There’s a lot of disappointment that fans have to wait a year for Adam Fox to make his All-Star Game debut. The reigning Norris Trophy winner got injured late last week against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Fox sustained an upper-body injury after taking an awkward hit by Vladislav Gavrikov.
The former Harvard University product was leading defenceman with 47 points. However, the Rangers have to soldier on without him. Head coach Gerard Gallant has made some lineup adjustments and we’ll take a look at them.
Replacing Adam Fox
What He Brings to Power Play
The biggest void Fox leaves is on the power play, as he ran the point on the top unit. New York’s power play is 10th in the league coming into Tuesday’s games with a 24.6-percent success rate. The Jericho, New York native doesn’t have a power-play tally yet this season. However, he already has 18 extra-man points. That mark is just four off his career-high of 22 in his rookie season.
Shayna Goldman of The Athletic broke down his success early last month in a piece for the outlet. New York often runs a 1-3-1 setup that has Fox on the point, Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome occupying three forward spots. (Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko have also gotten time at the third forward spot.) Chris Kreider occupies the spot in front of the net, and it’s worked pretty well this season.
Here’s an example of what Fox can do on the power play in the Dec. 7 game at the Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago and the Rangers are tied at two and New York is on the power play (6:48 in the video). Fox gets the puck and throws a shot on net. Kreider is there to redirect the shot past Marc-Andre Fleury as the Blueshirts go on to a 6-2 win.
Fox can rip shots from the point or he can snap it off quickly and allow Kreider to redirect it or pick up the rebound. Fox’s goals aren’t coming on the power play this year, but he’s very effective in making things happen. He’s the youngest person on the normal power-play unit, but playing elite beyond his years.
The Rangers Power Play Without Adam Fox
Jacob Trouba has been the man to replace Fox as the quarterback of the power play. Trouba’s passing is not on the level of Fox, but he does carry a hard shot that forces a goalie to give up rebounds. New York did score twice on the power play with Trouba leading the way. However, the playmaking dimension that Fox adds is certainly missing. The Rangers can get by on the power play with talented players like Panarin and Zibanejad, but it’s not the same.
The Defensive End
Fox does have lots of offensive game to him but he’s very good at his end of the ice. Passing is a big part of his game and he is one of the best in zone exits as he and Panarin are above 90-percent according to Sportlogiq. Exits can be either an outlet pass, stretch pass or someone carrying the puck themselves. He’s one of the best at starting a rush from his own end of the ice.
There’s always a worry that offensive-minded blueliners sacrifice their defensive game to generate chances. However, Fox recorded 2:36 of ice time on the penalty kill last season and was +18 in expected goals on defence according to Evolving Hockey.
His speed on the back end makes him able to get back into any play. He and Ryan Lindgren have been a steady pair with Lindgren willing to stay home and clean up on the back end. However, Fox is even to get back and play some goal as he did against the Philadelphia Flyers last season.
The Defence without Fox
Lindgren has teamed up with rookie Braden Schneider on the second pair while K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba are the top duos. New York did win two out of three games Fox wasn’t in, but the first game against the Seattle Kraken almost got away from the Rangers. The Blueshirts did pick up a huge win over the East-leading Florida Panthers despite no Fox, Filip Chytil and Kakko.
However, the Rangers yielded plenty of shots with 42 in the win over the Kraken. Igor Shesterkin came through like he has most of the season, but some worry that it’s not sustainable. Fox’s return would take the stress off the younger defenders on the team.
What it Means
The good news is that Fox should be back by the time the Rangers return to the ice on Feb. 15 against the Boston Bruins. There’s never a good time to have an injury, but the two-week break will allow some of the injured Blueshirts.
The Rangers are in a race with the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins for the divisional title. New York is going to need Adam Fox to be ready for the stretch drive as it hunts down the Metro title. The Rangers have gotten by so far, but need all hands on deck to make a deep Stanley Cup Playoff run.