It’s not a secret that the Rangers last puzzle piece they have needed these last few years is center depth. They likely knew Kevin Rooney wasn’t going to solve all of their problems when they traded for him in 2020 but he had some upsides as a cheap option during the rebuilding years. Unfortunately, the Rangers simply outgrew him at a rapid rate and he has since found a new home in Calgary.
Boxcar Stats: 78 GP, 6 G, 6 A, 71 SOG, 13:56 TOI/GP, 18 PIM, 10 Penalty Differential
Rooney has never been quiet about the fact that his value won’t really be found in a stat sheet or a box score. On the Curios Competitor Podcast, he spoke of his time at Providence College where he faced Jack Eichel, knew he wasn’t going to be better than him, so he might as well prove his worth in other ways.
Since college, he has tried to carve a place for himself as a beneficial penalty killer and more recently can play an enforcer role— yes, even on a team with Ryan Reaves.
The problem for him though, is that the Rangers this season didn’t need someone to take up space to be that guy. They were scoring and defending at rapid rates, and essentially packed up, started the bus, got gas, and took off all before Rooney woke up to be apart of it. He may have been the same player that earned a pretty high rating from us last year, but the team around him was much, much different.
The 29-year-old played a career high 61 games this season, and averaged more time on the ice than he ever had before, but with that time he proved to be more harm than productive. In a season where everyone had to prove themselves indispensable...he didn’t.
There was not a lot of room for Rooney to score as much or hit as much. Where he aimed most of his efforts though, was being a strong force on the Rangers penalty kill that ranked in the top ten special teams units in the NHL this season. Along with Barclay Goodrow, when they were healthy, Rooney let his workhouse PK talents keep him afloat on this Rangers team. The problem is that when he wasn’t doing that, he was almost a detriment.
He had a career low face-off win percentage (which doesn’t say much on this team, in all fairness), he took quite a few more penalties than he did last year, and quite honestly, other than effectively killing off penalties...in front of the Vezina winner, by the way, he just didn’t do much...he was just there.
Additionally, Rooney was sidelined for over a month in March due to an upper body injury sustained in a regular season game game against the Blues. When he came back for the playoff push, he just wasn’t the same.
In the playoffs, Rooney tallied just two points in assists, and racked up ten penalty minutes in moments where he would be much more valuable on the ice.
Kevin Rooney with a few good chances. Yeah, you heard me. #NYR— Blueshirt Banter (@BlueshirtBanter) June 10, 2022
At the end of the playoff run, it seems like almost every Ranger stepped behind the mic at media day with the mantra of ‘unfinished business here,’ Kevin Rooney being no exception. While the sentiment is appreciated, he ultimately signed with the Calgary Flames on a two-year deal mid-July. Not many hearts in New York broken.
Author Grade: F
Banter Consensus: D-
I’m sorry if this sounds a little mean but I don’t know that I have any final thoughts because I don’t know that there’s really anything left to say. Rooney played the part of a cheap fourth line center who can eat up time on the clock and drop the gloves with the best of them for a few years well, but if the Ryans, and the trade deadline acquisitions proved anything, it’s that even in that regard, this team can find much better. Maybe they already have. So I’ll simply wish Kevin Rooney well in Calgary, hopefully he packed his cowboy hats.
And hey, at least he gave us one of the best memes in recent years.
*All Data via Evolving Hockey