The struggles of Michael Del Zotto, coupled with coach Alain Vigneault‘s complete lack of trust in him, have forced the New York Rangers to give Justin Falk more playing time. Falk is the seventh defenseman on the roster and is consistently a healthy scratch. However, as long as Del Zotto continues to struggle — and especially if he is traded — Falk will see increased responsibility. This could potentially be bad news for the Rangers.
This is not a knock on Falk at all. He is what he is: a lumbering, stay-at-home defenseman whose primary responsibility is to clear the net. As good of an attribute as this is for any NHL team for a bottom-two defensive pair, the Rangers need much more than just a role player.
Much is made about the Rangers’ lack of offensive depth. However, this Del Zotto/Falk situation also exposes a lack of defensive depth. The Rangers do not have an NHL-caliber defenseman waiting in the minor leagues. Therefore, it is expected that Falk will see much more action.
So far, Falk has played six games for the Rangers and is a minus-two. He only has one career goal and has only registered four shots on goal this season. His impact on the team has been minimal. Yes, Falk can play at the NHL level, but at the end of the day he is still a role player and nothing more. If he is counted on for critical minutes later this season, will he actually help the team? If Falk plays every day, whatever remained of the Rangers’ defensive depth is gone. He will play his role but will not make his team better.