NY Rangers defensive issues drag into 2021

The NY Rangers defensive issues have begun already. But let’s start with the positive:

It is a very exciting, somewhat unprecedented time — at least in recent memory — to follow the Rangers. The team is three years into a complete overhaul of their roster at the start of the 2021-22 season. Management has done a great job collecting new talent.

The Rangers’ regular season was cut short by the pandemic as they had some real momentum to their game. When the hockey world stopped on March 11, 2020, the team was just one point behind the Islanders and three points from a wildcard slot.

However, when the Rangers got their shot at a spot in the playoffs, the team’s inability to find their game led to a swift sweep in the Qualifying Round in Toronto.

Old habits die hard.

The Rangers kicked off their season with a 4-0 loss to the Islanders at home, with much of the same on display. While these are extraordinary times filled with unfamiliar circumstances, the inconsistency on the defensive end remains their clearest issue.

Biggest issues to solve

Success on defense will come down to figuring out how to structure pairings that can maintain consistency. And right now, there seem to be question marks everywhere on the defensive end. The pairing of Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren seems to be the only one that is working.

Fox’s confidence and vision have made him one of the best young defensive prospects in the league today. Put this next to the physical yet responsible Lindgren, and you have yourself a stellar pair. They can break up opponents’ plays and create opportunity out of the defensive end.

The Rangers acquired Jacob Trouba, anticipating that he would serve as a top-pair defenseman in a shutdown role. This was similar to the one he played in during his time in Winnipeg. Through his first season on Broadway, however, he never found his stride.

Trouba played Thursday night with rookie K’Andre Miller. There was some question as to whether or not Miller would make the roster, so it is exciting that he appeared out of camp. Early exposure in the league is great because it means he’ll get to learn and grow at the highest level.

Converse to new, young talent, management made the decision to offload Marc Staal this summer. They then added Marc Staal 2.0 to the roster in the form of Jack Johnson. Rangers head coach David Quinn said in an interview that he thought Johnson gets a “bad rep” due to his numbers. However, Johnson showed his true colors, taking some fault in all four Islander goals against the Rangers.

Tony DeAngelo has been another player with a lot of question marks. DeAngelo had a stellar 2019-20 season on the offensive end registering 53 points (15g, 38a). He then locked in a two-year extension this offseason. However, with the pipeline of young RHD, there is a question if DeAngelo will fit and if so for how long.

Quinn entertained the idea of moving the 25-year-old to his offside — where he had spent some time playing during his OHL career — and up to the top pair to play with Trouba. This experiment was short-lived. One scrimmage later, the Johnson-DeAngelo pairing played and was confirmed to start as a part of the opening night roster.

So how do the Rangers best solve these apparent issues?

Approaches to take

The first step is to support Trouba. Not to knock the ability that Miller could eventually display, but his naivety will do nothing to help a player who has struggled in his role thus far.

Trouba has proven he can handle the big minutes, and the key to pulling his numbers out of the abyss is to get him back into a role that suits him better. One where he can have a bit more room to play the ice and have someone else sit back.

Trouba spent time with Brendan Smith and played sustainably. Smith — a defense-first oriented player whose stats, unfortunately, fell off a cliff — makes sense for Trouba as a partner. However, if Trouba is going to continue to get top minutes, Smith should not be playing with him in those important minutes.

While DeAngelo moving to the left should happen, as a very offensive defenseman, he doesn’t make sense for Trouba either. Lindgren could be an answer to the Trouba problem. Of course, this would mean splitting up the only defensive pair that was remotely successful last season.

However, Adam Fox could play with anyone; and what a great opportunity it would be for newcomer K’Andre Miller to have a shot playing and growing with Fox. Miller brings that slightly more physical edge to what Fox offers — merely due to his size — but both are known to excel when it comes to play in transition.

The question then becomes what a pairing like Jack Johnson/Brendan Smith and DeAngelo has any business doing on the roster. Does it really add value and if not, how do you solve that issue?

With so much defensive talent, especially on the right side, coming in the years ahead is this something you work to fix or try to live with?

Whatever decisions come to pass, the most vital piece of this defensive puzzle will ultimately be putting players in roles that allow them to add value in important moments on the ice.

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  • At least the NYR brass gave us a whipping boy on defense to replace Staal. His name is Jack Johnson. We saved some cash on Staal, but added another albatross on defense.

    I can deal with the forward lines “needing time to mesh” other than the first line. The 4th line is again a problem child.

    As far as the defensive pairs go, lets give K’Andre a few games to get comfortable. Fox and Lindgren looked “ok”. Was Tony D that bad or was it the pair that looked bad?

    Young team yes, unprepared coach, inexcusable

  • Its 1 game an it was not the defense at all. Goaltending was so so in the first period, an a couple of nice miss directions by 2 very good Hockey players on the Islanders. Be prepared we GOING TO LOSE MORE GAMES.

  • As I recall Marc Staal actually scored out first goal in 19-20. Johnson played a role in 4 goals for the other team in our first game of 20-21. That was a downgrade. Period. Not longing for the past, but it’s hard to believe there wasn’t anyone else who provided more HOPE than Johnson.

    I realize it’s one game, but Miller seemed timid at times. It appeared to me as he was more following Trouba and not comfortable with the puck. He’s 20, it’s his first NHL game. So no worries. But it makes me wonder if he is better served spending some time in Hartford? That’s fine. It does seem like we rush our prospects. So maybe a slower transition would be helpful?

    Smith is no 1 LD. That said our options are limited with the current roster. He can throw a hit and defend better than most of the other options.

    As for fixing the D today via trade for and LD, with the expansion draft coming up; we have to protect Trouba and we will most likely protect Lindgren and ADA. If we bring in an experienced D man that player or ADA or Lindgren will be exposed. So is it worth it to make a trade right now and possibly lose one of those 3 considering the teams odds of making the play offs and then making any noise? it’s a tough situation with no easy answer. But I suspect the D is going to be an ongoing problem.

  • Big Big BIG mistake signing JJ! If we waited it out we could’ve and should’ve signed Chara.
    Not only that Chara signed for less $ than we paid JJ.
    Chara on his worst day is better than JJ on his best.

    • Chars would never of signed with us. He wants a chance to play for a cup, If he wanted to play less minutes and help mentor young players he’d still be in Boston

      • #1 you don’t know this!
        Look at others we could’ve signed for less $ than JJ.
        And better!!!!!!
        Luke Schenn $800t
        Slater Koekkoek $850t
        Zack Bogosian $1m
        Derek Forbert $1m

        To name a few, all better than JJ for less than what we paid..

  • Tony D now Taxi D, Bitetto skating with the 1st team in practice.

    They are going to play Johnson until he asks out of the lineup.

    • That’s the indication, coaches have no clue.

      Johnson will be used because he is charming, Miller will be used because, you know, could be problems…

  • Lindgren – Fox squad was as almost as bad as others.
    IMHO. Sit Miller and Johnson, bring Libor and Tarmo… and fire coaching staff finally.

  • It was JUST one game. Let’s reserve judgment after a few more. In their defense Shesty let in 2 goals (the 2nd and the 3rd) that he would not have allowed last year. Getting down 3-0 instead of 1-0, especially against a team like the Islanders is DEATH.

  • They looked really soft and unprepared to work. I saw Strome do a nice big ring turn rather then take the body and his responsibility keeps the puck in their zone easily and guess what happened. This is hockey 101 at that level. Remedial elements still need a revisit yet again.

  • It is not the mistake that were made by the rookies, and it was not mistakes by JJ, it was the way the entire team played without exception. The game looked like an episode from The Walking Dead show. No energy, no desire to battle as if nobody wanted to be there for this game. You can shuffle players around, but with that energy level nothing will help. Seems no lessons were learned after Carolina disaster. This game was a replica of the last three ones. And this is at lease 50% on the coach in my view.

  • Everyone was not playing up to expectations — with the possible exception of Gauthier and possibly Buch. Mika could be excused for rust.

    But c’mon, let’s wait a bit before we start burying people.

  • Strange fact

    Mika and Panarin combined for 4 hits; the Ranger D, excluding Trouba, combined for two.

  • They didn’t show up….period. DQ was honest in his assessment. But somewhat dishonest in excusing him and the coaching staff from the blame. It was on him just as much as the team. Trotz had his boys ready to go, but we were playing a preseason game.

    At the beginning, no one was skating or applying any pressure to the Isles. During the 2nd, I thought they skated a little…little…better away from the puck. But as soon as they had the puck, whoever had it, their feet stopped moving immediately.

    I didn’t like how DQ changed the lines almost immediately. I get it, they looked asleep and he wasn’t getting anything out of almost anyone. But it felt like he abandoned everything from Camp after about 5 mins. It felt desperate, and probably didn’t help the team. I mean, did some of these guys even have a practice rep together. He had Fox and JJ out there at one point, and I don’t think I read about them playing together at all before last night. And that’s just one example.

    And JJ? Oh boy….oof! I think he was a key to all the goals last night. Too bad the NYR didn’t score any of them.

  • To be fair, Shesterkin was rusty and he always loses when he is rusty. He lost after the long layoff against Carolina and he lost first game back after the car accident. (He actually lost another game with no excuse, but only one.)

  • Well the rangers out what we might consider to be unreasonable goals for young player’s and Head coaches as well this isn’t college hockey so putting out a lineups with a bunches of college kid’s as already been proven ( last season sweep out of the playoffs) not to work we need a coach who has NHL level experience pure and simple

  • They are really young and this is what I expected they will be solid and a butt whipping is actually good. Promote Lafreinnier he looked the part. More speed coming on offensive Islanders looked fast. Veterans have to step up and Jackson Johnson really looked slow. Kakko looked alright but got demoted which makes little sense. Team needs to develop a passion and a swagger I give it first half of season if they don’t respond have to move on with coach Quinn. He got out coached yesterday.

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