trouba lindgren miscast
New York Rangers defensemen Jacob Trouba (8) and Ryan Lindgren (55) converse during a break in the action in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Montreal Canadiens, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)

As the trade deadline nears and all attention is on the Rangers adding at least two forwards, not much has been said about the defense pairs. We’ve noted the top-four need a shakeup, but perhaps there’s more to it than a simple swapping of a couple of players. In particular, Jacob Trouba and Ryan Lindgren may be miscast in their current roles, contributing to some –but not many– issues on the blue line.

To be abundantly clear: This is not saying one or both are terrible, although only one seems to get a pass for mistakes. This is simply stating that, given Peter Laviolette’s new system focusing on limiting high danger chances against, both may be best served in other roles. Notably, Trouba is being used as a shutdown defenseman and Lindgren in a role requiring a bit more puck movement.

For a number of years, we’ve been subscribing to the Rob Luker approach to the Rangers blue line. Swapping Lindgren with K’Andre Miller had always been a pipe dream, but now with actual structure in place and diminishing results from both Trouba and Lindgren, we are starting to see more and more evidence that this may be a necessary move.

Starting with Trouba, again being used as a shutdown defenseman with Miller, he has never been a shutdown defenseman in his life. It’s not hard to find a game where we’ve seen a missed coverage leading to a chance against. While this happens to every defenseman, Trouba has been exploited more than a few times in this role.

Before coming to the Rangers, Trouba was the Winnipeg Jets’ 1D, playing in an offensive role at 5v5 and on their top powerplay. This played into his skill set better, and perhaps his ability to deliver the big hit has blinded people from what he truly is. This isn’t to say Trouba is horrible defensively. He’s not. It’s to say that perhaps he is miscast in his current role with his current partner.

Comparing him to Lindgren, being used in a bit more of a fast paced, move the puck up the ice role, it seems both simply need a role swap. Lindgren fits the mold of a prototypical shutdown defenseman more than Trouba, and all the play on the ice and in possession metrics backs up this hypothesis.

Looking at both of their results this year (left chart) and over the last three years (right chart), we see a stark contrast in on-ice effectiveness. While it does appear Lindgren is nursing some kind of injury this year, or perhaps that’s just a hope given his absolutely abysmal defensive numbers this year, his offense has never been good. There’s a strong argument that Adam Fox is carrying him.

Focusing on Trouba, he’s never had strong defensive metrics. While his offensive numbers aren’t blowing people away with the Rangers (2nd chart), his numbers with Winnipeg were (right chart). He didn’t magically fall off a cliff with the Rangers. Simply put, his role changed, he’s miscast as a shutdown defenseman, and he’s being exposed. Much like Lindgren being miscast.

The solution may be simple: Flip their roles

Sometimes the most obvious answer is the correct answer. Simply flipping their roles would get more out of both. Unfortunately, this can’t be achieved without flipping their partners, which is why we bring up this top-four shakeup regularly. We can focus on the projected stats all we want, but perhaps that’s the wrong approach. Focusing on role gives us a better idea of what to expect.

Neither K’Andre Miller nor Adam Fox are defensive concerns. They aren’t the top defense-first guys, which is fine. They can hold their own and, in the unlikely event they get trapped in the defensive zone, are good enough with their reads and puck movement to survive.

Ryan Lindgren is not a noted puck mover, but before coming to the Rangers, Trouba was. Putting him back in that role, and even against top competition, puts him in a better position to succeed.

Will this work? Possibly. Will it blow up in their faces? Also possibly, but far less likely.

The Rangers don’t necessarily have holes on defense, but they certainly aren’t optimizing their pairs the way they can be. Flip the roles, see what happens. What’s the worst that could happen?


Mentioned in this article:

More About: