Michael Del Zotto

Tuesday Tire Pump: Michael Del Zotto

Every Tuesday at PHT, we’ll pump a player’s tire. Because every player likes it when nice things are said about them.

This week’s tire pumpee: Michael Del Zotto, New York Rangers

After suffering through a textbook sophomore slump, the 21-year-old has regained the form that made him a candidate for rookie of the year in 2009-10. Check that, he’s better than he was in his first NHL season.

After 34 games, Del Zotto leads all Rangers defensemen with 21 points, and he leads the team with a remarkable plus-25 rating.

Those stats are even more impressive when you consider he was sent down to the AHL less than a year ago.

“Everything about him is different this season,” goalie Henrik Lundqvist told the New York Times. “His passes are crisper. His battle level is like we’d never seen before. He’s playing a lot more physically. You have to remember, he is still a very young player, especially for a defenseman. But there’s no question he’s a more confident player.”

Del Zotto’s bounce-back has meant even more for the Rangers in the absence of Marc Staal, as coach John Tortorella has been able to play the young blueliner 22:42 per game.

“He’s learning what it takes to be a pro,” Tortorella told the Times. “He’s on the right road.”

Michael Del Zotto, everyone.

Jason Demers tweets #FreeTorres, gets mocked

Los Angeles Kings v San Jose Sharks - Game One

Following his stunning 41-game suspension, it looks like Raffi Torres has at least one former teammate in his corner.

We haven’t yet seen how the San Jose Sharks or the NHLPA are reacting to the league’s hammer-dropping decision to punish Torres for his Torres-like hit on Jakob Silfverberg, but Jason Demers decided to put in a good word for Torres tonight.

It was a simple message: “#FreeTorres.”

Demers, now of the Dallas Stars, was once with Torres and the Sharks. (In case this post’s main image didn’t make that clear enough already.)

Perhaps this will become “a thing” at some point.

So far, it seems like it’s instead “a thing (that people are making fun of).”

… You get the idea.

The bottom line is that there are some who either a) blindly support Torres because they’re Sharks fans or b) simply think that the punishment was excessive.

The most important statement came from the Department of Player Safety, though.

Bruins list Chara on IR, for now

Zdeno Chara

Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.

It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.

The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.

As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.

Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?

The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.

This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.