Mats Zuccarello Struggles; Inside the numbers

Mat Zuccarello crashes into the boards vs. STL last season (Getty)

Mat Zuccarello crashes into the boards vs. STL last season (Getty)

Last season the New York Rangers had enviable depth with three valid scoring lines. Left winger Mats Zuccarello was a huge part of that depth, leading the team in scoring with fifty-nine points. With the departure of Brad Richards via compliance buyout, Derick Brassard was then the second best centerman. The coaching staff has elected to keep Brassard with Zuccarello and so far, Mats Zuccarello has scored one point. Since the assist against Carolina Mats Zuccarello has continued to struggle.

Has fantastic technical skills and great passing ability. Can finish with aplomb (poise). A magician who can do spectacular things with the puck. Great vision and can man the power play point. Defensively responsible and doesn’t mind heavy traffic.
Lacks size and strength. Not a great physical player.
– Ulf Andersson, Elite Prospects.com

In the loss to Columbus Mats Zuccarello was injured
Mats Zuccarello (NYR)

Mats Zuccarello (NYR)

Zuccarello didn’t exactly light the world on fire to begin with but the injury must have set him back and could still be impacting his performance. Whatever the case, the Rangers need Mats Zuccarello to figure it out soon and get back to the player he was. The player that plays every shift with a chip on his shoulder and a nasty streak when needed.

The way Rick Nash has begun the season, the Rangers have gotten away without having 4 puck possession lines. However, Nash isn’t going to shoot 31% on the entire season. The Blueshirts will need the “hobbit” to get back to the playmaker we all love. They guy that never stops and scores a goal when the Rangers are down three goals to get the team going. He’s a spark plug for the New York Rangers.

Mats Zuccarello was on the 3rd line 13/14, now he’s been moved to 2nd line where the (QoC) quality of competition is tougher.

Alain Vigneault starts the third line (after a whistle) in the offensive zone a majority of the time. Last season Zuccarello started 58.5% of his shifts in the offensive zone. So far this season, that figure has changed to 52.9%. That comes with the promotion to the second line.

When Zuccarello was playing on that consistent third line with Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot, his QoT was -0.022. Meaning he was playing mostly against the oppositions bottom six where they were a mismatch for most opposition. This season that figure has risen to 0.371. That’s a large discrepancy in the quality of players Mats Zuccarello is playing against on a nightly basis. Quality of Competition stats range from -1.00 – +1.00 for those of you that don’t understand the statistic.

Last season Mats Zuccarello started out slow before becoming the player Ranger fans came to admire.

Wether it’s the shoulder or just getting adjusted to the higher level of competition and tougher minutes. The Rangers need Zuccarello to produce as long as he’s playing on the second line. At 5’7″ he’s not in the lineup to be a power forward, he’s there as a playmaker to help open time and space for his line mates. For Mats Zuccarello in six games he’s played in, he’s struggled with moving the puck, and it seem like he’s passing up opportunities to shoot.

Only time will tell if it’s a matter of health holding him back or if the level of competition is too much for him. If it’s the competition, it could be a long struggle all season unless Zuccarello is moved further down the lineup. Alain Vineault could then use him in the manner he did during the 13/14 season rather than on a top six line.

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