In recent years, the New York Rangers became notorious for their strong defensive play. Potent offenses of the time would be silenced as the strong red, white, and blue defensive corps would prevent even the best from having much success. It was quite exciting seeing such a cohesive unit excelling on almost a nightly basis during some of those deep playoff runs just several years ago.
A Once Solid, Cohesive Unit
New York had a very strong defensive group which was led by the likes of Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Anton Stralman, and Kevin Klein. Between the years of 2011-2015 or so, the Rangers were up there as one of the most stifling defensive squads around. The mentality of blocking shots and taking one for the team was deeply instilled into these guys’ heads during the days when John Tortorella was at the helm.
Another added perk was the scoring touch they possessed. Over the years, guys like Girardi, Staal, McDonagh, etc. had scored some pretty big-time goals and assists. So while they could go into a strong defensive shell in many scenarios, they also had the ability to bury a crucial goal when called upon.
Unfortunately, the preceding head coach Alain Vigneault didn’t ingrain the ideology of “defense creates your offense” into the heads of the incoming players. As a result, the once-dominant defense eventually began to deteriorate. Even with Vigneault gone and David Quinn taking over the head coaching responsibilities, the defense has lacked a stable presence in quite some time. This is where Tony DeAngelo enters the conversation.
DeAngelo Bringing Back Stability
Since the midway point of the 2018-19 regular season, DeAngelo has become a consistent, steady presence for this young Rangers defensive unit. He is currently on the third and final defensive pairing with Libor Hajek. While that may seem like a negative for him, it isn’t as bad as you would think. From what I can gather, DeAngelo is on the lower pairing so he can teach younger players like Hajek on how to become a successful defender at the professional level.
It’s not a bad tactic that coach Quinn is trying to employ by mentoring and instilling confidence in his young defensive corps. DeAngelo has been around long enough to be a good model to follow. While some may say that he has been a bit erratic with his defending ability, he certainly makes up for it with his scoring touch, which is an aspect that has been missing for quite some time in Broadway.
This year alone, he has produced seven goals and 19 points in 26 games played. His point total ranks him at 15th among all active defensemen in the NHL at this time. That’s not bad considering the Rangers have been looking for someone with a scoring touch in their defensive unit. It makes the Rangers’ offense more versatile and will create some headaches for opposing teams to have that extra element to deal with when going up against them.
He truly began making his mark with the Rangers dating back to early February of last season. Between Feb. 4 through April 5, he compiled 18 points and a plus-two rating in 29 games played. That put him 16th among all defensemen in the league during that particular stretch. Even though his plus/minus rating may not have been as high as some would like, we can’t ignore the contributions he made towards New York’s offensive efforts during the last eight months of 2019.
DeAngelo Providing Substance to Young Corps
DeAngelo provides an added dimension to New York. This, in turn, has made opponents think twice before setting a game-plan when squaring off against the Rangers. He was more of a utility defensemen when he first arrived in the Big Apple. As time has worn on though, DeAngelo has earned the trust of his head coach to be used on a nightly basis for the Rangers. He has become a cornerstone piece to the defense as New York continues to find more solid members to create a unified unit for their future. So far, he and teammate Jacob Trouba fall into that category with a few other names that are on the fringe of joining them.
DeAngelo is one of the veterans of this squad at just 24. He came into the league at a very young age and has gained the experience necessary to lead the way for the rest of the team. Guys like Hajek and Adam Fox will benefit greatly by learning how DeAngelo has found success while playing on Broadway. The sky seems to be the limit for him as he looks to continue to rise with the rest of the scoring defensemen out there.
He does have to improve on his defending just a little to make him the complete package, but at such a young age I believe he can get there in due time. I certainly did not expect DeAngelo to be where he is right now when he first came to New York in 2017. Since then, he has matured from his days in Arizona and is becoming more and more of a household name. There still is a lot of work to be done but let’s take a minute and appreciate what this young man has been able to accomplish up to this point.
If all goes well, the Rangers might have found one of the first pieces to successfully rebuilding their defense. After recently losing guys like Girardi, McDonagh, Stralman, and Klein, this is one of many shining beacons of hope for the Blueshirt faithful. It could very well be the beginning of another era in New York if DeAngelo continues to trend in the right direction like he has been doing so as of late. Only time will tell if it pans out, but I have a hunch that it will be a very pleasant experience for Rangers fans.