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So Where Does Stepan Start the Season?

August 29, 2011, by

Amid all the publicity Brad Richards has received and the analysis he has caused on the internet, the Rangers possess quite a collection of quality young centres behind him. That’s no secret. However, even with multiple (quality) years of Richards to look forward to, it is obviously in the Rangers’ long term interest to develop Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov as much as possible.

It seems natural to expect the Rangers to begin the year keeping the effective, home grown trio of Dubinsky – Anisimov – Callahan together to form an exciting second line; even though Dubinsky at this stage is very much a candidate for the top line left wing spot. That being said, if the trio does stay together it means Derek Stepan either slots on to the left (where some see his future anyway) or if his face off skills develop, Stepan becomes the third line centre. This is where some concern should lie. Is a talent like Stepan being wasted with third line duty? If he received the bulk of his playing time there, he may be the prime candidate for Dave’s previous discussion of potential sophomore slumps.

I don’t think it is ideal to have such a young player, an intelligent player, being bumped down on to the third line. Stepan is ready for a bigger role, in my opinion, and the fact that the Rangers have such quality down the middle is obviously a good problem to have. That said I’d rather see Stepan play out of his natural position and try and play left wing on the top line. Forget your Wolski’s and the like. Has Wolski got a long term future with the Rangers? Barring a spectacular season, no he hasn’t. The pending arrivals of Kreider, Thomas and the like will see to that. However Stepan very much has a future with the organisation.

It’s in the Rangers interest to give Step a key role and let him develop in it. Seriously, how much harm can the young (mature) centre cause alongside Richards and Gaborik anyway? Couldn’t Gaborik in particular, benefit from having not one but two impressive playmakers on his line? Of course he could. Stepan’s role at this stage of the preseason is in flux. There are a lot of potential landing spots for him but in terms of long term development (as an asset as much as, as an individual) Stepan should be a priority this coming season.

PS: I hope everyone was safe over in the US this past weekend. My thoughts were with you all. We don’t get things like Irene in dull, old UK. 



  1. RangerSmurf says:

    He’ll get his minutes even in a 3rd line role. It’s not that big a deal, and won’t stunt his growth. There are ways to get him extra minutes beyond that, either PP, or switching the lines in ‘clutch’ situations where he’ll get some experience.

    • Hoggo says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if we see

      Dubinsky- Richards- Gaborik
      Wolski- Stepan- Callahan
      Avery- Anisimov- Zuccarello
      Fedotenko- Boyle- Prust

      at some point in the season.

      • RangerSmurf says:

        Barring a few combos like rupp-Richards-prust, I wouldn’t be surprised to see most combos at some point.

      • scrangersfan says:

        I would keep Anisimov, Dubinsky and Callahan together on the second line.They were good last year until Torts. broke them up.
        IMO.Stepan will get his minutes based on his performance the way it should be with everyone.

  2. The Suit says:

    Good write up Chris. I’m with you, I think the Rangers need to be careful with Stepan, he is at such a crucial stage of his development.

    Derek obviously needs a good amount of playing time this season, but he also needs quality line mates.

    I don’t want to see him playing with Mr. Offsides aka Sean Avery and getting caught up in all that crap.

    I’m still undecided if I want to see him on the wing or not. Can’t wait for preseason!!!

  3. Walt says:

    Maybe he should start the season on the 3rd line, and see how he developes there. They can always put him at wing if WW doesn’t work out, and Gabby will be fed from his linemates all night long. I think this is a very good problem to be facing, just think back a few season where the talent level was non existent.

  4. Alex says:

    Here is a novel idea, role 4 lines and give even ice time for everyone, this way we don’t wear and tear on the top 2 lines.

    • The Suit says:

      Very rare to see teams rolling four lines and giving equal minutes in todays NHL, almost no teams do that on a consistent basis

  5. paulronty says:

    Id rather see Step centre the second line between Dubi & Cally. Anisimov can take 3rd line duties.

    • scrangersfan says:

      I couldn’t disagree more,Anisimov is far more advanced at this time then Stepan.Besides as I posted before,the line of Anisimov,dubinsky and Callahan proved last year that they have the chemistry to play on the same line.

  6. pavel says:

    You know it’s the dog days of summer when we’re talking about line combinations lol. Haven’t we all figured out by now that Tortorella doesn’t keep line combinations together? If Stepan starts the season as the 3rd line center, he won’t stay there. He’s gonna move all over the place over the course of the season. And while we’re talking about this, I’m willing to bet money that EVERY left winger he have will play with Gabby and Richards at least one shift during the season.

    • The Suit says:

      so what’s the alternative, not post anything? Judging by everyones comments this is a topic people want to discuss

      • pavel says:

        I don’t have a problem with it. I’m just saying that it’s really getting to the point where there’s nothing to talk about. I think we can all agree the season needs to start. Thank god they’re playing the Traverse City games on TV, so we all got something to watch until the real season.

  7. Kwayry says:

    “and the fact that the Rangers have such quality down the middle is obviously a good problem to have”. Yes it is, until you move Stepan to first line LW as you propose, then there is no more depth.
    Stepan has time to develop, this his second year. You may like Stepan a lot, which is fine, but what you are proposing may stunt his growth and ruin his career.
    There is nothing wrong with letting Stepan work on his game on the 3rd line, he will get significant minutes if he earns them. Knowing Torts and his line juggling, Stepan may see minutes on top line.
    Stepan has a bright future, letting him develop at his pace is what is good for the organization, not because some fans want him to “play out of his position and try and play LW on top line”.

    • Jackson says:

      I sure hope Torts doesn’t find a reason to give Stepan top line minutes as a center.

  8. Sioux-per-man says:

    With the young guns coming up I see Stepan keeping the Center on one of the top 3 scoring lines. I say it this way because like last year, you never knew what line is going to do the scoring on any giving night. I see Stepan-Kreider being a scoring pair, put in Haglen/Thomas/Zucc it doesn’t matter. But soon we will have 3 solid scoring lines. Back this up with the solid Defense in front of the King, and this is one tuff team to play against.

    Oh so close to play for Lord Stanley!!!!

  9. Tim says:

    I like the idea of Stepan getting a crack on the top line at LW, certainly over Wolski. I think Anisimov is poised for a breakout year so I definitely don’t want to see him silde down the depth chart–I’d keep his line together for sure. Lets all remember who our coach is, though, and that he changes the lines about 6 times per game, for 82 games…so, yeah, great write up but not something worth putting TOO much thought into!

  10. Zen says:

    My thought here is that Wolski will get the first shot to play with the top line, due to Torts wanting to keep Dubi with Cally & AA. If Wolski falters, then I have zero doubt that they will try Stepan there. He needs more playing time and better line-mates than he will get on the third line. He is going to be a stud.