What to Do with Zuccarello

January 26, 2011, by

Your favourite new European hockey player enjoyed a great night against the Panthers last night and it was a crying shame the Rangers lost a game they dominated in almost every facet. However this team is in a good spot going into the second half and that’s the most important thing here. In the second half it will be interesting to see what the returning players can bring to the Rangers and how much better (offensively) this team can, and possibly should, get. Ryan Callahan and Vinny Prospal will both help the offense with their experience, leadership and ability to contribute. Then there’s Dan Girardi who has been a pleasant surprise offensively and a stud on the back end. Going back to the AHL will be Del Zotto (for a while) and kids like Dupont, Grachev, Kolarik and Newbury. It’s when these injured players return that he questions about the roster shuffle will begin.

Mats Zuccarello is on approximately 50 point pace as a rookie (had he played the whole year). He has shown energy, great vision, skill and playmaking ability. All this is discounting his clutch play in the shootout in which he has won numerous points for the Rangers off his own blade. So where does he fit with the Rangers when the two injured stars return next week? (Not to mention when Dubinsky and Fedotenko return…) It’s a question worth posing because there is surely no way the Ranger send the little Norwegian back to the AHL. His play has shown he deserves to stay and in my opinion, it has shown that he is already perhaps too good for the AHL. The problem is, there’s no point keeping him here in NY if it’s to get 8-10 minutes a game. If he stays he needs to be used as he has been during the injury crisis. So who plays where and with whom?

Assume Tortorella reunites Prospal (and later Dubinsky) with Gaborik to try and get last year’s chemistry going and to establish a true 1st line. That leaves a lot of players for the next scoring line and the third line. Again, after injuries, assume the Rangers best line of the year thus far (Prust – Boyle – Fedotenko) stays intact.  That leaves Stepan, Avery, Callahan, Zuccarello, Wolski, Anisimov and even Christensen to scrap for minutes while we disregard the merits of Drury and the rest as anything other than 4th liners at this stage. This is a great problem to have for the Rangers but it is a problem none the less. Zuccarello has delivered and has done it consistently and he adds to the pure skill level more than any rookie has in recent memory, again just my opinion. Some hard decisions will need to be made in the next few weeks about players’ roles and their ice time. Zuccarello should not be lost in the shuffle.


  1. RangerSmurf says:

    It’s not that hard, on paper

    (16) Dubi-Anisimov-Gaborik
    (13) MZA-Stepan-Callahan
    (12) Fedotenko-Boyle-Prust
    (9) Wolski-Prospal-Avery

    Assuming 50 ES minutes a game. Prospal’s not going to jump in and log huge minutes right away, at least one hopes. You can ease him in to start and leave the rest of the lines relatively in tact. When he proves he’s healthy, then you can go to something like:

    (14) Dubi-Prospal-Gaborik
    (12) Wolski-Stepan-MZA
    (12) Avery-Anisimov-Callahan
    (12) Fedotenko-Boyle-Prust

    I don’t think there’s any team in the NHL equipped to handle that kind of offensive depth. Teams are going to have their 3rd pairs out against either Anisimov or Boyle, both of whom should destroy that matchup. It’s even worse for the opponent if Torts continues to use Boyle’s line against other #1s, that would free up the weaker competition for the skill lines.

    As I said, on paper, simple. In practice, Drury/EC create awesome depth but logistical nightmares. W/ the way he’s playing, however, it’s not MZA that needs to worry, IMO.

    • sandor says:

      Here you have the lines that who
      has shown chemistry with each other.
      That my vision but yours look fine too..

  2. mug25 says:

    Cally on the 3rd line? Really downplaying his role there sir, not to mention that Torts will not bench Drury, at least not for long periods of time.

    EC = gone. MZA has replace him in the shootout for sure.

    • RangerSmurf says:

      The order doesn’t really matter…the ice time is equal between 2-4. If you prefer to call MZA’s line the 3rd, that’s fine.

      He’s still going to get PP/PK minutes, so Callahan’s still going to be one of the leading ice time players.

  3. Adam says:

    This all assumes Propal comes back, which is far from certain. MZA has to stay with the big club. The Wolski-Stepan-MZA line has shown a lot of chemistry and has arguably been the teams best offensive line of late (even with Gabby in the line up).

  4. Brian says:

    I think there will be a domino effect that really depends on 1) whether Prospal is healthy enough to play and 2) whether he is able to handle the first line center position in order to re-create last year’s chemistry with Gaborik. At the very least the recent additions of MZA and Wolski give the Rangers excellent depth on the wing particularly when Callahan and Dubi return.

    I think EC will be trade bait regardless how this all pans out. Drury will be left to pick up 4th line minutes.

  5. becky says:

    Aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves? MZA has played for only one month – it’s a little absurd to project what he’d have had he played the full year.

    • Steve Nagy says:

      I agree that zuc. have been here for only one month but it is clear to see that he’s playing better each game then his last game.IMO. He is as good as any Ranger with the exception of Gaborik,Boyle,Calahan, Dubinsky and Anisimov in that order.
      Give it another year and he will be a top three offensive player on the Rangers. The guy is a stud! A young Martin St.Louise.

      • becky says:

        I really hope you’re right, but I really think it’s too early to tell… then again I’m in no hurry to hold on to EC over here, yuck

  6. jurgenno88 says:

    MZA will get his ice time, deservedly so, I was merely pointing out that where he gets it is unclear due to the sudden depth the Rangers have health allowing.

    And his projection was crudely based on what he’s produced thus far. Having said that, why couldn’t have got 50 points? His performance so far suggests he could have done it.

    • becky says:

      he might become a tired panda when faced with his first full NHL season – also facing tougher competitors on a more regular basis.

      • RangerSmurf says:

        He’s played two full seasons in the SEL, which is as tough as it comes outside the NHL. It’s not like he’s coming out of juniors.

  7. Section 121 says:

    What’s a matter? Nobody wants Boogie anymore?

  8. hardliner says:

    Zuke is dancing….
    at Warren 77?