Ryan McDonagh was traded to the New York Rangers in a deal that sent Scott Gomez over to the Montreal Canadiens in 2009. (What a steal, eh?) Three years into the league he has already established himself as one of the best defensemen in the league. He is ranked up there in the “elite” category among shutdown defensemen. Now it’s time for him to shine in an offensive role.
Ryan McDonagh is what you call “the entire package”. He has all-around ability as a defenseman. Literally. He can defend elite forwards, skate extremely well, make perfect passes, ability to create plays and can most certainly shoot the puck. With the unfortunate injury to Marc Staal, McDonagh has been relied on heavily earning big time minutes with Dan Girardi and becoming one of the best shutdown pairings in the league. With Staal possibly returning this fall, it could mean that McDonagh is ready to take on a more offensive task along with his shutdown abilities. McDonagh has thrived under the defensive system that John Tortorella created. With the emergence of Alain Vigneault you can expect McDonagh to get an opportunity to truly show what he is capable of.
Crunching some numbers: When Vigneault coached in Vancouver he relied heavily on top pairing defenseman Alex Edler to produce from an offensive standpoint. That included power play time, plentiful of minutes and offensive zone starts. Edler received an average of 3:35 power play time over the past few seasons and also was top five in power play minutes among the team in each years calculated. McDonagh only saw 0:25 seconds on average in the past three seasons. However, that isn’t saying he isn’t capable of not playing the power play because with his talent, he is fully capable. It’s just that he was relied on defensively more often. With Michael Del Zotto earning over 2:00 minutes of power play time on average, McDonagh was still able to score just as many goals with a smaller offensive role. That says a lot right there about McDonagh as a player.
Vigneault has stated that he is going to let his players take a chance if it means scoring a goal and he will most likely have no problem letting McDonagh do his thing. He is one of the smartest players on the team and his instincts are superior to his other teammates on defense. He knows when to join a rush, when to pinch, when to shoot and when to pass. Not only that he has some pretty good stick skills for a defenseman. (See the toe-drag vs.. Washington)
To conclude, giving McDonagh a shot on a more offensive role couldn’t hurt, heck, it may even propel some offense on the power play which is much needed for this team. To shelter McDonagh’s full potential would be a huge mistake because watching him play you can clearly see he has that next level inside him. He just needs a chance.