Adam Clendening’s early play is raising false hopes

Clendening sets up the play (NYR)

Clendening sets up the play (NYR)

The State of the Rangers defense is still not very good.

The defense is still the biggest issue for the Rangers this season. After 4 games, this group has allowed 12 goals against which is being overshadowed by the team’s 15 goals for. Their record stands at 2-2 and could probably be 4-0 if not for some incredible goaltending performances by Carter Hutton and Jimmy Howard.

To be fair, we are four games in and already the Rangers defense has been hit hard by injuries. So far they have played all 8 d-men on the roster. Kevin Klein just got back into the lineup and Dan Girardi‘s in-game injury has forced various pairings to boot. Yet out of that chaos, it appears that Rangers’ fans are buying into Adam Clendening as “the real deal” or Anton Stralman version 2.

Clendening’s NHL journey (so far)

Let’s ignore the fact that this is the 23 year old defensemen’s 6th team since 2014. Also ignore he couldn’t stick with a defense starved Edmonton or Pittsburgh squad and let’s try to find out why?

In Chicago, he was a victim of talent overload and couldn’t find a spot. This caused a trade to Vancouver who was happy to land a much needed right handed young defenseman. He played well in his 17 game stint but somehow didn’t impress enough to stick on a rebuilding team. He moved on to Pittsburgh and then gets flipped to Anaheim, who never use him either and put him on waivers. That’s when the Oilers picked him up.

Is there any team in the NHL that screams “desperate for defense” more than the Edmonton Oilers? This is where Clendening gets his longest look (20 games) but ultimately can’t make it here as well. The NY native makes one more brief stint in Pittsburgh and is finally signed by the Rangers this past offseason. 54 games played, 2 goals and 11 points.

So What’s the Issue?

Well according to Rangers’ fans…nothing. Matter of fact he probably has become our 3rd best defenseman behind Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Klein. According to them.

His CF% is a ridiculous 69.1! Almost everyone is impressed with his outlet passes, as am I. We are still only talking about 4 games and this really isn’t who he is as a player. For his career he’s a 49.9 CF% and that includes his 4 otherworldly games for the Rangers.

Ok…so is this just bad luck that he can’t stick with an organization or something more.

Here’s some assessments of his game I found on Oilers Nation:

  • At most I see him as a depth defender to slot in the 6-7 spot, which is infinitely replaceable, and I’d rather have a guy like Pardy in that spot.
  • I like him with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, and he is a nice passer. I don’t like the fact he gets knocked off the puck easily and is not a great skater.
  • Not a great skater, not physical, not dominant defensively and doesn’t produce enough offence. I see him as maybe a depth signing…
  • I think he is a good fit to finish off the season but there are no sure bets for next season. To change my mind he would have to improve his ability of getting shots through from the point.

The last quote was from former NHL defenseman, Jason Strudwick and I’m starting to notice that too. Could explain why for all the hype he has still yet to register a point on the season.

So How Can He Stick?
Girardi (Getty)

Girardi (Getty)

To be honest, he needs to start putting up points, especially on the PP. He made this team because of what he showed offensively during the preseason. To this point, he hasn’t gotten the same results.

Defensively, those possession numbers are due in large part to his quality of competition and the great play of the forwards. Those numbers will come down, especially if he sees ice time against the Alex Ovechkins of the world.

He is going to have to be above average on his puck movement in order to make up for his average skating ability and weaknesses defensively. If he can do all those things, he could prove me wrong. As of right now, I see him in the AHL come December.

Dan Girardi is expected to play on Sunday. That will force a defenseman out and it will be either Brady Skjei, Nick Holden or Adam Clendening. Alain Vigneault is still going to rely on his veterans, it is just his modus operandi. So this game against the Caps might indicate who sits tomorrow.



Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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