Raphael Diaz has waited patiently for his opportunity to step out onto the ice in a New York Rangers jersey. Recently acquired from the Vancouver Canucks for a fifth-round selection in the NHL Entry Draft, Diaz has been a healthy scratch for every game so far. This is not a knock on Diaz’s abilities. Head coach Alain Vigneault has liked his defensive pairings, yet after the abominable game against the Carolina Hurricanes he may decide to change around the lineup and try to provide a spark for the team.
Diaz offers a skill-set that the team doesn’t currently own on the back end. He has very good puck skills. He handles the puck well and makes a good first pass out of the zone. Diaz has good vision and plays the power play well. The Rangers have lacked this option since the trade of Michael Del Zotto to the Nashville Predators.
Del Zotto was the team’s only true offensive option from the back end. While Ryan McDonagh is having the best offensive season of his career, the Rangers need offensive help from the blue-line, and Diaz can be that player. During practice he was paired with swift-skating defenseman John Moore in a move that would have Kevin Klein in the press box. While this isn’t necessarily a knock on Klein, who has been reliable and a steady presence in the defensive zone, the team needs a change and Diaz offers a different dynamic for Vigneault and the team. It allows for options with the man advantage and at even strength to spring the team’s forwards out of the defensive zone and onto the attack.
While a complete lack of effort was the main cause for the loss against the Hurricanes, showing that nobody’s roster spot is safe is a good tactic for Vigneault to employ and jump start his team. The Rangers need to wake up, as playing .500 hockey will result in them on the outside looking in come playoff time. This team has the tools to be successful but must act and play like a playoff team in order to make and succeed in the postseason.