As the NHL offseason continues to suck the life out of the hockey fans till October, there are topics that can manifest themselves. One of those is reflection. We can look back at the past season and find the good and bad of our team, in this case, the New York Rangers.
Oh, those lovable worker-bees: Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan McDonagh, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Carl Hagelin, and so on. Their names have become second-nature in our daily lives. Through their successes on and off the ice, they gave us reason to look forward and eagerly wait what is to come in October and beyond.
But with the good, comes the bad.
Whether it was a trade of a beloved player or the “free will” of another to seek success elsewhere via free agency, transactions like these leave a sour taste in a fan’s mouth.
However, some are for the better.
It’s an opportunity for both sides to start fresh, both for the player and the team. Chances spring up for others to take advantage of and succeed in.
After many trade rumors, the New York Rangers finally acted on the young defenseman. The former first round draft pick was dealt to the Nashville Predators, in an exchange of blue liners. The 29 year old veteran, Kevin Klein, came back in the trade. Michael Del Zotto packed his bags and headed for the Music City.
In a way it was a fresh start for Del Zotto, who had been heavily criticized by fans for his play on the ice.
Early in his career, the future was bright.
In two of his first three seasons on Broadway, Michael Del Zotto saw his highest scoring marks as a professional. During his rookie season, he amassed 37 points (nine goals, 28 assists) in 80 games played. Two seasons later, Del Zotto earned 41 points (10 goals and 31 assists) in 77 games played.
Unfortunately, his offensive production declined the next two seasons. He found the coaches’ dog house with former head coach John Torterella and Alain Vigneault. Del Zotto bounced between the Rangers’ then AHL affiliate Connecticut Whale and the big club. Unfortunately, he had a hard time finding his game. He became a liability to the team. Lapses in judgement on the defensive end, not being physical enough, making the stretch pass at inopportune times, pinching in the offensive zone at wrong times of the game. All of this lead to the fall of Del Zotto’s career in New York.
Perhaps the straw that broke the camel’s back was the trade acquisition of left-handed defenseman John Moore from the Columbus Blue Jackets, during the 2012-2013 season.
Current New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault decided to pair Michael Del Zotto and with Moore on defense. Both players were offensively-minded and liked to jump into the play. Problem was neither was able to stay back and guard against the breakout or one-on-one plays. Again, poor judgment on Del Zotto’s end caused poor play. And it showed. At times, things seemed so bad for him that he played tentatively.
At that point, there was nothing left for the Rangers and Del Zotto to do but seek a trade.
Enter Kevin Klein, formerly of the Nashville Predators.
The eight-year veteran made a name for himself as a “defense first” minded player on the blue line. Head coach Alain Vigneault liked his play on both ends of the ice. He could jump into the offensive zone and help out the forwards, but could also stay at home on the defensive side, his primary responsibility. He would eventually be paired with John Moore forming the third pair of defensemen for the Rangers.
Since the trade, Kevin Klein proved to be an asset for the team.
According to NHL.com, he amassed six points (one goal and five assists) in 30 games with the Blueshirts. But importantly, he was a +6 with 0 penalty minutes. For the first half of the season with the Predators, he had three points (one goal and two assists). He doubled his point production in New York.
During the playoffs, Klein racked up four points (one goal, three assists), while maintaining a team leading +7 in the plus/minus category. He was second on the team in hits with 53, behind teammate Dan Girardi’s 80.
Looking back at the trade, you would have to say New York benefitted the most.
Not only were they able to balance their defensive pairings with left- and right-handed shots on both sides of the ice, but helped solidify a liability on defense. Klein offers veteran presence and maturity to the Ranger blue line.
Also, the team was able to wash their hands of the Michael Del Zotto fiasco. So much angst and stress were put on the shoulders of the young defenseman and Ranger fans. No more trade rumors, no more calling for his head.
While Kevin Klein has enjoyed stability in New York, the same could not be said for Michael Del Zotto. He is still searching for the right fit. He was let go by the Predators this offseason. However, he was given a chance by the rival Philadelphia Flyers. Hopefully, Del Zotto can realize his potential and regain his scoring touch, which made him a star early in his career.
If not, then it’s going to spell bad news for him in the city of Brotherly Love.