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Rangers’ defensive depth could be an issue

Jul 17, 2012, 10:42 PM EDT

Bryce Salvador, Stu Bickel

The New York Rangers’ possible depth issues were highlighted during a double-overtime game against the Washington Capitals in the 2012 playoffs. While the team’s top four of Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Michael del Zotto received at least 43:33 of ice time each, Stu Bickel played less than four minutes.

That’s an extreme example, but it spotlights their defense’s biggest question going into next season.

Getting a healthy Michael Sauer back would help quite a bit. He hasn’t played since Dec. 5 and John Tortorella admitted that he might not be ready for training camp, though.

Seeing more progress from Anton Stralman would be another way the Rangers might see some improvement from their bottom pairing. Stralman’s ice time dropped in his first season with the Rangers, but at 25, there’s room to grow.

It might not be time for a prospect to emerge, though. While the team’s offensive prospects (such as Chris Kreider) are generating excitement, Hockey’s Future tabs Tim Erixon and Dylan McIlrath as their most notable blueliners. Those names aren’t quite as promising, although Erixon did play 18 games last season (collecting two assists and a -2 rating).

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  1. alexb64 - Jul 18, 2012 at 12:05 AM

    Wasn’t Erixon a pretty highly regarded prospect though? I seem to remember there being something of a big deal about Calgary being worried they couldn’t sign him.

    • stakex - Jul 18, 2012 at 12:51 AM

      I think Erixon is considered a good prospect, but his brief trip to the NHL last season wasn’t that great so a lot of people are down on him.

  2. stakex - Jul 18, 2012 at 12:47 AM

    Its kinda strange to be honest. The Rangers have prehaps the best top 4 (if they keep Del Zotto) in the league, but they have struggled to find a solid bottom pair. I really would have thought you would see them address that this summer. They don’t need stars to fill in the third pair, just a couple guys that can eat up 10-15 minutes a night. That shouldn’t be that hard to find.

  3. theawesomersfranchise - Jul 18, 2012 at 1:19 AM

    Same can be said about every team in the NHL

  4. fortwaynekomets - Jul 18, 2012 at 2:50 AM

    the Rangers need to get the Team Unity stinger amoung them. they have so much talent. I feel they don’t play to.their potential as great as they are.

  5. brijon24 - Jul 18, 2012 at 8:07 AM

    1st place in the East says that everything will be just fine in Ranger land. Erixon is ready to step in now and Torts knows how to get the most out of his players

  6. drunkbro - Jul 18, 2012 at 9:03 AM

    i think the rangers defense is a little bit overrated, or atleast girardi. ‘norris caliber defenseman’ is what i heard from ranger fans last year. ranger fans know they have a great goalie, but when other teams play the rangers and lose (like my flyers), the biggest difference that can be seen is with the goaltending. the king deserved the vezina and certainly makes the rangers D look a lot better.

    • stakex - Jul 18, 2012 at 11:32 AM

      I always hate these arguments, because it can go both ways. You could also say that the Rangers defense helps make Lundquist better, much the way the Devils defense in the 90’s and early 2000’s made Brodeur look great.

      In the end, they function as a team. You don’t finish 3rd in goals against as a team without having both a good goalie AND a good defense.

  7. DED - Jul 18, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    I think Stralman can fill that role. He was a +9 during the regular season, through 53 games. If you don’t play every game, you lose your edge. Yeah, injuries were a factor. They had to juggle several guys in the bottom pair slots. But then when you’re sitting as a healthy scratch, well, practice just isn’t enough.

    Not sure about Bickel yet but maybe he gets his head in the game and focuses more on defense than taking penalties (whether as enforcer or just sloppy play I’ll leave others to judge). He had 108 PIM in 51 games. By comparison, Stralman had 20 PIM. Bickel was also a +2 during the regular season and a -3 during the playoffs, but as it was his first time in the NHL playoffs, maybe he was a bit on the nervous side.

  8. gaborik104life - Jul 18, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    A healthy Sauer, Erixon continuing to grow and turn into half the defenseman he is supposed to be along with resigning Stralman and having Bickel continue his growth makes for some solid solutions. To say it can be an issue is partially not true. At times the three mentioned excluding Erixon played extremely well anyone who is concerned with this does not know enough about the team to be worthy of listening to.

    And do not forget that we have Wade Redden still under roster such irresponsible reporting. (Kidding about this part of course).

    • DED - Jul 19, 2012 at 9:59 AM

      Redden! LOL! Oh man that guy’s never coming back to the NHL. No one wants to deal with that albatross of a contract. Ok, maybe if a team is desperate to get to the salary floor…

  9. nyr2427 - Jul 19, 2012 at 5:28 PM

    It was a triple-overtime game, not double-overtime.

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