Setting Expectations for New York Rangers' Defense in 2014-15

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor IAugust 14, 2014

Setting Expectations for New York Rangers' Defense in 2014-15

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    On August 10, projections were made for the New York Rangers’ forward group, so now is as good of a time as any to make some prognostications for the back end.

    This season the Rangers could pack more of an offensive punch on the blue line, but what kind of production can the team expect from Ryan McDonagh or Dan Boyle?

    Without further ado, here are reasonable expectations for the Rangers’ 2014-15 top-four defenders.

Ryan McDonagh

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    2013-14: 14 goals, 29 assists, 43 points

    Expectation for 2014-15: 16 goals, 35 assists, 51 points

    Ryan McDonagh is now a known offensive entity, something he wasn’t heading into Alain Vigneault’s first season on the bench.

    Heading into the upcoming season, Vigneault knows he can put McDonagh in situations to succeed, and he could see some time with Dan Boyle on the power play.

    That should enable McDonagh to continue being productive, because having Boyle also on the point could add some unpredictability to the power play. In other words, it won’t be a given that the power play is going to run through McDonagh, so defenders will have to divert their focus to an entire unit instead of one player.

    The playoffs were another bright moment for the Rangers’ top defender, and 2014-15 should be another season in which McDonagh contends for the Norris Trophy.

Dan Boyle

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    2013-14: 12 goals, 24 assists, 36 points

    Expectations for 2014-15: 15 goals, 27 assists, 42 points

    Dan Boyle may be a veteran defender, but he still has some game left. His wheels might not be what they used to be, but he still has a potent point shot and the ability to work a power play.

    Boyle will be an asset on the man-advantage unit that features offensive weapons such as Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider and Rick Nash, and he could pick up the lion’s share of his points during the power play.

    Boyle could prove to be a nice veteran fit for the Blueshirts, and his game certainly will be welcome on Broadway.

Dan Girardi

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    2013-14: Five goals, 19 assists, 24 points

    Expectations for 2014-15: Five goals, 15 assists, 20 points

    Dan Girardi is projected to have his production decrease because he will more than likely lose most—if not all—of his power-play time. He was the de facto right-handed add-in for Alain Vigneault on the man-advantage unit, but Dan Boyle will now occupy that role.

    Although he’s not known as an offensive defender, Girardi has been a decent contributor who has averaged 25 points a season throughout his career. This season he can focus on being a shutdown defender, and that could ultimately benefit the Rangers.

Marc Staal

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    2013-14: Three goals, 11 assists, 14 points

    Expectations for 2014-15: Five goals, 12 assists, 17 points

    Staal hasn’t been much of an offensive defender since returning from his various head and eye injuries, and he’s currently penciled in to be a defensive foil for offensive partner Dan Boyle.

    There’s a good chance Staal will have a solid season, minus a gleaming point total, because he will have a defined role.

    Last year’s second pairing of Staal and Anton Stralman was so similar in makeup that both had an identity crisis at times and felt the need to step up offensively. This led to some bad decisions and goals, but that shouldn’t happen in 2014-15.

    Staal has averaged about 20 points a season throughout his career, so a projection of 17 should be fairly close to what he puts up this season. It will be an increase from last year, because he will be able to just play and work within the structure of the system.