With improvements, questions still remain about Rangers defense

nick holden

Jeff Gorton’s main focus this offseason was retooling the blue line. He did so with what amounted to a major overhaul. Dan Girardi was bought out and essentially replaced with Kevin Shattenkirk. Anthony DeAngelo was brought in as a result of the blockbuster trade involving Derek Stepan. Kevin Klein retired. Brendan Smith was re-signed. And the Rangers inked two solid undrafted free agents in Alexei Bereglazov and Nick Pionk. All in all, the Rangers will have a vastly improved blue line this season.

However there are still many questions on the blue line. As we all pencil in Shattenkirk alongside Ryan McDonagh, some of us are left to wonder if that is truly the top pairing. As Brady Skjei is penciled into the 2LD spot, some wonder if that is still Marc Staal’s spot to lose. Many of these questions are aimed at the coaching staff, as Gorton has certainly done his job.

  1. Starting with the obvious, is Shattenkirk really going to be the 1RD? Will Alain Vigneault deploy what could be the best top-pairing in the division? Or will he rest on his laurels, and go with ole-reliable Staal or Nick Holden alongside McDonagh, because he “doesn’t trust” Shattenkirk?
  2. Will Skjei really be the 2LD? Or again, is it Marc Staal’s spot to lose? What if Skjei regresses, will he be pushed to the third pairing, getting minimal minutes at even strength and none on special teams?
  3. Is Brendan Smith really the 2RD? Him and Skjei really clicked and formed a solid second pairing last season. Or, once again, will Staal/Holden get those minutes, because they are “trusted” by AV?
  4. What about Anthony DeAngelo? Where does he fit in? Without a trade, he actually looks like the odd-man out. Because let’s be honest, do you trust AV to play a kid who has defensive zone struggles over his own “trusted” guys, who also have issues in the defensive zone. Maybe DeAngelo won’t play slip-n-slide in the slot. But will AV recognize that?
  5. What impact will Lindy Ruff have? He’s another old school guy who trusts his guys and runs the same systems as AV. He’s basically the same coach. If the decisions on the blue line are deferred to Ruff, will we see identical decisions?
  6. Will both Staal and Holden even be on the team at the start of the season? Not many trades occur this late into the offseason. The Rick Nash deal is the only one I can think of at the moment, and that happened on July 23.
  7. What will the Rangers do with Bereglazov? At this point, he appears to be the 8D, and he has an out-clause back to the KHL if he’s not in the NHL.
  8. Will Pionk, who seems like he could be NHL ready, start in the minors?
  9. What about Ryan Graves?
  10. Will one of these guys be used as a chip to get a true 2C?

These are ten questions facing the Rangers and their ten-man competition to make the NHL roster (symbolism at its finest, folks). As great as this offseason has been, there is work to be done. And not all of that work involves clearing the logjam. What do you think the coaching staff will do with their new blue line?

65 thoughts on “With improvements, questions still remain about Rangers defense

  • Jul 22, 2017 at 7:23 am

    Right Dave, all valid questions and a lot of this is based on AV. So, the answer is that you have to take AV’s “faves” away from him.

    Staal and Holden have to be traded or bought out (meaning Staal). They both have to be completely off the team, because with all the improvements on D, the coach can easily sabotage a lot of this by putting Staal and Holden right back into the 2nd pair, which would be insanely stupid. They should not see the ice as Rangers any longer, no less play 2nd pair.

    The 3rd pair should have young players on it, from a group of DeAngelo, Pionk, Graves, Bereglazov, etc. Sean Day may be a factor as well come January, 2018, after the Worlds are over. So no reason to have older stiffs roaming the ice back there.


    Now, possibly, DeAngelo gets traded for a top 9 center as Pionk is supposedly NHL ready, and righty, same as DeAngelo, but that’s a slim chance IMO. I think the Rangers think they landed a future star in DeAngelo.

    • Jul 22, 2017 at 8:32 am

      No no no. Gotta think like AV.

      Shatty “needs” to be sheltered he’s not “reliable” in his zone. So deployments will be 7 defensemen:

      Pair 1- Staal/Holden. Trusthworthy defensive “shutdown” defensemen
      Pair 2- Brad Chase/Smith
      Pair 3- McD/Shatty in a sheltered role
      Dressed 7th D- Bereg so that he’s in he NHL but plays a total of ice time of 82 min in 82 games.

      • Jul 22, 2017 at 3:15 pm

        I see what you did there

      • Jul 22, 2017 at 3:34 pm

        John, the pro AV fans stayed in this beautiful Saturday, lol.

    • Jul 22, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      AV’s family rate this post?

  • Jul 22, 2017 at 7:25 am



    JG badly needs to lose Holden and Staal.

  • Jul 22, 2017 at 8:38 am

    Defense is great but you dont win on defense. Who is going to put the puck in the back of the net?

    • Jul 22, 2017 at 8:46 am

      Sorry, great teams win with defense first. The exception is maybe the Pens, but how many times have you seen that in the history of the game??????

      • Jul 22, 2017 at 9:04 am

        Actually, a lot.

        • Jul 23, 2017 at 6:09 am

          The Preds lost their best offensive player in Johansen and made the Cup finals with an ordinary goalie on top of it because they have by far and away the best D corps in the league.

          That being said, the Pens are such possession monsters that they can overcome great defenses (see the Preds and Sharks).

      • Jul 22, 2017 at 12:01 pm

        absolutely, a stronger offense rarely wins championships! the Oilers and Islanders dynasties were just flukes

        • Jul 22, 2017 at 11:28 pm

          The Oiler dynasty was 30 years ago. The Isles’ last championship was 34 years ago. Ancient history. Defense wins in today’s NHL. And even the Penguins play it better than any team from the 80s. Not to mention that Billy Smith & Grant Fuhr would be AHL goalies nowadays, with their .900 (at best) sv percentages.

          It’s the 21st century. Ya dig?

          • Jul 23, 2017 at 7:56 am

            since the year 2000, about half of the stanley cup winners had a stronger offense than defense as measured by GFA vs GAA vs the rest of the league. good defense doesn’t win championships; good teams win championships.

            • Jul 23, 2017 at 11:34 am

              And the league’s best offenses today score 30-40% less goals then teams like the 80s Oilers. The game changed drastically in the 90s with expansion and improved coaching strategies that maximized the abilities of marginal players by emphasizing defense first. There’s not been a team since the Rangers in ’94 to win a Cup without stifling their opponents offense with defensively-minded hockey in the playoffs.

  • Jul 22, 2017 at 8:42 am

    Like Richter above, it all depends on AV, and his track record isn’t one I’d hang my hat on!!!!!!!!!!

    I’d love to see Staal get traded, if there is a team willing to take him. Holden should also be shipped out, but worst case scenario, he can go to his natural left side, or be the 7th d-man, with DeAngelo, or whomever wins the spot on the right.

    I have no idea how Ruff plays his d-men, but let’s hope he doesn’t do the same old crap of playing favorites, rather than the best.

    Lastly, I would love to see the Bereglazov kid get a long look at, mainly because he is big, plays with a bit of an edge, and Buch will have a Russian speaking kid to run with. I want both to succeed, and we have a better chance of that happening if Buch has someone to relate to!!!!!!!!!!

    Let the season start already………..

    • Jul 22, 2017 at 3:35 pm

      The AV apologists are sensitive today my friend.

  • Jul 22, 2017 at 10:32 am

    The only way to get av to stop playing Pena is to trade him to Detroit.

    • Jul 22, 2017 at 11:01 am

      Tony Pena the all-star catcher that regularly beat up the mets?

      • Jul 22, 2017 at 12:43 pm

        Clearly the reference is to Enrique Peña Nieto.

        Lindy Ruff and our man Swarty went over the border together. On a scouting mission.

        Soon as the sun fell in Tijuana, our Ranger frontmen got their mescal on with the youthful Mexican presidente, at a bucket of blood called El Dragon Rojo.

        Ultimately, as the quid pro quo for zeroing out their four figure bar tab, Lindy and Swarty promised Peña Nieto a PTO.

        No word, though, on the bar girls.

        • Jul 22, 2017 at 4:02 pm

          Enjoying the offseason so far bro?

          Add Bozak for players not named Miller, Kreider, etc and we are a contender.

        • Jul 22, 2017 at 5:51 pm

          Early bird gets the eh – well in this case Lindy and I got the mescal then the worm.

          It was a successful trip though. We got Pena the much promised PTO and we signed the gals to personal services contract to perform between periods at the Garden.

          It was touch and go at the border though. We were finally able to convince the ICE folks that since the gals were going to perform at hockey games they were essentially part of the same team.

    • Jul 22, 2017 at 12:38 pm

      Carlos Pena didn’t have an albatross contract with a NMC and was a young, on-the-rise player rather than past-his-use-by-date veteran. Other than that, the situations are completely comparable /s.

  • Jul 22, 2017 at 11:13 am

    No mention of Jeff Malcom in discussions of goalies. What is his situation–Swamp Rabbits or ?

  • Jul 22, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    Let’s not forget Sean Day…. He has made tremendous strides.
    As much as Staal and Holden must go, I think a trade of McDonagh or Skeij to bolster the forwards must become a viable option to consider.
    This team has a glaring problem with right handed players on both offense and defense.
    McDonagh will fill those voids single highhandedly in a trade and the team who has the opposite problem is Anaheim. Winnipeg also can be a good trading partner. Also McDonagh is not Captain material and trading him solves that issue without humiliating him by removing the C off of his chest.

    Graves, Day and Brezgalov need to see the light of the day. Smith Skeij will be your mainstays on LD. Shatty Poink and DeAngelo with say Montour or Manson coming back in a trade with Anaheim and adding Rakell, Sabourin and Chris Wagner and a 1st round pick headed this way.
    Now that is asset management and rebuild on the fly in my opinion.

    • Jul 22, 2017 at 12:42 pm

      “Also McDonagh is not Captain material and trading him solves that issue without humiliating him by removing the C off of his chest.”

      I think he would still be a bit humiliated, ha. Interesting ideas, tough to say McD should be traded though.

      • Jul 22, 2017 at 1:00 pm

        The day Crosby bitch slapped McD with no response from him, I lost all respect for him. He is soft. He does hold a ton of value in a trade though. The reason I think he is expendable is that he will solve a few issues all at once by trading him

        • Jul 22, 2017 at 11:39 pm

          Sure, lets trade a #1 dman who’s cost-controlled right away. Great idea. Getting rid of a relatively cheap, young dman like Skjei is also a great idea. Everything you say is great. REAL GREAT.

      • Jul 22, 2017 at 8:45 pm

        He’s not captain material and yes you don’t just strip the C from him. Best way to unload him and his awesome contract is by trade and maybe not this year but next year absolutely. You know I would actually do the trade today but that’s just me. Now that his value is ultimately high. McDonagh won’t be missed in the room or on the ice. Trust me. And trading him makes us a better team. Not surprised you got four dislikes but ranger fans aren’t the brightest either

    • Jul 22, 2017 at 12:57 pm

      Shattenkirk and Smith represent glaring holes on the right side of the defense?

      • Jul 22, 2017 at 1:01 pm

        I didn’t say that

        • Jul 22, 2017 at 1:41 pm

          “This team has a glaring problem with right handed players on both offense and defense.”

          Shattenkirk and Smith are 2/3’s of the right handed defenseman and will see the most ice time out of the rightys on defense. So where is the glaring problem?

          • Jul 22, 2017 at 1:55 pm

            meaning lack of players that shoot right handed

            • Jul 22, 2017 at 4:00 pm

              Shattenkirk, Smith, and Deangelo doesn’t do it for you? That’s half the starting defense. (I’m assuming Holden gets traded).

          • Jul 24, 2017 at 11:47 am

            smith is a lefty…

    • Jul 22, 2017 at 1:17 pm

      …..makes a lot of sense trading mcdonagh and some more … if we can get back a taveras type high skilled player………

    • Jul 22, 2017 at 3:45 pm

      I read your first 3 sentences and said to myself “Richter, you might finally agree with good ole Leatherneck…”

      and then it happened: “I think a trade of McDonagh or Skeij…” ruined the dream… I stopped reading after that.

    • Jul 22, 2017 at 8:39 pm

      We HAVE TO trade McDonagh before his contract expires. Absolutely. The youngsters can fill in just fine as McDonagh’s body will continue to deteriorate and become aluminum foil by then. It’s next year or two years right? Well whenever he does become UFA they better trade him for something good.

      • Jul 22, 2017 at 11:43 pm

        McD played 77 regular season games, and 12 playoff games. His body is breaking down? On what planet does missing 5 of 82 games count as “breaking down”?

      • Jul 23, 2017 at 6:12 am

        wow, you really don’t know what we have in McD, do you?

        With Shatty as his playing partner, he will now be a top 10 D man at a steal of an annual cap hit for 2 more years, you really want to trade him?

        And as far as free agency is concerned, the Rangers will decide then whether to pay him or not, but trading him is not an option.

    • Jul 24, 2017 at 11:05 am

      This is one of the most ridiculous hot takes I’ve read in my history of following Rangers blogs.

  • Jul 22, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    It is most likely that Shatty and McD are the first pair and Skjei and Smith second pair. Third pair is going to be some combo of Staal / DeAngelo / Holden unless they move Holden. Staal is likely not tradeable and I doubt they buy out another contract. I would much rather see a couple of kids as the third pair with one of the new kids joining DeAngrlo but I doubt that will happen this year.

  • Jul 22, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    To give a little respect to AV, he did realize Keith Yandle is not a very good hockey player. So just when he disagrees with you, he isn’t necessarily wrong.

    AV will play guys he trusts. I expect the top four will be just what everyone expects. In camp, he will give DeAngelo, Bereglazov, and maybe Pionk a very serious look. Can they be trusted to play solid D? Actually he has a very tough job. DeAngelo badly needs discipline while handling Bereglazov too roughly may send him back to Russia. Players with contradictory needs often bring down coaches.

    Graves and Day will be watched to see where they fit in future Ranger plans, but neither has as good a chance to make the opening day squad as Kampfer, the last resort if all three young guys come up short. But if AV thinks two of three are ready, Holden will be dispatched somehow (though possibly kept on the roster for a month to arrange a better trade).

    Remember, the primary goal is to be good in April, May, June. There is something to be said for keeping your options open and seeing what you have.

    • Jul 22, 2017 at 1:55 pm

      AV also thought Tanner Glass belonged out there in the playoffs in a third period of a close game. I don’t understand the fascination with making these ‘appeals to authority’….

      Kampfer is the ‘break-glass-in-case-of-emergency’ defenseman. Tenth or so on the depth chart in terms of talent.

      McD/Shatty, Skjei/Smith, Staal/Hodor….. Berez/DeAngelo…. Graves/Pionk….. where is Kampfire fitting in on this? Maybe you could say he might be better than Pionk or Berez….? I doubt it. I didn’t even mention Day or some of the Swedish prospects.

      The only way he gets any consideration whatsoever is if management decides to let the kids play in Hartford rather than occupy the press box as a 7D. And even then, he’ll only be the 7D out of circumstance (rather than actually being the 7th best defenseman).

      I don’t understand your eagerness to accredit this coach with an eye for defensive talent…… Girardi has been their first pairing defenseman, and Staal has consistently been on the second pair.

      It’s not like last season was his first year ….

    • Jul 22, 2017 at 3:46 pm

      “AV will play guys he trusts.”

      Which is why he has won as many Cups as you and I put together.

  • Jul 22, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    Nice read Dave. McD-Shattenkirk, and Skjei-Smith are your top four, regardless of AV’s nonsense, though who’s on first is anybody’s guess. The rest? The bunch of youts are all NHL ready, Ruff focuses on the young defenseman, helps the team determine those that start on Broadway (guess Bereglazov is a lock with his contract), and tutors them along the way. And Staal and Holden are history. I am almost more excited about the bottom pair, then the top two!

  • Jul 22, 2017 at 2:33 pm


    The fu**ing thumbs down, mental midgets are smoking crack today. I never saw so many pissed off jerk offs in one days action. Go to it clowns, another chance to show your collective IQ, to all the posters who they don’t agree with!!! Richter, John B, Leather, please excuse these fools, for they don’t have a brain. Dumb bastards…………….

    • Jul 22, 2017 at 3:37 pm

      No worries Walt, just keep posting what you think is right. I will.

    • Jul 22, 2017 at 5:00 pm

      All it means is that you have their attention Walt !!!!!!!!!


      • Jul 22, 2017 at 5:44 pm


        It’s funny when some names come up, automatically the idiots go to the thumbs down instantly. Hell, even Chris F made a comment a few weeks ago about him having a stalker doing the same thing.

        It takes the fun out of posting, why not respond to what you disagree with, and be done with it. The names mentioned always get this treatment, and it’s just stupid behavior, and shows that they have no original thoughts. I have had exchanges with many, nothing personal unless they attack me on that basis, then respond accordingly, but I respond, even if they don’t care for the answer.

        I get upset for this only because if someone writes a thought, I read it, enjoy it on most occasions, and respond if I agree, or disagree, but I try to leave it at that. Some AV supporters I assume, or the Pylon Twins lovers take that shit personal, won’t respond to defend their views, and just act like idiots. Enough said, have a good evening if you can!!!!!!

  • Jul 22, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    I think how it plays out is there will be more even time among the D line. AV trusts holden/Staal so you just won’t see the gap between ice time of the second and third pairings. Probably pick up some minutes from both 1st and 2nd pairing for even strength shifts.

  • Jul 22, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    To thy own self be true….Walt, lads!!!
    I am not here to win a popularity contest, unlike Richter I read his entire post and then decide whether to agree or disagree with him…no insult referred Richter

    • Jul 22, 2017 at 5:19 pm

      I read your entire post but my response to you was funnier as I said it.

      I read everyone’s posts, the entire post. You know why? Because people took the time to write them, no matter how much I disagree with them.

      You too my friend.

    • Jul 22, 2017 at 5:27 pm

      Bro, trading McD? Really? lol He finally will have a worthy partner.

      • Jul 22, 2017 at 7:47 pm

        I am saying by trading him we solve more issues and frankly he is replaceable. His value to the team of course is there but his value is in him not being here via a trade that solves other areas that actually are more glaring.
        If Sean Day is anywhere near ready then it must be considered.
        Ryan Graves is ready and needs a spot.

        To place a pecking order on D-men is a mistake. D must be a collective. Pairings that compliment each other as an example:

        Graves – Shattenkirk
        Skeij – Manson
        Smith – Pionk
        Day mid season call up

        That looks just fine with me…issue here is you have to give to receive

        Now granted McD would be nice to have, however here is the difference maker

        Miller-Rakell-Vesey on the 3rd line
        fill in your top 2 at your own line combination of chosing

        Sabourin-Andersson-Grabner on the 4th line
        Desjarnais or Pumpel 13th forward
        Andersson 9 games and decide to keep or send back

        Then this team is depth complete

        So McDonagh for Rakell, Manson, Sabourin and a 1st

        • Jul 22, 2017 at 8:40 pm

          People that are against trading McDonagh don’t know how to build a team so I wouldn’t really worry about them

          • Jul 23, 2017 at 6:15 am

            Really? and you do? Trading a D man that is in his prime who finally gets a worthy playing partner and could be a top 10 D man at a steal of a cap hit is knowing how to build a team?

            ok, lol.

        • Jul 22, 2017 at 8:54 pm

          I love the trade but it’s totally unrealistic. Rackell and a first is all you’ll get. Manson too? Don’t think so friend. Anaheim doesn’t do that cause they don’t need to trade for defense. Actually I think even a first rounder is too much from Anaheim for McDonagh. Let’s not overvalue this guy now guys we are overrating him too much let’s get back to earth one moment. We used to overvalue Stepan and now look at him. Players that show signs of deterioration hit a wall faster than a watermelon guys. I like the trade for Rackell but it really stops right there. If we get a 2018 first rounder out of it then it’s an ultimate trade. Anaheim is so deep on defense but ok maybe they do it.. I’ve seen crazier things

          • Jul 22, 2017 at 9:58 pm

            ….Why would you trade McD, a top pairing LD (and one of the top ~15 in the league) for a guy who isn’t even a 1st line winger at this point?

            With all due respect that would be a horrendous trade…. even if they tossed in the first. He’s worth way more than just that, even if there is a logjam of defenders here.

            Leather is correct in that it would be wise to trade him ….

            But not for Rakell, especially not straight up.

            If McD goes, we need elite talent coming back, not just ‘pretty good’ talent. Even if that means adding in a trade.

          • Jul 23, 2017 at 6:23 am

            “Actually I think even a first rounder is too much from Anaheim for McDonagh”

            wow, enough said.

        • Jul 23, 2017 at 6:21 am

          I like Manson a lot, very under the radar type of player. But you’re trading an elite player for good players who are more replaceable than McD is.

          The Rangers currently have 2 elite players: King and McD, so trading one of them is not an option because you’re probably not getting an elite player back. The players you mention coming back are nice players but no where near elite.

          Subban for Weber, 2 elite players traded for each other, you don’t see that too often. You’re trading an elite player for what amounts to “depth.” That’s not a winner trade IMO, as a matter of fact, it’s a trade that kills teams.

          If you think that the Rangers’ top 4 would be as good with McD off the team then I guess there’s the flaw to start off with.




          no contest.

  • Jul 23, 2017 at 1:34 am

    Well, 5 of the 1st 6 points were redundantly the same one. Basically will Staal and Holden be deployed based on their actual efforts or past laurels? Done

    Anyone who thinks Ruff and AV are the same coach clearly hasn’t been paying attention.

    And I assume that last point was a typo bc the team doesn’t even have a 1C let alone a 2C.

    But …um….Point #9 – ironically about Graves – is a very good question….

  • Jul 23, 2017 at 2:38 am

    Will Skjei continue on with his development or will he suffer from the sophomore jinx.

    Will Del Angelo beat Holden or Staal out for a spot or will AV sit him in the press-box?

    Will AVs run and gun style of hockey make Shatterkirk even more prone to making defensive gaffs in his own end?

    Will Smith continue to play like he did last spring for the Rangers or will he regress back to the inconsistent player he was in Detroit?
    Will Lundqvist come back to form or will he continue to look more like Hardy Astrom? (An angry Hardy Astrom I might add).

    • Jul 25, 2017 at 6:31 am

      1 – Skjei will be fine

      2 – No idea about DA except to say that Ruff will have more say on the D pairings than Beuke did. Hopefully that’s a good thing.

      3 – Conversely, will AV’s run and gun style bring out the best in Kirk’s offensive prowess?

      4 – I could care less what Smith does in the reg ssn. All he has to do is be the dominant physical force he was last spring…this spring.

      5 – LOL on the Hardy Astrom reference. Good one 😉

  • Jul 23, 2017 at 9:43 am


  • Jul 23, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    The bottom line is that the Rangers will have a vastly improved defense at the expense of 2 quality centers and one of the best backup goalies in the NHL. Center ice is an extremely important forward position that influences the whole line. Right now, as is, we are very vulnerable and weak at the center position. Miller tried it last year and failed. His overall play so far is not consistent enough. To depend on a nineteen year old from the Swedish league to step into the NHL and be a second line center is irrational. Zib is a good player, but an unproven number one center and I am not that sold on Hayes. Our center replacement for Lindberg is fair but hasn’t been that good in a few years. Don’t forget, realistically, Fast wont be 100 percent most likely till halfway into the season. Gordon has to get a quality center and maybe a winger to address these glaring holes in our forward lines. Trade McD.? for who? Really? Banish the thought!Also, Skeij in my opinion, will be an ALL-STAR defenseman soon

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