The time has come for me to play Professor and give all of our players their season grades. This will be a three part series, starting with the Defensive unit consisting of all of the Defensemen the Rangers had from their playoff roster, and including our two goaltenders. The second part will come tomorrow in which I will grade the forwards; and the third part will come on Monday in which I grade any player that played a part of the season with the Rangers, but did not play on their playoff roster. The players are in alphabetical order, and with all that said please do enjoy and comment.
- #5 - Daniel Girardi (Age: 25) - Grade: B
Let's get one thing straight, Dan Girardi is the Rangers #2 D-man in my book. I see him as a Defensive Defenseman with a little offensive flair. If I had one word to describe Girardi's season, I would call it sporadic. I don't think he was inconsistent, just more like all over the place at some times. The situation with Girardi is if you notice him that means he made a mistake. He is solid overall on Defense along with the breakout. If he is having a good game, you rarely notice him because it is mistake-free. That's how it goes with Defensive D-men. Either way, I thought Dan had a solid third season with the Blueshirts despite a -14 +/- rating and 53 penalty minutes. He put on a lot of weight coming into this season, so I think he will be better acclimated to his body come September 2009.
- #27 - Paul Mara (Age: 29) - Grade: C+
Paul Mara had his best season with the Rangers in 2008-2009. With 21 points and a +2 rating, Mara was a rock all season playing in 76 games as well. I gave Mara a C+ because of his liabilities in the Rangers own zone. He skates well for his size, but at the same time he took almost 100 penalty minutes (94), which most were to the effect of interference, hooking, or tripping because of his lack of agility in tight spaces. He has the raw skills to be a Power-Play QB, but he just doesn't execute. Mara is a UFA this summer, and I expect the Rangers to at least try and bring him back.
- #53 - Derek Morris (Age: 30) - Grade: C
When Morris was traded to the Rangers, the Blueshirt Faithful were told that we were getting a veteran D-man who played an aggressive style and had a big shot from the blue-line. Well, I saw neither of those out of Morris in the 18 season and 7 playoff games he played with the Rangers. He had 8 assists and a plus 3 rating in the season with the Rangers, along with 2 helpers in the playoffs. Overall, I just felt like Morris wasn't a difference maker on a Defensive squad that could have used one, especially after the trade deadline.
- #6 - Wade Redden (Age: 31) - Grade: C
Glen Sather paid Wade Redden $307,692.31 per point he scored this regular season. His point total dropped for the third season in a row to 26, and only added 3 goals all season. He accumulated a -5 rating, and confirmed all reports that he is having major troubles adjusting to the new pace of the NHL since the lockout. Redden improved his play in the playoffs, which was a nice surprise and encouraging. Hopefully in a more-aggressive system next season, Redden could find some old form and earn some of his ridiculous contract money.
- #33 - Michal Rozival (Age: 30) - Grade: C+
Rozival had a dip in production this season, only netting 8 goals with 22 assists for 30 points and a -7 rating. He was virtually invisible offensively in the playoffs, but he did have to deal with some injury troubles and played well in his own end. 2008-2009 was supposed to be a big season for Rozival, and as I stated with the dip in production he was a bit of a disappointment. I could see a new offensive system benefitting Rozival and returning him to some old form, but he will have to work hard to prove his worth with young Ranger defensive prospects waiting for their chances.
- #18 - Marc Staal (Age: 22) - Grade: A
The best Defenseman on the roster, hands down. In his second full season with the Blueshirts, Marc Staal proved that he is worth his weight in gold. He added five more points this season for 15 total, with 3 goals and 12 assists and a -7 rating. The stats aren't official yet, but I would venture a guess that he led the Defensive core in ice-time, and spent most of the season guarding the opposing teams top offensive gun. Sportsnet.ca describes Staal's career potential as a "Shutdown Defenseman" and I thought Staal was just that for the Rangers in 2008-2009.
- #30 - Henrik Lundqvist (Age: 27) - Grade: A
Henrik Lundqvist performed the best of all Rangers during the 2008-2009 season. Career high in Wins: check. Typical GAA less than 2.5: check. Save Percentage over .915: check. You get the idea, King Henrik's rule did not lessen in '08-'09. Along with this, everyone knows Henrik basically won us the three playoff games against the Capitals, and he kept us in Game 7 for 55 minutes. And as I've said before, the Rangers have an elite NHL goaltender who could really dominate with some scoring support. It's all on you, Glen Sather.
- #40 - Stephen Valiquette (Age: 31) - Grade: A
What can you really nitpick about with Valiquette? He started 12 games this season in lieu of King Henrik and went 5-5-2 with a GAA well under 3. Valiquette provides what every back-up goaltender should provide for a team; confidence when the head man goes down for one reason or another. I personally have always been high on Steve. I like his style and I think that if he was given a shot earlier in his career he could have stolen a job from someone. He is an Unrestricted Free Agent, and I really hope that Sather retains him because of his character along with the confidence he provides as one of the most quality backup goaltenders in the league.
So thats that. Overall, the Defense has an average of a B (3.0), and I think that is about right. You could argue a B+ becuase of the penalty killing, but without an elite goaltender like Lundqvist, this Ranger defense would not get as much credit as it slides by on. Look for parts two and three coming up soon.