Better Know a Ranger: Centers

September 22nd, 2015 at 6:00 am by Derek

The August doldrums are over, and training camp is just around the corner has already started (ed. note: THANK YOU FOR POINTING OUT MY FLAWS, FAITHFUL READERS). To get you primed for a season that will take another two or three years off of your life, we’re doing position-by-position breakdowns of the Rangers’ roster. These opinions are trash so please disregard them immediately after reading.

Derek Stepan #21
Vital Info
Age: 25
2014-15 stats: 68 GP, 16G, 39A, -4.7 Corsi% rel
Contract: 6 years, $39M ($6.5M AAV through 2020-21, UFA)
Favorite obscure Star Wars character: Ephant Mon

2014-15 Season Recap
Last year started off poorly for Stepan, who broke his fibula during a drill in camp and missed the first regular season games of his career. Upon his return, he put up points at his usual pace on a line with Chris Kreider and Martin St. Louis, but his possession numbers (and hairline) were hot, fiery garbage. Some thought that the defensive ineptitude of Kreider and St. Louis was to blame for Stepan’s poor numbers, but even when he was away from those two, his Corsi% was awful. Hopefully, it was just an off year for him. Then there was the issue of his contract extension, which got Rangers fans in a monstrous tizzy over the summer. “He’s not going to accept less than $7M per year! They have to trade him!” was a common refrain heard once the arbitration hearing was set. In the end, he got a deal that everyone agreed was pretty fair. Say, wasn’t there another guy that the Rangers signed for six years and $39M a little while back?

redden

It me, Wade Redden, greatest Ranger of all-time! Miss you, Wade; you’re probably still better than Girardi.

2015-16 Season Outlook
With the retirement of Marty St. Louis, Stepan is going to have an open spot on his right wing. The two most likely candidates for the spot seem to be Kevin Hayes and JT Miller. Jesper Fast spent some time there after Mats Zuccarello’s injury in the playoffs, but he doesn’t have the offensive skill to be a consistent top-six forward. In any case, I expect a bit of a drop in Stepan’s production this season, as his 5v5 on-ice shooting percentage last year was pretty high (10.0%). 18 goals, 39 assists.

Relevant GIF
StepanOT

Without a doubt, this was the best moment of last season. Stepan just went out there in one of the most pressure-filled scenarios in all of hockey and STABBED WASHINGTON IN THE FUCKING THROAT. The celebration was absolutely fantastic too: pure joy in the vanquishing of an inferior, perennially-choking opponent. Where does this goal rank among all Rangers’ playoff goals in the Lundqvist era? Second behind St. Louis going top shelf on Tokarski in game 4 against Montreal, yeah? Instant classic.

Derick Brassard #16
Vital Info
Age: 28
2014-15 stats: 80GP, 19G, 41A, +3.5 Corsi% rel
Contract: 5 years, $25M (through 2018-19, UFA)
Favorite obscure Star Wars character: IG-88

2014-15 Season Recap
Brassard became one of my favorite Rangers last year. Reliable scorer? Check. Fun to watch? Check. Talks some shit to opponents? Check. Makes ridiculous faces? Check (more on this later). There was concern that the Rangers might have given him a little too much money when they gave him his current deal after the 2014 season, but he put to rest any doubts that he’s a bonafide top-six center with career highs in goals and assists in 2014-15. Fun story: before the season, my buddy bet me that Brassard would score 60 or more points. I wagered that he would get 59 or fewer. The loser would have to take a pie to the face and post a video of it online. Wouldn’t you know it, Brassard happened to be sitting at exactly 59 points heading into game 82 against Washington. Derick, could you tell us what happened next?


60 points on the nose. Thanks for nothing, French Derek!

2015-16 Season Outlook
Brass should have another monster year centering Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello, and we will endlessly debate whether they or Stepan’s trio are the real first line. I’m not sure if he can hit 60 points again; like Stepan, he was the beneficiary of a higher than usual on-ice shooting percentage last season. However, he should still be able to be counted on to provide solid point totals, especially on the power play, where he mercilessly eats penalty killers’ lunches. 17 goals, 39 assists.

Relevant GIF
WS6Ru7v - Imgur
What in the world is Brassard doing here? This was after the first period in a game against the Caps back in March. I have no idea what led to Brass making this outrageous face at the Capitals bench, but it was a work of art. There hasn’t been a Ranger with better ridiculous face-making ability since Vinny Prospal. How can you not love this guy?

JT Miller #10
Vital Info
Age: 22
2014-15 stats: 58GP, 10G, 13A, +1.2 Corsi% rel
Contract: 1 year, $874K (through 2015-16, RFA)
Favorite obscure Star Wars character: Bossk

2014-15 Season Recap
At the end of the 2013-14 season, JT Miller got absolutely torched by AV, who said “[I]f he doesn’t figure it out, he’ll be a good minor-leaguer.” So we went into 2014-15 wondering what would become of Miller’s career. He played in the Rangers’ first three games before being sent back down to Hartford to get more consistent ice time at center. However, he got called up at the end of November and was with the big club for the rest of the season. He certainly looked like a guy who was becoming a regular NHLer. Consistency in the scoring game wasn’t really there (he went through a 22-game goalless streak in the middle of the season), but he was able to push possession, especially offensively. His playoffs were a little rough outside of a 4-point night in game six against Tampa, but it was his first full-time postseason, so it’s understandable that he’d struggle a bit. His season was up-and-down, but it was good to see him regularly in the Rangers lineup.

2015-16 Season Outlook
Miller will presumably have a spot on the roster coming out of camp now that he’s no longer a resident of Château Bow-Wow, but where he’ll slide in is still a question. AV wanted him to get more ice time at center in Hartford last season, but he was almost exclusively a right winger on the top three lines when he was called back up to the Rangers. The third line center spot seems to be a competition between Kevin Hayes, Dom Moore, Jarret Stoll, and Oscar Lindberg, but I think Miller would be the best fit there. It gets Hayes, a better scorer than Miller, in the top six as a winger, but leaves enough talent on the third line for it to be a formidable secondary scoring option. Whatever the case may be, Miller should be a staple in the Rangers’ lineup for the whole season. 12 goals, 20 assists.

Relevant GIF
MillerKillsKarlsson
(via @myregularface)

Oh hey, two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, what’s up? Were you trying to line up JT Miller in the trolley tracks? Well, CHOO CHOO, MOTHERFUCKER, HERE COMES THE MURDER TRAIN! The best part of this GIF isn’t Karlsson helicoptering into the boards, however, it’s Miller flailing helplessly as he trips over his victim’s lifeless corpse. Damn, dude, you can’t flatten a star player and then fall over like a cartoon character who slipped on a banana peel — it sort of undermines the intimidation factor. Whatever, keep killing people, JT.

Dominic Moore #28
Vital Info
Age: 35
2014-15 stats: 82GP, 10G, 17A, -3.1 Corsi% rel
Contract: 2 years, $3M ($1.5M AAV through 2015-16, UFA)
Favorite obscure Star Wars character: Nien Nunb

2014-15 Season Recap
After a productive comeback season in 2013-14, Moore re-signed with the Rangers for two more years to continue his roll as fourth line center. Dom was the best faceoff guy on the team by a country mile (yes, Sam and Joe, FACEOFFS!!!) and led all forwards in shorthanded TOI/game. Despite his tough usage, he ended up having the highest 5v5 dCorsi impact (a comparison of true Corsi minus expected Corsi based on linemates, competition, zone starts, etc.; see a more detailed explanation here) on the team with +134.74. That’s awesome, especially considering he was dragging around a 6’1″, 210 lb boat anchor for most of the season:

glass_headshot
2015-16 Season Outlook
This season should look pretty similar for Moore: fourth line center, lots of faceoffs in the defensive zone, plenty of PK time, probably covering Tanner’s ass. Throw in a few quips about “leadership” and “heart” on the broadcast, and Dom should have himself a nice little season. You have to think he’ll be extra motivated now that he’s the only Moore on the roster. 9 goals, 15 assists.

Relevant GIF
moore_deke
(via @SBNation)

Huh. This is a pretty sweet goal, and I have absolutely zero recollection of it. It was a late January game against the Carolina Hurricanes, so I probably looked at the schedule and thought I would rather do literally anything else than watch the Hurricanes play hockey. I’ve been to Madison Square Garden for a game a total of six times, and the opponent has been the Hurricanes in three of them. Why, hockey gods? Why must you repeatedly torture me with games against this wet fart of a franchise? Anyway, cool dekes there against American Olympian Justin Faulk. Better work on not getting burned by 30-something fourth liners before the World Cup next summer, dawg.

Jarret Stoll #26
Vital Info
Age: 33
2014-15 stats: 73GP, 6G, 11A, -5.7 Corsi% rel
Contract: 1 year, $800K (through 2015-16, UFA)
Favorite obscure Star Wars character: Porkins

2014-15 Season Recap
Stoll spent last season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he struggled to maintain the form he held earlier in his career. Once a guy who could score 20 goals, he turned into a fading fourth liner by the end of the year. It was already looking like the Lightning wouldn’t sign him after the season, and an April arrest for possession of cocaine (among other charges) sealed his fate. He worked through his legal troubles, and the Rangers gave him a one-year, last chance contract, He’ll be battling for his NHL career in camp. Whoops, looks like I accidentally wrote about Ryan Malone instead of Jarret Stoll! Whatever, they’re pretty much the same thing.

2015-16 Season Outlook
It looks the Glen Sather Reclamation Project didn’t die when Slats handed the keys to Jeff Gorton! Will we see a scorching-hot “If Malone can play, where does Kevin Hayes fit?” column from Uncle Larry before camp is over? Certainly, his skill in the faceoff dot will be mentioned as a reason to keep him on the roster, despite declining play in that (and all other) departments. With youngsters like Hayes, Miller, and Oscar Lindberg available to fill the third line center role, and Dom Moore entrenched on the fourth line, I don’t see where Jarret Stoll fits on this roster other than 13th forward. Even if he does make it out of camp on the big club, I can’t imagine him playing much of a part on this year’s edition of the Rangers. 2 goals, 1 assist.

Relevant GIF
stoll_dead
(via @myregularface)

Well, that pretty well sums up the 2014-15 season for Jarret Stoll and the LA Kings. Better luck this year, dudes.

Oscar Lindberg
I hate prospects, so I’m not writing about any of them.

Up next on Better Know a Ranger: defense and goalies (part one).

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