I'll admit it; Steve Eminger grew on me as the year went on. The 27-year-old defenseman out of Ontario, Canada was not a favorite of mine or many other fans at the beginning of the season. He was taking away a roster spot from Matt Gilroy and didn't seem like a good fit on this team or with head coach John Tortorella.
However, Emmy's physical play kept him in the lineup and he eventually would prove that he had some capability of playing the position. Whether that will be enough for GM Glen Sather to want to re-sign the unrestricted free agent this summer is just another question on a very long list that the Ranger brass must address moving forward.
In 65 games played with the Blueshirts this season, Eminger compiled two goals and four assists for 6 total points. He was also a minus-5 rating during that time, which was the worst among all Ranger defensemen this season. But he wasn't brought to New York to be a first pairing defenseman. Instead, he was acquired as a seventh D, or a spare, and that's what he was.
Eminger, at times, would be a healthy scratch for long stretches. I did not read anything on him complaining once. When he was re-entered into the lineup, you couldn't tell that he was scratched prior to that night just by watching him play his game. While his game isn't perfect (whose is?), it was always consistent, regardless of whether he played the night before or three weeks ago.
Another thing that stands out with Eminger is that he is comfortable playing both the left and right sides on defense. That means that he could easily fill any of the top six defensemen's spots when need be, so perhaps he is of more value to John Tortorella than many think. Again, he is not here to drop jaws; he is simply an extra or a replacement. You must keep that in mind.
Eminger's physical play is definitely a plus because he never wastes an opportunity to line someone up. Not only that, but a veteran like himself throwing around the body sets a good example for his younger mates on the blue-line. However, sometimes Eminger would get caught by trying to make the hit before the defensive play. That often left him out of position and stranded, which is one of many things that Torts often criticizes in his postgame assessments with the media.
With Eminger you have to take the good with the bad. Again, he is not anything spectacular, but he fills his need on the team. When he was asked to step into a role with greater responsibility, Steve often rose to the occasion. Depending on what happens with Matt Gilroy, who the Rangers will have to make a qualifying offer to keep around, Eminger may find himself re-signed for next season. Although, Glen Sather has many options and may pursue them in the free agent market before locking down with Emmy.