Halfway There Report Card: The Top Six Forwards

January 11, 2012, by

When you’re a team sitting at the top of the NHL standings there’s usually not much to moan about. The Rangers have been blessed with production and top quality performances from all over the roster including the top six. A team cannot win consistently if it doesn’t get production from its key guys and the Rangers have been getting it. To the grades…

Marian Gaborik. In December we discussed the possibility of whether Gaborik was the league’s best right wing this season. That kind of says it all about the year he’s having. On pace to establish a new career high in goals, Gaborik is flirting with the magical 50 mark. Despite occasional stretches without production he’s been remarkably consistent and blew past his subpar 10/11 season goal total with less than half the season gone. Gaborik is the Rangers best offensive talent and he’s showing it. Fully healthy, he looks explosive; the sky’s the limit this season. A+

Ryan Callahan. The most underrated captain in the league? The best player in the league no one ever talks about? The Rangers captain does it all. He’s 4th in the league in hits, was on course for a 30 goal season and gives 100% every single shift. Seven power play goals, three game winners and a short-hander suggest Callahan produces in every scenario. If there was any kind of criticism of Callahan it may be that he’s taken a few too many penalties this season but that would be nitpicking in a brilliant season for the best Rangers captain in several seasons. A+

Brandon Dubinsky. This is a tough grade because it depends what your expectations are for the talented Alaskan. Dubinsky has had a pretty rough first half even though he’s clearly improved recently. The bottom line however is that for a player making around $4m annually, counted on to be an offensive contributor, a physical leader on a blue collar team then 5 goals and 21 points do not cut it. Nor does the 6% shooting percentage or the meagre 76 shots. Luckily for Dubinsky, the team has great depth and have coped without consistent production from him. Slowly turning his year around, it’s almost like a new addition making the Rangers potentially even more dangerous. C-

Derek Stepan. Please remember this kid is 21. He’s centering the top line on the NHL’s best team (points wise), is likely to comfortably surpass his rookie totals and doesn’t look out of place at all. Stepan was an eagerly anticipated prospect but I’m not sure many people thought he would be this good, this quickly. He still has some developing to do, like his shot selection, but when his contract expires he’ll likely be a lot better financially next time he signs on the dotted line. Stepan is scoring important goals (but not enough), playing a pivotal role in Gaborik’s bounce back year and is growing up right before our eyes. Rarely do you see Stepan make a bad decision and his passing ability is incredible, as we saw once again throughout the Coyotes win last night. A huge future lies ahead. B+

Artem Anisimov. The Russian is another player showing solid progression this year. Unfortunately he has cooled off lately; pointless in eight games. Anisimov has a tendency to be streaky, and he needs to score more goals but a lot of the work Anisimov has done this season has not shown up on the score board. He’s a nice fit on the top line with Gaborik and Stepan and has handled his move to the wing nicely. His play along the boards has improved immeasurably and don’t forget Anisimov is also still young at 23 and figures to have room to develop offensively. If his production ever catches up to his talent then he could be a monster. B-

Brad Richards. Like Dubinsky, critiquing Richards’ season so far depends on what your expectations were. If you judge Richards with the massive contract in mind or place much emphasis on the relatively small stretch where he wasn’t contributing offensively then it may not look that impressive. If you measure the impact his presence has had on the rest of the roster (depth), the clutch goal scoring or the way he has influenced players like Del Zotto then Richards has been a great addition and has had a fine beginning to his Rangers tenure. That said, one of the key reasons for his signing was to help fix the powerplay and he hasn’t managed to help turn it into a more effective unit.

Despite being on course for his first 30 goal season he’s also on course for his lowest points total since 08/09. Of course that total would have led the Rangers over the last few years but it’s a different measuring stick for an elite player. Richards’ faceoff results have been quite inconsistent this year too, much like his production. Richards has improved defensively as the year has developed which no doubt helps his game when not scoring. The best part of Richards’ year is that there should be more to come. Lined up with Callahan and Dubinsky, the Rangers now have two quality scoring lines. When was the last time they could say that? If Dubinsky really has turned his year around, expect more from Richards as a result too. B-

In case you missed it. We also wrote report cards for our bottom six forwards, defense, & goalies.


  1. Matt says:

    Richards’ grade seems a bit tough, but other than that I pretty much agree with it. Does Brad get a bump for dating Olivia Munn (sooooo hot)…although they did break up according to a article today.

  2. Elliot says:

    Thanks, Chris — and to the rest of you for these analyses.

    I too would rate Richards higher, but I am definitely bullish on value beyond direct stats, and that’s where BR has added the most. Regarding his production, or lack thereof, on the power play (which probably explains the drop in assists on its own), how much would you say is a function of him as opposed to a function of his linemates? I haven’t gotten a handle on this at all myself…

    • Chris says:

      I think I’m being tough on and rightly do; I expect more from a 7m dollar man who has a proven track record of success. That said B- isn’t a bad start when you factor in adjusting to a new team, the tough start the team had travel wise and a new system for BR to get used to.

      I think he has been a good addition and he’ll be a success long term. I also Elliot, think his stats has suffered because of Dubinsky’s poor yr.

      • Jurgenno88 says:

        this was so poorly written as I was on my phone in a sauna. F*cking Iphones……

  3. kgb16 says:

    So we’re sitting on top of the league with a top 6, that for the most part, is playing below expectations. This is great because it means there is room for improvement as the season goes on. That being said, would anyone consider trading some of our defensive depth (plus whatever) for a top 6 scorer since our cumulative grade is a B?

    • Jurgenno88 says:

      I wouldn’t say for the most part below expectations. Gaborik and Callahan have played all star caliber seasons while Stepan, and to an extent, Anisimov have developed nicely.

      Dubinsky is the only one who has had a pretty poor year while BR can do more but has started well.

      I do think though, as lines/3 man units, the top six can get better and given the current record, the form of the goalies and the D, that’s pretty damn exciting.

      • Walt says:

        Dubbi is not showing up on the score sheet as we would like, but his PK, and overall play is meeting expectations!

        By year end this guys scoring will have improved, and should be near 20 goals, make my words!

      • kgb16 says:

        By below expectations I was referring to the average grade assigned by the writers of this blog which works out to about a B/+. I’d expect an A for the team sitting atop the standings, so it means there is room to improve the grade.

  4. ArtyFan says:

    Dubi has to have D- regarding his contract. We will see how it changed in June. Richie had great impact on our young players and he is still 0.7 point per game. You can count his crazy GWG and TGG in the end of 3rd periods too…. 0.1 sec left with Yotes and WC are my favorite.

    • Jurgenno88 says:

      I’m harsh but D- would be beyond harsh. At times he’s still played physically, at times he’s just been unlucky but at the end of the day he’s still scoring at a somewhat secondary level, on pace for 40-45pts.

      Now, is that good enough given the raised expectancy and nice new contract? Absolutely not but he’s been bad, not awful and D- would represent an awful season.

      • The Suit says:

        I’d probably give Dubi a C+ since he still played well on the defensive side of the puck, and its not like his forechecking slipped.

        • Chris says:

          C+ or B- for me, Dubi’s overall play has been great, just hasnt been finding the back of the net. He might of been moved to the 3 an 4th lines, but he was out there for all the important mins. just my opinion. Great post.
          Side note – Taking the family to there first Rangers game and mine since the 89 season. March 2nd Rangers @ Tampa. Have great seats, Vistors Bench 2nd row, Also son gets to watch them come out the tunnel. cheers

          • ArtyFan says:

            they key was ‘regarding his contract’ for 4.2ml and his production. If Dubi was a role player( not top 6) with 1.8ml contract, it would be tolerated, but he got contract he want it and no return so far. Lately he played better? Yes, but you appraised for halfway… and I stay with D- b/c 5 goals on halfway doesn’t make player with 4.2ml top 6 forward any discount on grading

  5. Matt says:

    who’s wearing the broadway hat?

  6. Chris says:

    If you all havent seen this yet, EC is off to Hartford..


  7. Ray says:

    Dubi was a beast along the boards last year. Seemed no one could take the puck away from him. Thats not the case this year. The effort along the boards does not seem to be there, and that along with the fact that he is not finding the back of the net means that that C- was generous when you are making 4M per.