Michael Del Zotto needs to be very conscious of how the next few days play out. How the young blueliner deals with the contract situation and the start of the upcoming abbreviated season is – to an extent – a crossroad in his young Rangers career.
The Rangers fan base can be an unforgiving one. When the crowd turns on you, the Garden can be a tough place to play (see: Malik, Marek; Rozsival, Michal). Negativity surrounding a player can certainly affect their performance, as these former Rangers would attest to. Del Zotto is in danger of coming across as greedy or unrealistic in the eyes of many, especially when the focus should be on getting up to speed as quickly as possible.
There’s also the relationship between player and organisation. Glen Sather has been quite vocal regarding the contract stalemate, and a strained relationship with the paymaster is far from ideal. Del Zotto will not be able to afford another up and down year like his second season, especially if he wants to make sure a) that he gets a better pay day next time around, and b) he doesn’t become replaceable.
Right now Del Zotto is a critical component of the Rangers. He’s a fine offensive defenseman that still hasn’t hit his ceiling on a team that may struggle for defensive depth and powerplay point men. However with little time to get up to speed already (thanks to the necessity of a short minicamp), should Del Zotto miss much time, then he’s in danger of falling behind the pack. Can he afford to?
Del Zotto’s Ranger career has been quite inconsistent. He’s shown periods of play that make you believe the Rangers have a gem on their hands, and then he’s had patches where he’s a liability. Which one is the real Del Zotto? He needs to have a good season to cement his future with the organisation and cannot allow this contract situation to linger. Hopefully we’ll learn more about Del Zotto’s Rangers future over the weekend.