Between their late season shells by New York Islanders The Tom Wilson incident against Washington Capitals, Rangers went into the 2021 season off season wanting to be tougher to play against. Fight Night 2012 against New Jersey Devils The team saw three enforcers in Stu Bickel, Brandon Prust and Mike Rupp to start that game and send a message. Fight Night Against Washington in 2021 saw the roles of Bickle, Prost and Rob played by Colin Blackwell, Phil Di Giuseppe and Kevin Rooney. Brendan Smith, Anthony Pettito, and Ryan Strom got into the fist shortly thereafter, but no one called out to point to any of those six players as an enforcer.
Chris Drury was the main decision-maker on Broadway, and it was clear that the Blueshirts would be a tougher group the following season. In exchange for what ended up being the 95th pick for the 2022 entry draft, Drury acquired Ryan Reaves from Vegas Golden Nights On July 29, he spent an additional year on the Reaves contract before he could fit into the team.
Reunited with his former Vegas coach Gerard Gallant, Reeves found himself in the squad quite often. Although he sat as a healthy scratcher in the last two games of the season, Reaves was a regular presence in the fourth line. How did he do on this line?
Boxcar stats: 69 GP, 5 G, 8 A, 44 SOG, 10:38 TOI/GP, 43 PIM, -9 KN differential, -14 goal difference on ice
Analytical scales 5 out of 5: 1.00 points / 60, -10.57 relative CF%, -11.04 relative SF%, -17.10 relative GF%, -11.46 relative GF%, -8.14 relative SCF, 98.8 relative PDO, -5.9 GAR
Playoff stats: 0 points, 9:25 TOI/GP, -3.89 relative CF%, 0.60 relative xGF%, -1 target differential on ice
Aside from Julien Gauthier, no other goalkeeper who finished the season on the NHL roster has skated less than minutes per game than the Reaves. Having been brought in to act as a deterrent against other teams, Reaves has only dropped the gloves and has fought three times this season. Curtis McDermid of Colorado, Patrick Marron of Tampa Bay, and Michael Pezzetta of Montreal were his opponents, with the slant against Maroon as a preview of these two during the Eastern Conference Finals.
There weren’t many nights to write about home from a production standpoint. Reeves failed to find the net until January 20, although he scored his first and second goals as a goalkeeper that night:
Aside from that night, the Reaves in general were a huge drag on the Blueshirts’ snowboard performance. Looking at shot attempts, shots on goal, projected goals, and basically every stat related to chance and shots, Reaves was at or near the bottom of every scale on the ice. People who didn’t die in the past, he was usually joined by the likes of Kevin Rooney and Greg McKeig, both of whom are no longer on the team.
There are no stats that make Reaves look like a strong contributor to New York’s success this season. Rangers won 30-16 with equal strength with Reeves on the ice, and the goal difference of minus 14 was the worst in the team. The blue jersey front depth was their stark weakness in the first three quarters of the season before the trading deadline, and getting a roughly 2:1 result whenever the Reaves were on the ice was a big part of that problem.
One stat that highlights Reaves’ overall shortcomings well is the goal-over-replacement model of hockey’s evolution. GAR (and W (additions) AR and S (tandings) P (oints) AR transfers) are cumulative stats that even include strength play, special teams play, and penalty effects. Of the 427 strikers who have skated at least 350 minutes this season, Reaves was one of only 11 who was far enough in the red in the GAR to count at least -1 WAR. This comes despite basically not having time for special teams, which gets other bad players in his vicinity and gives them more chances to be bad.
By taking out the Special Teams component of GAR and WAR, only five other players had such a draw with equal power to calculate -1 WAR. Being the best player on the team and shooting them on ice for games is great stuff to get an occasional chuckle, but when it requires honoring a player in the conversation of the worst skater in the league, something has to be offered.
When the playoffs took place, Reeves spent more time watching matches from the bench than he usually did. No striker skated less than 9:25 per game that Reaves did in the playoffs. After four particularly rough games against Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals. Reeves spent the last two games of the New York season in the press box. For all the questions surrounding Capo Kaku’s future after his health dent at the end of the season, Reeves’ place on the 2022-23 campaign roster appears closed even in the midst of the blue jersey’s ongoing jersey crisis.
Similar to Alain Vigneault’s affinity with Tanner Glass since his time in Vancouver, it’s clear that Reaves liked himself to Gerard Gallant during their time together in Vegas, and it helped get him to New York. The port’s age has come and gone at this point, but the Reaves is one of the last dying breed of NHL players. His first season in New York went about what Rangerstown residents expected. Hopefully, its second season will be a pleasant surprise.