New York Rangers' Young Defense Needs Time to Grow

Matthew CalamiaCorrespondent IOctober 20, 2010

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 18:  Marc Staal #18 of the New York Rangers skates against the Colorado Avalanche at Madison Square Garden on October 18, 2010 in New York City. The Avalanche defeated the Rangers 3-1.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

New York Rangers fans have been notoriously craving youth for the last couple of seasons. They've wanted to see the kids come up and make a difference, rather than signing the next big free agent who is sure to be a bust once he dawns the red, white and blue.

Those cries are understandable. If you look around the league, all of the top teams have built from within the organization, waiting on draft picks to mature like wine so they can see them lead their team to division, conference and eventually Stanley Cup championships.

Recently, the Rangers have done just that, minus the winning and success. We've seen Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov work their way through the ranks to become mainstays on Broadway.

Not to mention Henrik Lundqvist, a player who was drafted by the organization and is now considered by some to be the best goaltender in the NHL when on top of his game.

Then there is the defense, an area where four out of the seven defenseman were drafted by the team and worked their way to the big club. If you include Matt Gilroy who signed out of college, that number goes up to five.

The problem with the defense, though, is that it is just too young, and is void of any big-time veteran presence (Michael Rozsival doesn't count). The leader on the blueline is Marc Staal, who may often forget is only in his fourth NHL season, and is still just 23 years of age.

No Sheldon Souray is not the answer, but I do think that bringing in a veteran defenseman could have helped this team immensely. Even before the tryouts to Alexei Semenov and Garnet Exelby went no where, the organization should have had a veteran presence in mind to lead this young group of players. Glen Sather, as usual, failed to fill a need his organization has.

Mistakes and blunders, like Michael Del Zotto's giveaway in the slot against the Islanders, are going to happen with a young group like the Rangers have. To put it into perspective, if you remove Staal, Dan Girardi and Rozsival, two of the defensemen, Del Zotto and Gilroy, are entering their second season, with Michael Sauer entering his rookie year as the seventh defenseman, and Steve Eminger is just 26, but has shown why the Rangers are his fifth team in three years.

This group has shown that they will have defensive breakdowns and will get burned, but the Rangers must hope that the burn isn't too serious.

The future on the blueline looks bright, but will take time to get the promised land.

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