Rangers final grades: Defense

June 22, 2015, by


Back by popular demand, we’ve decided to kick-start our annual player, coaching, and management report cards. As a reminder, these grades aren’t just based on stats, but also the execution of each personnel or player’s respective role within the organization. Obviously there’s some subjectivity here, but that’s what makes these interesting and conversational.

As always, feel free to post your own grades in the comments section below.

Dan Girardi

There’s no way to spin it. Girardi did not have a good season. While his effort was undeniably at a maximum, unfortunately his output was still a career low. This year was his worst statistical (scoring chance differential) season on record. What made matters worse was this came after a subpar performance in the 2014 playoffs.

It’s fair to point out that he may have the team’s toughest task with shutting down opposing stars and getting buried with defensive zone starts (after a whistle). However, he’s paid to break up those dangerous plays in the slot and this year he didn’t do that with any regularity. In general, I thought he just looked a step slower.

At 31 years of age, Girardi may no longer be quick enough to handle the man-on-man/overload defensive zone scheme that AV employs, especially in a top pairing role. More on that later this summer.

Final Grade: C

Ryan McDonagh

I was hoping McDonagh was going to take a step forward this season offensively and really solidify himself as one of the game’s elite all around d-men. Instead, he took a slight step back, with his even-strength production decreasing vs. the last two years.

His scoring chance differentials also weren’t great, but that probably had more to do with being partnered with Girardi. I’m sure someone more sophisticated with advanced stats can prove or disprove this theory, but at times I thought McDonagh was overcompensating defensively to cover Girardi’s rear.

McDonagh did put up 12 points on the power play this season (3rd on the team), which was flat with last season despite having about 30 seconds of less power play time per game.

Final Grade: B

Marc Staal

Staal got absolutely buried this season with defensive zone starts, but was still able to walk away fairly even on scoring chance differential. He also matched Girardi in offensive output (20 points) despite receiving virtually no time on the power play.

From a qualitative standpoint, I thought Staal continued his strong play from last season. His stick work, gap control, pivoting, and timing were all in sync and it made for some great defensive plays.

Staal doesn’t block a ton of shots, or level forwards with jaw dropping hits, or put up any sort of flashy stat that we can point to as evidence of his ability, but he takes care of his own end. Hopefully his run of back luck in the health department continues to be nothing but a memory.

Final Grade: B+

Dan Boyle

Let’s face it. Dan Boyle replaced Anton Stralman for one reason and that was to fix the power play. He finished the season with just 8 power play points. Meanwhile, Stralman had 14 power play points and had double the offensive production at all strengths.

Boyle’s saving grace was I thought he had a good postseason. His 1.6 points per 60 were in line with his career average and he seemed a bit more decisive in his decision making than the regular season.

Boyle’s best days are in his rearview mirror and the likelihood of him out producing last season’s stats at 39 years of age is probably slim to none. However, if AV continues to give him a lion-share of offensive zone starts and be selective in his match-ups, he can probably have a useful 2nd season on Broadway.

Final Grade: C+

Kevin Klein:

Kevin Klein’s season was a bit harder for me to peg down. On one hand, with the departure of Stralman, Klein assumed a lot more responsibility. His time on ice per game increased from around 15 mins to 18 mins per game, which shouldn’t be overlooked. His percentage of offensive zone starts decreased from 54% to 45%. As a result, he put up his best offensive season ever (9 goals, 17 assists) and a neutral scoring chance differential.

On the flip side, as Dave pointed out the other day, his production fell off a cliff prior to getting injured. Perhaps injury prevented him from coming back strong. Perhaps his stats just regressed to the mean. Perhaps the increased workload finally caught up to him. Either way, it’s hard to ascertain what might have been had he not missed time.

Personally, I hope he gets another chance to compete as a Ranger. Right-handed defensemen who can bomb from the point, protect the house, and only cost you $2.9M in cap space are hard to find.

Final Grade: B+

Keith Yandle

Sorry folks, but 21 games isn’t enough of a sample size for me to evaluate Yandle’s performance. Plus, I have no context to compare his time in Phoenix, as I never watch Coyotes games.

Overall, I thought he looked shaky, but then again playing in front of 18,500 crazed Rangers fans is not the same as playing in front of an empty house in the desert. We’ll see what next year brings.

Final Grade: Incomplete

Matt Hunwick

Hunwick was a perfect fill-in for when guys were struggling or injured. He’s not going to score a lot of points, or make any fancy defensive plays, but he just plays simple d-zone hockey. You need in-expensive depth guys like this on your roster.

Whether or not Hunwick still has designs be a regular on an NHL team remains to be seen, but the fluidity in his skating and his ability to move the puck up ice made him a good bargain player, something this roster lacks.

Final Grade: B+

For mid-season grades for the defense, scope out Kevin’s post here.

*Please note, all advanced stats are courtesy of War on Ice.

"Rangers final grades: Defense", 3 out of 5 based on 9 ratings.
Categories : Offseason, Players


  1. Walt says:

    Fair grading of the entre defensive corp. The only thing that is missing from the entire corps is physicality, and should be addressed. We need someone back there that will hit, and make any opposing forward listen for foot steps going into a corner for the puck. Team grade over all should be a C+ at best!!!!!!!!!!!

    • BOBBY B says:

      WALT, right on with the Physical missing aspect from the D corps. I think we are on the same page with Mcilrath , who by the way has been secured by the Rangers, thus avoiding free agency. If this kid makes the team?, package Klein and Talbot, we should be able to get awesome pieces of the puzzle to make another cup run.

    • Dave says:

      There’s a difference between someone delivering hits and someone delivering hits at the right time without getting taken out of position. McIlrath was your guy that delivers hits, but if he continually takes himself out of position, he doesn’t belong in the NHL.

      • paulronty says:

        I guess you didn’t listen to what Beuke said. he, in fact, stated that McIlrath made tremendous hits without taking himself out of position. He put out two forwards in the playoffs with thundering clean hits. He’s going to make the Rangers next year. Terrific kid, a warrior like G only younger.

        • Dave says:

          I listened to what he said, I posted about it actually. I hope he progresses and shows he can be a solid contributor.

    • Bayman says:

      Presidents Trophy and we lasted seven games in the conference finals despite at least four wounded defensemen. Further, the D enabled our backup goalie to put up King-like numbers for an extended period of time. C+? Really?

      • Dave says:

        I don’t think Suit ever graded the whole defense as a unit, just the individual players.

      • jk says:

        They are still point s to be won an they won the games. That is what goalies are suppose to do. STOP THE PUCK. Ask any Hockey person who knows the sport, an they will tell you the Ranger Defense is one of the best if not the best.

  2. jk says:

    We had the most points an most wins in Rangers history. How can you grade a team at C plus. Just crazy. What were they rated going into the playoffs.???

    • Walt says:

      Girardi, Boyle were very bad, Mac, and Klein were good, Hunwick, and Yandel were serviceable, that’s the basis for the grade.

      Don’t look at the most points in history, you forget that for many, many years, games ended in ties, and now someone has to win, these numbers are skewed some. The question should be “What would the record be if Hank, and Talbot weren’t there to bail them out”?????

      Just think that one out first !!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Dave says:

        If you look at Boyle’s even strength play only (not his PP time), then I’d give him a “serviceable” rating. Problem is that he was brought in to fix the powerplay, didn’t do it, and thus made the Rangers deal for Yandle.

      • jk says:

        They are still point s to be won an they won the games. That is what goalies are suppose to do. STOP THE PUCK.

    • Dave says:

      Hank masks a lot of issues on this defense. RD is a disaster right now.

  3. Pete says:

    Welcome back Suit. You were missed. Good write up. Glad to see someone finally sticking up for Klein.

  4. Dave says:

    Even Suit has soured on Girardi. Wow.

  5. Section 121 says:

    very tough grades overall

    Girardi was 5th in the league in hits (224), tied for 6th in blocks shots (184), playing over 22.5 min a game, all 82 games, + 12, with only 22 PIM, all against the best the rest of the league has to offer

    G-man is still a beast and our best D-man followed by McD

    No way G gets a worse grade than McD after McD’s shaky start this year

    • Dave says:

      If you’re among the league leaders in hits and blocked shots, you don’t have the puck, which means you are pinned in your own end.

      • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

        Correct. Girardi is a puck chaser. He is terrrible with the puck, and cannot move the play up ice (i.e. transition from defense to offense).

        • Dave says:

          That’s not to say he doesn’t have a specific skill set. He is a great shot blocker, and he’s a warrior. But in this system that requires skating, he’s a square peg in a round hole.

          • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

            Shot blocks are nice, but give me a shot suppressor and a player that can handle the puck and make the right pass. Girardi is miscast in his role and is paid too much.

            • Dave says:

              The way the game is going, suppressing the attempts is becoming a more important factor than blocking them. Not to say blocking isn’t important, it’s just that the value is decreasing.

      • Section 121 says:

        Call me crazy but I thought that blocking a shot was one of the primary ways of suppressing it

        • Dave says:

          Suppressing a shot is not allowing the attempt to occur.

        • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

          Suppressing means limiting shot attempts. Not all attempts can be blocked. The best way to prevent goals is to prevent shot attempts.

          Blocking shots always worries me as a tactic as it leads to injuries.

        • Section 121 says:

          I understand the blocks from a long distance are worrisome and not ideal although, how many times has G had his stick in exactly the right place at the right time to deflect the shot as it is being taken? You know, where the shot goes right from the shooters stick to G’s stick up and out of play.

          Does anyone know if this type of play constitutes an official “blocked shot.” G does this so much, I am guessing this is where at least half of his blocked shot tally comes from.

          • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

            That example does count as a blocked shot.

          • Dave says:

            That’s the other thing, blocked shots are counted manually by the home scorer, so there’s a bias to it. Same with hits.

            I’m not taking away from his ability to block shots (which is a skill), or the fact that he’s made from robot parts and is tough as nails. He’s just a square peg in a round hole at this point.

    • Rangers Rock says:

      In my opinion it was that McD committed egregious acts on defense and Girardi was blamed for McD shortcomings. I am terribly saddened by McD performance. To me a C+ would have been generous. With 33 points this year 10 points less than last year, I think this season was a failure. Could have been the pressure of the captaincy. Girardi played 82 games and was only 4 points less than last year. The man is a warrior.

      • Dave says:

        McDonagh also had a major shoulder injury.

        • Rangers Rock says:

          His shoulder did not make him pinch in the wrong times. His decision making this year was poor.

        • Section 121 says:

          Girardi is very underrated when it comes to his decision making and timing regarding pinching – he is always there first before the winger when the puck gets swung around to his side, sometimes down at the hash marks

          he has great hockey sense and anticipates the play extremely well – and still has the speed to get there before the winger trying to break out of the zone

    • flatbush says:

      Wow an objective opinion. You are absolutely correct. Both McD and G should get the same grade. Both different players in what they bring to the party. Someone said here that McD looked bad because he had to cover G’s rear. 100% disagree. If you understand the basic gotta do’s and don’ts of a D man you must know that get beating off the wall, getting stuck on the wall, or beaten to the front of the net almost always results in something bad happening. That glaringly happened so many times to McD. His speed and skating help a recovery and he moves the puck much better than G. G is a beast, plays all the games, blocks shots and is a solid d man protecting the house and middle of the ice albeit not the best moving or skating the puck. Both Guys play all the hard minutes. They deserve a B+. Staal and Klein a B. Yandle probably belongs in that category and Boyle and Hunwick a B-. .
      These are conservative scores and you could be more generous and just bump up everyone, A-, B+ and B. After all we only won the Presidents trophy but I know its hard to to admit that nobody on the D side was consistently a cause for our play to suffer.

  6. Spozo says:

    No mention of the significant injuries to Mac or Boyle? Or the half of a shoulder Yandle played with for half the postseason?

  7. supermaz says:

    After you gave Girardi a “C” I stopped reading. Unless of course you meant this article to be satirical.

  8. SalMerc says:

    Unless I am missing something, we gave up the 3rd least number of goals in the league and had a back-up goalie for 25% of the season. We also had the most points in the league. If you think many of those points weren’t generated off of good defense, you are mistaken. You can judge the individuals as you see fit, but the team defense grade needs to be higher.

    • The Suit says:

      Grading the whole defense as sum of its parts seemed too subjective for me. I wasn’t sure if McD’s grade and Girardi’s grade should have more weight than Hunwick due to icetime and roles. Though based on some of the comments it seems people are averaging all these scores together.

      Not sure that exercise makes sense to me, as I’d probably score Tampa as a whole lower since they lacked depth but had higher end skill on their first unit. Not sure where that really gets us.

    • Dave says:

      Grading the defense on goals allowed eliminates goaltending from the equation, which isn’t a fair analysis.

  9. Chuck A says:

    So, in your educated opinion Suit, do these individual marks add up to the Rangers’ D as an “elite corps,” as we so often heard during the playoffs? Just curious.

    • The Suit says:

      I think on paper, we have some strong names on defense. However, I don’t think our defense was as good as it should have been. McDonagh is usually an A player on both sides of the puck. This year he wasn’t. Girardi was better under Torts’ zone collapse system and is declining. Klein is a great bottom pairing player, but the increased workload this year and injury hampered him in the second half. Boyle is not who he was in SJ or TBL.

      All in, I classify elite as guys who can limit scoring chances and push the play north. McD has potential to be elite. The rest are solid, but elite is strong term I’ll save for Doughty, Weber, Duncan, etc.

      • Walt says:

        well stated!!!!!

        As fans we al have emotional ties to this tea, and some can’t be objective when discussing them. Our defenses is solid, and can be almost elite when all are healthy, and playing up to their potential. This statement will go over like a lead balloon!!!!!!!

    • Dave says:

      I think that “elite” term we heard in the playoffs was just the lazy narrative. Hank masks a lot of problems with the defense.

      • Walt says:

        hence my response to jk above!!!!!!!!!!!

      • paulronty says:

        You could say this about numerous goalies in the league. Goaltending & D are symbiotic which is why it’s hard to evaluate one without considering the other.

  10. paul m says:

    Girardi is our best defensman. He is a beast. To say McD was compensating for him is ridiculous. I watched every game Girardi hung back to let his partner be offensive. Also we paid Boyle more money that what Stralman wanted and that was a huge mistake. Klein played great and so did Hunwick. I believe Hunwick could replace Boyle. Given his minutes He is better defensively and I think has the offense. Staal to me should be traded. Since the eye injury he is too slow in making decisions with the puck. We could get good value for him because everyone thinks he is still good. Hope St. Louis, Nash are gone too much money for what they give. Love St Louis but his time is done. Nash is big but doesn’t play that way. If he played like he did in his first game back to Columbus then he would be great but he doesn’t, no heart

    • Section 121 says:

      Completely agree on Girardi.

      Completely agree on Staal. He would be better to move than Klein to get a greater return AND free up more cap space for this year and next (Kreider and Hayes due for raises next year). Staal is not the same player he was since his injuries (eye AND concussion). He plays too tentatively and hesitates too much seemingly because does not want to get hurt again.

      You are pushing it with saying Hunwick can replace Boyle’s offensive potential. The two cannot be compared. Highly accomplished Cup winner compared to a journeyman is not realistic even if Boyle is not all that he used to be. I thought Boyle finished the season and playoffs strong – playing with much more heart and intensity. Certainly more than what Staal showed me.

      • paul m says:

        I understand what your saying regarding Boyle he had a better postseason but I think Hunwick is much better defensively and the times we saw him offensively he impressed me. He made good descisions and gets the puck out of the d zone well. I think we could get alot for Staal. Think Hayes is better than 99% of NHL he slowed a little to the end but his ability to hold the puck and make passes is outragious. Love Krieder think he needs to not hesitate and throw the body around. Unfortunatly bad calls have made him a little gunshy