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2022 Report Card: Patrik Nemeth

Signed for defensive depth, but did he become a defensive detriment?

NHL: DEC 17 Golden Knights at Rangers Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Expectations:

After parting ways with Tony DeAngelo and electing to not pursue Brendan Smith as a cheap defensive option, the Rangers brass turned towards free agency to shore up their defensive depth chart. This is where our protagonist Patrik Nemeth enters our story, ripe off of a disappointing playoff run with the Colorado Avalanche, the Rangers signed him to a 3-year $7,500,000 contract with an annual cap hit of $2.5 million. On top of this, they gave him a modified NTC where he could provide a list of eight teams to which he wouldn’t accept a trade.

At the time, hopes were, well, not entirely hopeful amidst the Rangers’ fanbase and their overall thoughts on Nemeth as a Blueshirt. Whether he would end up as a treasured teammate or Ultimate Nemethith (credit Mike Murphy for that one folks), it was yet to be seen. Much wasn’t known about the Swedish defender, I wrote about his career before joining the Rangers, if you’re interested in reading you can check that out here. But overall thoughts were he would be a slightly stable and capable stay-at-home defenseman while helping young fellow countryman Nils Lundkvist acclimate to both North America and the NHL.

Performance:

2021-22 Stats: 63 GP, 2 G, 5 A,52 SOG, 16:38 TOI/GP, 102 BLK, 115 HIT

Mercifully, this report card will be a rather short one. Nemeth was signed with the best intentions. While with the Detroit Red Wings his play and possession stats trended positively when compared to the rest of the roster and generally he is considered an acceptable bottom pair defenseman. However, throughout the year Nemeth’s lack of footspeed and ability to break out of his own zone was consistently taken advantage of.

His most frequent partner, Braden Schneider, accounted for 34% of Nemeth’s ice time. Following Schneider was Nils Lundkvist, another rookie with whom Nemeth was paired with for 21% of his total ice time. Their underlying possession numbers were abysmal sporting a 41.5% Corsi with Schneider and 41.1% Corsi with Lundkvist.

Upon first glance, his two most frequent partners were rookies, perhaps that’s the silver lining we could look for, was Nemeth’s poor play not entirely his fault? Well, if we expand our scope a bit we see the next two players Nemeth had the most ice time with in Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox, and their Corsi percentage was somehow worse earning a percentage as low as 25.6% while playing with Trouba. When looking at pairings with a minimum of 30 minutes together the only positive play exhibited by Nemeth was the 30 minutes he was paired with Braun where their Corsi broke even with 51.2%.

It took ten games for Nemeth to have a positive possession match and by definition, he actually didn’t as he came in with an exact 50% Corsi at 5v5. I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about analytics and Nemeth so the very last bit I will say is the majority of the defenseman on the New York Rangers had their worst or close to worse metrics when paired with him. It’s an unfortunate truth but a telling one that he struggled to acclimate to the Rangers’ playing style and this impacted others on the roster.

In all fairness to Nemeth, he was a newly signed player coming into a brand-new environment. It can take time for a player to adjust, but on the other side of this, it was Gallant’s first year coaching in New York, and every single player was getting used to a new system. Another bone to throw Nemeth is his bout with Covid-19, he got sick in December, and lingering effects plagued him for some time. He was out and due to the Covid protocols of the NHL it couldn’t be explained or discussed as to what was actually going on, so the most we fans could do was to read the writing on the wall. Nemeth returned but believe it or not his struggles increased.

The postseason for Nemeth went from bad to worse. He played four games against the Pittsburgh Penguins and dressed for the fifth one but barely saw the ice. He was then a healthy scratch for the rest of the Rangers playoff run.

There are a few reasons why this happened, one is his abysmal defensive play. There were several key plays where Nemeth was caught out of position or making an egregious error that led to either a prime scoring opportunity or an actual goal. Two, Nemeth in part was expected to play a key role on the Penalty Kill for the Rangers, but he kept taking flagrant penalties. This undoes a lot of his worth when he can’t be relied on to kill a penalty since he’d be in the box himself. And last but not least, was his ability to both exit and defend entries into the zone. Nemeth wasn’t signed with the expectation of contributing offensively, but he needed to do his job defensively and shut down plays and entries. Dimitri Filipovic did an excellent analysis of every defenseman in the 21-22 NHL playoffs and charted their efficiency and ability. A quick glance finds Nemeth almost falling off the bottom of the chart. It’s safe to say he failed both the eye test and the analytics test.

Author Grade: D

Banter Consensus: D

To be transparent, Nemeth was right on the line between a D and an F, but due to the kind crew at BSB, we’re rounding up to a D. It was clear Nemeth’s time with the team was up when he sat for 80% of their postseason games. When the offseason began, it was only a matter of time until a move involving Nemeth was announced.

Unrelated to his play another rather large issue with keeping Nemeth on the roster was his terrible contract. Both the term and cap hit were far too much for the role he was given on the team. That was a valid criticism that was apparent before the ink even dried on his contract. Drury could have signed a plethora of other defensive depth options for far less. However, the Rangers GM did well to clear his full cap hit by sending him to Arizona for an AHL defenseman in return. He had to sweeten the deal with a 2nd round pick and a future conditional pick of course but in today’s flat cap era, they needed to clear as much of his contract off the books as possible.

I had hopes for Nemeth mentoring Lundkvist in some capacity, it was a simple yet lovely dream. Imagine it for a moment, the veteran and well-traveled defenseman plays with and shows the up-and-coming rookie the tricks of the trade, yet that vision never quite came to fruition. Nemeth the person was more than likely a wonderful teammate and presence in the locker room, putting the team first and notoriously having a friendly and welcoming persona, but Nemeth the player never quite found his groove with the Blueshirts. Hopefully, he can have a bounce-back year with the Coyotes in the upcoming season, far away from the Rangers’ blueline.

Stats via Hockey-Reference, EliteProspects, & FrozenPool