Dan Girardi’s absence heightens need for defensive depthFebruary 8, 2013, by
With Dan Girardi out for his second straight game, the Rangers deployed the bottom pairing of Steve Eminger and Matt Gilroy against the Islanders. Against the Devils, it was Gilroy paired with Stu Bickel. Suffice it to say, that bottom pairing not only isn’t scaring people, it’s a legitimate concern and liability on the ice. Torts knows this, and it’s a reason why the Bickel/Eminger duo only received three and five minutes each in their respective games. Gilroy played a minimum of ten minutes.
While it’s clear that Gilroy has cemented himself as a bottom pairing defenseman for the time being, it’s equally clear that the Rangers have no depth on the blue line. They are rolling with five defensemen, and another injury would cripple the club. Considering how much Torts leans on his top four guys, another injury isn’t exactly out of the question.
Even when Girardi returns, the Rangers are left with the scenario of a questionable Gilroy as the sixth man, with the unreliable Bickel/Eminger duo waiting in the wings. Successful teams are able to run all six defensemen with no worries, and have a 7th and 8th guy ready to step in for 8-10 minutes per game on a moment’s notice. Right now, the Rangers have five guys they rely on, one guy who’s playing well, and two guys who do not have the coach’s trust. That’s not a winning formula.
With Slats’ recent trade for Darroll Powe, it’s clear the organization knows about their top-heavy team. It’s still early in the season, so the trade market might not be what it is later. The organization might not be able to make a move until closer to the deadline, but they will definitely make a move to attempt to shore this up.
The good thing that comes out of this is the re-emergence of Anton Stralman as a true minute-eating defenseman. Stralman has played at least 23 minutes in the past two games while Danny G. has been out, including almost 27 minutes last night. The fact that Stralman can play those minutes and be a strong presence on the ice is a relaxing feeling, and at least alleviates the depth issue a bit when the Rangers are fully healthy.