Etem Trade Fallout: Contrary to some opinions, the Rangers know how to develop talent



I promise, this is the last ounce of energy I waste discussing the failure that was Emerson Etem. For the record, I hope he goes on to have a long and prosperous career in Vancouver so those who disagree with me can rub it in my face.

There seems to be some sort of moral outrage as to how the Rangers handled Etem in NY. I have joked for the last few hours if they’ve gotten over Gordie Etem or Emerson Gretzky yet because this is ridiculous. For a player who mustered only 3 assists in 19 games and only made the team out of camp after scoring zero points in 5 exhibition games due to the following circumstances:

  • Couldn’t be sent down to Hartford because he’d have to pass through waivers and would likely be claimed for nothing
  • Was part of deal that saw fan favorite, Carl Hagelin lost to Anaheim because of cap issues

Yet today, there’s a group of Rangers fans who believe he was unfairly treated by Alain Vigneault. A coach who’s past records and accomplishments (as recent as taking this team to the Cup Final in 2014, a Presidents’ Trophy in 2015 along with a game 7 ECF loss) has no clue on what he’s doing.

They pound their chest by citing the NYR poor corsi stats, AV’s affinity for playing Tanner Glass, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal as reasons for justification. Apparently these spreadsheet samurais, corsi cowboys and EA Sports NHL 16 heroes are smarter than Vigneault and the organization. The latest criticism is he doesn’t know how to develop talent.

Etem to Hartford (Getty)


Let’s start with the fact that Emerson Etem was unjustly given an opportunity because of the circumstances mentioned above. He actually took that opportunity away from Jayson Megna, who in his first shot back, took the bull by the horns and made an impression. Come trade deadline, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rangers moved a 4th liner like Dominic Moore, Viktor Stalberg or Jesper Fast because of the kid. That is of course if he can keep up this play, which will be unlikely.

No, Etem had a fair shake. And yes, he even had minutes with skilled players like Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard (see the chart below) and could do nothing with it. As for being stuck playing with “losers” like Tanner Glass? Etem posted his best corsi numbers with him at 56.7%. Mind you, I could care less about an individual’s corsi numbers because he is reliant on 4 other players to help his stats.

Besides finding this “he wasn’t treated fairly” argument laughable, and seeing most of these “experts” ignore what AV has done with Kevin Hayes, Jesper Fast and JT Miller. I am going to focus on one particular prospect that unlike Etem, distinguished himself immediately and is still getting regular playing time because he EARNED IT.

Oscar Lindberg bursted on the scene like a house on fire. The kid, who is 1 year older than Etem, scored 4 goals in his first 4 games to start the year. In his subsequent 35 games he has 6, but he’s still playing. Why? Because when the kid gets out there he plays hard and can be counted on to make the right play. Plus, he has 18 points on the year so he can generate offense.

Are you going to argue that he plays more? You would be right! Etem averaged 11:05 of ice with the NYR. Lindberg has received an astounding 1:38 minutes more. Oh yes, you better believe that’s the difference maker. I hope you understand how dripping with sarcasm that last sentence was.

Matter of fact, Lindberg was given less time to play with the Rangers big names than Etem! Just look at the two charts below. It shows that Etem received almost 30 minutes with arguably the Rangers two best forwards this year (Brass & Zucc). Lindberg did get 24 minutes with Rick Nash and 22:49 with Zuccarello but got 12 minutes or less with Brass and Stepan. *chart has typo

Lindberg TOI with

Lindberg with TOI & CF%

Etem with TOI & CF%

Etem with TOI & CF%










This is the NHL where you get paid big dollars to play and coaches get paid to win games. The Rangers aren’t in a rebuild mode, so there is no reason to just run a prospect out there that can’t get it done with the hopes that they will develop. This is a win now team and Etem was given more than a fair chance to prove himself.

That same chance was given to Oscar Lindberg and he is developing while contributing to the Rangers at the same time. J.T. Miller was given a huge opportunity (out of necessity) in the ECF against Tampa and had a 4 point game and Kevin Hayes was given big minutes in his rookie season last year. Why? Because they earned it by doing something productive on the ice.

So please don’t tell me that Etem wasn’t given a chance when he has 131 NHL games under his belt and is heading to his third team. I saw it in October that the kid wasn’t cutting it. Today when Jeff Gorton spoke about the trade he said the same thing.

[su_quote cite=”NYPOST” url=””]“I would say it’s clear that Emerson got off to a tough start here and it didn’t seem to gain any traction,” general manager Jeff Gorton said on a conference call Friday night. “It goes back to training camp, really, where it didn’t seem to be working and a fit. So, that’s why at this point, we just thought it was best for us to give him another spot to go to, and for us, find a player we liked and thought had some future.”[/su_quote]

This was a very professional way to say, “the kid couldn’t cut it here.” You simply don’t just give up on 23 year olds with size and speed unless you realized there was a bigger problem. Listen, everyone can have an opinion as to what is the right way to develop a player or how to run a team. Unfortunately in this case, they’re wrong.

I am often told that I can’t trust my eyes by those who are very pro analytics. The game of hockey is fast paced, and there will be things I miss on the ice. Let me leave you with this, what if the dependency on these new advanced analytics have made you so reliant on them that maybe you can no longer trust your own eyes?

Just some food for thought there.

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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