Rangers in unique spot with five top-four defensemen

February 20, 2012, by

Defensive depth in the NHL is tough to come by. In the offseason, the best defensemen get the mega millions. At the trade deadline, defensemen always cost the most. In the new skilled NHL, getting just two defensemen who are capable of playing top-four minutes regularly is tough. The Rangers have five such players. Of those five, three are already capable of playing top-two minutes. This folks, is depth at its finest.

Perhaps the Marc Staal concussion was a blessing in disguise. With the injury, Ryan McDonagh was forced into top-two duties, and Michael Del Zotto was forced into top-four duties. Not only have both excelled in the short term, they have proven themselves worthy of staying in those roles. The evidence is in the defense pairings, with Staal playing on the third pairing since his return.

Such depth allows the coaching staff to be creative in how to deploy the pairings, and how to fill out that last defensive spot. The top-five in Staal, McDonagh, Del Zotto, Dan Girardi, and Mike Sauer (although injured) are capable of playing in all three zones. Should the Rangers look to add a powerplay specialist like Marc-Andre Bergeron (just spit-balling here, not advocating for his acquisition), then the burden would fall on the other five to compensate for Bergeron’s lack of actual defense.

The Bergeron case is just a hypothetical, but it does illustrate a point that the Rangers have tremendous flexibility when it comes to filling the hole of sixth defenseman. Right now the Rangers have survived with a rotating door of Steve Eminger, Stu Bickel, and Jeff Woywitka, not exactly much to look at, but at least they have been serviceable.

Traditionally, teams are built from the net out. This means that proper teams are built starting with a goaltender, then the defense, and finally with depth down the middle at center. The Rangers have built themselves a solid club with their defensive depth, and may just be a perennial Cup contender for years to come.


  1. RangerSmurf says:

    Stralman’s been playing like a top 4 too.

  2. Walt says:

    All this, and McIlrath coming up through the system, along with Erixon, WOW!

    I posted the other day that in the 50+ years of following this team, I have never seen so much depth at defense, and this is a great thing!!!!!

  3. Sandy Hookers says:

    I feel that the rangers should start to think about moving some of these prospects, lets say a deal were to happen with CBJ or the ducks if they could some how land a first round pick it would be a top five pick if not a number one.

    Granted the rangers or any team would have to pay big time for another teams first round pick it may be worth it due to the fact that in recent years most top five picks have been ready to make the jump right in to the NHL.

  4. Blueshirt in Paris says:

    Man, if only Sauer wasn’t injured. WE would have one of the, if not, top defense in entire league

    • Sioux-per-man says:

      I think we already have it 🙂

      We have the least amount of goals against 116 = top defense in the league.

      A big reason we are #1 in the East.

      And then there’s that guy named Hank something or other.

  5. flswarty says:

    Bergeron is one of the few things i have read that actually makes some sense. he has a rocket shot from the point – and his default is to shoot not pass – more than anything the PP needs shots. As you point out though he would need some help with defense

    I have season tickets to the lightning so i see MAB alot – he would be an interesting add

    Shoot the Puck Barry!!!!

  6. Rickyrants13 says:

    I dont care what anyone says Stralman has been a beast. And is getting better

  7. Bobby Tux says:

    Dubinsky Wolski any 3 prospects plus rangers first pick next 2 years in return for Nash and blue jackets first round pick next 3 years