Thoughts on DeAngelo/Trouba as a top pair and the lineup ripple effects

Yesterday David Quinn gave us some insight into his defense pairings to open camp. The big “bombshell” was having Tony DeAngelo on the top pair with Jacob Trouba to start camp. This is something that made perfect sense, and I love that Quinn is giving it a shot. It does have ripple effects up and down the lineup.

1. By putting DeAngelo on the top pair, the Rangers have their top-four defensemen playing in the top-four to start camp. This was always a concern heading into camp, as 75% of their top defensemen are right handed. Without moving one to the left side, the Rangers were going to have someone getting less minutes than they should. For now, this rectifies the situation.

2. This solidifies the top-four as DeAngelo-Trouba and Ryan Lindgren-Adam Fox. The latter pair was solid together, which means this is about how DeAngelo and Trouba mesh. Trouba usually excels when his defense partner is more defensively inclined, in which DeAngelo is not. However, Trouba has never had a puck mover like DeAngelo as his defense partner. It’s something to watch in the first month of the season.

3. Given #2, this does not mean that the pair will stick for the season. Heck, they may not even make it past one day of camp. There will be two weeks of defense evaluation. Someone may supplant DeAngelo on the top pair. That duo may not look good together, much like the Skjei/Trouba pairing. But at the very least, the club is looking at other options.

4. An interesting ripple effect is the third pair, which has both spots open. There are no more right handed defensemen in camp, which means the Rangers will have a second off-handed defenseman on the third pair. Brendan Smith played the right side a lot before, so he may have the inside track here. Anthony Bitetto played a little RD, but I don’t think he’s in the picture here.

5. It makes me wonder – if the Rangers want their offensively inclined defensemen on the off-hand, does K’Andre Miller get a long look on RD?

6. The third pairing is a competition between Miller, Smith, Bitetto, Tarmo Reunanen, Libor Hajek, and Jack Johnson. The cynic in me thinks it’ll be Johnson-Smith. The realist in me thinks it will be Hajek-Johnson. The optimist in me thinks Reunanen and Miller both shine and break camp.

7. I don’t think this changes the defense options for the taxi squad. It will be some combination of Bitetto, Johnson, Smith, and Hajek on the taxi squad. It will depend on who makes the team, of course. The Rangers could play some cap games with Smith here, but I think their priority is less on the cap and more on maximizing development opportunities.

8. Just a reminder that what we see on opening night is not what we will see on the final game of the season.

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    • The dreamer in me is praying that 2 young lefty Defense prospects play great in camp and make the team. Both playing upwards of 30-40 games in the NHL

  • Going into this season with a pretty good top 4 on defense will allow for us to “play” a bit with the 3rd pair combos. Look for any two to be there and another 2 to be on the taxi squad, ready to jump in when ready.

  • Tarmo isn’t an NHL defenseman. ButbIbwoukd be thrilled if Miller grabbed one of those last two spots. Also, don’t sleep on Robertson as the surprise dman in camp

    • Robertson was real good and real close in the last camp, so I agree — would consider him a dark horse candidate to break camp.

  • I still think Smith is going to play and be the 6/7.

    Won’t be surprised to see DQ move Lindgren up with Trouba and put DeAngelo with Fox.

    • I’ve rather monotonously repeated that as the pairings I’d like to see. I think Trouba needs Lindgren to get his offensive game going, and I think that Fox would make Tony better in the D zone.

      In any event, I like that the top 4 will include their 4 best defensemen. Smith on the bottom pair with whoever also makes sense.

      • Tony’s defensive shortcomings are somewhat overblown … and in any case his offensive prowess FAR outweighs any defensive negatives.

        • You also have to love his attitude. A cocky little SOB, who doesn’t take crap from anybody. The Rangers could use a little more of that. Only bigger!

  • I also like the attempt to place the top 4 D-men on the first two lines — if the biggest concern ends up being how to come up with a third line, we should count ourselves as fortunate.

  • Meant to add: Dave, I’m liking and agreeing with all of your thinking here. As far as Miller on the right…the only way I see that even coming under consideration at this point is if either he’s spent recent time there (I don’t think so, but I don’t know for sure) or the leadership thinks he should be there long-term (???).

  • #5 is a good point. I do tend to think the off-hand offensive d-man is a good look. And of all people, I think Tony D is a perfect fit to try this with. It allows him to see all the options in the offensive zone with his stick ready to pass or shoot from a good angle. One-timers are available all day, and Tony D is very good at getting his shot through traffic. I just hope his d-zone presence has improved so he sticks on the top pair.

    The guy deserves it though. He’s quietly been a top d-man for a while now. He was hidden the season prior, but was a top offensive d-man already in the 2nd half of the 2018-2019 season. He’s still underrated by most folks. But I don’t think that’ll last much longer.

    I expect a much better season from Trouba. But we could very well be discussing moving Trouba off the top d-pair if Tony D’s defence improves. That’s his only real liability, and if he fixes that, he’s a true top-pair d-man, IMHO.

  • The Rangers, IMO, jumped way too quickly by signing Johnson. There are others who were out there and are still out there, that would have been better options.

    Chara at $795K > Johnson at $1.1M. Not even close. But I don’t know if Chara would have considered here. We never got the chance to find out.

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