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Stop worrying about faceoffs, the Rangers should address other areas instead

Bobby Bevilacqua

NHL: Florida Panthers at Columbus Blue Jackets

Sean Bergenheim is one of the players that the Rangers should target, addressing the need of a bottom six forward who can score and provide depth. Photo courtesy of USATSI.

With the March 2nd trade deadline coming ever closer, rumors are flying, and the Rangers have been subject to mostly minor rumors for quite some time now. The most heard rumor is Antoine Vermette, the center on the Arizona Coyotes, who is a faceoff specialist and has an expiring contract.

In fact, most of the rumors surrounding are in the same category; a big bodied center who can win faceoffs. Nothing more. Just a faceoff specialist.

Personally, I believe that the expression “quality, not quantity” is true when it comes to the faceoff circle. The amount of faceoffs won is not important, it’s when you win it. Key faceoffs, such as in the offensive zone on a power play, or in the defenseive zone late in the game with a lead, are much more important than finishing a game winning over 50% of the draws.

That being said, the Rangers should not trade away draft picks and talent for a player who is specifically brought into win faceoffs. With the growth and development of Kevin Hayes continuing throughout the season, would Alain Vigneault really want to shift his position and change what he has been learning? They also have talented players down the middle, and should not compromise skill and chemistry for faceoffs.

Vermette’s asking price is also too steep, with the Coyotes GM supposedly asking for a first round draft pick and a “young stud,” or an NHL ready player.

So with that in mind, let’s avoid shipping out what works under Alain Vigneault, which is speed and skill, purely for the sake of winning a few more faceoffs. Instead, Glen Sather should address the Rangers weaknesses that really matter; a bottom six forward and another defenseman. Those guys are Sean Bergenheim and Andrej Sekera.

When you look at the Rangers team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, one of their biggest strengths was the ability to roll four lines. The third line of Benoit Pouliot, Derick Brassard, and Mats Zuccarello was lethal throughout the regular season and the playoffs, and Brian Boyle, Dominic Moore, and Dan Carcillo or Derick Dorsett created a strong forechecking line that could chip in a few goals now and then.

brassard and zuccarello 2-4

Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello were part of a dangerous third line last season, an aspect of the team that is starting to develop with Kevin Hayes and Carl Hagelin. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

While the third line is starting to come together now, with Kevin Hayes and Carl Hagelin playing better and building chemistry alongside JT Miller, the fourth line has been atrocious.

Dominic Moore signed a two year extension in the offseason, and has been the only quality player on the bottom line, scoring five goals along with 12 assists as well as solidifying the penalty kill. He is just one goal shy of matching last season’s production (6-12-18).

Tanner Glass, who coincidentally has played his two best games of the season in the Rangers last two games, has just a single point in 42 games played this year, and is a bad possession player.Lee Stempniak has also played well in the past two games, but has been largely invisible for the last three months. He has seven goals and nine assists, but has just two even strength goals in the last 38 games.

tanner glass 2-8

Tanner Glass has not been able to provide any offense or effective forechecking for the Rangers, detracting Vigneault’s ability to roll four lines effectively. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The Rangers could really use a winger to solidify the bottom six for a playoff run. With Alain Vigneault not completely trusting of JT Miller, and Miller a potential trade piece, an experienced player that can provide another scoring outlet would be extremely valuable.

Enter Sean Bergenheim of the Florida Panthers. With the outburst of young talent in Sunrise, Florida, including 18 year old Aaron Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov, Johnathan Huberdeau, and Nick Bjugstad, Bergenheim has been frequently left out of the lineup as a healthy scratch, playing in just 39 of the team’s games this season. However, he has managed to total 18 points (8-10-18) in that span.

Bergenheim was a part of the Florida Panthers team in 2011-12 that clinched the third seed in the Eastern Conference. He had 23 points (16-7-23) during the regular season, and added another six points (3-3-6) in seven playoff games.

In the 2010-11 season with the Lightning, he tallied 14 goals and 15 assists in 80 regular season games, but exploded in the playoffs, scoring nine goals along with two helpers in 16 games during Tampa Bay’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Because there isn’t much room for him in the Panthers lineup, the Rangers may have a chance to swoop in and get him for cheap. Bergenheim’s agent has already asked for a trade, and now is the right time to make a move for the Blueshirts.

sean bergenheim

Sean Bergenheim brings a scoring touch, playoff experience, and depth to the Rangers lineup; all aspects that the Rangers need in a player.

He brings playoff experience, scoring, and has an expiring contract after the season is over. Bergenheim would be an instant upgrade over Lee Stempniak or Tanner Glass, and could even play on the third line if needed. This move is one that could really help the Rangers in the long run.

The other weakness the Rangers have is their third defensive pairing. Dan Boyle has been prone to turnovers, and with Kevin Klein now paired with Marc Staal, there is no defensive anchor to put alongside Boyle.

Hunwick and John Moore have done serviceable jobs filling in, but are both more suited to the seventh defenseman role. Brady Skjei, a prospect in the Rangers system who is expected to be a very formidable NHL player, is not NHL ready yet, so the Rangers could get a quality defenseman now if they want to make a long postseason run.

Andrej Sekera from the Hurricanes is an attractive option for the Rangers, and a player they are supposedly pursuing. Sekera has an expiring contract after this season and will get a big contract, which means he would only be a rental for the Rangers. The 28 year old has two goals and 17 assists this season, and is a solid defensive player, making himself a potential key asset on a competitive team heading to the playoffs.

"Andrej Sekera"

Andrej Sekera is a coveted rental piece for many teams that plan on making a postseason run. The Rangers are one of them. Photo courtesy of Jamie Kellner.

The asking price is currently a first round pick and a prospect, although that could drop as the deadline gets closer. Sather likely won’t trade Brady Skjei, Anthony Duclair, or Pavel Buchnevich, New York’s top three prospects.

Roman Polak from Toronto and Jeff Petry from Edmonton are also other options for the Rangers, providing the solid sixth defenseman the Rangers currently lack.

Rather than chasing after a rental who will just win faceoffs, the Rangers should tweak more important areas; a depth winger and a sixth defenseman to put alongside Dan Boyle.

This Rangers team has proven that they are a truly competitive team this season, and that they can win games and control possession without the faceoff wins. They just need a few tweaks, not major upgrades, in order to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals.

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Posted on February 18, 2015, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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