A Deeper Look at Anton Stralman

How will Stralman be used under new head coach Alain Vigneault?

When Rangers fans talk excitedly about the blueliners on the club the names McDonagh, Girardi, and Staal are often on their tongues but few fans bring up Swedish defender Anton Stralman. Stralman, in my opinion, is one of the most interesting blueliners on the club because of how he was used under former head coach John Tortorella and how he could be used under new head coach Alain Vigneault. Stralman, who is 27 years old, will be playing in the last season of the two-year deal he signed with the Rangers this upcoming season and is one of the two right-handed blueliners the Rangers currently have in the lineup.

Stralman signed with the Rangers halfway through the 2011-12 season to add depth to a blueline that was without Marc Staal and Michael Sauer. After a very impressive first season with the Rangers, including an outstanding playoff performance, Stralman earned a two year contract with a cap hit of $1.7 million per year. Thus far Stralman has looked like a great find especially when one considers he didn't make the Devils team out of training camp in 2011.

Let's take a look at Stralman's two seasons with the Rangers and try to understand how he's been used and what he's done with the ice time and situations he's been given. (advanced statistics from behindthenet.ca)








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That Stralman was sheltered shouldn't come as a surprise considering that he was often playing on the bottom two pairs with iron-men Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh eating up the most difficult ice time for the Rangers but it also helps to explain why Stralman enjoyed such wildly excellent puck possession numbers.

With Marc Staal going down with his eye injury last season the depth of the Rangers blueline was tested and having Stralman able to take on more ice time and responsibility proved to be a great boon to coach John Tortorella and the Rangers. With a healthy Rangers lineup Stralman is likely going to remain in the bottom two pairs and will almost certainly be on the third pair with fellow former-Blue Jacket John Moore but it will be interesting to see if Alain Vigneault attempts to use Stralman in a different role than John Tortorella did,perhaps giving him more ice time at even strength and maybe even a bigger role on the power play.

In both of his seasons with the Rangers Stralman was third among Rangers blueliners in PP TOI/G and was the eighth most-used player on the man advantage (in terms of total PP TOI) at the end of last season. Although it would be an exaggeration to call Stralman a gifted offensive defenseman he moves the puck with confidence and rarely makes poor decisions with it and is also gifted with an above average shot. Last season Michael Del Zotto saw his PP TOI/G drop from 4:11 in 2012-12 to 2:54. Part of this was due to constant experimenting with the Rangers power play but one could infer that it was also due, in part, to the coaching staff losing confidence in Del Zotto's play. Both Anton Stralman and John Moore represent intriguing alternatives on the power play to perhaps challenge MDZ for ice time but for the time being I sincerely doubt we'll see Del Zotto bumped from the first unit considering that is where his talents lie. With that being said, I'd like to see Stralman get more ice time on the power play and see what he can do when encouraged to shoot more often.

What can we take away from Stralman's performance over the last two seasons? A healthy Rangers blueline, with Stralman on the third pair, is one that other teams would be right to be envious of. Stralman is one of fifteen Rangers assets that are becoming UFAs after this season and after failing to produce the way he did in the 2011-12 regular season and the 2012 playoffs he should be motivated to prove to his new head coach and to the rest of the league that he belongs in the NHL and should be getting a longer and more lucrative contract in the 2014 offseason. This is why I think Stralman is going to be a very interesting player to watch and why I'm very curious to see how head coach Alain Vigneault uses him. Will he let Stralman stay on the bottom pair and excel against lesser competition or will he give the Swedish blueliner more ice time and responsibility at the expense of others in the lineup? I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Do you think we'll see Stralman used in a similar fashion to the way he's been used the past two seasons or can you see him getting more ice time and responsibility under Alain Vigneault? Would you like to see more of Anton Stralman on the man advantage? How would you rank the current Rangers blueliners in terms of overall value and where does Stralman fit on your list? Let me know in the comments guys and girls.

Let's go Rangers.

[Note: I am taking steps to become as literate as I can be in advanced hockey statistics to bring more of that kind of content to the community. I'm not going to pretend that I am anywhere near literate yet and I am sure that I will make many mistakes along the way (including, I am sure, making a few in this article) but please try and be patient with me as I do my best to learn the stuff so that I can provide you guys with a diversity of content. Thank you!]