Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 6/2/12

Today I bring you Part II of the 2011-12 New York Rangers report card, this time analyzing the defensemen. Yesterday we graded all of the forwards, which you can see here. 

Players are graded solely on their performance during the regular season, so playoffs are not taken into account. Beginning next week I will be reviewing each player individually, which is when their playoff contributions will be analyzed.

(A = highest possible, D = lowest possible)

Stu Bickel - B - Stu Bickel wasn't exactly a name you'd here often on the nightly broadcast during the regular season, but he did have a quiet effectiveness about him in his rookie NHL year. He was tough, he learned the system quickly and was serviceable as a third pairing defenseman. It was not often where Bickel would find himself in a situation which he was a liability out on the ice, which is basically the goal of a sixth blue-liner on any team. He filled the spot well, which is why I give him a 'B' for the season. 

Michael Del Zotto - B - Michael Del Zotto made great strides this season as compared to his last, finishing fifth on the team in scoring with ten goals and 41 points. His offensive game has improved majorly and even grew stronger as the year progressed. From that standpoint, Michael was great, but from a defensive outlook, work still needs to be done. Too often was he caught out of position or missing a coverage that resulted in a goal against. If he can find a balance in his game for next season (assuming he is re-signed over the summer), that grade will bump up to an 'A' without a doubt. 

Steve Eminger - C - I'm not a big fan of Steve Eminger, and if you've followed the blog dating back to last year, you'd know that I never was. He's irresponsible, he's constantly missing hits and, for me, he doesn't fill that third pairing role as well as Stu Bickel did, which is why he lost his job to him. Eminger is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and there is a snowball's chance in hell he ends up back with the Rangers. 

Tim Erixon - n/a - Did not play in enough games. 

Dan Girardi - A - Dan Girardi is the Ryan Callahan of defensemen. He isn't flashy by any means, but boy is he an important player and does he ever put forth a 110-percent effort every night. His willingness to block shots coupled with the way he uses his body to slow down the most talented of opponents speaks to this guy's dedication, and for the first time in his career, he was finally recognized League-wide for it this season, earning a spot in the 2012 All-Star Game. Girardi is up there with Callahan and Lundqvist on the list of importance for the Blueshirts. 

Ryan McDonagh - A - Girardi's partner, Ryan McDonagh, had himself a hell of a sophomore season, helping to form what I think was the best shutdown pairing the NHL saw in 2011-12. McDonagh's poise and talent are well beyond his years, giving the Rangers a veteran presence on their top pairing in the form of a 22-year-old. This kid is destined for stardom once he can bring his offensive game up to meet the level of his defensive play. He's already one of the League's best. 

Michael Sauer - n/a - Did not play in enough games. 

Marc Staal - B - Marc Staal is tough to grade for two reasons. The first, obviously, being that he did not jump into the lineup until January, and the second being that he did not find his game until late in the regular season going into the playoffs. However, based on what we saw from No. 18 in regular season play, I think a 'B' is fitting because he wasn't bad, nor was he great. Marc was stuck in a medium for a while there, which was fully expected coming off the concussion, and eventually began to excell in the playoffs. I'm looking forward to seeing a healthy Marc Staal at his best for the entire season in 2012-13. 

Anton Stralman - B - Anton  Stralman, like Stu Bickel, had a role and he fulfilled it. There were mistakes here and there, but Stralsy complimented Del Zotto and later Staal well throughout the season. Stralman will become a restricted free agent this summer, and I can certainly see the Rangers looking to keep him around a possible seventh for next season. I, personally, didn't mind Stralman at all. 

Jeff Woywitka - n/a - Did not play in enough games. 

Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments, or feel free to even share your own grades for the defensemen. 

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