Once upon a time Michael Del Zotto was a promising young offensive defenseman. He appeared to be on the fast track to stardom.
He scored 37 points as a rookie, then scored 41 points with a plus-20 ranking in his third NHL season.
And then his progress stalled. Lately he has spent time in street clothes as a healthy scratch for the New York Rangers.
Teams shopping for a puck-rushing D-man are pestering Rangers GM Glen Sather. When he gets back in the lineup, as did Thursday night, fans wondered if he was just being showcased for a trade.
First-year Rangers coach Alain Vigneault believes in Del Zotto . . . to a degree.
“A player like Michael has to play to his strengths,” Vigneault said, according to the New York Post. “I’ve been told his strengths are his ability to beat the forecheck, join the rush, help out on the power play and get shots through.
“I have not seen that on a consistent enough basis to say he is going to be in the lineup every day. Some other ‘D’ can have an off-night and you’re going to throw them back in, but Michael, in the 20-odd games I’ve been here, hasn’t shown that consistently enough. As far as what I’ve seen, he’s fighting for one of the top six spots.
"I’ve been told that Michael Del Zotto is a much better player than I’ve seen so far. We’ll see how he responds and go from there.”