — which definitely dragged him down. However, he and Brady Skjei have been a duo for almost 200 more minutes of 5-on-5 hockey than Trouba-Hajek at this point. Skjei is the Rangers’ best left-handed defenseman.
If the front office isn’t currently wringing their collective hands together and hoping for a strong second half from Trouba, they should be.
Artemiy Panarin is the best Rangers’ skater since Jaromir Jagr and it’s not even close. He’s had a Hart Trophy-level season, which is exactly what Rangers fans wanted to see after the Blueshirts gave him the second-highest AAV in the league with his seven-year, $81.5 million contract. Heck, Tom and Bryan gave him an “A++” which I don’t even think is a thing.
Overall, the BSB staff was pretty consistent with our grades for all of the Rangers forwards. Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Filip Chytil came away with the highest grades with Brendan Lemieux, Jesper Fast, Chris Kreider, and Ryan Strome also receiving high marks. Tom’s grade of C for Strome was because as good as his offensive marks have been, defensively he’s been very underwhelming. Pavel Buchnevich, a key figure in this year’s offense, fell between the “C+” and “B” range, which scans when we look at his underlying numbers.
Chytil’s development is especially significant considering the struggles that Kaapo Kakko, Brett Howden, and Lias Andersson — before he left the team and was subsequently suspended — have gone through this year. The success he’s had after being sent down to the Wolf Pack has been a breath of fresh air.
OFF THE ICE
I think it is safe to say that the honeymoon period between head coach David Quinn and many Rangers fans is officially over. Halfway through his second year behind the bench, Quinn receives a “C” from BSB’s staff. Of course, Quinn represents the coaching staff as a whole, which continues to vex with its lineup decisions, deployment and defensive scheme.
Behind the desk, general manager Jeff Gorton received a “B” from the Banter crew. The only in-season deal that Gorton made was dealing Vladislav Namestnikov to the Ottawa Senators for AHL defenseman Nick Ebert and Ottawa’s 4th round pick in 2021. That deal was incredibly underwhelming considering what Namestnikov’s value was when the Rangers acquired him, which is why I ended up giving him the lowest grade on the staff. However, we all know that Gorton will be judged primarily on how he handles the trade deadline and/or the player he moves before it arrives. There’s also the matter of Tony DeAngelo’s contract — if indeed the Rangers do extend him and lock-up the right side of the blue line.
So, what grades would you hand out to the Rangers players at the midway point of the season? Which players have impressed and disappointed you the most?