1st pair: Staal-Rosival
Ideally, your first pair is your best. You have a good offensive defenseman, and a strong shutdown d-man. This combination gives the Rangers just that. Staal is the Rangers best defender. He has the potential to shut down one side of the ice. He’s an All-Star for years to come. Michal Rosival, however, has been struggling, and looked absolutely awful in the last preseason game against the Caps. But, that’s exactly why I put him with Staal. If he makes a mistake, he has Staal back there. Will this limit Staal’s offensive capabilities? A bit. But that’s what Gilroy and Del Zotto are for. This is not the best first pair in the NHL. No where close. But, it’s solid.
2nd pair: Gilroy-Girardi
I really debated where to put the rookies. I settled on Gilroy and Girardi for a couple reasons. One, Girardi, even with his preseason struggles, is a solid defensive defenseman. Gilroy, while solid in his own end, is a tremendous offensive player, who will look to lead and join the rush. He showed that during the preseason. This combination combines offensive and defensive players. In a defensive pair, you want a combination of both. This is a nice 2nd pair.
3rd pair: Redden-Del Zotto
Yes. Wade Redden as a third pair defenseman. It’s true. That’s where he belongs. I expect him to take a leap forward in his play this year–he really improved once Torts came along. He may not be the offensive player he once was, but he’s not awful as a defender. Del Zotto has shown great offensive instincts, as well as a good understanding of positional play. Having a veteran like Redden to learn from would be very beneficial to MDZ. If he gets sent back to juniors, I would put Semenov or whatever defenseman they sign off the scrap heap in this spot.
The Rangers defense core is solid. Not great. Solid. They have an emerging young star in Staal. Two really promising rookies in Gilroy and Del Zotto. Girardi, Rosival and Redden round out a solid group. I expect good things from all of them this year. What do you think of the defense core, and what are your ideal defensive pairings?