After Vladimir Tarasenko broke Dylan McIlrath’s ankles last night, the Rangers fan intranet was aflame with pent-up anger over the Rangers’ 10th overall pick in 2010. After all, Tarasenko was one of the players still on the board when Gordie Clarke announced McIlrath as the organization’s pick.
It wasn’t just Tarasenko though. There was Cam Fowler, whose ability to move the puck and contribute offensively is a role the Rangers have yet to fill. There was also Jaden Schwartz, Nick Bjugstad, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Charlie Coyle, and Brock Nelson. Hell, Brandon Gormley was on the board still and even though he hasn’t panned out, at least he would have been drafted for the right reasons.
Which brings me to the point of this post.
The correct reason to be pissed about the Rangers drafting McIlrath has nothing to do with the opportunity cost of not drafting Tarasenko, Fowler, or whoever else instead. Even though the Rangers arguments for not choosing the players listed above is probably weak even without the benefit of hindsight, drafts are crap shoots. There are many unknowns and few slam dunks.
The correct reason to be angry has everything to do with the Rangers front office being woefully behind the development of the NHL.
Even though there were clear indications that the NHL would increasingly move towards a game based on speed and skill and less on ‘toughness’ and ‘grit’, Gordie Clarke and Glen Sather used a 10th overall pick on a player whose nearly entire value was based on his meanness and fighting ability. Four years later the problem isn’t that McIlrath has proved to be a bust, it’s that even if he were an NHL quality defenseman, the attributes the Rangers drafted him for are nearly useless.
Last night, as predicted, McIlrath fought the St. Louis Blues’ worst player (sorry Ryan Reaves) in a fight that was staged and had no impact on what was otherwise a fantastic hockey game. It was a misplaced attempt for McIlrath to prove his value to the organization. But three games into his NHL career, Alain Vigneault in not so many words said that McIlrath’s most important attribute to Clarke and Sather in 2010, is no longer valid in today’s NHL:
AV applauds Dylan McIlrath’s “courage” for fighting Reaves. But “I don’t know how much room is left in the game for that now.”
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) November 4, 2014
Four years later, McIlrath is another uncomfortable example of the Rangers’ front office lack of understanding as to what makes team’s successful in today’s NHL. It stems from the same dated logic that brought Tanner Glass into the fold this summer and saw Anton Stralman kicked the curb without a firm offer on July 1st.