Although the Rangers are exceeding all expectations by winning regularly, one of the stories that has taken on a life of its own is healthy scratches and how coach David Quinn is rotating players on the blue line. Recently we’ve seen Brady Skjei and Tony DeAngelo spend time as a healthy scratch. Over the course of the year, almost every single defenseman has seen time as a healthy scratch.
I say “almost every single defenseman” above because it’s just one player that hasn’t been a healthy scratch yet, and that is Marc Staal. I went into detail about why Staal wasn’t the scratch over Skjei at around this time last week, however performance changes and there can be slumps. So we shall see if Staal winds up in the press box once in a while. Perhaps the reason why Staal hasn’t seen time as a healthy scratch is the perception that he and Neal Pionk have formed a strong defense pairing. That’s a conversation for another time, though.
The fact is the Rangers have a logjam on defense. They have four players with long term commitments that they are trying to get into the lineup regularly. They have a pair of kids that need time to develop and evaluate. They have another supposed 7D that has been the steadiest defenseman to date (Fredrik Claesson). And this doesn’t even include the still injured Adam McQuaid.
With such a logjam, there is difficulty in finding time to get everyone regular playing time. Compounding issues is that aside from Claesson, not one single defenseman has been consistenly decent. The next on that list is DeAngelo (in my opinion, of course). Ironically enough, those are the two that I can see getting scratched when McQuaid returns. But I digress.
The other six defensemen, injured or not, have been at best inconsistent, and at worst a train wreck. In that regard, a rotation seems like a good idea. Getting guys who may still be feeling effects of injuries (Shattenkirk) time off helps. Getting some kids time off to review tape and watch from above helps too. There are benefits to a rotation and healthy scratches. When done right.
That’s the key though, isn’t it?