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.