Our own John Williams wrote earlier today about why the Michael Del Zotto for Kevin Klein trade was a wise transaction by the New York Rangers. While John provides plenty of compelling evidence in his favor, let’s look at the opposing opinion. The trade was a mistake the Rangers should want back.
Michael Del Zotto is a 26 year old top four defenseman with over 150 points to his name already. Kevin Klein is a 32 year old bottom pair defenseman with under 150 points to his name thus far.
The New York Rangers tapped Del Zotto’s potential, then threw him through the ringer. First it was John Tortorella going from using Del Zotto as the lone defenseman in 3 on 3 play to refusing to trust the enigmatic defenseman. Tortorella famously played Del Zotto 43:33 in the Rangers triple overtime victory over the Washington Capitals in the 2012 postseason.
However, Tortorella lost trust in Del Zotto in 2013, then lost his job. Next it was Alain Vigneault, a coach with admiration for stay at home defensemen, attempting to use Del Zotto to the best of his abilities. Vigneault predictably failed, blaming the defenseman for failing to adapt to his style of play. The Rangers shipped Del Zotto away for a defenseman of Vigneault’s liking, the predictable, at the time steady Kevin Klein.
Klein helped lead the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final, while Del Zotto struggled his way to a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers. With that, it would be simple to assume the Rangers made the correct decision.
However, Del Zotto’s offensive abilities are rare among defensemen, as are his puck-moving attributes. Del Zotto represents the type of defenseman the Rangers do not have other than Ryan McDonagh, a defensively adequate defenseman with an offensive mind. Kevin Klein represents the type of defenseman the Rangers have far too many of, an offensively inept, overpaid “defensive” defenseman.
Del Zotto predictably rekindled his offensive game with the Flyers, earning regular power-play time and a top four role. Klein predictably decline as time went on, now serving as an expensive liability on defense. New York traded the potential of Del Zotto for the inability to develop in Klein.
The move blatantly catered to Alain Vigneault’s inability to understand defensive talent. This trait has plagued the Rangers in recent seasons, as New York’s defensemen fail to produce any offense. With that, New York began the trend that led to Anton Stralman being allowed to leave in free agency.
All things considered, the Rangers would have been better off understanding Vigneault was the problem. Coaches must adapt, and Vigneault adapting would have been far more valuable than the trade New York made. Instead, Del Zotto is thriving in Philadelphia, Klein is struggling in New York, and Vigneault continues to misunderstand defensive talent.
When the Rangers play the Flyers tonight, one aspect of the game will be noticeable. The Rangers could use a defenseman like Michael Del Zotto.