Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ranger Roster Review: Blair Betts

You always hear about players whose contribution doesn't show up in the box score. The Ranger's Blair Betts, coming off a 10 point season at age 29, is the perfect example of that concept. The stats don't tell us much at all:

Blair Betts
Position: C
Age: 29
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 210
Shoots: Left

Regular Season
Games: 82
Goals (6) + Assists (4) = 10 Points
Plus-Minus: -5
6 Goals/ 83 Shots (on goal) = 7.2%

Games: 6
Goals (0) + Assists (0) = 0 Points
Plus-Minus: -1
0 Goals/ 1 Shots (on goal) = 0.0%

Salary: $615,000
Current Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

10 Points is not impressive for a center. But, it's not Blair's goals or his assists that make him stand out. Betts excels on the Penalty Kill.

It's a thankless job. Because when you do it perfectly - absolutely nothing happens. And when you do make a mistake - a very loud buzzer goes off - your goalie hangs his head - and an arena full of people start booing.

(Imagine if your job was like that. What if your office cubicle was in the middle of Madison Square Garden and you had to work 9 to 5 in those conditions. Report overdue? BUZZ! BOO!)

And the Penalty Kill unit is hell on your plus-minus. No matter how good you are - you're going to get outscored when you're a man down.

The only box score stat where the penalty kill shows up is the opponent’s power play goal average. And the Rangers had the best in hockey last season. It’s the one statistical area the team was a standout.

Of course, as Nugman said - the PK special teams can't be a team strength - you can't root for your own team to get penalized - but it sure did help us win a lot of hockey games.

And this is what Blair Betts brings to the Rangers - league leading penalty kill ability. And when the Caps headhunter - the thug Brashear went looking for a Ranger target - who did he pick? Not Zherdev. Not Drury. Not Gomez. It was Blair Betts that Brashear went after - fracturing his orbital bone and ending his season (and the Ranger's season along with it).

And it didn't take long for Blair Betts' absence to be felt. A few minutes later the Rangers PK unit - now minus Betts - failed and the Caps converted a power play - and the tide turned - for the game and the series. To put this another way - The Rangers were up 3-2 in the series when Betts was injured - so he is the only Ranger with a winning playoff record this past season.

Not long ago I was able to ask a certain reporter - who sees the Rangers on a daily basis - if Slats and Torts "get it" about how valuable Betts is. I was assured that the Rangers do get it about Betts - which is good news.

Now we just have to re-sign him - he's an unrestricted free agent - so we should get this done as soon as possible. Because Betts is the best role player - and best special teams player on the Rangers. I'm assuming they'll have to bump him up from his current $615,000 - but we're still talking bargain prices compared to the value per dollar of some other players on the roster.

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