Matt Gilroy will dress for the second straight game tonight as again Michael Del Zotto will sit, this time with his second healthy scratch of the season. Gilroy will now be playing in 22nd game this year, but other than early in the year the main cause of his appearances have been through injury to other defenders or as a tool in the punishment of bad play. The question is whether this is more of the same of Gilroy is finally getting a legit chance to get a spot back in the lineup. Gilroy struggled in his transition a season ago and had some struggles early this year but has been very solid in his recent play, so it would be nice to see him given a fair chance to get back in.
Combine the increased play from Gilroy in terms of positioning, and physicality along with his willingness to push the puck and the declining play of both Steve Eminger and Michal Rozsival and Gilroy deserves a chance to get back in the lineup consistently. I realize that much of tonight’s move is because of the up and down play of Del Zotto who they are trying to get to learn some lessons as he develops but that does not mean with the chance Gilroy cannot show he is outplaying another member of the defense core. You could argue over the last month he has been the fourth best defender on the club, when he has been in there, behind only Staal, Girardi and Sauer.
I get this sense that Gilroy’s age has become this impediment to him getting a fair shake with the Rangers right now. If he was a 20 year old second year player like Del Zotto or had the experience that Eminger has at 26 instead of being the combination of Del Zotto’s experience and Eminger’s age that the chances would continue to come for him to prove he belongs. What is happening instead is that he was expected to step in and be immune to the mistakes an inexperienced player makes in the NHL because of his age, and once he showed he needed development help he fell down the pecking order. The problem now seems to be that no matter what he does in improving his game to climb back up the depth chart another obstacle is placed in the way.
There are a number of guys on this team who have gotten repeated chances not only to be in the lineup but in spots they have not earned within the lineup in the hopes of getting more from them, but Gilroy has not truly been afforded the same opportunities. Unlike many of those players Gilroy has done everything that the staff has asked him to do in terms of altering him game to be more responsible on defense, to play more physically and to join the rush and yet for the most part he has been only used as an injury replacement or player punishment fill in. John Tortorella has preached that every player on the team gets what they earn and if that is truly to be the case Matt Gilroy will get the chance to go from punishment tool to lineup regular right now. Nothing in Gilroy’s play has hurt the Rangers team this season, which certainly cannot be said for a few of the regulars, and there is little to no downside as if he plays well you keep him or raise his trade value and if he does not he goes right back to the press box. So, here is to hoping that he gets a fair shake to prove he is NHL caliber defender with the Rangers and not just the team's understudy.