The New York Rangers are one of the best teams in the NHL this season but they are far from being a perfect team. There are holes on this roster and one of the most notable ones has been the third defensive pairing. It started with Nils Lundkvist and Patrik Nemeth and since has undergone a few different looks this year with mediocre results. The best it has looked is when Gerard Gallant went with young guns Braden Schneider and Zac Jones.
Jones has not been perfect in every opportunity he has been given this year but he is flashed enough promise that justifies him getting a permanent spot next to Schneider the rest of this season. Jones has only skated in eight games so far this year but he has only had one game where he was exposed as a rookie and a mediocre game against the Detroit Red Wings. In all of those games he’s shown his offensive instincts and solid passing ability. While showcasing his offensive talents, he has also able to hold his own defensively and not be a blackhole which is certainly refreshing.
Jones’ solid offense combined with Schneider’s solid stay at home defensive mindset has meshed solidly early on. Even though Schneider is only 20 years old we’ve seen a calmness from him that is almost unheard of from a defender of that age. Usually you can see young defenders get thrown off by the speed of the NHL game but Schneider has been more than steady in his own end and not be overwhelmed by the moment. Schneider also didn’t look out of place on the top pair in the absence of Adam Fox before the all-star break. Many were shocked when Gallant decided to give Schneider time with Lindgren on the top pair but he did the best thing that a young stay at home d-man can do and that’s go unnoticed.
While we’ve seen Gallant’s been heavy to rely on his veteran’s in Nemeth and Tinordi, the potential upside of a Jones-Schneider pair is one thing that cannot be ignored. The Rangers need an upgrade on their third pair and the biggest upgrade can be found by looking in house and continuing to trust these two young defensive pieces to anchor the bottom pair. Nemeth has failed miserably in the chances he’s been given so far this year. Tinordi was never an answer to that question.
Nils Lundkvist has become one of the Rangers most valuable trade chips after being usurped by Schneider’s strong play. Jones and Schneider have a dynamic very similar to Fox and Lindgren, not saying they’ll become that, but they have that kind of potential. Instead of looking outward to the likes of Ben Chiarot, Chris Drury and the entire Rangers front office need to start trusting and believing in some of the blueline talent they’ve collected during the rebuild and let the kids run.