Monday, February 8, 2010

Mad about the Wrong Boy

There are two rookie defensemen on the Rangers this year. One of them is doing great - the other one - I'm not convinced is ready yet for the NHL.

And it's not who you think.

Michael Del Zotto is getting all of the attention this year. He's got the tools. He can shoot the puck. He has shown a real talent for the long outlet pass - an almost Drew Brees-like ability to launch these bombs that can hit Marian Gaborik in stride at the blue line.

Meanwhile - Matt Gilroy - the other Ranger defenseman toils on in relative obscurity. You don't hear his name much. His offensive numbers can't compare to Delzy's.

But guess what? I think Gilroy’s better. And here's why:

If offense was all you needed from your defensemen - you could play forwards back there. You may recall that Tortorella actually tried playing 5 forwards on the powerplay recently - resulting in a shorthanded goal against. And there's a reason that happened - defensemen are needed to defend. Preventing a goal is exactly as valuable as scoring one.

And for every great pass or great shot we see from Michael Del Zotto - there is a moment where he's out of position defensively - or late getting to where he should be - or worse - when he is in the right spot - but then gets completely faked out by his opponents’ dekes and moves.

Now - don't get me wrong. I love the kid's potential. And he's only 19. It’s not his fault he's at the NHL level right now. He's learning and improving every day. But at the same time - with a one goal lead and 2 minutes to go – he can be a liability out there.

The numbers tell the story. Del Zotto has 6 goals and 20 assist. And Gilroy has only 4 goals and 7 assists.


Matt Gilroy’s Plus-minus is at +4. That’s the best of any defenseman on the team. In fact, it’s the 5th best plus-minus of all Ranger players. Only Gaborik and 3 guys who have been his linemates have done better.

Michael Del Zotto’s plus-minus? In spite of all of those goals and assists – Mike is at Minus-17. That is the worst number on the Rangers. Much worse than Rozsival or Redden. What that means is that in spite of all of Delzy’s offensive production – he has given it all back and a lot more besides. When Mike is on the ice – overall - we have not been a very good hockey team.

All I’m saying is that Matt Gilroy’s Plus-Minus is much much better than Del Zotto’s. And that a defenseman is more than offense. And that Plus-Minus is a good indicator of defensman's overall game - offense and defense.

Del Zotto is still a really young player. And a lot of what he lacks right now can be taught. But considering how the two rookies are doing – I just don’t think it’s fair that Michael gets all the positive attention while Gilroy is the forgotten man. Matt Gilroy as a rookie has stepped in and done a quietly professional job night in and night out. Whatever success this club has had – Matt is an important part of it. It’s about time he got his due.

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