Troubles ahead? Marc Staal will miss at least the first two games of season

Marc Staal’s training camp hasn’t been a pleasant one for him or the New York Rangers. Staal’s recovery from post-concussion-like issues as well as a hurting neck are progressing slowly. While Staal works out with the Rangers minor league team in Hartford, the rest of the team is in Europe preparing for their season opener on Friday against the Los Angeles Kings.

Today, bad news from the Rangers about Staal as they say that Staal won’t be joining the team in Europe and will miss at least the team’s first two games because of that.

“Marc Staal continues to work with his people (in New York) and he’s not coming on the trip, he will not be (in Stockholm),” Tortorella said of Staal, who has been suffering from bad headaches since the summer. “He continues to work with the doctors out there, so we thought it was best to leave him alone right now. So he won’t open thie season with us.”

Staal’s lingering issues are a serious concern for New York as he’s their best defenseman and the key to how things go along the blue line. The Rangers’ depth on defense isn’t exactly awe-inspiring as they’ll be counting on Brendan Bell and Stu Bickel to help fill out ranks in Europe.


Staal’s issues go back to last spring when his brother Eric Staal crushed him with a body check that put Staal out of action for a short time. Upon his return, however, the issues continued and nagged at Staal all through the summer. The Rangers being careful with him is the right move to make, but with the season starting up and a serious question mark hanging over their top defender is a big problem.

Expect the Rangers to be sniffing around the waiver wire the next few days to see if they can find someone to give them better depth support.

Michael Del Zotto wants to be the defensive spark plug the Rangers need

Two seasons ago, defenseman Michael Del Zotto surprised Rangers fans by making the team out of training camp. In his rookie season, Del Zotto was able to be an offensive helper on the blue line scoring nine goals and adding 28 assists. With that kind of point production from a then 19 year-old defenseman, the future seemed to be very bright for both Del Zotto and the Rangers.

As will happen on occasion to young players, they run into problems in their sophomore season and Del Zotto fell on hard times for sure. Del Zotto struggled defensively and lost his touch on offense leading to him being sent to AHL Connecticut after 47 games. In that time, Del Zotto had just two goals and nine assists and didn’t show the necessary improvement defensively for coach John Tortorella to keep him in the lineup. While the Rangers got solid play from Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, and Michael Sauer they lacked that offensive touch from the blue line and acquired Bryan McCabe to help out late in the year and in the playoffs.

Heading into camp this year, McCabe is gone and Del Zotto has lessons learned after spending part of the season in the AHL as well as having his season ended early thanks to a broken finger. As Andrew Gross of Ranger Rants shares, Del Zotto wants to prove he belongs in Manhattan this season and can bring some of that scoring touch back to their blue line.

“I’m pretty self-motivated,” Del Zotto added. “Especially after last year. This is a huge year for me. I’m all business.”

Del Zotto said the aim is to bring back the swagger he had as a rookie while not making the repeated on-ice mistakes he made last season (long, bad passes), not to mention correct some off-ice mistakes (no doubt, stay on the right side of being confident, as coach John Tortorella might put it). “I’m not going to be given ice time because of what I did my rookie year on the power play.”

Del Zotto knowing his place coming into camp will help him more than anything. Knowing that Tortorella already has a bunch of guys he feels comfortable with on the blue line means he knows he’s going to have to prove his worth. Del Zotto has the skills to be a very good offensive defenseman and at 21 years-old he’s plenty young to keep growing into his position and still has plenty to learn.

As it is, the Rangers set up with virtually the same guys they had last season on defense. Staal, Girardi, Sauer, Ryan McDonagh, and Steve Eminger are all back meaning there’s an opening in the top six for someone to grab on to. Del Zotto will be in the hunt as will summer rookie trade acquisition Tim Erixon with fellow youngster Brendan Bell with an outside shot.

The Rangers will be looking to up their offensive output this season with Brad Richards now in town to help spur that on. If Del Zotto can harness that offensive touch he had in his rookie season and pair that up with smarter play and defensive responsibility, he can help the Rangers establish themselves as one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.