The number of bad “breaks” the Rangers have had this season is abnormally high. The newest addition to the injured list would be Michael Del Zotto, who was just recently sent down at the trading deadline. Del Zotto was slashed on his hand in the Connecticut Whale game last night and the team announced today that he suffered a broken finger. The reported timetable for his return is 4-6 weeks. Obviously, there are the effects on Del Zotto’s development itself as well as the adjustment the Rangers have to make:
Del Zotto- This just about ends his regular season. If Connecticut makes the playoffs then he’ll hopefully be back in time for that. Overall, this is a miserable end to a miserable season for Del Zotto. He certainly could have used the time in the minors to settle his game down and gain some confidence. This is a valuable opportunity that he’s going to be missing out on. While Del Zotto’s season was pretty putrid, that doesn’t mean it was worthless, Rangers fans. We need to realize that top prospects such as Michael Del Zotto have coasted through their hockey careers. They are used to dominating their peers. In the case of Del Zotto, after tearing up lower level leagues as a 14-15 year old, and was the 2nd overall pick in the OHL priority draft. He’s a guy who was nominated to the OHL all-star game as a 16 year old, the first player that young to ever receive such an honor. He’s a guy who spent his whole OHL career with John Tavares in front of him. He’s a guy that was drafted in the first round of the NHL draft, made the NHL as a 19 year old, and had moderate success in his rookie season. Point being, players of Del Zotto’s caliber are not used to adversity. For this reason, this season is not at all a total waste. It serves as a reality check for Del Zotto. He’s no longer better than everyone else. He’s not going to succeed simply because of his speed or his shot. He’s going to have to work hard just to get back into the NHL, and then work even harder then in order to become a quality player. Though Del Zotto complained to both Tortorella and the media when he was initially sent down earlier in the year, he took what the coaching staff in Connecticut had to say to heart and came back up with more perspective. This year is no significant setback on Del Zotto’s career. Aside from the truly elite players, most NHL players had to overcome some adversity to really make it. It took Bryan McCabe multiple teams before he truly got his game together. Look how many times Michael Sauer failed before he ultimately succeeded this season. We need to be patient with Del Zotto’s development.
Rangers- With Del Zotto hurt, the current defensive core can feel pretty safe about their roster spot for the rest of the season. According to Laurie Carr of Beyond The Blueshirts, Pavel Valentenko, who was acquired in the Gomez trade from Montreal, would be next in line for call-ups if it came down to it. Granted, with Staal coming back tonight the Rangers have 7 healthy d-men on the roster right now, so it’s doubtful that Valentenko is going to be needed. However, with the way this team has compiled injuries, you never know.
Chad Johnson- In other news, the Rangers did make the switch at backup goaltender that I anticipated would happen in my previous goaltending article. Chad Johnson was called up, with Cameron Talbot being sent back down. Surely the Rangers are more confident in Johnson’s ability to help this team win despite his struggles this year simply because he’s had a taste of the NHL before and had moderate success in his few games last year. Johnson is expected to start tomorrow against the Senators.