It has been reported in the New York Daily News that Dylan McIlrath has been told, before the Rangers step onto the ice to begin their season, that he is not in the plans for the top-6 for the Rangers. This makes no objective sense.
As the rumors swirl that the Rangers are exploring trading McIlrath, well, chalk that up to a moment in time where a GM sold at rock-bottom value (see: Yakupov, Nail). And it's hard to believe, really. The Rangers drafted McIlrath 6 years ago now. Six years of investment into the kid. Battling through knee injuries, and finally getting his shot last season, McIlrath, when given consistent playing time, proved that at a minimum he could take third-pairing assignments with the potential to see even more in the future.
Any team would likely be thrilled that their investment was paying off. Not the Rangers. Not Alain Vigneault.
Meanwhile, making less sense, is that Dan Girardi has been practicing on a pairing with Ryan McDonagh this week, showing that the Rangers will be "kicking the can" (to borrow a phrase) once more.
While Dan Girardi has proved time and time again that he is not a legitimate number 1 pairing defenseman (or 2nd or 3rd pair for that matter currently) the Rangers are more than happy to allow Girardi to bring McDonagh down to his level, while their most promising young right-handed d-man sits in the pressbox. This is all too familiar territory for McIlrath.
We all know how bad Girardi is, but let's see what the Rangers are giving up allowing McIlrath to sit out.
stats provided by Corsica.Hockey
First, I think it's worthwhile to look at the ranks among Rangers D last season for relative shot attempt metrics, and time on ice per game:
There are certainly some sample size issues here, but there are takeaways.
AV has clearly never trusted McIlrath, and he made that very clear to see last season as McIlrath would average just 12:48 of 5v5 ice last season. Skjei, the d-man who received the 7th most TOI per game played would average 14 minutes a game.
Another item that immediately jumps out is the relative goals for percentage that ranks first on the team for Dylan at +14.15%. Not only did this number lead the Rangers, but this was 7th in the league among defensemen with 400 or more minutes played during 5v5 play.
We can trace back a lot of McIlrath's struggles on the relative scoring chances for % metric by utilizing Corsica.Hockey's combos tool. When partnered with Dan Boyle, a truly atrocious pairing that was used by AV, McIlrath would see a relative scoring chances for % of -14.38%. This pairing was responsible for a 12.15 scoring chances against per 60. Compare this to the pairing of Yandle-McIlrath, which only allowed 7.49 scoring chances against per 60. Compare this to the three pairings that Girardi would skate more than 50 minutes with last season (McDonagh, Yandle, and Staal), which featured scoring chances against per 60 of 11.07, 11.91, and 12.74 respectively.
Presented for analysis are the impact stats when each Girardi and McIlrath were paired with Yandle.
Impact stats are a neat way of rolling up the per 60 relative metrics for and against into a net number. We do this with the formula: (Metric for per 60 minus metric against per 60). We use subtraction here because having a negative metric against per 60 number is a good thing.
Maybe the most hugely important issue to discuss here, is that when paired with the Rangers best offensive defenseman last season, McIlrath was able to allow Yandle to keep pushing a positive gain for the Rangers, while Girardi was a complete drag on Yandle, eliminating his offense.
We can also take a look at the ranking of all Rangers combos that played more than 50 minutes together last season during 5v5 play, and their shot attempt impact (best for small sample sizes as we are dealing with)
Yes, that is Dan Girardi's three consistent partners being pile-drived to the bottom of the chart as his partner. And while McIlrath has two partners with negative impacts, he saw his most consistent time, and played his best hockey, with Keith Yandle. Is that a testament to Yandle? Absolutely, but we have a clear comparison in what having a bad partner can to do you with the Yandle and Girardi pairing.
Everyone who has watched McIlrath play also knows that he has quite a shot from the point, and the key to this skill is that McIlrath is not afraid to let shots go. Last season, McIlrath would record 9.32 shot attempts per 60, this was the 2nd most shots on the team behind Yandle.
Finally, via Hockeyviz.com, I want to take a look at McIlrath's overview card & three-year overview.
What we see here is a player who, when given consistent playing time with the same partner (that chunk of time between games 20 and 40 with Yandle) is a player that can drive shots and goals for his team. As the season wore on, his partners were jumbled, his ice time fluctuated, and he spent a ton of development time watching instead of playing.
On this, we see a player who hasn't been given a real shot (doesn't even log third-pairing minutes). Despite not being known for his offense, he is still producing at the rate of a third-pairing d-man. And finally, the relative to teammate shot and goal generation.
It's obvious that Vigneault trusts the likes of Girardi and Nick Holden more than McIlrath. Perhaps in their veteran state, they have earned that. How many games will it take for Dylan to get his shot? Will he ever get his shot on this team?
McIlrath, with his play last season, has earned the right to prove he is a steady third-pairing defenseman, and he should get that shot.