Hockey Tactics

Hockey Tactics: It’s time for the Rangers to embrace an off-handed defense pair

Playing the best players matters

Since the Alain Vigneault days, the Rangers have had a tremendous focus on playing three left handed defensemen and three right handed defensemen. This makes logical sense, and it’s pretty impressive that the Rangers were able to pull it off somewhat successfully for as many years as they did. Times, though, have changed.

From a tactics standpoint, having an even split of LD and RD is ideal. This puts the player’s forehand on the boards and not up the middle, which is a better position for defensive play in their own zone. A player on his off-hand would have his forehand up the middle, which can potentially lead to dangerous defensive coverages and clears.

On the flip side, an off-handed defenseman is in a better position offensively. In the defensive zone, their heads are up the middle and able to see a better picture of the play. In the offensive zone, they are in better positions for one-timers. If the Rangers were to play an off-handed defenseman, it would be an offensively inclined player.

All that said, it is ideal to have an even LD/RD split. That, however, does assume that you’re playing your best six defensemen. In the Rangers’ case, they have the even split but simply aren’t playing their six best. It is safe to say that four of the Rangers top six defensemen are right handed: Jaocb Trouba, Adam Fox, Tony DeAngelo, and Brendan Smith. Yes, that Brendan Smith.

How could Smith possibly be one of their top-six? Simply put, he’d rank ahead of Marc Staal and Libor Hajek. The former shouldn’t be in the lineup anymore and the latter should be in the AHL to work out some of the kinks, much like Filip Chytil. However due to the infatuation with an even split, Smith is up front and Staal/Hajek are shoehorned into roles that don’t suit them at the moment. You can make the argument that Smith isn’t worth his contract, but it’s a tough sell that he’s worse than Staal or Hajek for the time being.

Let’s also fast forward to the offseason, where we have all come to the logical conclusion that Tony DeAngelo is a goner because of his place in the lineup (3RD), pending contract demands (a lot), and possible arrival of cheaper options (Nils Lundkvist, Joey Keane). If the Rangers are intent on keeping him –and replacing his 60 point pace is going to be tough– then they will need to get creative.

Short of moving him to forward, the only other option is playing to his strengths and switching him to LD. If the goal is to play your best players, then it is essential to find ways to keep him in the lineup and make him worth the contract he’s on pace to get. This is the first difficult decision the coaching staff has to make on the blue line, but getting it right sets them up for future success.

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  • This premise is fine for now. But next year things will be more crowded on the left side. You mentioned Keane and Lundkvist, but Miller is coming too. And Rykov is playing pretty well in Hartford. And what about Lindgren? So I’m not sure this makes sense for next year without moving some bodies out. Take the 3 players on RD now and add Lindgren, Miller, Hajek with Smith as 7 th D, there’s no room for Keane or Lundkvist. That also requires another buy out in Staal. And trading Skjei. I’m all in on keeping ADA but tough personnel decisions are looming.

  • I actually have no problem with Smith as a 3rd pair D man. Having him up front is laughable, and so was the coach’s comment that Smith’s play has “slipped” lately, when his play was bad all along (as a forward).

    If you put Smith in for Staal, then there’s no issue at all, as the LH/RH split would be the same. Now THAT is the right answer, but the Rangers would rather play their faves than do what’s best for the team. And that’s a fact. It’s sad that the team constantly tells us how good Staal is to try and convince us to say that what we’re seeing and the stats that go with his play, are not real. BTW, as bad as Staal has been, THIS is his worst year, if you can believe that he could get worse. But keep playing him.

    It’s the good ole boys club that is killing this organization. It goes back to keeping Sather way too long, keeping Staal way too long, and now keeping Ruff way too long. JD, you awake yet?

  • Let’s face it ADA will be gone, and I hate that thought period. He will seek a huge increase in pay, and will have earned it, but can we afford him? The cheaper option of Lundkvist playing in Tony’s place makes sense. He is defensively sound, has plenty offense to his game, and skates well, but we lose the edge that ADA provides, and NEED!

    The new arrival of kids next season will be interesting to me. Miller is the real deal, Skjei should be traded, and Rykov will be our third pair left d-man. Staal will finish his career here, like or it not, he is a permanent fixture, hence the label pylon. The defense will look something like this:
    Miller-Trouba
    Lindgren-Fox
    Rykov-Lundkvist
    Staal as the seventh d-man.

    We will have a much better idea of what we will see next season after Feb 24th!!!!!!!!!!

    • DeAngelo would be a keeper if the club had the cap space to sign him. But if he hits 50 – 60 points this season then the Rangers probably don’t have enough cap to pay what he’ll want to sign. The shame of it is that because the rest of the league knows the Rangers’ cap situation they can’t bluff other teams too effectively and make it seem like they potentially will sign him. That reduces what they will get in return for dealing him.
      Walt, I think Miller and Lundquist will both need AHL time before they reach the big club. They are both probably close to a season away. Rykov probably is closer to being ready to make the jump.

      • I would give ADA a 2 year, $4M per bridge deal. From the D zone blueline forward to the other end of the ice, ADA is one of the best in the league. They cannot give that up.

        And I hate to say it because I love him and I have wanted him here for 3 years, but the Rangers are wasting Trouba and $8M per. The system sucks and they have taken a true top pair D man and made him average, not justifying his contract. They won’t trade him but if the Rangers did not have him, I don’t think it would matter under this sh-tshow of a system anyway.

        Waste of cap space, like usual, for almost all Ranger D men signed long-term.

        • Tony

          No unlike the usual long term d-men signed, Trouba will out live DQ, and prove the signing is well worth it……………..This coach is turning into another Bozo in my opinion!!!!!!!!!!

          • Walt, I hope that you are correct my friend. I waited a long time for Jacob to get here, lol.

          • There isn’t, but we do try to be charitable here.

            The defensive system consists of a lot of yelling and benchings.

  • The ideal scenario, IMHO, is to buyout Staal next season as this would add approximately $2mil to the cap, then his cap hit would be slightly over $1 mil for 21-22 … manageable since Shatty’s cap hit will then be reduced. Then expose Skeij to the expansion draft, his 5+ million dollar salary makes it tough but add an incentive to facilitate this. I’m not sure if the Rangers could eat a portion of Skeij’s salary for Seattle as another type of incentive. But that’s a thought too. Rykov, Miller, Keane, Nils, Robertson will need to be groomed up here soon.

    • Frank

      It’s long overdue, no more buy-outs, and dead cap space. The pylon is here to stay, and Sather wants it that way I suspect!!!!!!!!!

  • If you have a left vs right handed issue on offense you can switch places as you come up the ice.

    Once in the zone the ld goes to the rd spot

    And yeah demote hank and Staal to the ahl till they waive their nmc. If they want to hold the franchise hostage then they will be treated thusly.

      • Well dang it.

        I didn’t realize you couldn’t assign them down.

        Why on earth would you ever offer that to someone.

    • If they go to their off-side in the o-zone & turn the puck over at the off blue line…….. uh-oh!….. forwards can get away with that , D really can’t…

      I’m sure you’ve already found out that Hank & Marc aren’t going anywhere….

  • It’s time to bring up Rykov and Igor. The following players need to be removed:
    Smith Buyout
    Staal-Retire
    Hank-Beauty Salons-Hundreds of them
    Strome-hot, now is the time to move him

    Players that need to be signed:
    Kreider, Tony D.

  • Off topic but how about hockey karma and Ryan Ellis? Man did he eat an elbow from Corey Perry yesterday. Buchnevich barely missed any time after Ellis brutally elbowed him. Maybe Buch is a lot tougher than he gets credit for.

    • And Perry was sneaky about it. He definitely tried to “hide” the contact with Ellis’ head.

  • The prospect pipeline is stocked with D which means for awhile here we cant get attached to anyone. At some point, if these prospects develop like we hope, a Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen or a Barrie for Kadri type trade will need to be made to balance the squad out. If that means we say goodbye to Trouba/Skjei/Tony D then so be it.

    That said the few times Fox and Tony D have been on the ice together, my oh my has it been fun. Give me that pair on as many offensive zone starts as you can and Ill be a happy camper.

    • Yes Fox and Tony D were together some in Edmonton and the team’s flow was noticeably fast and fluid. They didn’t give up any goals when they were on the ice together either.

  • So we’ve seen DQ’s and/or Ruff’s defensive “system” for about 1 1/2 seasons now, and the team has been awful on D during this period. We’ve also seen a couple of former Ranger defensemen have bounce back years on other teams. Why are they still implementing this lousy D system? Is it all of a sudden going to change once Staal retires and Tony D leaves and we bring up more rookies? Why doesn’t management order a change in the system? Or why does DQ think this system is worth holding onto?

    • Stoobie

      Simple answer, he’s stupid, and way over his head to figure it out. Management needs to take heed, and JD needs to show the door for DQ to do the duffel bag drag!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Hi Dave, thnx for bringing up the idea of using ADA as a forward. Its an idea I’ve posted previously a few times but for some reason it has elicited no feedback

    Tony has elite offensive skills and is a little undersized to play defense. He certainly isn’t clearing the crease or banging the other teams forwards off the puck. Although he is not the same player, I see him filling Zucc’s 3rd line role on the 2014 Cup Finals team.

    If we have a sell off at the trade deadline, I hope DQ experiments a bit and we get to see how versatile ADA can be. It would certainly give us a better idea if we should try and retain him

  • Honestly, how many of these Defenseman that JG has picked will pan out? JG doesn’t really have a stellar record in drafting prospects with the Rangers. So to think that all these D prospects will succeed is hard to believe.

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