Throughout this year there has been some talk around Rangers Town about Head Coach Alain Vigneault’s tenure. Some people really believe the results from this years’ Stanley Cup Playoffs will have implications on the AV’s “hot seat.” A lot of this discussion is due to his deployment of his lineups…especially his defensive group/pairs. The latter brings a new theory to the table, in my mind, regarding current NHL level defensemen and how they are utilized.
Around 10-20 years ago the idea of having size and “grit” mixed into your defensive corps was very vital. As a head coach or defensive coach you wanted your D-Men to bruise the other teams’ top forward lines so they would be afraid to even enter the zone. However nowadays, with the landscape of NHL players changing, the idea of both size and grit is going to the wayside, and speed and skill is being utilized more and more. With this, the big bruising blueliner is looking more and more like the thing of the past and smaller stature guys are defending the crease.
In my opinion, this is just to combat the changing demographic of the forwards in the game today. When you have players like McDavid, Matthews, and Laine bursting into the league with massive amounts of skill and speed you are going to want your defensemen to be able to skate with them stride for stride. This obviously means sacrificing size and grit for more speedy d-men. This doesn’t mean that bigger blueliners are obsolete as they still are valuable…just not to the extent they were 20 or so years ago. This is obvious when you look at defenders like Dan Girardi and François Beauchemin for example. These two, among others like them, were at the top of the league in terms of being top pair caliber players…but now they are (essentially) being pushed to the wayside for this new group of smaller stature d-men. It will be very interesting moving forward to see how the defensive landscape changes within a few years from now.
Oh and also for the record regarding AV…I think if the New York Rangers are one and done again this year…his seat will be warming up a little, but I wouldn’t consider it “hot” just yet…
Author: @BenR_Experience via Twitter