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Offseason moves provide Rangers with forward balance of skill and depth

(Elise Amendola/Associated Press)

(Elise Amendola/Associated Press)

We’ve heard this a million times: The Rangers can’t score. The Rangers have no scoring depth. The Rangers rely on one or two guys to provide all of the offense.

These statements aren’t exactly inaccurate. The Rangers have, for a long time, been thin on forwards. Last season they were thin with depth forwards. Two years ago they were thin on secondary and tertiary scoring. Three seasons ago they lacked assistance for their one main weapon, but had secondary scoring to back it up. Each year, the Rangers have added pieces to address a need, but opened holes in other areas.

They signed Brad Richards to address the need to assist Marian Gaborik after the 2010-2011 season, but remained thin on assistance past that top line. They traded their vaunted depth after the 2011-2012 season to acquire Rick Nash, but the trade left them woefully thin on the bottom six. They addressed that by trading Gaborik and acquiring pieces that can –potentially– play a second line role. Then, this past offseason they acquired the last pieces for tertiary scoring. When you add in the development of home-grown players, you have a well-rounded forward group, when healthy.

Since predicting line combinations is virtually impossible in August, I believe it to be more useful to evaluate the depth at each forward position. One of the things each Stanley Cup winning team has had in common over the many, many years is depth down the middle. This is something that the Rangers finally have: A group of centers that –on paper– represent one of the stronger foursomes down the middle.

No matter how you rank them, the trio of Derek Stepan, Brad Richards, and Derick Brassard gives the Rangers potent scoring ability and defense from the top three lines. They will likely be switched around a lot, but anyone from this trio is capable of playing a top line role or a third line role. Brian Boyle and Dominic Moore round out the depth, as either can play a fourth line shutdown role (something more likely suited for Boyle) or substitute in on the third line (Moore).

On the right side, you have Nash, Ryan Callahan, Mats Zuccarello, and Derek Dorsett. That is probably the order you will see them when the puck drops, and all four are in roles that suit them well. When you throw in Arron Asham, someone who is capable of filling in on the fourth line in a pinch, you have a very deep right side.

The left side is where there are the most question marks, but it doesn’t mean the Rangers are necessarily weak there. They lack a bonafide top line LW, but they have three guys who can rotate to provide a spark. Carl Hagelin has played top line minutes before, as has Chris Kreider. Then there’s Benoit Pouliot, who is one of the best even strength P/60 guys in the league. The question marks surround who plays on the top line with Nash and (likely) Stepan, but all three are capable second/third line LWs, which solves the depth issue. Taylor Pyatt rounds out the LW position.

There are always questions heading into the preseason, but this group of forwards has most of the questions answered already. This is the most skilled and deepest we have seen the Rangers in quite some time. Those three statements at the top may be fresh in our minds, but on paper, this team looks to have finally addressed them.

12 Responses to “Offseason moves provide Rangers with forward balance of skill and depth”

  1. Jerry says:

    Great read Dave.with the left wing we do have some flexibility .you can move zuccs or Nash both to left if a guy like kristo or fast makes a big impression in camp.so I think all in all we have a lot more flexibility then we did last year.well just have to see how training camp pans out,but definitely have more options.

    • Dave says:

      Thanks, much appreciated.

      I think a lot of people are too set on line combos and not noticing the flexibility a roster like this can offer.

      • Centerman21 says:

        Dave, If you had to guess. Kreider is with the Rangers when the puck drops in Phoenix. Yes or no?
        I think he’s there at least until Hagelin returns maybe longer if he meshes with a line combo. I may be crazy but I saw something in Game 4 in Boston. His size and speed could open things up for Nash if he can learn the team game in the NHL. Could be a scary 1st or 2nd line someday if not soon. The kid has the same knowledge of AV’s system as the veterans on this team. Little to nothing at all. Camp is gonna be fun with all the battles for roster spots. LGR!

        • Dave says:

          I think he is, and I think he’s the only kid that makes the team at the start of the year.

  2. Bloomer says:

    The Rangers have had offence upfront but just can’t seem to get it together on the PP. The Powerplay is where the majority of teams scores a lot of their goals. Even handed the Rangers squad are one of the top teams in the league. The Canucks PP struggled at the end of last season. I am not real confident that AV will turn around the Rangers PP, but that being said it cant be much worst then last year.

    • Centerman21 says:

      His Canuks were near the top of the NHL every year before last. He tried a slightly more defensive approach last season to get the team over the playoff hump. It proved unsuccessful last season but he had success with that system early on in his tenure there. I think this NYR PP goes as far as he wants it to. We also have a dedicated assistant to work on PP tactics in Arniel who was a head coach. This is something we didnt have with Torts at the helm. I bet the NYR PP is ranked in the better 1/2 of the league this year.

  3. WilliamW says:

    The depth they have assembled is impressive, all the more so due to the number of guys who seem to be on cusp of playing

    If Kreider becomes the top line talent we all hope, it will allow others to fill into their natural roles and bulk up the middle of the lineup

  4. FrankCerbone says:

    Wonder what it would take to get 23 yr old, 6-0, 190 right handed center Cody Hodgson from Buffalo.

    Some combo of Callahan,,Kreider,Kristo,Lindberg, Brassard,& St Croix no doubt.

    With Sather, Beukeboom, Schoenfeld, & Samuelson
    pn board, it is VERY, VERY hard to believe Rangers would try Dorsett as its sole enforcer

    • FreakCerbone says:

      Hey what would it take to get Marc savaged off the bruins for our next 6 first round picks.

      Go back to jersey ya bum.

  5. Bloomer says:

    Forget Hodgson, all of the Rangers top 3 centers are better hockey players then he is. Besides AV and Cody get along like oil and water. I do agree the Rangers will need some more muscle. They are ripe for getting pushed around the rink unless they bring in a nuclear deterrent, hopefully one that can skate.

  6. Sean says:

    I’m still optimistic for the coming season, but currently the words “on paper” should be met with a healthy amount of skepticism by Ranger fans.

  7. Lenny says:

    Dave, think those bottom guys will be pushed by the kids at camp for a job. Actually, I see Miller, Kristo, Lindberg, Fast and McIlrath battling for jobs. Kreider should make it and they’ll need a couple of kids to at least fill in until Cally and Hags ready to play. Even if none of them stick after Hags and Cally return, definitely think you’ll see some of them on call ups during the season and the season at Hartford will get them that much closer. Hartford should have a strong team.