Is this the best offensive defense that Glen Sather has Ever Assembled?
At 17:02 in the first period, Dan Girardi picked up his 3rd goal of the season against a very good Detroit Red Wing penalty kill. On its’ own, this isn’t article-worthy news. Girardi’s points-per-game numbers look ordinary to those of his career, as do Ryan McDonagh’s and Marc Staal’s.
But at 17:02, Girardi scored the 33rd goal for a Ranger defenseman this season. The last time that the Blueshirt rearguard had that many in the regular season was the 2007-08 season (36 that year, 13 on the power play).
Perhaps some rephrasing would clear things up: The NY Rangers defense is on pace to score 42 goals...
...Notwithstanding the fact that Keith Yandle has yet to pick up a point as a Ranger.
Let’s take a look at all of the Rangers defensive production since the 2005 NHL Lockout - We know Glen Sather has been GM since 2000, but comparing the NHL before and after the introduction of the two-line pass can get complicated. We’ll keep it to when the Rangers were playoff-competitive under Sather, so 2005-2015.
NYR Defensive Scoring 2006-2015
Two quick points:
- Prior to Yandle, John Moore and Matt Hunwick had split the majority of the the season rotating in the 6th and final defensive roster spot (In fact: both were used to rearguard the 3rd pair for most the top-4’s 29 collective games injured this year). They collectively had 1 goal in 78 games before the addition of Yandle ended the John Moore experiment.
- The 2011-12 Broadway blueline patrol that surprisingly picked up 180 points (30-150) in the regular season was led by the remarkably unremarkable Michael Del Zotto. He would only last one more full, albeit lockout-shortened season before packing for Nashville in one of Sather’s slickest moves, the straight-up swap for Kevin Klein.
The emergence of Klein has given the Rangers a journeyman who can move around the line-up, and who seems to have a knack for the big-goals lately. The unfortunately bloated contract of Dan Boyle shouldn’t overshadow his serviceable stats - 20:03 per game, +14, 8 goals and 7 assists in only 47 games.
Yandle is the wildcard in this analysis. It’s been 3 games, and all he has to show for his efforts is a -1 and 7 shots on goal. Not terrible for a guy who has adjust to a winning mentality after 9 seasons with a struggling franchise consistently on the brink of relocating (we’d love an Anthony Duclair Seattle jersey, but that’s just us). But the potential is insane. On any given night, he could be the best Rangers defenseman on the team, and did we mention his cap hit is only $2.625M this year and the next? We’ll gloss over the loss of top prospect Duclair and yet another 1st round draft pick, but can you blame us? The Rangers “only” need to win 11 of their 18 remaining regular-season games to match their 51 win total from 2011-12.
Need we point out NYR are 2-0-1 in the James Sheppard Keith Yandle Era? How distant the rapture of Wade Redden seems to be.
But we have to give it up to Sather here. Each one of the Rangers’ top six defensemen have a different background that brought them to the team:
- Ryan McDonagh was an elite NCAA defenseman acquired in the steal of the century, eventually becoming NYR Captain.
- Dan Girardi, originally undrafted, fought through the ranks of the ECHL & AHL to ultimately embody the 1st-pair right-hand patrol.
- Marc Staal, 1st round pick, wasn’t even supposed to make the team in the 2007 NYR training camp, yet secured his roster position and never looked back.
- Dan Boyle, the eldest defensive veteran, literally took an open-market paycut to come to this Cup contender last July.
- Yandle (and Klein last year) have been important trade returns hoping to complement the present window of contention, not-so-coincidentally amplified since Alain Vigneault was hired as Head Coach.
The current 2014-15 NY Rangers also have our vote for the strongest six ever assembled in New York by Glen Sather. And no, Don Cherry, it’s not because they’re all North American, that’s just a coincidence. The current crop of Rangers defensemen are as legitimate as a Top-6 can be in today’s NHL, and deserve all the praise and admiration they’ve collectively received, including this very article, for whatever that’s worth.