The bottom six forwards get a raw deal sometimes. Many base their usefulness on their offensive output, and unfortunately that is just not the role of the bottom six forward. Sure, contributing offensively is nice, but the role of these players is to shut down the opposition’s top lines. They are the ones that do the dirty work, they keep the opposing goons in check, they wear down the opposition.
So based on the above, let me reiterate these grades are based on the players executing their specific roles within our team concept. This isn’t just based on stats.
Boy did Boyle have some major responsibilities this season. He was generally responsible for lining up against the opposition’s top scorers and was given the job of shutting them down. He also was the guy that Torts turned to when he needed a defensive zone face off win. People look to his drop in scoring (11-15-26 this year, a drop from 21-14-35 last year) and they assume Boyle has just been awful. That’s not the case. Boyle started just 28.8% of all his shifts in the offensive zone, good for lowest rate on the team. But yet, he managed to finish 43.9% of his shifts in the offensive zone. The result: a player that did his job. He handled the defensive zone pressure and set up the Rangers in the offensive zone. Oh, and he was tied with Brad Richards and John Mitchell for second on the team in face off win percentage (51.8%).
In the playoffs, Boyle was clearly getting under the Ottawa Senators’ skin, which is why Chris Neil decided to target him with a head shot. Boyle was one of the most effective Ranger forwards before the concussion, and was clearly not the same after. Mid-season: B/Full Season: A-/Playoffs: B+.
Fedotenko is another player in the Brian Boyle mold. He is not on the ice to produce. He is on the ice to shut down the opposition, so everything said about Boyle is the same for Feds. Feds was third lowest on the team in offensive zone starts (36.5%), but like Boyle managed to finish a higher percentage of those shifts in the offensive zone (47.9%). The result is the same as Boyle: he did his job. Yes, his offensive production was down from last year (9-11-20 compared to 10-15-25 the previous year), but he was an integral part in the defensive success of the organization this year.
It is also clear why Torts loves Feds in the playoffs. He just picks up his game, and was one of the most consistent forwards throughout the Rangers run to the Eastern Conference Finals. His 2-5-7 line, which included four games in a row with a point at the end of the Devils series, was a nice surprise for someone who did a good job shutting down the opposition’s top scorers. Mid-season: B-/Full Season: B/Playoffs: A.
The last of the shutdown trio, everything that was said about Feds and Boyle can be said about Prust. His offensive zone starts (33.7%) and offensive zone finishes (43.7%) were on par with the others. Like Boyle and Feds, Prust’s offensive numbers tailed off a bit (5-12-17 compared to 13-16-29), but as mentioned above, it’s tough to score when you start less than 35% of your shifts in the offensive zone. Prust was also in charge of keeping some enforcers at bay, and led the team in fighting majors this season. He still played in all 82 games this year, despite suffering a torn tendon in his hand during a fight with Zenon Konopka in January. Prust defines warrior.
As for the playoffs, Prust was his usual self in his usual role, but without the fights. His one game ban for his elbow to Anton Volchenkov hurt the Rangers, but that was really the only blip on the radar for him in the postseason. Mid-season: B-/Full Season: B/Playoffs: B.
The one thing we kept saying about John Mitchell throughout the year was that he was a puck possession monster, and he continued to be a monster for the entire regular season. He had the best RCorsi on the entire team, boasting an 11.1 RCorsi, almost a full point higher than Carl Hagelin (10.3). His line of 5-11-16 is pretty solid for a fourth line player, but his last goal came on January 24. Mitchell proved himself to be a fantastic role player for this club that at times needs more speed on the bottom six. Another positive: face off wins. As mentioned above, Mitchell was tied for second on the team with a 51.8% success rate. All it cost was a 7th round pick too.
Mitchell’s offensive game continued to struggle in the playoffs, and he was used sparingly by the coaching staff. His one point was a huge one though: he won the face off that led to Marc Staal’s overtime winner against Washington. Mid-season: B+/Full Season: B+/Playoffs: B.
Oh Mike Rupp. This is the evaluation I wanted to do because this is the type of player that many fans seem to forget what his purpose is. To be honest, his regular season numbers, both offensive and defensively, do not work in his favor. His RCorsi was miserable, his QoC was last on the team, and his offensive zone starts are not at the level of Prust/Boyle/Fedotenko. He contributed just five points (4-1-5). But Rupp is more than that. Rupp is a leader in the locker room, as evidenced by Torts constant leaning on the veteran at key times (shown in 24/7). He stood up for his teammates (remember the sucker punch on Michael Del Zotto? It was Rupp who was the first guy in).
In the playoffs, Rupp was one of the better forwards on the team. If not for Boyle’s rear-end, Rupp would have ended the triple overtime game in the first overtime. In his limited ice time, Rupp and his fourth line teammates were in on the forecheck and generally speaking had some decent shifts. But then again, Rupp did take a bad penalty or two. Mid-season: B/Full Season: B/Playoffs: B.
Oy, what an enigma Anisimov is. Anisimov bounced around the lineup from top line to the fourth line and every stop in between. His overall offensive line of 16-20-36 is a decrease from what was a career year last season (18-26-44), but his play wasn’t necessarily poor. He saw significantly less powerplay time, and thus had four less powerplay points from last season, but he didn’t really do much to earn that time with the arrival of Brad Richards. His defensive metrics are decent, but not overly impressive (.005 QoC, 2.9 RCorsi, 52.7% OZone Start). Factor all these together and you have a player that is still adjusting to the game after his third full year in the NHL.
In the playoffs, Anisimov was one of the top offensive players on this team with a line of 3-7-10, despite being thrust into a more defensive role (44.7% OZone Start, -10.5 RCorsi, .072 QoC). Tough to really argue with that offensive output considering the role he was in. Boy was he quiet about it too. Mid-season: B-/Full Season: B-/Playoffs: B+.
Saving the most difficult to write for last, Dubinsky sure had one bad year, at least from an offensive perspective. Expected to at least match his production last year (24-30-54), Dubinsky fell off a cliff, finishing with a disappointing line of 10-24-34 while taking 62 fewer shots on goal. Defensively however, he was a rock star. Starting just 41.8% of his shifts in the offensive zone, Dubinsky managed to have the third best RCorsi on the team (8.8) while leading the team in face off percentage (51.9%). Although the argument with Dubinsky is always going to be about that contract, he is definitely a useful player on this roster. This analysis is about performance, not performance based on salary.
Dubinsky’s playoffs were incomplete, as a high ankle sprain took him out of the Washington series and left him at less than 100% for the Devils series. It’s expected he needs another 6-8 weeks to fully recover. But boy was it evident that the Rangers needed him against the Devils. Dubinsky’s absence proved that maybe all the hate towards him (we are guilty of this too) might not be as warranted as we think. Mid-season: C-/Full Season: B/Playoffs: INC.