Adam Fox Is Remaining Elite Despite Rangers’ Collapse

Of the many elite defensemen in today’s NHL, few have been as consistent as Adam Fox for the New York Rangers since he entered the league in 2019-20, and while the team struggles around him, he continues to push forward and be a difference-maker every night.

Born in Jericho, New York, Fox was dealt to the Rangers from the Carolina Hurricanes before his first season and made an immediate impact, with 42 points in 70 games before the NHL’s COVID-19 shutdown. The following season, he won the Norris Trophy in a shortened 55-game campaign, tallying 47 points in 55 games.

Adam Fox New York Rangers
Adam Fox, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Fox’s consistency, despite being just 24 years old, is remarkable, but it is the style in which he plays the game that truly makes him a one-of-a-kind talent. He has a brilliant hockey mind (he played for Harvard in college), which is apparent whenever he steps onto the ice. He doesn’t have Cale Makar’s acceleration or flashiness, but his patience and timing make him just as dangerous.

Fox will lull defenders to sleep, forcing them to make the first move so that he can attack around it. He is shifty with the puck, especially along the offensive blue line, and his excellent edge work allows him to open up his stride and sneak down the boards to set up high-danger chances in the slot.

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Despite his brilliance, the 10-9-4 Rangers seem lost right now. Fox has points in 11 of his past 12 games, yet his teammates have not been able to follow suit. Despite the disappointment swirling around head coach Gerard Gallant’s Blueshirts, he will be in consideration for another Norris.

Fox Now a Point-per-Game Player

Through 23 games this season, Fox has 25 points (six goals and 19 assists). After finishing the 2021-22 season with 74 points in 78 games, the logical next step for the Rangers’ defenseman would be to reach the point-per-game mark. As his offensive numbers continue to climb, his overall play has improved, and at a time when it is easy to nitpick all the mistakes and poor play on the ice, it is Fox who continues to raise his game.

Entering Wednesday night’s meeting with the Ottawa Senators, Fox’s 25:08 of average ice time trails only Erik Karlsson, Thomas Chabot, Rasmus Dahlin, Drew Doughty, and Makar. The 24-year-old plays all facets of the game and is the focal point of the Rangers’ first power-play and penalty kill units.

He ranks second amongst NHL defensemen in points, trailing only Karlsson of the San Jose Sharks, and, impressively, most of his offense has come at even strength. His seven power-play points rank 14th among defensemen, yet he is second in the league in points. In the past, he has relied on the power play to generate points, but now he has incorporated more offense into his five-on-five play.

At all strengths, Fox has a 62.06 Corsi-for percentage (CF%), a 58.21 goals-for percentage (GF%), and a 62.96 high-danger chances-for percentage, per Natural Stat Trick. Comparing him to the other defensemen on the Rangers, his CF% is 11 percentage points higher than K’Andre Miller, who is second. He is also the only defenseman, besides Libor Hajek (50 GF%), to have a goals-for percentage of 50 percent or better.

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Right now, the Rangers’ defense leaves a lot to be desired. Fox has been the lone bright spot, playing at an elite level. This has to continue if he hopes to help pick up his struggling counterparts.

Rangers Must Take Pressure off Fox

The Rangers’ defense was poised to take a step forward this season, but their play thus far has been more like two steps back. Monday night’s 5-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils, another game in which the Blueshirts blew a multi-goal lead, was a letdown, and because of the team’s defensive struggles, Gallant rolled out Fox every other shift for the latter half of the game.

Fox finished the game with 30:04 of ice time – more than half the game – and the empty-net goal was scored, primarily because he was likely running on fumes – he had played over 25 minutes in both games before the Devils contest.

Gallant’s unwavering loyalty to play Jacob Trouba, who he has admitted is injured (per Vince Mercogliano), and refusal to offer more minutes to the younger pairing of Braden Schneider and Zac Jones has forced him to overuse Fox early on. Fox can handle major minutes, but it is unwise to wear down your top defenseman just 23 games into the season.

Jacob Trouba New York Rangers
Jacob Trouba, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Rangers need a winning streak, but they must avoid over-utilizing Fox to get it. The problem is he has been so good this season that their play dips significantly when he is not on the ice. A home-and-home with the Senators starting tonight, followed by a game against the Chicago Blackhawks, seems like the perfect time to turn the tide.

In an ideal world, the Rangers will improve in the next three games, all of which are against inferior opponents on paper. If that happens, Gallant could ease up on Fox’s playing time, hopefully preserving him for what promises to be a high-stress stretch run.

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