Jeff Veillette (Jeffler)
July 15 2014 11:44AM
In a move that surprised a few, Paul Ranger has signed for an organization that isn't the Toronto Maple Leafs. in that's surprised everybody, Ranger has gone as far away as possible, signing in Switzerland with Genève-Servette.
Ranger's story is an interesting one. Not much is really known, but the 29 year old defenceman suddenly retired from the NHL while in entering prime age with the Tampa Bay Lightning. It's been generally accepted that he had personal issues that needed to be addressed. Ranger spent most of his time as close to his home in Whitby as possible, went back to school, kept training, and even coached a AAA team.
Eventually, he got the urge to play hockey at a higher level again, and signed with the Toronto Marlies. Not wanting to risk being moved away from home, he signed an AHL-only deal, and entered camp by dominating every possible fitness test. His on-ice performance was solid too, putting up 29 points in 60 regular season and playoff games while being one of their steadiest players on the back end.
After a successful year, Ranger signed a 1 year deal with the Maple Leafs. He was back in the NHL, and while good for somebody who had been away from the game, was underwhelming overall. In 53 games, Ranger put up 14 points. The fancystats had him as a mediocre possession player, hovering at just about the team average in CF% while earning relatively normal zone starts and having slightly above average puck luck (101.3% PDO). The "eyeball test" showed a strong but slightly slow defenceman, who appeared to still be re-adjusting from the AHL to NHL.
To be honest, I think that if Ranger wanted to, he could probably stay in the NHL and continue to catch up to something close to where he was with Tampa Bay. Both his visual play and his statistical output improved as the year progressed, particularly when he was split from "Franger" by means of Mark Fraser's departure to Edmonton. But the Leafs have a log-jam of defencemen right now, and he doesn't appear to want to play in any other NHL market.
But hey, if you still have that competitive edge and don't want too much distraction from "the life", why not go somewhere where "the life" is less impactful away from the rink? Switzerland seems like a good fit. The style of game there is more defensive, and bigger ice surface will force him to continue to work on his foot speed. In any event, he's got two years to figure out whether he likes the change of pace.