With Dan Girardi tiring in the last few games (not a criticism) and Marc Staal clearly still struggling for consistency following his return, has Ryan McDonagh emerged as the Rangers best defenseman?
It’s a valid question and perhaps just another way of heaping praise on McDonagh for the way he has developed since his call up midway in to last year. A lot of people don’t pay much attention to the plus/minus statistic but even the biggest critic of that stat has to acknowledge McDonagh’s impressive +39 over his first 112 NHL games. That’s more than just being on the ice at the right time.
McDonagh is still learning and he’s still making mistakes; he’s not perfect. The way James Neal picked his pocket in the Pens game a few games ago shows that he’s certainly not perfect but he has progressed at an incredible rate.
The offensive side of McDonagh’s game has developed the most, visibly. However that is because he has such a solid foundation defensively that it allows him to get involved more at the other end. His positional play is exceptional and he takes the body with regularity. Given the style McDonagh plays he doesn’t take a huge amount of penalties and he fits in Tortorella’s system perfectly.
McDonagh has become a minute muncher. He’s playing a shade under 25 a game and while unfortunate for Marc Staal, the absence of Staal has been a blessing in disguise for McDonagh’s development. Nobody could have foreseen this rate of progress and it probably wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for a Staal brother collision last season.
It’s hard not to be excited about the Rangers future given how the club is being built the ‘right way’ (from the goal out). There’s an embarrassment of riches developing in front of Henrik Lundqvist. Staal, Girardi, McDonagh and Del Zotto highlight a corps that still has Mike Sauer as well as Tim Erixon and Dylan McIlrath in the wings. There’s not another club in the entire league (outside of Nashville) that can boast that kind of pipeline on the blue line. And we said all this without finding a way to thank Bob Gainey again. Oops.
So, is McD the Rangers best defenseman right now? It’s hard to argue against him. When healthy, a valid case can be made for Del Zotto with the way his game has developed this year but either way the Rangers are sitting pretty with a 21 and 22 year old leading the charge to the post season.