The end of last season brought a few disappointments for Rangers fans: the Rangers lost their shot to head to the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals after a strong season and would later be forced to make some difficult trades, causing the team to lose some fan favorites.
One of the trades made, a difficult trade as the result of trying to manage through cap space, involved fan-favorite and core player Carl Hagelin. Hagelin was traded to the Anaheim Ducks, in June, in exchange for (recently traded away) Emerson Etem and a draft pick.
Though at first the most noticeable difference in Hagelin’s absence might have been fan reactions, is it possible now that the Rangers are feeling the absence of Hagelin in their play, due to the holes that were left unfilled?
The Penalty Kill(er)
Hagelin was, and still is, an expert penalty killer. He has recently become a Pittsburgh Penguin where he will demonstrate the same skill on the PK, helping to keep the Pens in the league’s top 10 on the penalty kill.
The Rangers have been struggling on their power kill. This season they are ranked 22 in the league for their PK, a dramatic difference from last season’s rank, where they were ranked in as number 6 with an 84.3%. This season the Rangers have lost a lot of the oomph when it comes to their PK. A difference that has many factors, one of which could be the loss of Hagelin’s skill and speed.
The Rangers have tried to improve their penalty kill by searching for just the right lines and signing F Daniel Paille. Important members on the PK have been trying to step up to the plate, and adding Paille has been a positive one, hopefully the lines will fall right and the Rangers can bring back the PK they pulled last season.
Missing Hagelin on the PK has been noticeable, his speed and possession skills had made him a very important member to the Ranger’s special teams. With luck, the Rangers might be able to improve their PK, but it’ll take some work to make the cards fall just right.
The Speedy Two-Way Forward
Hagelin had all the components necessary to be a power forward; he has speed, good possession, scoring opportunities and is a good offensive and defensive player. This is the kind of player that would be helpful for the Rangers now, especially when they’re searching for goals and trying to play to win.
Speed has always been an important aspect of the Ranger’s play, as demonstrated by forward Chris Kreider and formerly by Hagelin. Losing a vital component of their speed factor has created a setback. Hagelin’s speed is an essential part of his play, as well as his effective two-way playing when it comes to playing strongly both defensively as well as offensively.
Hagelin was a quick and helpful line mate, assisting in many goals with the Rangers and effectively mediating the puck between players. Having a player who can keep the puck in the zone or carry it past the blue line is important, and is a player the Rangers would find particularly helpful.
In a time where the Rangers top-men aren’t performing to their full potential it is vital to have powerful forwards to help carry the team and their teammates by assisting in goals and carrying the puck. Forward Rick Nash isn’t scoring this season like he used to but has been using his presence on the ice, and center Derek Stepan hasn’t been as consistent as usual, though he is starting to find his footing.
Now, on the Pens, Hagelin will assist forwards Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin on the second line when it comes to goal scoring.
Hagelin is an incredibly speedy skater, who tops the power kill and knows how to handle the puck. He’s an offensive player who can play defensively and has the ability to rise into any role that he needs to fill.
The missing of a persistent forward on the Rangers is beginning to be a noticeable one, but if the team can rise and overcome its low points it will be able to be just as strong as it was last season. Losing Hagelin wasn’t an easy situation, but making cap space was the team’s priority at the time.
Hagelin will continue to rise, especially now being on a team like the Penguins, who can accurately place him to enhance his talents. In just four games with the Pens, Hagelin already has three assists and a plus-minus of five. It is expected that he will excel on a team where his abilities are well-suited and much-needed.
The Rangers play has shifted with the loss of Hagelin and the changing and managing of the roster and lines, which has shown to have been a problem as well. Losing the fan-favorite caused stir among fans, especially seeing the forward now join the Rangers’ rival Penguins, and has now cause some stir in the Rangers’ play. If the lines and good use of cap space of possible trades can fall into place, the team is likely to regain the power play it sustained last season.
Overall, the team’s recent misfortunes aren’t completely attributed to the loss of Hagelin, but a player with the play and potential he has certainly wouldn’t have a negative effect on the team’s play. The key is having balance through the roster, playing the right guys with the right guys at the right time. One thing is for certain, the fans will always miss their favorite speedster and former Ranger, Hagelin.
Alyssa is a writer here at THW as a contributor for her hometown team, the New York Rangers. She is also currently pursuing a Communications degree. Follow her on twitter for some hockey talk and Rangers updates!