Imagine you are 27 years old, one of the best American born defenders in hockey, and the proud captain of an Original Six franchise. Now look to your left as an opposing winger rushes down the boards, you go to close the gap thinking -knowing- your partner will be there to cover your move. The puck carrier looks to your right and tosses the puck to his open teammate, you look over to see your defense partner is flat on his stomach sprawled out of position and the opposing team has an easy opening to the goal. You look up at the dazzling lights of the arena and you just ask yourself one question
This is the tale of Ryan McDonagh’s 2015-16 season with the New York Rangers
The Numbers: Goals: 9 (+1), Assists: 25 (0), Points: 34 (+1), and 47.7% CF in 73 (+2) games played. (All numbers courtesy of Hockey-Reference and at even strength, change from last year in parentheses)
The Story: The story of Ryan McDonagh’s 2015-16 season is one that is, essentially, one of sadness and frustration. One of the best defensemen in the NHL is seeing some of his prime years wasted playing next to one of the worst defensemen in the NHL for almost 22 minutes a night. Throw in the concussion, neck/jaw issues, as well as the damaged hand and you have a very uneven season for the Rangers captain.
The smooth skating two-way defenseman came into his second season as Rangers captain looking to bounce back from what could be considered an off year after his breakout 2013-14 campaign. With Keith Yandle added to the blue line for a full year, the thoughts and dreams of a Keith Yandle-Ryan McDonagh pairing danced through the heads of Rangers fans everywhere.
Keith Yandle and Ryan McDonagh ended up playing only 45 minutes together at even strength.
Unfortunately for our sanity, Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi were paired together for over 1,200 minutes of even strength ice time. The results were not pretty, on any front. A combined 42.5% CF at evens is glaringly bad, seeing Ryan McDonagh having to cover essentially two positions as well as take more protective measures with the puck instead of use that beautiful skating stride to rush the play up the ice was painful. To add injury to insult, McDonagh suffered a concussion as well a neck/jaw injury after he was punched by Flyers left wing Wayne Simmonds in February that sidelined the Rangers captain for almost two weeks of action.
No matter how hard McDonagh tried, he hasn’t been able to recover the form he had in 2013-14 when he was playing with Anton Stralman and was allowed to play his own game and not have to worry about his defense partner not being able to cover him on pinches or in gap control.
Final Grade: B-
It is hard for me to grade McDonagh as a lot of his performance is weighed down by the fact that he has to overcompensate for having such an anchor for a partner. It is clear that Girardi brings down McDonagh’s game and with no real relief in sight, it appears that this will only continue for the Rangers captain.