This past offseason, the Rangers addressed their biggest holes, signing and trading for depth players that will likely play a key role in this team’s push for a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. While there are still some questions to be answered (mostly around line formations), perhaps the biggest area for concern heading into the season is the lack of right-handed shots, specifically those that can play on the powerplay.
The current right-handed shots on this club are Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, Arron Asham, Derek Dorsett, Dan Girardi, and Anton Stralman. That’s four forwards (of which only one will likely be in the lineup) and two defensemen. Compounding this is the fact that only two of them can realistically perform well on the powerplay (Stepan, Callahan). Dorsett and Asham won’t sniff PP time, Girardi really doesn’t play well there, and Stralman has just one year of success on the powerplay. That year was 2009-2010 when Stralman put up 4-18-22 on the Columbus powerplay, but hasn’t even come close to that since.
This becomes an issue because –and we saw it time and time again last season, especially in the playoffs when the Rangers trotted out five lefties on the powerplay– the Rangers need a right-handed shot to play the off-wing with the man advantage. Inserting a player on the off-wing adds multiple options for the powerplay, specifically one-timers, and keeps the opposition from easily predicting the game plan. As we saw with Rick Nash, an off-wing shot at the top of the circle can be lethal. After all, he was the only one that scored consistently outside of the goal crease.
Since neither Cally nor Stepan possess the shot that Nash has, their placement on the off-wing is simply to give a better angle at passing the puck to Nash for those one-timers that were so effective last season. Stepan is a whiz with the puck, so one would assume he is capable of this.
With just two right-handed shots capable of playing valuable minutes on the powerplay, it means taking Cally away from his home in front of the net (Stepan too). This leaves just one player (Derick Brassard) who scored more than one goal in front of the net on the powerplay last season (chart here).
You can see the conundrum. If the Rangers place both Cally and Stepan on the off-wing, then it leaves one hole open in front of the net. If they leave one in front of the net –using Brassard as the other– then they have four guys playing from the slot and higher with left handed shots. It doesn’t exactly scream versatility.
There are two wildcards here: Chris Kreider and Danny Kristo. Kreider is incredibly skilled, but he also has a nose for the net. While this is far from a guarantee, he should be able to at least get some PP2 time in front of the net. That leaves room for Cally to slide over to the off-wing mentioned above. As for Kristo, well he’s a right handed shot.
While this is a hole that the Rangers seemingly have to fill, they may have internal options to fill that hole. It just depends on how these guys play and mesh on the ice, and how the coaching staff chooses to deploy each player with the man advantage. The hole can be filled internally, but if Kreider doesn’t develop, this could turn into a larger problem.