In his first season with the New York Rangers, defenseman Nick Holden experienced lots of ups and downs. What grade will he get?
As weird as this is to type, Nick Holden was one of the most pulverizing New York Rangers of 2016-2017. Holden, a defenseman acquired on the second day of the NHL Draft from the Colorado Avalanche for a fourth-round pick, had so many highs and lows this season.
His start to the season was a rocky one. He struggled mightily early on to the point where Rangers fans wondered why they acquired him in the first place. We’ve all heard the story by now about how former Avalanche coach Patrick Roy called Alain Vigneault after the deal to tell him that the Rangers acquired their best defenseman.
As the season progressed a little bit, Rangers fans began to see why he was talked up so much. By November, the 30-year-old was playing sound defensive hockey and started to put the puck in the net as well.
Holden had the best statistical season of his NHL career. He recorded his personal best marks for goals (11), assists (23), points (34), +/- (13) and PIM, (35) in 80 games. It appeared as if the Rangers absolutely robbed the Avalanche.
Then he came back down to earth.
Holden’s defense started to slowly trend downhill by the end of February. By the end of April, Holden had begun his worst stretch of defensive hockey all year long, just in time for the playoffs.
And boy, were these playoffs a time where Holden will want to forget.
Can’t Holden a lead
Holden was able to notch two goals in the playoffs–in back-to-back games nonetheless–but his defense was horrific. It got to the point where he was a complete defensive liability every time he was on the ice.
He was never in a position. When he had the puck in the defensive zone he could never skate it out or shoot it out and ended up consistently turning the puck over. This led to him and his partner, Marc Staal, being pinned into their own zone for long stretches, ultimately leading to goals.
This happened multiple times at the end of games with the lead. Alain Vigneault should never have deployed them in those situations, but they were and Holden needed to be better. Any replacement level defender could’ve been more reliable then Holden was.
Holden has one year left on his cap friendly contract with a cap hit of $1.65 million. Alain Vigneault seemed to like him so there is a chance that he stays, but since General Manager Jeff Gorton seems to want to completely revamp the defense, there is a chance Holden’s contract could be moved.
But if he stays on Broadway, he will need to be given sheltered minutes and figure out what is wrong with his defensive game.