In today’s analytics fueled debate, people have the tendency to undervalue players who don’t contribute in tangible means. For the New York Rangers, Adam McQuaid falls into a category that spreadsheets cannot quantify.
For all of the great information that sabermetrics and possession stats can provide in a vacuum, they do not tell the entire story. After all, the general managers don’t just put their team on a spreadsheet and think that things will go perfectly if the players can hit a certain statistical threshold. There are intangible features in professional sports that analytics cannot understand.
As much as professional athletes are extraordinary, they are still people that have feelings and emotions. At their best this decade, the New York Rangers were a team littered with players that wore their hearts on their sleeves and had a never say die attitude.
New York was never the most talented team, even the year it won the President’s Trophy back in 2015. That was a very good but not great group. It was the intangibles of that team that pushed them through so many memorable moments, most notably rallying back from a 3-1 deficit in the second round of the playoffs against the Washington Capitals.
As that old core transitioned into this younger group, those intangibles were lost to time. The only way to develop character is through practical life experience, theory is great but it’s no substitute for the real thing. That’s where the importance of someone like Adam McQuaid comes into play, even if it is just for the short term.
There is a reason that everyone associated with the Boston Bruins was sad to see McQuaid go. The veteran is a heart and soul type of player that leaves it all out on the ice every single night. In addition to the effort he puts in, McQuaid is always willing to stand up for his teammates and drop the gloves if things go down.
The fancy stats
In new school hockey thinking, a player cannot be a one-dimensional player. If someone is going to occupy an NHL roster spot they need to fit the overall culture of the team and the system the coaching staff operates. Under the modern conventions as to what is an effective player, McQuaid is well below league average.
An average NHL player should have a Corsi For Percentage of 50, meaning that when said player is on the ice, their team generates 50 percent of the scoring chances at five on five. McQuaid’s CF% is a paltry 41.5 percent, meaning that when he’s on the ice, the other team creates 58.5 percent of the scoring chances.
This is where those in the advanced statistics community would say that when McQuaid is on the ice, he is a detriment to the Rangers. In a vacuum, this would hold true. However, teams do actually play the games and aren’t numbers put into an algorithm to choose a victor.
The heart and will to compete
In spite of the fact that the Rangers give up more scoring chances than it creates when McQuaid is on the ice, I can still find inherent value in a proven veteran being on the team. For all of the issues with the roster, being that it’s not quite good, a team can get bullied around and beaten on the scoreboard at the same time.
Last year, especially down the stretch after the trade deadline, the Rangers were skated out of the rink and flat out bullied. When another team can inflict their will upon on you while winning the game in a lopsided fashion it is extremely demoralizing and something that can linger for more than just that night.
There is something to be said for the importance that the Rangers’ talent evaluation puts on character and leadership. Those type of intangible traits builds the foundation for a successful culture. It’s not a surprise when a team with high character player plays well, the team pushes each other to get even better.
In all likelihood, McQuaid will not be on the Rangers’ roster the next time the team qualifies for the postseason. However, guys like Brett Howden, Brady Skjei and Filip Chytil are learning what it means to be a good teammate from one of the better examples in McQuaid.
Teams play well at every level when the players on the ice are playing for each other. Anyone who’s played on a team at any level of competition knows when everyone is focused on making their teammates better and sticking up for one another good things happen.