Countless factors go into individual player evaluations, but one quality continues to dictate how the Rangers construct their roster: speed.
It’s not exactly a new revelation, the altered NHL demands that players possess speed and skill as the league has phased out the plodding physical specimens that were impact players in the 1990s. But few franchises have put as strong an emphasis on skating ability as New York. Just look at three of the team’s most recent first-round picks: Chris Kreider, JT Miller and Brady Skjei. What do all have in common? Tremendous skating ability.
There’s simply no room on Broadway, especially under coach John Tortorella, for players that can’t outskate the opposition.
If you want one reason why Monday’s Mike Rupp for Darroll Powe (and Nick Palmieri) trade went down, that’s it. Rupp, though a strong locker room voice and serviceable player, simply was incapable of playing Tortorella’s preferred go-go style. The big man was incapable of darting into the enemy’s zone to attack on the forecheck, rendering him basically useless.
Powe, on the other hand, can wheel. You won’t confuse him with a scoring threat, but Powe has proven the ability to skate at a high level, on top of other useful traits. The same characteristic was crucial to other recent acquisitions including Benn Ferriero, Arron Asham and Jeff Halpern.
The one major exception to this generally universal rule has been Taylor Pyatt. It’s not that Pyatt’s methodical skating doesn’t irk Tortorella; he made a pointed comment about it three games into the season:
“I worry sometimes about the speed of the game, but he gets there. He has been one of our most consistent players. Sometimes I worry that he isn’t going to get down the ice, but he gets there.”
But Pyatt’s hockey sense is off the charts. As Tortorella mentioned, Pyatt has an incredible knack for getting to the right spot on the ice, just in time. Three early goals have obviously helped boost his stock among the Blueshirt faithful, but Pyatt’s unique ability to read the play will make him useful whether he’s scoring or not, even though he makes Brian Boyle look like Carl Hagelin.
New York’s search for a winning recipe is ongoing; there are only a handful of players that seem immune to roster maneuvering this season. Those guys almost all possess foot speed and as we continue to guess how the rest of the season may unfold, it’s a wise assumption that players that can move have a far better chance at securing roles going forward.