After Artemi Panarin, the marquee acquisition for the New York Rangers last summer was Jacob Trouba. He was the stud defenseman the Rangers had lacked since trading Ryan McDonagh and he was the guy who would anchor the defense for years.
When it came to Jacob Trouba, New York Rangers fans had been salivating over him for years. His desire to get out of Winnipeg had been well documented after a series of holdouts and arbitrations. When Jeff Gorton traded Neal Pionk and a first round draft pick for Trouba, Ranger fans crowed and Jets fans howled.
The Rangers then went out and avoided salary arbitration, giving Trouba a seven-year, $56 million contract with an annual cap hit of $8 million. Expectations were high.
On a pure statistical basis, Trouba had a good year. He played more minutes than any other Ranger, averaging 22:34 minutes per game. He led the team in hits with 173, 74 more than any other defenseman.
Offensively, he didn’t come close to his performance in his last season in Winnipeg. His 27 points were just over half of his total in 2018-19. This season he scored seven goals and added 20 assists. However, with the offensive prowess of Tony DeAngelo and Adam Fox, Trouba’s offense was not what he was needed for, it was shutdown defense.
Critics will point to Trouba’s plus/minus rating of -12, worst of any defenseman on the team. But consider that Trouba is the defenseman who is on the ice when defense is needed most. Only 29.1% of his zone starts were in the offensive zone. He had 264 defensive zone starts, compared to 165 for Adam Fox and 135 for Tony DeAngelo. Considering the team’s inability to win a majority of faceoffs, defensive zone starts are a recipe for a negative plus/minus.
It doesn’t count towards plus/minus, but on special teams Trouba was one of the go-to defensemen along with Marc Staal and Ryan Lindgren. He spent more time on the penalty kill than any other blueliner.
If there was one area that Trouba has an issue is his shot accuracy. He led all Ranger defensemen in shot attempts with 333. 168 of them ended up on goal, a 50.5% accuracy percentage. DeAngelo was on goal 56.1%, Adam Fox was on goal 51.5% and Brady Skjei was on goal 57.7% of the time. Shots on goal create rebound opportunities and Fox and DeAngelo created more rebounds than Trouba while taking fewer shots.
One area that doesn’t stand out statistically is Trouba’s physical play. He is a big, tough player with a nasty streak. In Trouba and Ryan Lindgren, the Rangers have a pair of tough defensemen who will make players on other teams think twice when entering the Rangers’ zone. That factor cannot be accounted for in advanced analytics. .
While Trouba’s season doesn’t stand out statistically, for the most part, he fulfilled his mission and the expectation has to be that he will get better every year.