Adam Clendening joined the New York Rangers this offseason as an unrestricted-free-agent and from the beginning of training camp, he looked like a great add for the team. The native of Niagara Falls, New York would secure the role as the teams, seventh defenseman, but hasn’t had much of a chance to play with the teams’ defense staying healthy.
When Marc Staal went down with an injury, the door was opened for Clendening to make a case for himself and so far we’ve seen some really good things and some pretty bad things. The question will be where the defender stands with the team after having a chance to prove himself.
The Pretty Bad Things
Clendening has never been viewed as a great defensive player, and now that we’ve had a chance to get a good look at him we can see where he gets into trouble. Clendening doesn’t play big in his end — this leads to him struggling with taking away the pass and winning board battles in general. He seems to get shy about getting on his man and can end up playing slap sticks at times which is never a good thing in the defensive zone.
Clendening also has a tendency to hang onto the puck too long. We’ve seen him lead rushes offsides and a few games ago, against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he got caught looking too far ahead of the play in his end while on the power play. Zach Hyman pressured him, stripped the puck and buried a beautiful goal on Henrik Lundqvist. This put the Leafs within one goal and created a scary scenario for a skidding club.
The Really Good Things
Clendening is smooth with the puck, and he finds ways onto the score sheet often — the 24-year-old has eight points in only 17 games this season three of which have come in the last six games. He can make pretty cross-ice passes with a nice smooth motion that freezes the defense, but his best asset might be his accurate shot. He doesn’t have the bazooka from the point that teams tend to crave, but he’s very good at getting the puck through coverage, which is the most important asset for an offensive-minded defender.
His best game this season came against the Colombus Blue Jackets, and his best play, in my opinion, came on his goal in the game. He gets the puck at the point surveys the ice and threads the needle to get his team back into the game.
Even though Clendening has been good, I don’t see him staying in the lineup when Staal is ready to get back on the ice. Personally, I’ve always been of the mindset that defensemen should be strong in their end before anything else, and to this point, Clendening hasn’t shown the ability to be entirely reliable in that department.
It seems to me that he will be more of an offensive specialist in his career than anything else. I suspect that he’ll get into the lineup once in a while to give Kevin Klein and Dan Girardi breaks, but not much more than that.