Rangers’ Fox Stepping Up for Struggling Defense

The New York Rangers have yet to play to their potential early this season but they do have a few key players who are off to strong starts, with Adam Fox leading the way. The 2020-21 Norris Trophy winner has excelled at both ends of the ice, which is especially important given that no other defensemen have produced offensively.

Though the Rangers will rely heavily on Fox this season, they also need other key defenders like Jacob Trouba and K’Andre Miller to start playing better too.

Fox’s Great Start

Last season, Fox finished with 11 goals and 63 assists in 78 regular season games as well as five goals and 18 assists in 20 playoff games. This season, he has picked up right where he left off and already has five goals and 14 assists in 17 games.

Adam Fox New York Rangers
Adam Fox is off to a great start for the New York Rangers this season (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Fox’s intelligence and playmaking ability have helped him consistently generate scoring opportunities for his teammates both at even strength and on the power play. He is also very shifty and elusive as demonstrated when he faked out a defender and set up Mika Zibanejad for the opening goal in an 8-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 10 and then made a spinning pass at the blue line to set up New York’s second goal of the game. Finally, in the team’s 4-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Nov. 13, he “nutmegged” an opponent and scored on a quick wrist shot.

In addition to the offense Fox provides, he is also one of the Rangers’ most reliable defenders. He consistently matches up with the opposing team’s top forwards and has played very well against them, reading plays and keeping opponents to the outside. He came up with an important blocked shot against the Coyotes when his defense partner Ryan Lindgren got caught out of position. He has also repeatedly come up with big defensive plays on the penalty kill, deflecting shots and passes, and making smart plays with the puck to kill time.

Rangers’ Issues on Defense

Though Fox is off to an excellent start at both ends of the ice, the Rangers need their other defensemen to start playing better. One issue is that collectively they have not produced offensively. Thus far this season, the Blueshirts’ six defensemen (excluding Fox) have just two goals and 13 assists in 17 games.

Related: Rangers’ Defense Needs to Step it Up

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Last season Trouba finished with 11 goals and 28 assists while Miller finished with seven goals and 13 assists. This year they each have no goals and four assists in 17 games. Trouba has a heavy slap shot but he has missed the net far too often. In the Rangers’ last few games, both he and Miller have fanned on the puck in the offensive zone a few times leading to scoring chances for their opponents.

Jacob Trouba K'Andre Miller New York Rangers
Jacob Trouba and K’Andre Miller have not played to their potential for the New York Rangers early this season (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Braden Schneider finished last season with two goals and nine assists in 43 games at just 20 years old but this season he has played very cautiously and has not looked to get involved offensively. He has no goals and two assists in 17 games. The Rangers also expected Zac Jones, Schneider’s defense partner at the start of the season, to produce offensively but he has just one goal and one assist in 11 games.

The bigger issue for the Rangers is that all of their defensemen have made too many sloppy giveaways and defensive mistakes. As a great playmaker, it’s not surprising for Fox to have some giveaways but Lindgren, Miller, and Trouba don’t have the same offensive upside and should not force risky passes that become turnovers.

For the Rangers Moving Forward

Though this is a disappointing start to the season for some of the Rangers’ defensemen, it is still early and they have time to turn it around. Lindgren, Miller, and Trouba all played very well last season, and more importantly, they continued their strong play in the postseason. As for Fox, the team just needs him to continue playing the same way. He is off to a dominant start and now it’s time for New York’s other blueliners to step up.

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