By William McInerney
Two weeks ago, Kevin Klein announced his retirement from the NHL. He has since signed with the ZSC Lions of the National League in Switzerland, where he will continue his hockey career. Klein played for three and a half years with the New York Rangers after being acquired from the Predators for Michael Del Zotto.
The book on Klein when he got to New York was he was a defensive defenseman, who didn’t provide much offense but could ultimately lock down forwards and be an effective defender. Which made sense, considering he played in Nashville’s defensive group who were very good at scoring points and only cracked 20 points once.
However, in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, he put up identical 9-17-26 seasons for the Rangers. He got some important points for the Rangers, and became known for his ability to score clutch goals, especially in overtime. He seemed like a steal in that trade with Nashville, and I would still argue he was considering all the Rangers gave up was Del Zotto.
But Klein struggled after returning from a back injury in the 2015-16 season. He wasn’t scoring at the same rate, and he struggled to defend as well. His speed was obviously down, and while he was still willing to play physical he couldn’t quite play as physical as before. In his last year with the Rangers, his point production fell to 3-11-14, and he continued to struggle defensively.
By the playoffs, the Rangers had made a few upgrades to the defensive group, and Klein was often a healthy scratch. He only played one game, and despite picking up an assist still struggled.
He clearly struggled after his back injury, and I believe the injury was a major reason as to why he struggled this past season. He could no longer jump up to join the rush offensively, nor could he keep up with top offensive players anymore.
Klein was a very good player for the Rangers, who gave the team two of his best seasons. For most of his tenure he was a solid defenseman who helped the penalty kill a lot and provided some unexpected offense. He won’t make any Rangers Hall of Fame lists, but he was a mostly effective player who was an important piece on some very good Rangers teams. He’ll be remembered for his clutch overtime goals more than anything else.