For a team that is looking to contend and for a team with a boatload of injuries and players struggling to find form, waiting for a player to find his groove isn’t a particularly appealing option. As such, Mats Zuccarello has found himself on the slippery slope to the fourth line. Somewhere where small, skilled, defensively challenged players go to die.
So far, Zuccarello has been terrible for a team that has been terrible. For a team absent of arguably their best three wingers, the fact Zuccarello has fallen so far so quickly and contributed nothing in the interim is troublesome. He has received the ice time (over 16 minutes per game), he has had opportunities – if you can call one shot per game sufficient opportunity – but has failed to produce whichever way you look at it.
He’s not the only one struggling, but he’s one that was expected to build upon his successes last year.
At this stage Zuccarello may be being saved from the press box (or worse) because of Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin’s combined absences, and management’s likely reluctance to go with even less experience as the Rangers look to get out of the 2-5 hole they find themselves in. It’s fair to say that Zuccarello’s Rangers career could be in jeopardy right now.
Of course, Zuccarello was never expected to be a saviour, but he was expected to be a contributor. Right now is a great time to show the Rangers that he can be leaned on to produce when they need it most. If the little Norwegian’s unproductive period becomes much longer consideration will be given to other, more in form players.
We have already seen Chris Kreider return to the Rangers and he is immediately (appropriately) practising on a scoring line. Guys such as Danny Kristo are playing well in Hartford. It won’t be long before their merits are considered, maybe at the expensive of Mats Zuccarello. With a banged up, under performing squad, its results and not individual career paths that matter.