Musings: Defense Still Key


You know it’s time to dust off your laptop and write a post for Blue Seat Blogs when there are jokes on the Internet about your location, your health, or doubts as to if you ever existed at all. Truth be told, I am not an alter ego for Dave Shapiro.

For new readers of Blue Seat Blogs, allow me to re-introduce myself, my name is HOV, H to the O V, The Suit. I like bourbon, matters related to bespoke tailoring, and hockey. I use a pseudonym for various reasons. I (sort of) invented blogging about Hockey Systems. Now Steve Valiquette has far surpassed me and did so with an air of Greenwich snobbery that even I can’t replicate (jk love you Vally).

Anyway, it’s been a while since I created internet, so I have decided to share a few views on things related specifically to our defense, because defense wins championships or something.

Did AV botch the development of McIlrath?

A frequently asked question over the last few weeks…

My answer is no. Not because of the result, but because it’s not a requirement of AV’s position. It was a requirement of Tortorella’s position when he was here. It was a requirement of Tom Renney when he was with the Oilers. It continues to be a requirement for many coaches in the NHL.

AV was hired to win a Cup. Therefore, he needs to be a maximizer of young players, not an incubator for young players. If you don’t believe me, just look at his past behaviors. Kreider, Miller, etc. were all given a very short leash in the early goings of AV’s tenure. When they failed, they were sent down. Vesey, Buch, etc. are all here because they are ready to play and will stay in NY as long as they continue to create offense.

All of which leads me to McIlrath. Dylan was drafted for an NHL style that is quickly becoming obsolete.  His foot speed and think speed are not quick enough to play in a man-on-man defensive zone system at the NHL level. Maybe he’s a 6 or a 7 in a pure zone system, but even there I’m skeptical, as most teams are going the hybrid route these days. None of this is on AV, as long as you agree that the end goal is a Cup this season.

Should the Rangers protect Kevin Klein?

David and Justin covered this recently. My take? Right-handed defensemen who can actually play man-on-man and can put the puck in the back of the net don’t grow on trees. He also has a reasonable cap hit ($2.7M) through 2017-18. These things together should make him a keeper under a multitude of scenarios.

The question for me is not so much about Kevin Klein as it is about our long-term options on the right side other than Kevin Klein. Right now those options are a) Girardi, who has rebounded this year but is not a long-term solution and b) Clendening, who is an RFA and a fringe NHLer at this point.

Could we win a Cup without an upgrade? Sure. But I think our likelihood of being in contention year in and year out would dramatically improve if we have a right-handed top four defender and Kevin Klein.

Can we expect Girardi and Staal’s rebound seasons to continue?

Staal is an old 29 and Girardi is 32. Expecting more from this combo is unrealistic. Staal can still defend in one-on-one situations, but his ability to move the puck north will depend on the commitment of his back-checking forwards.

Right now the Rangers weak-side wingers are getting back and helping out and this is benefiting Staal, who can make the short pass. However, as the season goes on and teams adapt to our play, or our forwards’ commitment starts to wane, it will be interesting to see how this affects Staal’s ability to move the puck.

Girardi is an entirely different animal. He’s still shaky in one v one scenarios, but he’s been more decisive with the puck and that’s helping with his passing and his shooting. These aren’t traits that usually dissipate unless you start missing games and get out of a rhythm. Health is key here more than systematic adjustments.

Either way, their play is important in our quest for the Cup. A step backwards with these two would no doubt hurt our ability to contend. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

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  • Welcome back Suit.

    My issue with McIlrath is not that he think he’s “all that,” it’s that I think he’s better than Girardi for the simple fact that he’s younger and has cement feet than Girardi.

    The idea that Girardi will succeed over the long term is not correct IMO. He’s too beaten up and cannot play in this high speed and skilled league. Travis Yost pointed out the uptick in goals scored so far this year. league wide. Due to more speed and more skill.

    50 years as a Ranger fan and I have never seen this type of offensive dominance, and that includes the 1971-72 team. It’s a very skilled set of forwards we have here. It’s a different line every night, which is great as it shows its depth.

    So my opinion on the McIlrath thing is that the team keeps shoving Girardi down our throats for one reason: his contract.

    Is Dylan that great? NO!! I hated the pick in 2010, but I think he’s better suited for today’s NHL and not Girardi. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    • Too bad after 50 years of watching hockey you are unable to see the difference between Girardi and McLlrath…..
      And you feel people should listen, yet even have to hear, a very poor point no evidence, and his own personal feelings that Dylan is just better than Girardi…..
      So AV should just stop watching practice and just take 1994Richters advice and play a player that does not even belong in the league over a 12 year vet. I don’t know what I was thinking ….


      New coach of the New York Rangers…. 1994Richter…..

      And why ??? Because Dylan McLlrath will lead them to The Cup????

      • Thanks for a perfect example of how not to post on s board which is supposed to be a forum for friendly discussions.

        • Peter … you replying like this is sort of rotten too…

          ya know

          let boys be boys a little…

          and besides Richter has his opinions and makes for some good back and forth…

          Why go all in and crush him without some debate on the subject…

          • Sorry Pas, But, Comments of that sort don’t earn a substantive reply from me. It is a question of standards.

          • thanks, I get it, Im just playing the middle, I like the back and forth too..


      • You’ve made 5 total comments on this blog, and all five are like this one above.

        Smoke some weed or something. Relax.

        • kick TJ off the site. I know Richter1994 personally and he knows Hockey and the Rangers. A great person all the way around and whatever people want to belive on blogs…Richter1994 knows people close to the Rangers Organization and every year is kind enough to share the info on blogs or if you know him personally, he will reach out and give you the inside scoop on the Rangers.

          So TJ, be happy you have a blog like this a writers and commentators like Richter1994…So is not our fault you got beat up at the bus stop when you were younger…joking…

        • Are you “the” Dave? Can you check to poster’s IP? I suspect if all five posts are like this one, it has to be someone else who is just using a different moniker to flame.

          • This happens all the time. There is even a person on here(shall go nameless) who posts, then posts as a different person & agrees with himself. LOL!! Priceless.

    • Right on Ritcher, great analogy of the Mcllrath vs Girardi comparison, give me a young ( will be getting better with playing time ) Mcllrath ,over a old war horse ( too many injuries to mention) Girardi, any day of the week and 2x on Sunday. It all comes down to Girardi’s $$$$$$$$$ contract!!

      • that’s the idea Bobby. Even if G and Dylan were “even,” Dylan is cheaper cap wise and younger, facts that make him a preferable player here, if nothing else.

      • I’m not a McIlrath supporter (surprise), but that TJ (Tremendous Jerk Off) post makes me want to become one.

  • I think the Klein argument is sound, but also stands in the way of the youth movement. We need to continue to get younger and quicker in every area of the game, and Klein just does not serve that purpose.

    We need to open roster spots up for guys who can play the right side, but also who are younger and faster, and who are also less expensive and under management control for a few years. It is hockey in the year 2017. Klein has been more than serviceable. We cannot move G-Man and Staal, so we need to open up D-spots where we can for the next wave of youth. Sorry to say that Klein is the guy who has to go until it is fathomable to eat the G-Man contract.

    • While youth is important, there’s something to be said for structure. Sprinkling vets in a line up of apt and skilled younger players often is critical if a team is to contend. We’re not looking to play like Arizona- roll a bunch of young players out, win or lose, and ideally lose for another year or so so that we can get a lottery pick. Given that, there is no need for Klein to be removed from the line up especially if he is contributing and helping our team.

    • Edmonton traded Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson – that’s what right-handed defensemen are worth. They got Cam Talbot without even giving up a first round draft choice or a substantial player. They are winning this year and so far their MVP is Talbot, not Larsson or McDavid.

      The moral is that good right handed defensemen are worth their weight in gold while goalies are of relatively little value. It isn’t about which position is more important. It is about which position has the greatest scarcity of people who can play it well – and that position is right D.

      Suit, don’t make us wait so long for your next words of wisdom.

        • You also need to look at the bigger picture. Sure RD are a commodity, but youth and Cap cost needs to be considered as well. Take Edmonton. They had many poor years. They are looking good now, but in 4 years, they will not be able to afford their team, and will need to move some players to make room too. All I am saying is that any team needs to look at their TOTAL roster and make moves according to cost, youth and position. Guys like Klein may be cheap to keep, or may be just what the another team needs in a trade or may be the only guy available to put in the expansion draft at the end of the season.

          • Merc man don’t disagree about your broader point about youth, but the problem is where are the young right handed defenseman that are being kept down by Klein or even others? Cupboard is a bit bare here.

  • Suit, thanks for this Solid Post, keep them coming …

    I myself have been really psyched seeing Gordons’ first moves playing off massively for this team, I am pumped to see what happens next…


  • Enjoy watching the games so so much this season that at the end of the second period I’m disappointed that the game is almost over. Can’t remember ever having that feeling before especially when leading. I know it is still early, and I wish it was May or better yet JUNE, but this is a fun team to watch.

    • Yeah Man. It’s Rangers 2.0

      Don’t get me wrong, I love defensive hockey but when the league is changing and the rules are designed to create more offense and allow the skilled players to shine, it’s fun to watch a team that can play that game. Are there weaknesses? Sure, but every team has weaknesses in a salary cap league. Whether it’s Defensively, Offensively, Special Teams, Line Depth, Goaltending and Goaltending Depth, every team has the potential to be exposed. However, in today’s game, I believe the Rangers ability to score the way they have been is the greatest asset in modern hockey. That, compiled with Hank and a slightly above average Defense is enough to make a solid Cup run. My biggest concern is how Gorton will be able to fit all this young talent under the cap in 3-4-5 years. Just my 2 cents.

      Great Post Suit….. Loved it!

  • Thanks for the read, Suit.

    If you have time, what would your NYR d pairs be, and who gets carried as a 7th? Curious to see who you’d put where given our questionable depth at the position.

    Also, unrelated, but any thoughts on the short term impact of the Subban/Weber swap?

  • SUIT! Oh, how I’ve missed your words of wisdom and sophisticated tastes! Terrific post, as usual. Agree on all the points you made, but you left several questions unanswered, and inquiring minds want to know:

    1. Would you trade for Jacob Trouba, and who would you be willing to give up if you do?
    2. If not Trouba, who else would you consider a realistic target for this year’s playoff run? Or should we stand pat?
    3. Your thoughts on Holden?

    • Mumsie! Always appreciate your presence on BsB.

      I wouldn’t make a move yet. Let’s see how things play out over the next 4-6 weeks. If the D starts to slip, then maybe you move a forward for a D. Though prob not Trouba.

      Holden hasn’t played great, but he’s being played out of position. He also played a lot of minutes in a similar system in Colorado, so I’m willing to give him more time.

  • ” or our forwards’ commitment starts to wane”– There’s the rub. If the forwards provide the D with puck support in the D-zone, the Rangers will continue to thrive. If their commitment to D wanes, as you conjecture, things will go south fast.

    • this is right on the money. it seems absurd that guys with multi-million dollar contracts who are also super competitive would get lazy about doing things that make themselves and the team more successful, when it is 99% a cognitive issue and has very little if anything to do with physical ability, but we do see that behavior play out all the time in pro sports. so that’s where coaching comes in and will be an interesting thing to observe if AV can keep his guys on track doing the important things even when the offense starts to dry up from its current insane rate of production.

      • Hey have you seen Beuke on the bench? Man, he is animated & coaching up a storm, they even zoomed in on him coaching up Hayes, who was listening intently. Give Gorton credit for this one too, I think Beuke was his idea after the disaster that was Ulfie,

    • Agree Paul. That’s why I have no problem with AV benching anyone if they start to forget about their defensive responsibilities.

    • Ya, it seems like the puck has eyes so far. Tonight it’s the Russian prospects vs the WHL All-Stars, including Ronning & Morrison. Be a late night for sure. Are you going to watch?

      • My A/V system is totally screwed up right now. Stupid digital handshakes. Only way I’ll be able to watch is if On NHL network.

  • Welp…we can forget about Trouba. He signed with the Jets.

    Good piece, Suit. That should help restore some sanity to those that are salvageable.

    • actually, the signing means that he is now very tradeable because his contract is now locked in and more teams will now be willing to deal, knowing what they have to pay Jacob.

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