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An early look at the Rangers bottom six

December 17, 2012, by
Brian Boyle will be a key cog of the bottom six.

Brian Boyle will be a key cog of the bottom six.

Last week we took an early look at the Rangers potential top 6 line combinations. I think the majority of us agree some iteration of Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, Rick Nash, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan will comprise our top 2 scoring lines. With that said, the Rangers bottom six is a bit less certain.

The assumption is Carl Hagelin, Brian Boyle, Taylor Pyatt, Mike Rupp, Jeff Halpern and Arron Asham will fill those roles. However, three of those six have never played for John Tortorella before and we all know how Torts utilizes his 4th line…

Ultimately, it comes down to skating, work effort and a team first attitude. If any of these guys prove to be a liability in any of those facets of the game, they will be replaced by someone from Hartford.

On to the line combos…

Line #3: Carl Hagelin – Brian Boyle – Taylor Pyatt

Brian Boyle was responsible for lining up against the opposition’s top scorers and shutting them down. This season will be no different. Last year people complained about his drop in scoring (11-15-26 in 2012, 21-14-35 in 2011) and while a little more offense would have gone a long way, he was certainly successful at executing his assigned role. If Boyle ends up playing with Hagelin full-time, he may be able to get back to a respectable point total.

Carl Hagelin obviously has an explosive first step, is terrific on the forecheck, and also possesses some playmaking ability.  His zero goals and three assists on the postseason were disappointing, especially considering his spot on the top line. I was more disappointed with his puck possession numbers, which were so damn good during the regular season, but dropped off precipitously during the playoffs. If he ever learns to shoot and score mid-stride – watch the eff out. He could give someone on our top 6 a run for their money.

Taylor Pyatt, you may remember, was the Canucks player who lost his fiancée in a car accident several years ago. How one bounces back from a tragedy like that is beyond my level of comprehension. It’s good to see he’s still playing hockey and I’m glad he’s continuing his career as a Ranger. No one backs up their own better than Rangers fans.

Like Hagelin, Pyatt is a left winger, so those two may swap. Defensively, at least from a metric point of view, he’s a slight downgrade over Ruslan Fedotenko. However, scouts say he’s a better skater and has some pop offensively to go with that 6’3 frame of his. Pyatt spent the last three seasons with the Coyotes, who employ more of a trap and transition style offense, so it will be interesting to see how he makes the transition from a 1-2-2 neutral zone hybrid trap team to Torts’ more aggressive 2-1-2 forecheck. Ultimately, Pyatt should give Torts a good match up weapon in his arsenal.

Line #4: Mike Rupp – Jeff Halpern – Arron Asham

The fourth line is where things get interesting. Part of the problem the Rangers ran into in the playoffs was their 4th line was often out-matched by quicker skaters. I’m not sure Rupp – Halpern – Asham is really the answer to that problem.

Rupp is a guy I defended quite frequently last season. I think he’s a better player than most give him credit for and obviously Torts leans on him to reinforce his message in the locker room. With that said, how will the prolonged lockout affect his play? Will a vacation from the grind be beneficial, or will he lose a step? It’s hard to know at this stage of his career.

Arron Asham was clearly brought on board to replace Prust’s role as team protector. However, Prust obviously brought more to the table than haymakers, so I’m not sure I really see him replacing Brandon on a macro level. Perhaps Torts will utilize him differently, but at age 34, I’m not sure what other roles would be a good fit. He hasn’t played on a penalty kill since 2006.

Jeff Halpern is the only guy among this trio I really see sticking in the lineup consistently. He’s a faceoff specialist who can also block shots, kill penalties, etc. He averaged just over 12:30 of ice-time over the last two seasons, so figure he’ll probably be used comparably to John Mitchell.

Of course, the Rangers have a wealth of prospects and role players in Hartford, so if any of these guys don’t pan out, Sather can always bring up some fresh legs from CT.

Categories : Analysis, Hockey Tactics


  1. Dave says:

    Hagelin’s future is on the third line, and it would be great to see someone with more offensive skill than Boyle play with him. Hagelin with another like-minded (offensively gifted, defensively responsible) center can be a really dangerous combination.

    As for that fourth line, Rupp has said that Asham will be a great addition. Rupp’s the only guy that has played with him, so I’ll give Asham the benefit of the doubt for now. Need more speed on that line though.

    • Hoggo says:

      Hagelin actually played really well on a line with Boyle and Prust/Fedotenko.

      Asham can skate, so at least he won’t be a pylon out there.

  2. Matt Josephs says:

    This is a real are of concern for me. The third line is fine but the fourth line is attrocious. That’s not a line come playoff time I want to see out there. Halpern is fine but Rupp and Asham in the postseason is a recipe for disaster.

    The Kings last year were able to roll four lines and it did them wonders in the playoffs. Sutter was able to putt Nolan, King, and Fraser without fearing they’d concede a goal every other shift.

    It seems like every team but the Rangers has fighters for the regular season that are dropped for when the playoffs start. The Kings had Westgarth last year, the Devils had Boulton and Jansen. Shelley on the Flyers. The list goes on.

    I know the season hasn’t started yet (And it might not) but I just have this feeling that if Rupp and Asham are in the lineup they aren’t being pulled.

    • Dave says:

      Remember that rosters change midseason all the time. I’d assume that both Slats and Torts recognized why they lost and will address it.

      • Matt Josephs says:

        You would hope so. If there’s a 48 game season it may be harder to bring in someone. A hard nosed player that I’d like to bring in for the bottom 6 is Curtis Glencross. He could fit in on this team playing a third line role easily. Maybe he’d be able to interchange into the second line as well.

        I feel like the Rangers are a “Curtis Glencross” away from being a very good team. Not to mention having a more rounded lineup.

        • Dave says:

          I don’t watch much of Glencross, but he’s on a decent contract ($2.55m for this year and two more). That NMC is a deal-breaker though. Depth players don’t need those.

          His peripherals aren’t terrible either. -7.3 RCorsci, .111 QoC (top-2 for CGY forwards), and 49.9% OZone starts.

          If he can play RW (he’s a LW), and push Pyatt down to the 4th line, then they are more balanced for the playoffs.

          • Matt Josephs says:

            Depth players of course don’t need NMC’s, but everyone on Calgary has one anyway. His contract is very manageable. There also aren’t too many $2.5 million a year players who put up 48 points in 67 games.

            • Dave says:

              With the cap coming down, I’m wary of taking on too many NMCs. Plus the cost for him would be rather high. I’d have to assume a good prospect + pick.

  3. Walt says:

    Your line selection is the same as I offered last time around, and I believe that this line up will work very well.

    As for Asham, people may not realize it, but the man has pretty good offensive skills. Check his scoring over the years, better that Prust, or Feds. That stated, I will miss Prust very much, great team guy!!!!!

    Like you stated, if this fourth line doesn’t pan out, they can bring up Miller, the kid is hard nosed, and can score. He will play for team USA, good experience, and exposure.

    • Dave says:

      I too believe that people are underestimating Asham because of their hatred for him in other uniforms.

      I don’t think Suit meant Miller as a call up. He still needs seasoning. Think Newbury or someone in that mold.

    • Matt Josephs says:

      If Miller were to be called up he wouldn’t replace Rupp or Asham in the lineup. He’d have to outplay Pyatt and then Pyatt would take Rupp Or Asham’s role. It’s not beneficial for Miller to take a 4th liners role in the lineup at least at this time. He needs to develope and management wouldn’t likely put him in a position to play only 5 minutes a game.

  4. The Suit says:

    I don’t think Asham will be a liability per se, but do you really see Torts giving him more than 8 mins a game? Just feel this line might be too sluggish…

  5. SalMerc says:

    I would enjoy seeing ANY bottom 6 put on the skates and sweater right now, but I fear that this season is a goner. I suspect there will need to be something in place for there to be a 2013-2014 season, so maybe by then our bottom 6 predictions are all wrong.

    • Dave says:

      Don’t live and die by the blow-by-blow of the lockout. There’s a reason why we aren’t covering every single news bit here.