For DeAngelo, this is a make or break season
Even before Tony DeAngelo ever put on a Rangers uniform, he was going to have an uphill battle in New York. One of the major cogs in the Derek Stepan trade, there were many questions about why the Rangers would trade for DeAngelo, a promising prospect already on his third team with on and off the ice issues. The skill and talent was there, though. No one could deny that.
Adding to DeAngelo’s issues on and off the ice –which includes slurs against teammates and opponents and physically accosting refs– was his social media presence. His controversial statements on Twitter made the rounds quickly, and DeAngelo’s hole got deeper. It also didn’t help that he vocalized his love for the Philadelphia Eagles.
After making the club out of camp last year, DeAngelo was scarcely used by Alain Vigneault, and was unceremoniously demoted to the AHL. He struggled in his first month there, becoming a healthy scratch as rumors of his displeasure regarding his demotion ran rampant.
Despite all that, DeAngelo finished out a strong AHL campaign with a line of 2-11-13 in 29 games, most of that coming after his issues in the first month. DeAngelo earned a call up after the Rangers announced their plans to rebuild. In that final stretch, DeAngelo wasn’t dominant on the ice, but he wasn’t a huge liability.
This year DeAngelo was slated to make the team because of his waiver status. Even with a poor preseason –of which he did not have– he was going to at least start the year with the club. Luckily for him, DeAngelo was one of the better defensemen in camp and earned his spot on the team.
The work for DeAngelo isn’t done yet. He will need to perform on the ice. He will need to produce results at even strength and on the powerplay, all while putting his defensive issues to bed. Perhaps more importantly, depending on who you ask, DeAngelo will need to show a willingness to toe that aggressive line without stepping into hate speech and bigotry. He will also need to tone down some of his social media activity. That may not sit well with everyone, but that’s the life of a professional athlete.
Should DeAngelo be able to conquer all these challenges, he will have dug himself out of a hole that he himself dug. A changed DeAngelo both on and off the ice benefits the Rangers. HoweverDeAngelo will be 23 in a few weeks, which is the make or break year for a lot of prospects. Should he not take that next step forward, there are too many good defense prospects in the pipe to take his place. In that scenario, DeAngelo’s window with the Rangers may close faster than it opened.