Del Zotto Showing Last Year Was a Blip In His Development

November 15, 2011, by

When Michael Del Zotto entered the New York Rangers scene in 2009, he entered with a vengeance. Del Zotto had 12 points (4-8-12) in the first month of the season, of which eight of those points (3-5-8) came with the man advantage. Finally, the Rangers had a successor to Brian Leetch. Tom Poti tried and failed, Michal Rozsival tried and failed, and countless others tried and failed. Del Zotto, in October of 2009, was the Rangers “savior” to the anemic powerplay.

But then something else happened, Del Zotto scored 28 points throughout the rest of the season, of which 11 came in the final six weeks of the year. Between October and March, he only put up 17 points, and played abysmal defensive hockey. His -20 rating illustrated his defensive struggles to the point that he spent some time in February of 2010 in the AHL.

His stuggles continued in the 2010-2011 season, and Del Zotto was shipped to the AHL for the rest of the year in February, finishing with just 11 points in 47 games before his demotion. His play was atrocious, and he looked lost on the ice. The homerun passes that worked in Juniors no longer worked at the NHL level. He was making poor decisions with the puck, and seemed to have lost all confidence.

Now we look at Del Zotto and we see a defenseman renewed. He may not be lighting the world on fire on the scoreboard, but he is putting up respectable numbers (2-4-6 thus far, on pace for 27 points), and he is playing good defense, which is something that may be overlooked. Since being paired with Mike Sauer, Del Zotto’s game has really taken off. He looks better all around the ice, and it is likely because he has a safety net in the monster that is Sauer.

Where the numbers really show a difference is at even strength, where Del Zotto needed to work on his game. Del Zotto’s QUALCOMP is fourth on the team at -.106, which is where you expect him to be (Sauer, Dan Girardi, and Ryan McDonagh are ahead of him). His Relative Corsi of 7.8 shows that when he is on the ice, his teammates maintain possession of the puck, resulting in more shots at the opponents net than his own. He starts 47.6% of his shifts in the offensive zone, but finishes 50.0% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Those zone start/finish percentages illustrate that although he is getting a good portion of his shifts to start in the offensive zone, he is finishing more of his shifts there than starting.

What does all this mean? It shows that when Del Zotto is out on the ice, the Rangers maintain possession of the puck in the offensive zone, and get shots directed at the opponent’s net. When starting in the defensive zone, the Rangers (with Del Zotto on the ice) are able to gain possession of the puck, and move it out of the zone and generate chances until the shift ends, generally in the offensive zone.

This all together shows progress, and a big step forward in regards to progress as well. There are still many on the Trade Del Zotto bandwagon (sigh), and many others who just don’t think he’s worth it (he’s 22, simma down). But in the grand scheme of things, progression is what is most important. Del Zotto has shown progression. What more do you want from him?

Categories : Analysis


  1. Leatherneckinlv says:

    I would like to point that Michael Sauer had to endure a few years in Hartford, look at him now. Del Zotto had just a few months in Hartford so the majority of his growing pains were witnessed by us the fans. He still has a ways to go to be the caliber of defenseman that Del Zotto can be. His growth and maturity is fun and yet frustrating at times to watch, however we as fans can see him develop and that in itself is a blessing.

    His partnership with Sauer has expedited his growth due to the fact that Sauer is a tremendous stay at home type defenseman and quite smart in his play. Del Zotto will mature into what we all envision him to be and the silver lining in all of this is that when McIlrath arrives on the scene he will become Del Zotto’s partner and that will begin a new development in Del Zotto and that will be leadership and mentorship. McDonagh will be re united with Sauer and Staal will be back healthy as Girardi’s partner on the number 1 pairing. So by default MDZ will be paired with McIlrath and we will see a new version of Leetch and Buekeboom blossoming right before our eyes. It is a good thing that MDZ will be the veteran of that pairing and his experience with Sauer will allow him the knowledge needed to work with McIlrath so that they can be the best pairing they can be. I believe we will see a decrease in the minutes alloted to the 1st pairing and an increased ice time to our third pairing which will benefit the entire team

    • Dave says:

      In the future, that looks like a solid pairing. I mean, we could have:


      That’s a dangerous defensive grouping.

      • RangerSmurf says:

        Staal won’t be the 3rd pair guy on this team. He’s still their best bet at driving play forward against the toughs.

        I’d guess:


        Question will be what happens when McIlrath is ready to go.

        • Dave says:

          That’s just how I listed it, I was emphasizing that there’s potential for 3 strong pairings.

  2. Jason says:

    He’s a kid, and he’s still developing the skills necessary to play in the NHL. I think with enough patience, Del Zotto can be a threat on the PP, and a great d-man to quarterback NY’s PP. I’m in the camp of not trading him.

    • Dave says:

      Playing with Richards is definitely going to help him build the PP QB skill set.

    • The Suit says:

      I’m in the camp of not trading him either. The kid’s head is always up when the puck is on his blade. You just can’t teach that vision part of the game.

      The timing of his pinches and gap control will get better, as he’s already improved. This team needs an elite offensive d-man, hopefully MDZ continues to make strides.

      • Dave says:

        I get the feeling that when he hits 25, MDZ will be that elite defenseman.

        • The Suit says:

          God I hope so. If him and McD can be 40+ point guys and tight in their own zone, than there is no limit to what this team could achieve.

          • Dave says:

            Yup. That’s the other side of the coin too…even if MDZ doesn’t become a 70 point guy, if him and McD are 40 point guys (plus Erixon), the possibilities are limitless.

  3. Agentsmith says:

    i like DZ a lot. especially with our D in flux, no way i trade him.

    • Dave says:

      Exactly. The kid has been better than expected, and while he makes mistakes, he will be able to overcome.

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