Is it time to switch up the defensive pairings?

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - APRIL 09: K'Andre Miller #79 of the New York Rangers (L) celebrates his third period goal against the New York Islanders and is joined by Jacob Trouba #8 (R) at Nassau Coliseum on April 09, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - APRIL 09: K'Andre Miller #79 of the New York Rangers (L) celebrates his third period goal against the New York Islanders and is joined by Jacob Trouba #8 (R) at Nassau Coliseum on April 09, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Throughout the past two seasons, the New York Rangers have rolled out the same top four when they’re healthy. The pairings they have deployed have mostly worked well but can they be improved upon?

All Ranger fans know that the defense currently consists of a top pair of Ryan Lindgren and Adam Fox, a second pair of K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba, and a third pair that has had several combinations.

Lindgren and Fox together have consistently been outstanding, dating back to their rookie season in 2019-20. However, the other pair in the top four may not be holding up their end of the bargain anymore.

Last season, both of these pairs played well. Lindgren and Fox were of course fantastic, while Miller and Trouba complemented each other nicely. At 5 v 5, Fox and Lindgren were on the ice for 33 goals for, and just 17 against, generating a goals percentage of 66 percent. This placed them fifth in the NHL among any defensive pair to play at least 300 minutes. (all stats from

Meanwhile, Miller and Trouba had a goals percentage of 58 percent, also very good, 24th in the NHL.  It was the easiest of decisions for Gerard Gallant to step in and run back the same pairings. Anyone with common sense would.

The pairings this year haven’t been actively bad, however they have regressed. Lindgren and Fox have still been phenomenal ranking sixth in the NHL with a 62.5%  goals percentage (once again min. 300 minutes). On the other hand, Miller and Trouba have gone down to a percentage of 48.8%. While the number is lower, they are 26th overall in the NHL, almost the same as last season.

Once again, these pairings have been good this year. The Rangers are 25-10-4. You don’t post that record without your top two pairings being at least decent. However, the team is extremely reliant on its goaltending and special teams. Those are the recipes for success in this league. But they should be searching for anyway to evolve their play at even strength.

Having Lindgren and Fox on the top pair makes this corps very top heavy. Would they benefit more from balancing the pairings out?


Many would likely agree that K’Andre Miller has been the weaker link on the second pair. Jacob Trouba has assumed the role of physicality and point production that the team has asked of him. While his cap hit of $8 million is still too high, he has been everything Ranger fans could ask for. Miller has hit a bit of a sophomore slump, and has been guilty of some costly errors recently.

Miller is still only 21 years old and as a rookie, he logged over 21 minutes of ice time. It is unrealistic for him to be perfect. There are going to be speed bumps. Playing alongside Adam Fox could help ease the pain from this current speed bump.

Miller has not utilized the size that he has to the degree he should. Could that be because he has Trouba as a safety net standing alongside him? More physicality from Miller could help him unlock his potential on the defensive side of the puck. Playing with Fox may encourage him to use his body more.

We know the skills that Miller holds, and that he can be capable of so much. We’ve seen several flashes of this in his first 92 career games. He came in as an extremely raw prospect, so it is encouraging that he has progressed at this rate. If he plays with last year’s Norris Trophy winner, it could be a step towards him reaching his ceiling as a player.

Lindgren – Trouba

It is hard envisioning Lindgren playing next to anyone but Fox who has been his partner since their days on the U.S. National Development Team in 2014. He could compliment Trouba quite nicely, though. Trouba’s last season in Winnipeg (2018-19) was undoubtedly the best of his career. He played all 82 games and posted eight goals along with 42 assists for a total of 50 points. True, he was quarterbacking the power play at the time, but he still posted 29 points at even strength.

Throughout that 2018-19 season, he played with Josh Morrissey as his partner. Morrissey was very defensively responsible so it allowed Trouba to have a longer leash offensively and put more points on the board.

Last season Trouba appeared to play a more conservative, defensive minded game. This was likely an attempt to provide the rookie Miller with more protection. This season, he has taken more risks offensively and it has lead to a ton of goal generation while he’s on the ice. But Trouba’s offensive forays have put more defensive pressure on Miller and their overall defense has suffered.

Pairing Trouba with the epitome of a stay-at-home defenseman like Lindgren could allow him to play like the player he is. He could unlock his complete two-way game. Trouba and Lindgren would punish any opponent attempting to cross the blue line.

Patrik Nemeth and Braden Schneider appear to be the bottom pair for the foreseeable future. They’ve only had two games together, so there isn’t much to evaluate there.

It is scary to separate the dynamic duo of Lindgren and Fox, but if new pairings go awry, they can always be switched back to the way they were. It may be worth a shot for Gallant to toy with them in some way to advance the teams 5v5 production. Will he do it? We shall see.

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