Michal Rozsival. His name will never be popular with New York Rangers fans. It also remains a fact that at $5m per season the veteran Czech blue liner is nicely overpaid but it’s come to the stage where Rangers fans need to acknowledge how vital a presence Rozsival has become on a young and emerging defensive corps. Rozsival was poor (at best) for the first half of last year following injuries that had visibly slowed down the defenseman but following a solid, if not strong, end to last season Rozsival has continued to play well to begin this year. Rozsival has started the season making good decisions, playing well both ends of the ice and putting up good offensive numbers. Rozsival has scored twice and has 6 points in 7 games while being part of a unit that is blocking a huge amount of shots. One more goal and the 32 year old will already have matched his goal total from last year.
The Rangers don’t necessarily need an effective Rozsival to have a successful season but a good season from the Czech has so many positive after affects for the Rangers. Firstly it allows Tortorella to give appropriate minutes to his defense. Mike Sauer and Matt Gilroy can continue to grow without being over exposed. The problematic third pair is not as much of an issue if the top four are effective. Secondly, good minutes from the top four (and a solid bottom pair) mean Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko can play a full season in the AHL where they need to be right now. Being able to bring the two youngsters along at an appropriate pace is the ideal situation for the Rangers, especially when you consider the tough start McDonagh has suffered to his pro career (no points, -5 in 8 games). Then there’s the potential trade value of Roszival. Cap wise the Rangers are actually in a solid position going forward but if Rozsival continues his play all season he suddenly becomes an asset. He has always been able to move the puck and has had a solid career statistically and if you have a 33 year old blue liner that provides 30+ points on an expiring contract it becomes appealing to other teams, even at 5m.
Given the Rangers 4-2-1 start and the strong start in particular by the top four, it’s possible Rozsival’s solid play may be overlooked and under appreciated. It’s easily done when considering the excellent play of Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. However Rozsival needs to be given credit as, perhaps as much as anyone else on the roster, Rozsival is a key reason to the start by the Rangers. Time to give him his dues.
Added by Dave: Rangers alternate captain Ryan Callahan also has some interesting words for Ranger fans regarding Rozsival:
“You can hear it. It’s a lot of people screaming. You definitely can hear it,” said Callahan, whose first goal of the season in the second period was the game-winner. “It’s unfortunate. I know it gets under my skin a bit when it happens.
“It’s disappointing to hear the boos come from the stands. We know in this room that he means a lot to us and we know what he does. It’s unfortunate that he gets that kind of reception in our building. I don’t think it’s right and I don’t think he should.”
Callahan hits the nail on the head here. Rozsival is off to a great start offensively, and has been very solid defensively as well. Sure, he is prone to the blunder once per game, but every player is prone to the blunder. Rozsival plays 25 minutes per night, and does so against some heavy competition. If Rozsival were to be traded, the Rangers would miss him dearly.