There is no doubt that New York Rangers’ defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is more than solid.
He can make some smart decisions in his own zone, he has some wheels, and clearly, being offensive is perhaps is the best quality. Unfortunately for the Blueshirts, they did not see that much of it last season.
Shattenkirk was inconsistent, missed a lot of time with an injury (only played in 46 games) and was awful defensively as he finished the season at a -14. A lot of people will point out that he had 23 points (5 goals and 18 assists) and while that is pretty good, his first job is to play actual defense.
That has been the knock on the 29-year-old blueliner his entire career. Yes, he can provide offense, but when it comes to the actual defensive position, he really isn’t that good. He coughs up the puck a lot, sometimes finds himself out of position on plays around the net, and while it’s great that he wants to start plays out of the zone, he seems to focus on that rather than helping to keep the puck out of his team’s net.
With the team rebuilding, a new coach that he has worked with before in David Quinn, and a very young defensive corps, Shattenkirk needs to be the anchor for this team. This is something he has never had to do before because, on his previous teams (St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, and Washington Capitals), he was never the best blueliner on the team.
Now, he really has to do it all for his team’s blue line with more of a focus on his defensive game. With such a young defense, he is going to need to be more responsible with the puck, more aware in front of his own net, and more focused on helping his goaltenders, who could end up constantly being under siege this season.
Shattenkirk also has to play up to his contract. The team signed him to a four-year deal on the first day of free agency in 2017 at $6.65 million per season. That’s a lot of money for a guy that only played in 46 games last year and was awful defensively.
As far as I’m concerned, he has a blank slate this season. He’s healthy, has put up some points in the preseason, and has been decent in his own end. It’s time to put that all that together this year and play what he is worth.
Photo: NY Daily News