The Rangers have been spotty defensively. How much of that is Lindy Ruff’s fault?
The Rangers beat the Hurricanes in a 4-2 win on Thursday that frankly felt a bit undeserved. In a classic performance, Lundqvist stood on his head the entire game, stopping a total of 45 shots on goal. Clearly, the Rangers’ defense needs to do a better job stopping shots and give Lundqvist a break. Almost all the Rangers’ defensemen have had games where they’ve looked spotty this season—with the possible exception of Adam Fox.
But how much of these struggles are they to blame for, and how much falls on Assistant Coach Lindy Ruff?
One way to get an idea of how much Lindy Ruff’s coaching is causing players to struggle would be to look at Neal Pionk and Jacob Trouba. This offseason Pionk was traded to Winnipeg and has been playing under a new coach. So far, his possession numbers have dramatically improved, with his CF% at 53.8. This represents more than a 10 point jump from where he was with the Rangers last year when his CF% was only 41.6. His shooting percentage has also risen from 4.5 with the Rangers to 6.1, and he’s scored 10 points in 17 games. This puts him on pace for about 48 points with Winnipeg right now.
Although +/- isn’t the most reliable state to judge a player on its own, it is worth noting that Pionk’s +/- has risen from -16 with the Rangers to +7 this season. These changes aren’t a factor of ice time either. Pionk had about 21 minutes of ice time per game with the Rangers and has about 23 per game with Winnipeg.
How is Trouba doing now that he’s playing in New York under Lindy Ruff?
Though Trouba has been one of the better defensemen for the Rangers this season, his numbers have taken a slight drop from what they were last season. Trouba’s CF% under Winnipeg was 48.0. It has dropped a little less than 7 points to 41.1 this season. His shooting percentage has also dropped from 4.9 to 2.5, and he is only on pace for 41 points. Also, Trouba’s +/- has dropped from +8 to an even 0—again not significant on its own but interesting in the context of everything else.
Though there may be other factors contributing to this difference in play for both Trouba and Pionk, it’s fairly telling that a straight swap of teams for both of them has produced this much of a shift in their games. Of course, Winnipeg was a playoff team last year, and that has to be factored into any assessment of their play compared to the Rangers’.
That said, this change in play for both Pionk and Trouba does make it seem like Lindy Ruff’s coaching hurts the Rangers more than it helps them.
Featured Image: Bruce Bennett