Concern Growing For Rangers Brady Skjei

Skjei (Bruce Bennet/Getty Images)

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There’s no denying it, Brady Skjei is a good hockey player with tremendous skating and defensive abilities. Many (including myself) see him as the de facto replacement for Ryan McDonagh on the Rangers blue line. When Skjei stormed into the NHL, he showed flashes of a budding, young defenseman. Having players like Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal with him bolstered his development and allowed him to mold his game into a multi faceted player and weapon for New York.

That being said, Skjei’s recent performance has struck a tiny chord amongst Rangers fans, primarily expressing concern on whether Skjei is really the player he’s supposed to turn out to be. Obviously, this cause for concern isn’t terribly large, but it’s hard not to think something may be up with the string of poor performances on the ice as of late. Some speculate it’s physical and some speculate that it’s mental. Either way, Skjei has been on and off this season.

Last season, Skjei had his worst statistical season, ending the campaign with a plus/minus of -27 and 62 turnovers. In his own zone, Skjei was a mess. While his skating ability shone through in Alain Vigneault’s offense-first system, the defensive aspect suffered. Many (including myself) saw this as an anomaly since the team collectively was woefully performing under expectations along with many key pieces being moves alongside the team’s overall tuning out of the coach. We all know what Skjei is capable of, and we’ve seen what he’s been able to do. A fleet of foot defenseman who can provide offense as well as defend competently in his own zone, so as previously mentioned, the concern was not large, as many thought he would rebound.

Coming into this season, Skjei was expected to rebound and go back to being the player he’s supposed to be. New coach David Quinn’s system allows for a more defensive style adding a hint of offense with it. Skjei was supposed to thrive right off the bat and become a mainstay in the back end. Sadly, while he’s been a bit better, he’s also looked out of sorts on many instances. During the Rangers first matchup with the rival Islanders at Barclays Center, Skjei looked incredibly indecisive in his own end for most of the night, including a 3rd period turnover, which led to a flurry of Islanders shots on Lundqvist that ended with a Leo Komarov goal to give the Isles a 6-3 lead.

Skjei was scratched for two games before returning to the lineup, with mixed results. The next series of offenses came versus the Canadiens in Montreal. Looking uncomfortable all night, Skjei was on the ice for three of the five Montreal goals including one where Tomas Tatar fell down to the ice with Skjei gliding with palms up, giving up on an active play, all while Shea Weber pinched up and scored off Georgiev for his second of the night. (Skjei was also on the ice for Weber’s first).

Another example is where Skjei pinched up and did not keep the puck in the Montreal zone, which led to a rush down the ice by Artturi Lehkonen as he snapped it past Georgiev to make it 3-0 Montreal. Afterwards, Skjei was scratched for the Rangers tilt versus Winnipeg the following evening.

Inconsistent performances like this, alongside the resurgence of Neal Pionk and the plethora of D prospects have begun the discussion amongst fans wether Skjei can be replaced as many fans think they could get a much needed forward in return for him. Skjei’s name was thrown around as a possible piece in a potential William Nylander deal, but nothing came of it.

As it stands, The Rangers and David Quinn seem to think otherwise to Skjei being a moveable piece, as it seems the staff wants to work with him to make Brady a better hockey player all around.

As a matter of fact, even his six-year, $31.5 million contract signed this past summer, carrying an annual salary-cap hit of $5.25 million, was brought up in hopes that it wasn’t a distraction for the affable Minnesotan longing to be a leader on Broadway.

“That’s been talked about a little bit. They’ve been telling me don’t even worry about the money side of it. Just play your game. You got what you deserve,” Skjei told The Post after Tuesday’s practice in Westchester. “They’ve said, ‘We feel like you’re worth every penny.’ So it’s not that thing. And it’s not like I’m thinking about that when I’m on the ice.

“Just have to get back to the way I was playing the first couple years. I think I’ve had some good games this year, too. It’s not like I’ve been bad every game. It’s just a little inconsistency and have to get back to being a little more aggressive and pushing the pace a little more.” Brett Cygralis/New York Post

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First-year head coach David Quinn made the 24-year-old defenseman a healthy scratch for the team’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Jets on Sunday night at the Garden. It was the third benching this season for the player whom the franchise believes in deeply, but who had a brutal game in Montreal on Saturday night amidst a season of disappointing play.

“This is a guy that we have a lot of faith in,” Quinn said. “He’s a really good player having a little bit of a struggle. He’s going to get right back in there and we’re going to get this right. He’s going to be a big part of what we’ve got going on now and the future. It’s not a punishment, it’s more take a deep breath and let’s get back at it.”Brett Cygralis/New York Post

Moving Brady Skjei is a counterproductive move, unless it is a can’t miss trade that will bolster the roster beyond what it is at the moment. He’s still young with a lot of potential left to tap into. Right now, whatever seems to be ailing him, whether it’s physical or mental is clearly affecting his play on the ice. Skjei is no fluke, as we’ve seen what he’s capable of as a defenseman and the Rangers wouldn’t have offered him a large extention if they didn’t believe he could hold up his end of the bargain. Right now, there is some cause for concern as his game is not translating well in the consistency department. Whether it’s in his head, physically or not being able to adapt to the new system, something is wrong.

That being said, while the concern is real, for the time being, does not seem like it’s going to turn into a major problem unless something comes out about him that could threaten anything regarding his health or status with the team. I’m sure this will iron itself out, but at this point, there has to be some concern for Skjei, as the inconsistencies in his game are showing.

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