New York Rangers' Biggest Underachievers so Far in 2013-14

Jeremy Fuchs@@jaf78Correspondent IIINovember 13, 2013

New York Rangers' Biggest Underachievers so Far in 2013-14

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    The New York Rangers are finally over .500, but that doesn't mean that there aren't some players who need to pick up their games.

    Yes, there are liabilities on this roster, and if the Rangers want to advance far in the postseason, then either these players need to play better or else the team needs to find players who can.

    Who have been the Rangers' biggest underachievers so far in 2013-14? 

    Read on to find out. 

Michael Del Zotto

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    Since his magical rookie season, Michael Del Zotto has been ubable to develop into a reliable defenseman.

    As Larry Brooks of the New York Post noted:

    Here’s one for you: After scoring three power play goals in his first nine NHL games, Del Zotto has scored four more in his next 255 games. His last power play goal came on March 30, 2012, the only one he has scored in the last three seasons. He has been on the ice for three of the Blueshirts’ 10 power play goals this year, now operating at the right point of the second unit across from Moore.

    Del Zotto was hyped for his offensive skills from the blueline, but it hasn't really come together.

    He's even worse on defense, as Brooks further pointed out:

    Del Zotto, 23 and in his fifth NHL season, has grown more and more unstable in his own end and erratic all over the ice. His decision-making is questionable. He has turned the assignment into as much of an adventure as a job, too often skating into trouble and putting the puck into bad ice rather than make quick and safe plays.

    Quite frankly, Del Zotto is a weak link. He doesn't offer much offensively with just four points this season and is a liability in his own end. If the Rangers had more reliable defensive depth, Del Zotto would probably be benched. In fact, if he keeps this up, he probably will be benched. 

Taylor Pyatt

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    Taylor Pyatt has a concussion, according to Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record.  But that is certainly not an excuse for his poor play this year.

    Pyatt has just one point and is a disastrous minus-eight. He has been decent on the penalty-kill, but that's about it.

    When he's on his game, Pyatt can be a really valuable player. He's a big body, so he can control the play on the boards. In the postseason last year, the line of Pyatt, Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett was often the best on the team.

    But he hasn't been able to replicate those numbers. Pyatt hasn't generated too many scoring chances and he hasn't been overly physical.

    Quite simply, he needs to pick up his game. The Rangers have a lot of youngsters who can fill his spot. Once Rick Nash comes back, there probably won't be a spot for Pyatt in the lineup. 

Benoit Pouliot

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    Benoit Pouliot was brought in to provide offensive depth for the Rangers, but he hasn't really done that.

    The winger has scored just twice this season and has four points.

    When asked about why someone with such obvious talent can struggle so mightily, head coach Alain Vigneault didn't seem to have the answers, according to Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News:

    In French we say, “Ton de lune.” “Ton de lune” means (roughly) ‘Goes to the moon.’ I’ve told him this a couple times. ‘Ton de lune, ton de lune.’ I don’t know why it happens. You explain something to him on the ice on a shift, in a drill. He does it once, he does it twice, then all of a sudden the third time, ‘Ben, what are you?’ ‘Oh, yeah.’ He’s gotta put it together, and I think he can. I’ve seen too many stretches where he’s done it, whether he needs to focus or whatever, he needs to figure it out.

    Remember, Pouliot was the fourth-overall pick in 2005, ahead of such studs like Anze Kopitar, Marc Staal, Tuukka Rask, James Neal, Paul Stastny, Kris Letang and Jonathan Quick. He should be producing more and have more than 63 career goals.

    Pouliot dominated in the juniors, scoring 63 goals in 122 games. But he hasn't been able to translate that success to the NHL.

    What troubles me is that Pouliot takes a lot of penalties—and he isn't even a fighter. This season, he has already racked up 31 penalty minutes. Over his career, he has amassed 232 penalty minutes. That's far too many. It also means he's not engaged and doesn't move his legs. He is, in the words of Vigneault, "Ton de lune."

    He needs to pick up his game, or someone like Danny Kristo—who is tearing up the AHL with 14 points in 14 games—could take his spot.