Michael Del Zotto Needs His AHL Demotion

Michael Del Zotto has spent much of this season struggling for the New York Rangers.

The second-year defensemen often seemed confused, unable to generate offense, but also unable to play defensively.

And so Del Zotto, who finished second among defenseman in Calder voting last year, was sent down to the AHL.

Ryan McDonagh, a rookie defenseman, will be called up.

Rangers coach John Tortorella tried to work with Del Zotto. The first time he was a healthy scratch this season, Tortorella gave Del Zotto homework to help him focus on the game more.

But nothing seemed to work. Del Zotto wasn’t aggressive in the offensive end, nor was he particularly tough for opponents to play against.

The concern, apparently, was that Del Zotto was devolving into a cap-friendly Wade Redden.

The Rangers are smart to cut their losses and send him down to the AHL for a spell, where Del Zotto will actually play with Redden. Del Zotto needs to go back to basics, and it wasn’t going to happen at the NHL level.

Matt Gilroy, another young Rangers’ defenseman who also struggles defensively and offensively, could also probably benefit from some AHL time, but I guess they can’t send everyone down all at once.

The Rangers are handling the Del Zotto situation very well, though. They’ve been patient at the NHL level. Tortorella has given Del Zotto both the stick and the carrot. But with Del Zotto’s offensive game rapidly eroding, the team is smart to send him to the AHL for a mental reboot.

It’ll be interesting to see how much ice time McDonagh gets,though, since conventional wisdom says you don’t replace a shaky second-year player with an even younger one.

It’ll be even more interesting if McDonagh winds up playing Del Zotto out of his NHL job.

Interesting and awkward.