Rangers regular season defense roles and usage

July 22, 2013, by
Defense usage chart

Defense usage chart.

Last week, we looked at how John Tortorella used his forwards from a matchup perspective. Since AV is very similar to Torts in the way he utilizes matchups and zone starts, we figure it’s good to know how players were deployed, as it will likely remain the same under AV. This style plays to the strength of certain players, and particularly keeps the weak defenders away from big draws in the defensive zone. Explaining how players are deployed is tough, but luckily Rob Vollman has HockeyAbstract.com, where we can create player usage charts.

The Y axis is Corsi Rel QoC, the X axis is OZone start percent. The size of each bubble represents the average TOI per game (larger bubbles for more ice time), and the color represents the RCorsi (red is bad, blue is good). The chart is broken down into four quadrants, which tells us how each player was deployed: Shut Down, Two-Way, Less-Sheltered, and Sheltered. Put it all together, and you get how each defenseman was deployed on the ice, for how long, and how effective they were at driving puck possession.

McDonagh = stud

McDonagh = stud

Shutdown Defensemen

Unlike the forwards, the defensive usage chart is incredibly easy to read, and –for the most part– it is consistent with what we have already seen with the eye test on the ice. It really shouldn’t surprise anyone that Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi were used as the clubs shutdown defensemen. They drew all the tough assignments, and were by far the top pairing for the Rangers this season. The bubble size for the pair shows they drew the most ice time, but it’s the possession stats that are interesting.

In the chart above, a purple bubble means the player had a positive Relative Corsi –they drove puck possession– and an orange bubble means they were in the negative, thus not driving puck possession*. So from looking at this chart, we see that McDonagh –despite starting the least number of shifts in the offensive zone and having the second-highest Corsi Rel QoC, was still a driver of puck possession. Meanwhile, Girardi was not.

*-We use Corsi to measure puck possession for two reasons. 1) Since Corsi measure shot attempts, it is a more accurate depiction of how much a team has the puck. If you have the puck, you are taking more shots, whether they are blocked, missing the net, getting stopped, or going in. 2) If you have the puck, the other team doesn’t, which means they can’t score.

Staal (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Staal (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Two-way Defensemen

The next thing to notice is that Marc Staal was not given the outrageously tough assignments we are used to seeing him get. This is mostly due to the emergence of McDonagh, but it’s worth noting that Staal has moved to the second pairing on defense. Staal also started a whopping 58% of his shifts in the offensive zone, but that is also a tad misleading since only two Rangers –Girardi and McDonagh– started fewer than 50% of their shifts in the offensive zone.

That isn’t to say that Staal was demoted. He’s still a top-pairing defenseman 29 NHL teams. It just so happens that, given the way Torts matched his defensemen, Staal wasn’t given the shutdown role. Each team has their own definition of top-pairing defenseman. The Rangers use their top-pairing to shut down the opposition. Other teams use their top-pairing as getting their offense-first guys out there.

What is interesting here is that Michael Del Zotto falls in the category of two-way defensemen. This chart shows that Del Zotto was clearly the #4 defenseman on the team, despite what people may think about him. The kid has shows steady improvement, but he has also been inconsistent. Despite the inconsistencies, he has been trending in the right direction. He no longer gets the easy assignments, and he is no longer getting those sheltered minutes.



Sheltered Defensemen

Those sheltered minutes are actually going to Anton Stralman, who had a phenomenal season by all accounts. He was by far the leader in driving puck possession, but he also received easy minutes and was clearly the #5 defenseman on the team. He received fewer offensive zone starts than Del Zotto, likely due to the lack of offensive skill, but drew weaker assignments. Now this is countered by Stralman’s absurd 15.80 (!!) RCorsi, but it’s worth noting the matchups he had on the ice. Stralman is probably the best #5 defenseman in the game, and having a guy like him –one that can drive puck possession– on the bottom pairing is critical to defensive depth.

John Moore –as expected– was eased into his new team, and saw sheltered minutes. As he grows, he will likely round out the bottom pairing with Stralman to provide solid depth and puck possession ability. Moore was third on the Rangers in RCorsi in limited minutes, but that should grow as he gets accustomed to his new team.

Steve Eminger, as expected, saw sheltered minutes as well. Roman Hamrlik and Matt Gilroy were excluded from this due to lack of games played.

It’s worth noting that although the coach has changed, the philosophy of line-matching has not. AV is more notorious for line matching than Torts, so it’s important we understand how players were deployed. This will likely be the basis for how we see AV deploy his players next season.

Categories : Analysis, Defense


  1. Hockey talk says:

    Staal is better then mcdongh he’s the best defender on the team he did get his assignments before he got hit in the eye and was by far the best defensmen on the team

  2. Hockey talk says:

    By the way delzaster sucks stralman much better so is wminger And Moore by alot

    • Centerman21 says:

      You have no clue! You’re just a follower. These Blue Seat guys know what they’re talking about. They don’t care what everyone is saying. They all say it as they see it and did you hear what they said?
      I thought DZ was the Rangers best defenseman when the lockout ended and the regular season started. He showed growth in his defensive game last year and at times looked like a top pairing defenseman. Those times were few and far between. He has to Learn to do it every shift. He also played hurt for much of the time. That’s what happens when there is no training camp!
      Defensively, Staal might be a tiny bit better than Mac but Mac truck has a higher ceiling offensively. I think Staal has reached his. He’s a 25 or 30 point Dman. I think McDonagh can put up 40 with all the mins he logs. Mac is a better Skater. Tho Staal is a very good skater as well.

      • Hockey talk says:

        That’s because you don’t k ow what your watching he’s been god awful . You think staal has reached his ceiling how? He’s played under a coach who gave him not chances offensively. Not to mention before he got hit in the face with the puck he was leading all defense in goals and points with extremely limited pp time. You think delzottos good and come here telling me idk what I’m talking about hahahaha by you thinking delzottos good shows the world your retarded. Staal isn’t only the best shut down d man in the rangers organization he’s one of the best In the world. Mcdonagh could def one day pass staal has all the skill in the world but bottom Line is mcdonagh isn’t there yet. I and a whole lot of others feel staal under a more offensive minded coach could put up impressive numbers his potential is still there he rushes the puck fantastic has a accurate shot good hands good speed and he’s smart. Your retardedly

      • Dave says:

        Both of you: Relax. Disagreements are fine, discussion is great. Name calling is not. Everyone has their own opinion.

    • Hockey talk says:

      He’s the worst damn on the team makes most mistakes has most turnovers was wosrt defensive player I have ever seen in a post season. He can’t skate he can’t read plays he can’t make simple passes he’s scared hears footsteps just throws the puck away. He loses foot races to old men who were never fast to begin with. He loses every fifty fifty puck race and never comes out the corners with the puck. He has no clue how to defend infront of the net and continuously makes the wrong choice on when to hit and when not to when to play the puck when not to when to tie a guy up when not to. His statistics are incredibly inflated due to one being given ever single pp min he plays full two mins 11-12 he scored 2 pp goals in 102 games along with 11 pp points. He’s horrid. Gaborik has proven year in year out he could get a cone points (delzaster). You have a kid that has average offensive ability below average skating and vision below average ability to read the game and extremely below average defensive ability. You want that on your team. Well I will say then your clueless. He cost us the entire devils series and was on the ice for almost every goal against the bruins. You can not win a cup with him getting bit time mins. Open your eyes he’s horrid. He’s so slow he has to retreat to our blue line before the pucks out of the offensive zone that’s horrid kid can’t hold a blue line terrible.

  3. Centerman21 says:

    Jagr was just signed by the Devils. Terms not yet disclosed.