Rangers Defensive Overload is Scratching Heads of Many

This is a current list of the eight defense-men currently on the roster of the Hartford Wolfpack. The decision making of the players iced on a game to to game basis has been in question all season. But management’s decision making has been on a bad run since June. Whether it was not making a side deal with Las Vegas to protect Oscar Lindberg, or heading into training camp weak at the key position of center, or overstocking the AHL affiliate with defense-men, there have been too many head scratching choices.

A quick look at that list shows seven prospects of differing calibers and an experienced KHL defense-man, in 23 year old Alexei Berezglazov. Two of those eight defense-men don’t play on a nightly basis. Plus with four defensive pairs skating during practice, there are less reps for all of them. All of this stifles the development of all of them. Last year the Toronto Maple Leafs, who were weak on the back-line, signed Russian defense-man Nikita Zaitsev. He had a very good season (82GP, 4G, 32A) and then negotiated a seven year extension; the Leafs effectively grabbed a young, top-4 defense-man from Russia as a free agent. In Berezglazov, the Rangers were hoping to catch the same lightning in a bottle.
But because of the logjam of players at the NHL and AHL level, Berezglazov may exercise an opt out in his contract and return to the KHL with the hope of playing in the Olympics. All because GM Jeff Gorton has been unable to move Nick Holden and insists on keeping Steve Kampfer on the NHL roster. When given a chance, both of these players have played themselves out of the lineup immediately. Holden has NHL skills, but has not found chemistry with any other Ranger defense-man. There are many needy teams that could fit Holden into their top 6 (Chicago, Edmonton, Boston, Washington).

Moves Have To Be MadeKampfer would clear waivers easily if a former, recent first round pick, like Griffin Reinhart did. If, hypothetically, Gorton traded Holden for a pick and waived Kampfer, wouldn’t the Blueshirts be better off with Anthony DeAngelo and Alex Berezglazov as the 6th and 7th defense-men? There is no way they could be any worse. Wouldn’t that also relieve the congestion in the minor leagues? As it is prospect Sergei Zborovskiy is buried on the ECHL Greenville Swamp Rabbits. He is surely too good for that league. DeAngelo, as long as he isn’t a head case on the ice or in the locker room, should be playing in the NHL. It’s time to find out if he can fulfill his promise.

The Rangers have famously traded away draft picks in recent years while trying to win a championship. They have had to use alternate means in procuring good prospects. When Kevin Hayes and Jimmy Vesey were declared unsigned free agents, they pounced and grabbed them. When Neal Pionk had a stellar season for the University of Minnesota-Duluth, New York signed the highly coveted undrafted defense-man. But will we ever find out if Berezglazov is our version of Zaitsev? Unfortunately, we may never know. Why bother signing players like Pionk, Berezglazov, or the lesser regarded Vince Pedrie, when roadblocks like Holden and Kampfer are thrust ahead of them? There is no sense to any of this.


Final Thoughts

A few other thoughts. Rangers upper management was pictured (posing?) attending this past Monday’s Ottawa-Montreal game. Larry Brooks of the New York Post thought they were looking at Alex Galchenyuk and Andrew Shaw. Galchenyuk had a poor season last year while trying to switch positions to center. The Habs are in much worse shape at the center position than the Rangers. If they can’t can’t use him at center, how would the Blueshirts? Too much baggage here. Shaw could possibly bring a much needed element the team lacks, which is nastiness. This team has zero mean streak and has too many of the same player. Left-handed players that much prefer passing and have no real desire to play tough. I’m not suggesting an enforcer. I am suggesting being harder to play against. Nightly, this team is much too soft, but Shaw’s contract is a bit of an albatross. He has 5 years left at a $3.9 million dollar cap hit. Keeping that contract in mind, the only guy I would think about trading for Shaw is Marc Staal. That would require Staal’s approval, since he is in the last year of his no-movement clause. No easy sell.

My guess is that Glen Sather, Jim Schoenfeld, and Gillies Leger took in a game, did some scouting, and made sure to be seen by the Canadian media. That way they could send a shot off the bow to the players, and maybe send the message “if you want to stay here, pick it up!” As I have written before, this team STILL doesn’t do anything well. Something drastic has to change.

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