Could Staal Mean Dylan?

September 21, 2011, by

With all the hullaballoo (love that word) surrounding Marc Staal’s physical condition, it’s worth pointing out once again the impressive depth the Rangers have at the defense position. Yes, I can hear the replies now of ‘none of them are Marc Staal’. Certainly true, at least at this stage of their careers they are not. However, what is worth noting is that there may not be a franchise in the league right now that could bear the brunt of missing their best blue liner better the Rangers can.

Obviously if Staal misses game time long term it puts a huge dent in the 2011-12 plans of the Rangers. I’d argue that he is just as important as a Gaborik, more important than a Dubinsky, and not far behind the level of importance Lundqvist has on this team. However, the Rangers have a stack of defensemen on the bubble of making the big club (sooner rather than later) that could fill in at least short term, even if it was in a reduced capacity.

Dave pointed out the other day how Pavel Valentenko may be on the roster and not in the AHL due to his contract status. Indeed Valentenko has the physical game and aggressiveness to keep the Rangers blueline nasty and with an appropriate physicality. You have the much discussed, even more anticipated Tim Erixon looking impressive each day, and the potential offensive whiz of Mike Del Zotto still around. Great potential, great depth.

Here’s the wild card in the Staal situation: don’t rule out the Rangers keeping Dylan McIlrath with the club if Staal were to miss some regular season time. It serves a few purposes. The Rangers get a full look at the big kid in ‘real’ NHL action. It gives him invaluable experience and could be done in the bottom pairing with another player moving up. Steve Eminger played admirably in a bigger role for a period last year, so it’s not daunting to think he could be needed to do it again this season even if it isn’t ideal.

Back to Dylan McIlrath. A lot of people may think he’s not NHL ready and he probably isn’t. He wasn’t a dominating presence at Traverse City and he’s not been a name flying off the tongue in camp either. However, when considering this potential opportunity to fill-in for Staal remember John Tortorella’s recent comments about infusing yet more talent in to the line up and further developing the youth. Giving McIlrath a 6-7 game look to begin the year does both. Hey, you may send him back to junior after a spell in NY, but take a look at what you have in the kid. We’ll get some more insight in to McIlrath’s readiness in today’s pre-season opener.

So how about Blake Parlett and Tomas Kundratek? Brendan Bell? Staal’s ‘injury’ scare is unfortunate, potentially crippling if it lingered, but if anything it should act as a carrot to the rest of the defensemen in camp that aren’t assured of a roster spot. In an odd way, the Staal situation could act as a great motivator to the rest and really crank up the competition. Players are playing for an NHL job, even if it’s short term. Once they’re there it’s a chance to stick with the team.

Given that I’m a risk taker, but at the same time an optimist, if the unfortunate scenario of Staal missing game time occurred, I’d give McIlrath a shot while taking a veteran such as Bell to Europe as well. You have the safety blanket of Bell being around but the opportunity to unleash what is (hopefully) a big part of the team’s future in McIlrath. Nothing ventured, nothing gained right?


  1. AD says:

    That is certainly an intriguing approach; if all parties know it is a 6-7 game situational experience for McIlrath, it could pay off in spades for the Rangers in accelerating his development. I like the idea — the next week or so should reveal whether McIlrath is ready for that opportunity though.

    I think the experience with Del Zotto, however, should give Rangers management pause in bringing a prized prospect defenseman into the NHL too quickly. A 6-7 game stint, with the known up-front, may be the best of all worlds for all parties. Again, i like the idea.

    • Blueshirt in Paris says:

      Just going to play devils advocate here….sometimes it could be tough for a player to play in NHL games with NHL caliber players then go back to junior and be paired with a 16yr old rookie.

      Honestly, no way McIlrath is ready for NHL duties right now and I favor being honest with him in that regard.

    • Jess says:

      If the NYR were not going to Europe then the idea of keeping him for 6-7 games would be a serious consideration.

      Blueshirt in Paris is 100% right as having seen prospects struggle trying to make the adjustment BACK to the CHL speed tends to do more harm than good.

      If you are going to keep McIlrath then do it for the entire season not just a “taste”

      Oh one other thing, Dylan’s nickname is “The Truck” and has always been that. This Undertaker nickname is one he never uses and does not fit him.

  2. Dave says:

    I think The Undertaker needs another year in juniors and then a year in the AHL. He still needs work.

  3. becky says:

    OK to comment on the non-main focus of this post, really you put more emphasis on Gaborik than Dubi? I’m 100% sure Dubi was more helpful to the team last year than Gaborik, who scored all of his goals in games when it didn’t matter (see: Rodriguez, Alex for a comparison).

    All that aside, I like all of this. I definitely don’t think McIlrath is ready to hang out on Broadway for a while, but giving him a taste of playing up (down?) here will be helpful. You get an A- for this post, almost knocked down half a grade due to your wackadoo British slang, but saved by the fact that today should be a national holiday.

    • Dave says:

      Gaborik is critical to this teams success. He and Richards need to provide primary scoring to compliment the secondary scoring provided by Dubi.

      The emphasis should be on Gabby as he needs to have a rebound season for this team to be successful.

      • becky says:

        100% agreed, but maybe putting all this focus on him saying he HAS to be good isn’t helpful. He SHOULD be, don’t get me wrong, but I think sharing the attention is fair. This isn’t a knock to you guys, as you put equal emphasis on everyone, good or bad 😉

        • Dave says:

          For this team to be good, he HAS to be good. It comes with the contract and the previous success. Same with Richards and Hank.

    • Chris says:

      Oh my… Wackadoo?! Haha… You’re lucky I can’t get angry at you 😉 Gaborik us not only paid as a critical component he has MUCH more upside and natural ability than dubi (who I live btw) and in a poor yr almost matched dubi offensively in less games. Dubi is important but an in-form Gaborik makes this team scary to opponents

  4. Walt says:

    Why McIlrath? We all agree that he is anywhere fron 2 to 3 years away from the bigs, yet we have V-Tank, and if we don’t give him an honest shot, we may lose him to waivers if he is sent to the AHL. To me that makes no sense at all, lets think clearly, the Tank is the better choice at this stage of their careers.

    • Dave says:

      With a good camp, he could surprise. I don’t think they will make the same mistake with him that they did with Del Zotto though.

  5. Fotiu is God says:

    From your laptop to Slats’/Torts’ ear, Chris… Way to take a bulldozer of a negative to a–potentially–long term positive.

    Yup, give The Undertaker a shot. At the same time, keeping Eminger has proved to be sound.