Is Ryan McDonagh the Rangers best defenseman?

March 22, 2012, by

With Dan Girardi tiring in the last few games (not a criticism) and Marc Staal clearly still struggling for consistency following his return, has Ryan McDonagh emerged as the Rangers best defenseman?

It’s a valid question and perhaps just another way of heaping praise on McDonagh for the way he has developed since his call up midway in to last year. A lot of people don’t pay much attention to the plus/minus statistic but even the biggest critic of that stat has to acknowledge McDonagh’s impressive +39 over his first 112 NHL games. That’s more than just being on the ice at the right time.

McDonagh is still learning and he’s still making mistakes; he’s not perfect. The way James Neal picked his pocket in the Pens game a few games ago shows that he’s certainly not perfect but he has progressed at an incredible rate.

The offensive side of McDonagh’s game has developed the most, visibly. However that is because he has such a solid foundation defensively that it allows him to get involved more at the other end. His positional play is exceptional and he takes the body with regularity. Given the style McDonagh plays he doesn’t take a huge amount of penalties and he fits in Tortorella’s system perfectly.

McDonagh has become a minute muncher. He’s playing a shade under 25 a game and while unfortunate for Marc Staal, the absence of Staal has been a blessing in disguise for McDonagh’s development. Nobody could have foreseen this rate of progress and it probably wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for a Staal brother collision last season.

It’s hard not to be excited about the Rangers future given how the club is being built the ‘right way’ (from the goal out). There’s an embarrassment of riches developing in front of Henrik Lundqvist. Staal, Girardi, McDonagh and Del Zotto highlight a corps that still has Mike Sauer as well as Tim Erixon and Dylan McIlrath in the wings. There’s not another club in the entire league (outside of Nashville) that can boast that kind of pipeline on the blue line. And we said all this without finding a way to thank Bob Gainey again. Oops.

So, is McD the Rangers best defenseman right now? It’s hard to argue against him. When healthy, a valid case can be made for Del Zotto with the way his game has developed this year but either way the Rangers are sitting pretty with a 21 and 22 year old leading the charge to the post season.


  1. JordanO says:

    Agreed. Considering you can make an argument for 2 guys under 23 or 4 guys under 27, seems like NYR is in pretty good shape at the blue line. Add in Erixon, McIlrath and Sauer and that’s a really good young D core to build around.

  2. Jeff P says:

    Enjoy it while it lasts. In the salary cap era, you are not going to be able to pay four #1 D-men what they deserve.

    • Dave says:

      Well Girardi and Staal are signed for the next 2 and 3 years, respectively. MDZ is entering his second contract (no arbitration), McD still has a year on his ELC, which means he won’t have arbitration after next season either.

      Plus, if one goes, there’s Erixon or McIlrath. Depth is nice.

  3. The Suit says:

    Over the course of the season you probably could make the case for McDonagh, but in my opinion he’s been just as inconsistent of late as G, Staal, and MDZ. They’ve all had their moments of great plays recently and their moments of gaffes or turnovers.

    • Chris says:

      Staal still isn’t Staal. He’s well below par for his personal standrads.

      • The Suit says:

        Eh…I thought he played very well against the Isles and particularly against the Canes. He then replaced McD against the Penguins and was solid in that game too. He’s getting there.

  4. Leatherneckinlv says:

    This team is being built the right way, and I have feeling that when the time comes majority of the players will want to stay together and take lesser contracts with incentives, just a hunch. What I like is that we are building similar to the Redwings that won multiple cups over the Tampa Bay’s, Hurricanes and such that won one and fell off the face of the map. This was another reason why I was and am against any big trades at this time of the plan. We need the flexibility to sign our own players, who are going to be studs in the NHL. Look at these names, McDonagh, Erixon, Del Zotto, McIlrath just on defense as youngsters and then the likes of Sauer, Girardi and Staal who are all still young. If we sign Justin Schultz in the off season then we keep the building proccess going with the depth of a true champion.Our assets will be far more valuable for many years to come. Drafting Tom Wilson and signing Schultz will be another winning step for the future.

    • Leatherneckinlv says:

      And that’s just on defense, St Croix just might be our next Zuke with more size. Miller, Kreider, Thomas, Fogerty, Yogan, JAM, Wellman, Wilson (we drafted couple of years ago) on our offensive depth chart.
      Also I forgot to mention Bickel, whom I like and consider one of our key assets for the future

  5. Zen says:

    I have little doubt that McD will end up being one of the best D-men in the league in due time. He has all the attributes to do so.

    I still would go with Girardi now though. Too reliable.

  6. Walt says:

    McD is #2 right now, but in two years he will be the best of this defense. The only flaw I see is he doesn’t take the body quite enough. The kid is strong, and could handle the physical side a bit more!! Now I’m just nit picking here, I love our D, and McD in particular.

    If you have Gainey’s address, lets all chip in for a nice Christmas gift for him.

  7. michael says:

    In the fantasy land that is my mind I like to pretend that we can convince this entire D corps to stick together out of camaraderie and sign all of them for $4M.

    In reality I’m wondering in the back of my mind of Staal doesn’t end up the odd man out should he not fully return to form. His price tag will be far too high and those savings can more than cover McD and MDZ for a few years.