Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Whether Decision On Del Zotto Is NHL or AHL, Rangers Must Stick To It This Time

Chris McGrath/Getty Images
At this point it is becoming painfully clear that the New York Rangers have no idea what to do with second-year defenseman Michael Del Zotto.  The number mixed messages the team is sending to him and about him is reaching staggering proportions right now.  All we do know for sure is that at some point over these three days off the Rangers will make a decision on whether to send Michael back to the Connecticut Whale or keep him here with the NHL team.  We have no idea if a decision in either direction will be stuck with for any length of time because they cannot stick with the ones they have already made, or at least the public comments about him. 
When Del Zotto was initially brought back due to the rib injury to Dan Girardi, coach John Tortorella went out of his way to tell anyone who would listen that the reason for his return was purely about the injury and not improved play.  It was a clear statement of intent and an accurate assessment of the fact that the six games he had played in Hartford had not cured the ailments that forced him to be sent down.  Following the two games in which he filled in for Giardi, Del Zotto was sent down to the AHL to play while the NHL All-Star Break happened.
Based on what Tortorella had said upon Del Zotto’s initial recall, and the play of the Rangers defensive core before the Girardi injury, one would not be out of bounds in expecting Del Zotto not to return after the break with all six defenders healthy.  Well, he did.  The Rangers initially recalled Del Zotto again while claiming him as a sort of insurance for Girardi if he was not fully healed in time for the their next game.  Turns out he was, but Del Zotto was in and Steve Eminger was scratched. 
After an up and down first two games following the break, before Saturday’s game against the Canadiens coach John Tortorella made a declaration of sort when it came to Del Zotto.
Tortorella said, “We’re in the process of developing him, too. When it comes to younger guys and older guys, though Emmy is not 35 years old, we’re going to continue to work with the younger guy if we see fit. He’ll continue there unless we see fit to make a change.”
Just two days after that statement, and off a decent game for Del Zotto against Montreal, Tortorella said before Monday’s game that Michael could head back to Connecticut.
"We've been keeping our eye on all the 'D,' and we'll make decisions over the next few days. With Michael, it's still part of a process. Is it best for him here, is it best for him there [in Hartford]? We have to figure what's best for him because eventually, that's what's going to be best for the organization."
My thoughts on what the team should do with Del Zotto are very clear from last Friday and the way this is being handled only furthers the stance I have not only on what they should do, but who is to blame for this scenario. 
The organization needs to bite the bullet one way or the other when it comes to Del Zotto.  Either you commit to leaving him for the whole year and taking the ups and downs that go with it or you send him down to develop and leave him there for the rest of the year.  All these mixed messages are not good for Del Zotto’s psyche and neither is the dance of sending him down and calling him up.  Make a decision before you end having the lack of one ruin this tremendous talent.