By William McInerney
I have an idea that is going to sound a little bit unorthodox, maybe even a little crazy. I’ll be honest, I laughed at myself when it first popped into my head, but I can’t get rid of it. I’m not saying it’s what the New York Rangers should do, but it is something they should absolutely consider. So, the only thing I ask is that you read my reasons and logic before you tweet me and tell me I’m totally insane or an absolute moron or whatever. I promise this isn’t just to get a reaction, and that there is an explanation as to why the Rangers should consider this.
The Rangers should think very seriously about dressing five defensemen and 13 forwards for the remainder of their series against the Ottawa Senators.
I know that isn’t exactly something that happens very often, and I get that it will put a decent amount of strain on the defensemen who dress. But there are some positives that would come out of this alignment.
Let’s start with the forwards. The top 11 have been set, with Pavel Buchnevich and Tanner Glass rotating as the 12th forward. I am of the belief (as is most of the fan base) that Buchnevich is significantly better and deserves to be in the lineup every game. That being said, and as much as we like to dump on him, Glass has done his job (hitting, battling for pucks) very well, and most importantly, he hasn’t made any crippling mistakes that have cost the team goals. He’s not the most skilled player out there, but he’s done his job very well. Buchnevich should still be playing ahead of Glass, but it would be wrong not to mention Glass has done his job well.
The defense, on the other hand, has been a problem all season, and this hasn’t changed in the playoffs. The Rangers top three defensemen, Ryan McDonagh, Brady Skjei and Brendan Smith, have all been excellent. McDonagh has once again done an amazing job of controlling the game when he’s been on the ice. Smith has been a lockdown defensive defenseman. Skjei has had an amazing preseason, just dominating the game on both ends of the ice, really taking control.
Coming into the playoffs, everyone knew those three would be fine. They’re all so good that nobody is surprised by how well they’ve played.
What has been surprising is Dan Girardi. A lot has been made of his struggles the last two year, and rightfully so. Last year and most of this year he was awful. But in the playoffs, he’s turned it up. He isn’t what he was 5-6 years ago when he was a legitimate shutdown defenseman, but he’s played solid hockey. He’s blocking shots, hitting people, and most importantly, making smart plays with the puck. Often during the season, he seemed to be playing in a fog when he touched the puck, but he’s making the smart, simple plays and it’s working. He’s played well enough to stay in the lineup.
The fifth defenseman is where it gets a little more complicated, and frankly it’s the reason I suggest moving to five defensemen. The choices are Marc Staal, Nick Holden, Adam Clendening (who frankly can’t be trusted in the defensive zone any more than a five-year-old can), Kevin Klein and Steven Kampfer. In a word, yikes.
The idea of having one of these two in the lineup is tough; having two in the lineup is just horrible to watch. However, there is just no physical way to go to four defensemen. Your defensemen would get way too tired.
Assuming this group is going to be limited to either Holden or Staal playing, as they’re the only two who have appeared in a playoff game this year, which do you go with? Frankly it doesn’t matter, they both suck and it’s going to be hard to watch either of them. That said, I’d probably go Holden for the simple reason that Staal has a history of injuries, and you absolutely don’t want an injury when you’re playing a defenseman short already. So, I’d go Holden as my fifth defensemen, and dress both Glass and Buchnevich as forwards.
Is it a risky move? Of course. But there is logic behind it, and with how bad Staal and Holden have been so far in the playoffs, what do you really have to lose? It’s not like the two of them have helped at all, while Glass and Buchnevich both have.