Why is Kevin Klein still playing, but more importantly, why isn’t Adam Clendening?

Bobby Bevilacqua


Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

To say that Kevin Klein’s season has been a disaster is an understatement.

Last night was another awful game for the veteran defender, continuing his shocking regression from the last two seasons. Sure he scored a goal, his first of the season, but Klein is not here for his slap shot. The defensive part of his game this season has been a mess, and that’s what’s really important.

Poor puck management on the blue line is a continued problem 50 games into the season, and there’s really been no effort to try and change things up to improve transitions, breakout, and puck management. The same problems pop up every game and they are the main reason for why the Rangers have come up short in their losses.

Last night, the Rangers spiraled out of control in the second period, allowing a 1-0 deficit after the first period become a 5-0 disadvantage by the end of the next period. Many of the goals were preventable, and the Rangers were careless and foolish with the puck, which is another bad trend from the team this season. And not surprisingly, many of these turnovers and careless come from the defense.

All seven Rangers defenseman – Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Kevin Klein, Nick Holden, Brady Skjei and Adam Clendening – have all been victim of turnovers and poor play with the puck at some point this season, some players more than others. Because of that, Alain Vigneault might as well plug in Clendening for one of the regulars at this point.

Clendening has been a journeyman defenseman for the majority of his career, never really sticking in one place or holding down a regular spot. He’s played in 18 games this season, recording eight points for 0.44 points per game, which ranks third on the team behind Ryan McDonagh and Nick Holden. When looking at his points per 60 minutes, his 1.66 points is the best of any defenseman and his 1.45 assists per 60 minutes rank sixth out of all Rangers skaters.

Clendening has had his defensive issues like every other defenseman on the Rangers, but he adds something to the lineup. The biggest issue this season for the team has been the lack of good right side defenseman, particularly on the top pairing.

Clendening is arguably the best puck mover on the back end, which is an area the Rangers are always struggling in, and his offensive instincts are sorely missed. The forwards do almost all of the offensive work on this team and the Rangers lack someone who can consistently aid them from the blue line. Before last night’s third period, the Rangers went five periods without scoring a goal. Not only would Clendening benefit that area of the game, he’s also the best possession player on the defense by a longshot.

My main argument is this; if all of the defensemen are struggling defensively and they all are bitten by the turnover bug, why not play someone who will help you in other areas of the game? That’s Clendening, and it’s shocking that he’s still on the bench.

It’s especially shocking when you see who is playing every night. Dan Girardi has also been struggling quite a bit, but his veteran presence and past success is something Vigneault values and will probably not remove from the lineup. But Kevin Klein has done absolutely nothing to warrant his spot in the lineup.

Vigneault is very trustworthy in his players. That’s sometimes a great asset, because it allows for players to play without fear and not be worried that every mistake leads to a benching. However, it has become a problem with Vigneault’s unlimited trust in his veteran players and his lack of consistent accountability.

We see this in many ways. Tanner Glass was practically useless during his time here but played consistent minutes on the fourth line. Alain Vigneault even played Glass over Kevin Hayes in the last two games of the playoffs last season, a strategy that blew up in his face. Dan Girardi has consistently played on the top pairing with McDonagh despite constant mistakes and stats that show he hurts McDonagh’s efficiency. The same goes for Kevin Klein’s impact on whoever he plays for.

Klein has been out of position, bad with and without the puck, giving away many turnovers and not playing well defensively in general. He’s been paired mostly with rookie Brady Skjei, and Klein has had a noticeably bad impact on him, especially when compared to the pairing of Skjei and Clendening.

When paired with Clendening, Skjei’s corsi is nearly 12% higher than when he plays with Klein. The expected goals for percentage of Skjei-Clendening is nearly 15% higher than the Skjei-Klein pairing as well. And if you want to look at raw stats, Skjei and Clendening have been on the ice for four Rangers goals and just one goal against, while Skjei and Klein have been on the ice for 12 goals and 17 against. That’s a noticeable and significant difference.

Ask yourself this question; Is Clendening so defensively lacking that he should not have an everyday spot and rightful ice time in the lineup? Especially when looking at his offensive potential and comparing him to Klein, I don’t know how you can argue that.

Brady Skjei and Adam Clendening were a pretty successful pairing during the nine straight games that Clendening played while Marc Staal was injured. As stated earlier, they were only on the ice for one goal against, so defense wasn’t a problem. Clendening acts as a puck mover and able to start breakouts, while Skjei has shown tremendous skating and solid defensive ability, as well as a constantly evolving offensive game as well. The two partner well together and play well off of each other’s skill set.

With what Clendening has shown so far, he’s earned a spot in the Rangers lineup, especially when looking at how bad some people have been, particularly Kevin Klein. It’s time for Alain Vigneault to stop being so damn stubborn, bench his struggling veteran defenseman and give Adam Clendening the fair chance that he deserves.

Posted on February 1, 2017, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I’ve stuck up for AV cause I feel one f he comments were ridiculous (not on your blogs)but I can’t stick up for him on this one. I don’t see wat he has to lose cause you really can’t get any worse then what Klein gives us. Even if he did play as bad as Klein defensively he oiled definitely be more of a help on moving the puck up ice and jumping into the play. I just don’t get why AV continues to have Girardi not only play every night but play the top line no less and can’t sit Klein down and let Clendening play. I’m wondering about Ryan Graves. Maybe he should be up here in Klein’s spot. Though I wouldn’t want to mess with his confidence if it’s not the right time to bring him up. I can’t speak on that really. I don’t know enough about him really.


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