Poll: Should MDZ Have Stayed in Juniors?

This topic came up during last night’s Blueshirt Banter Radio Show, and I want to get Ranger Nation’s opinion on the matter. It is worth breaking down Del Zotto’s season into three segments: the first month, the second month through the Olympic break, and post Olympic break. You will notice three distinct trends with his game.

  • First Month (14 games): 4-8-12, +3, .857 P/GM, +.21/GM
  • Second Month-Olympic Break (47 games): 2-12-14, -20, .298 P/GM, -.447/GM
  • Post Olympics (19 games): 3-8-11, -3, .579 P/GM, -.158/GM
  • Season Totals (80 games): 9-28-37, -20, .463 P/GM, -.25/GM

Without using any advanced metrics like GVT, GAON/60, or QUALCOMP, you can clearly see that the middle stretch took it’s toll on MDZ. Prior to this season, he had never played more than 64 games in a season. While 80 and 64 may not seem like a big difference, this was an Olympics season, and the games were much more condensed, with many back-to-backs and three-in-four nights. It appears that MDZ simply tired from the condensed schedule very early on, and did not recover until after the Olympic break, when he had two weeks off.

His offensive numbers aside, it was very clear that MDZ had great difficulty adjusting to the defensive responsibilities at the NHL level. He was consistently out of position, was caught pinching often, and after the first month, stopped shooting the puck. These are things you expect from a 19 year old, but the question remains, do you think he should have stayed in the OHL to make adjustments on the defensive side of the puck?

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  • absolutely not. He was dominant in the OHL and he had improved immeasurably defensively, in the OHL too. He needed a step up in opposition and he couldnt go to the AHL and get it, we had a need offensively (in the NHL) so it made sense. Offensively he proved he belonged. He also shot more toward the end of the season again too – probably thanks to the rest.

    The adjustments defensively will come; this summer, at camp and with the extra time between games a non Olympic year provides.

    Now another question could be asked; Had we carried a decent 7th defenceman could/should Torts have sat him occasionally to watch and learn? that could have aided him defensively. I remember a game where he was -4 and thought he needed a break but never got one.

  • Oh and by the way, have you seen that McDonagh and Stepan have committed to Wisconsin for another year? RMcD is the new captain and Stepan the assistant…..

    • I knew Stepan was going to be back, he’s too young for the AHL. McDonagh surprises me a little bit, but it can’t hurt to have them play another year in one of the nation’s best programs.

      It will be interesting to see Hartford’s defense next season.

      • i think Hartford will perhaps struggle at defence next year. Hopefully Klassen and Kundatrek can provide some talent there. Klassen looks like he could be a nice prospect.

  • I was one of the “back to the OHL” crowd during/at the end of training camp. He would have benefited the same way Marc Staal did at about the same age – and Staal came straight to the NHL with very few of the “rookie issues” that we’ve seen with MDZ.

    When he made the opening day roster – I was surprised – but fully expected him to be shipped back to the OHL before he hit the 11 game mark (which trapped him in the NHL for the season, effectively). His play in those first 14 games, as you’ve documented, made it easy for everyone to say “He’s ready”. I’ll admit that I was converted and publicly said – “Hey, I was wrong”.

    But the reality turned out to be that he wasn’t ready. While he could generally skate with NHL competition, and he clearly has a gift for seeing the ice offensively, his defensive positioning could have been worked on in the OHL to his – and eventually the Rangers’ – benefit. The NYR violated Gordie Clark’s unwritten rule: “let the prospects dominate at a level before they move up to the next level” – and in the end, they paid for it.

    Will the defensive issues be corrected in the next 6-9 months? We all better hope so.

    • Do you not think he dominated at the OHL level?
      He had 63pts in 62 games in his last year and was very strong in the playoffs with 19pts in 14 games as well. I remember he and Carlson for the Knights looked very strong both ends.

      I just dont think the level of competition was in the O for him any more. The A would have been beneficial, atleast for a half season to emasure him…

      • He still had defensive issues that could have been worked on. He may have put up good numbers, but that doesn’t necessarily equal dominance.

      • If he were a winger putting up those points, then I’d say – yes – move him on up.
        As a defender, with known issues on positioning, the answer is a definitive “NO” – he did not dominate – or even come close to it.

        And while he could have benefited from time in the AHL, it was not an option because of his age. It was either back to the OHL or stay up with the big club.

        As I said in my original comment – he would have benefited far more from the OHL – just like Staal did.

    • I’m not looking for perfection from MDZ next year, just a steady improvement on his positioning. The team is still rebuilding, and is far from a contender, so I don’t mind some more bumps along the road as long as he is getting consistently better.

      • agreed. I dont think he benefited at times from his partners this year either though. If he can get closer to that positive +/-, understand the positioning side more and keep the same kind of offense then im happy. Learning curves are always going to be there.

  • Definitely a fair question, however I believe the NHL was the best place for MDZ. This team back in the fall had very little chance of winning The Cup. With that said, no better place or time for a future defenseman and core piece of the puzzle to get his feet wet.

  • i would also like to say ‘consistently out of position’ is harsh.
    How often were Staal (our best defenceman)and Girardi caught behind the net together, or in one corner with a man free in front? the same goes for R+R….. so does this then become a coaching issue rather than MDZ being unprepared?

    I’d say somewhere in between.

    • It’s harsh, but true. A lot of Girardi’s issues were because he was essentially on an island on defense by himself (MDZ was his partner). Yes, the defense wasn’t perfect, but more often than the others, MDZ was out of position. It’s not a criticism, just an observation of a 19 year old still learning the game.

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