Richards clicking at LW creates need for third line center

(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

When the Rangers opened camp in September, the assumption was that Brad Richards would play either second or third line center and Chris Kreider would be playing first or second line left-wing. It’s amazing how quickly things change. Six games into the season, Richards has solidified himself as the top LW, while Kreider is working on his game in the AHL.

With Richards no longer playing center, the Rangers vaunted depth heading into the season is no more. Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard are still the top two guys down the middle, but Brian Boyle –who we believe is best suited as a 4C– is now lining up as the 3c, and Dominic Moore is lining up as the 4C. The best case scenario for the Rangers has Boyle and Moore on the same line, providing excellent defense while chipping in offensively here and there.

Naturally, this creates a hole at 3C. Boyle is a great asset to this club, but he is best served as a shutdown guy taking defensive zone draws.

It is too early in the season to go searching the trade market for a 3C, but perhaps the Rangers found a blessing in disguise. Ryan Callahan is out for the next 3-4 weeks, and the Rangers called up Darroll Powe to fill the hole in the lineup. Powe will likely play fourth line minutes, which means J.T. Miller will get top-nine minutes instead of defensive responsibilities with Moore and Derek Dorsett.

(Photo: NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo: NHLI via Getty Images)

There is a chance that Miller will slide into Cally’s spot with Brassard and Richards, which means a lot of offensive zone starts and an opportunity to showcase his offensive talent at the NHL level. Should he succeed, then perhaps he will be given the opportunity as the 3C when the club is fully healthy. The one problem that arises right away is that Miller is a left-handed shot, so sliding into Cally’s spot on the right side may be a bit more than the 20-year-old can handle.

If Miller isn’t provided with that opportunity, then the Rangers –even when completely healthy– will still have a 3C issue. Moore might be a temporary fix while they deal with injuries, but the club is best served having him with Boyle to create a great shutdown line.

Of all the pending UFAs, very few make sense for the Rangers. Paul Stastny from Colorado is an interesting option, but the salary doesn’t work (Stastny makes $6.6 million). There are ways around it (salary retention, dealing dead weight contracts, etc), but the cap likely gets in the way for Stastny.

Matt Stajan from Calgary is an option if healthy, but he’s not exactly someone you clamor for. Steve Ott ($2.95 million) is an interesting choice from Buffalo, and you assume that he will be made available. If Nashville falls out of contention, then David Legwand ($2.5 million) might be an option, but there’s some cap maneuvering to be done there.

The best case scenario for the Rangers is allowing Miller a chance to prove himself in an offensive role, and then shifting him to the 3C and allowing him to grow from there. The 3C spot for Miller gives him the minutes required and allows the coaching staff to shelter his minutes a bit. There are other options, but considering the cap crunch, Miller’s success would greatly help this club.

9 Responses to “Richards clicking at LW creates need for third line center”

  1. paulronty says:

    Totally agree with everything you said–amazing!

  2. WilliamW says:

    Agree it would be nice to see him get a chance there once guys start returning. Not sure how he could be sheltered though unless Stepan’s line (with Nash/Callahan and Hagelin) takes a more defensive role

  3. VinceR says:

    Really great article Dave! (and you were right about the perfect timing there).

    A lot of food for thought and I think it would be a great scenario when this team is 100%.

  4. Bloomer says:

    Playing center has a lot more responsibilities then out on the flank. While Boyle is no offensive dynamo he has proven he can be shutdown center. Richards has played wing before and is excelling there, thus I wouldn’t move him. JT Miller could play on a line with either Boyle or Moore and the coach could flip him from wing to center and allow he time to learn the position at a NHL level. I agree with the posting JT success will help the club, a club that can use a 3rd line center that can make plays, create scoring chances and defend.

  5. AD says:

    I think our need for a top line LW, which Richards is filling very well, is greater than our need for a 3rd line center. Nonethless, it is still a hole to fill; why not give Miller a shot?

    I’d like to see Hrivik play 3rd line wing as well; sure he has some development issues but he will provide more speed and offense than Powe, Pyatt or Boyle, and the club has ample defensive forwards who can also kill PKs.

    So far, I find AV’s logic on awarding 3rd line (or better) ice time to guys like Pyatt and Powe over guys in Hartford a bit odd. Those vets have not been and will not score goals or offer up assists; they just consume ice time and play defense — not really worthy of anything beyond 4th line contributions.

  6. Walt says:

    The move with Miller at wing, and then center makes plenty of sense, and I agree with most of what you say Dave.

    But, you knew this was coming, no one has even thought of a kid we have who showed he could play at this level, and wouldn’t cost anything in return. He also helps with the cap being what it is. Who may this player be, well it’s Lindberg, and I believe he can do what would be asked of him!!

    Any takers?????

  7. Ray says:

    A really first shutdown line is either your second line or your third line. It isn’t your fourth line. You can’t stop Ovechkin, Crosby et al with guys who play ten minutes a game.

  8. Mikeyyy says:

    This is déjà vu.

    Didn’t we try doing this with another guy?

    That worked out well for him … Oh no it didn’t.