Saturday, December 11, 2010

Del Zotto Back In Tonight: My take on his homework; Eminger Out

New York Rangers second year defenseman Michael Del Zotto will be back in the lineup tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets after being a healthy scratch in the last game.  The reaction to his scratch was a mixed bag among Rangers fans as some were upset by the move while others including myself wondered why it took so long to let him see the game from another perspective.  The talent with Del Zotto is undeniable, but the hockey IQ he has displayed in this season leaves a lot to be desired as he is not making the smart simple plays that are there for him.  Hopefully seeing the game differently for a night will aid him in doing just that.

The main areas where the struggles for Del Zotto have been new this season are on the power play and on his ability to make the headman pass which were the two things that carried him in his rookie season.  His connection with players such as Marian Gaborik on tape to tape passes to spring breaks were the things that made so many so excited for his talent.  This season however he has been more likely to hit the camera than connect the same way on one of those passes and instead of leading to those chances he was helping create a season ago it is leading to chances for the opposition.  It is not that his talent was a fluke a year ago or that he lost it overnight, rather it is likely he is overthinking and pressing in his game.

I said in the pregame, last night, that I expected him to be back in there and the injury to Eminger who is going to miss tonight’s game only ensures that fact and now it will be up to Del Zotto to transfer what he noticed in the game he watched to the ice tonight.  There has been a lot of discussion the last two days over the homework assignment that Tortorella gave Del Zotto during the game against Ottawa and personally I am not a big fan of the way he did it.  I completely agree with testing the visual side of things and asking him to recall what he did or did not see but instead of writing an essay on when what you are trying to do is relax his mind and get back to his instinctual play the better move for me would have been for him to run a breakdown of the tape specifically showing what he saw and where he changes it.  I think that type of move allows for him to work with his instincts in a more transferable way back to the ice.

As much as anyone I have criticized Del Zotto for his defensive lapses, but if it is overthinking on the defensive end and the game itself that is causing him to lose his natural instincts then let him focus on getting back to his game first and we can work on technique along the way.  Del Zotto seems to be in the exact opposite spot that Marc Staal is where when Staal is pushed on offense he gets caught in-between and his defense suffers.  For Del Zotto the focus on being more in tune to what each move means defensive is causing him to hesitate on the head man passes, his shots and in the end is actually causing as many turnovers and chances against as if he was playing just his offensive game.  The difference in this scenario is he is not providing any offense to offset the mistakes.  So, while I will still scream out loud when his defensive blunder hurts the team he needs to be aggressive in the offensive side because if he is not working the PP and providing offense his purpose on the ice is minimal.  Play simple, play smart, play with your instincts.  Now that he has a game to sit and watch maybe he will get back to just playing hockey which would be nice for all of us to witness.