Rangers Defenseman Brady Skjei Will Bounce Back Next Season
As a whole, this season was a disappointment for the New York Rangers. Missing the playoffs for the first time since 2009-10, expectations were certainly not met and, all in all, the season was lost at the trade deadline.
One of the disappointments that was certainly the most surprising, was defenseman Brady Skjei. He vastly underperformed, on a team that was faltering and failing in all areas on the ice.
Skjei is a restricted free agent this offseason, but he should be a shoe-in re-sign for the Rangers. John Gilmour, Rob O’Gara, and Ryan Sproul are also free agents this summer alongside Skjei. I see Gilmour getting a contract, but O’Gara and Sproul probably won’t. You can check out my article on who will be in the defensive pairings in 2018, here.
But, after this unfortunate season, Skjei will come back and will bounce back next season. He is growing into a definitive player with unimaginable potential, and with limitless opportunity to use him for the rebuild, this next season will be very important.
It can’t get much worse than 2017-18
Skjei had a disastrous plus/minus rating of -27 last season. Coupled with 62 turnovers, his campaign was a nightmare. Despite all of the negative marks on his stat line, Skjei was still AV’s go to guy starting in the offensive zone 56.0% of the time.
This could certainly change with the change in coaching, but his skill is far too valuable to not use. It doesn’t make sense to shelter his ability now, like his skating ability below, when there are so many other uncertainties with the rebuild.
Full year with Kevin Shattenkirk
Brady Skjei saw time with multiple defensive partners over the course of the season. He had time with Shattenkirk, Tony DeAngelo, Neal Pionk and Steven Kampfer, with each of them changing almost nightly. Finding chemistry with a solid partner to his right would make the taste of this bad season vanish quickly.
Kevin Shattenkirk only had a half-season with the Rangers before going out with an injury. His time to grow chemistry with Skjei was limited, but that shouldn’t be of concern. Both of these defensemen are viable with the puck and could compliment each other. Next season is an opportunity for these two to grow and lead this young defensive core.
Come October, Skjei and Shattenkirk will hold the top pairing of the blueline, and with time, be a productive force. Both of these players have high-level ability to move the puck up-ice, with speed, and can create offensive chances. Both of these players had at least half of their shots going through the defense and on net, with Shattenkirk at 50% and Skjei at 54.1%.
Skjei is entering year four of NHL play, and with having played nearly every game of the last two seasons, he has shown that his durability isn’t a problem. Everything else can be fixed.
Turnovers and irresponsible plays around the front of the goaltender were seen throughout this past season, but these things can be worked on. He has shown an ability to play night in and night out at maximum effort, and in the end, despite the terrible stats, it wasn’t all bad.
He has shown great strides in his short time in the toughest city to play. Expectations will always be high in New York, how can they not be, but he needs time to adjust. Skjei is now among the veterans on the team at the young age of 24, and that is tough shoes to fill. The only other defensemen to shadow and learn from are Shattenkirk and Staal.
This offseason will be the most important of Skjei’s young career, and the first step will be to re-sign with the New York Rangers. Then it will be getting ready for a season where your team is expected to not make a playoff appearance. Finally, it will be season four, featuring Skjei bouncing back and showcasing shades of his rookie season with this young team.
Brady Skjei is a much better player than this past season. It was a hiccup in his career but a necessary one. He and the rest of the New York Rangers will learn from last season and use this rebuilding time to reproduce the organization’s recent run of success.