This NY Rangers offseason has been dominated by discussion about Tony DeAngelo moving to left defense. It’s been a “foregone conclusion” that even the coaching staff has acknowledged. However what if the Rangers don’t embrace an off-handed defenseman? What would the defense look like? Is it folly to even consider?
Weak Left Defense
The Rangers are very weak on the left side. Their best left defenseman, in this scenario, would be Ryan Lindgren. Lindgren is entering his sophomore season and likely slides in as the top pairing LD with Jacob Trouba. This pair may have its concerns, but it should also bring out the best in both players. We’ve seen how Lindgren plays with Adam Fox, a puck mover. Trouba also plays at his best when he has a stay-at-home type paired with him.
The bottom-four defensemen would basically need to be carried by Fox and DeAngelo. It looks like Brendan Smith and Jack Johnson are the front runners for those spots. We’d be looking at Johnson-Fox and Smith-DeAngelo in that situation, and that is a major cringe on the left side.
The Rangers do have a bunch of LD rookies competing for spots in camp. K’Andre Miller and Tarmo Reunanen are the names spoken about the most. Libor Hajek is in the mix as well, and there’s a strong argument that he would make the club over Miller and Reunanen. Depth signing Anthony Bitetto is also there.
Aside from a possible “wow” camp from Miller or Reunanen, or a rebound year from Hajek, that left side doesn’t instill much confidence.
Why Not Use an Offhanded Defenseman?
But why wouldn’t the Rangers move DeAngelo to the left side? He’s played there before, and there’s a strong case that it would actually accentuate his strengths on the ice. There’s also the rule of playing your best players. DeAngelo is certainly one of the Rangers top-four defensemen.
The Rangers, for better or worse, have a minor obsession with playing 3 LD and 3 RD. They’d prefer to go that route, so it’s logical that they’d at least see what they have in their rookies and signings before making a move like this. Maybe someone impresses in camp and there’s no need to move DeAngelo over to the left side.
It looks like the Rangers simply want to explore all options before making a “rash” decision to move DeAngelo over. After all, they are going to give the kids all the ice time they need this year. Why not see what Hajek, Miller, and Reunanen can do? Worst case scenario, they spend time in Hartford.
The NY Rangers left defense is a work in progress. The club clearly wants the kids to take over at some point. That point may not be this season though. Most of the big names likely need a year or more of development. It does seem like using an off-handed defenseman is a last resort, which is a shame. It should be on the table to put the best possible team out there.