Next up on our final year report cards come the bottom six (or seven, in this case) forwards. Before we start individually, it should be noted that the bottom six were shockingly good this season, with the third line being arguably the most consistent and productive line towards the end of the season. The chemistry shown on both the third and fourth lines (though moreso with the third) carried the Rangers through the Pittsburgh series in the playoffs and will make for a headache for Glen Sather to keep together during the offseason. On to the grades..
Mats Zuccarello: A. Zucc was the Rangers MVP for this past season. He showed tremendous strength and a major return on his 1 year/$1.15 million contract signed prior to this season. Leading the team with a line of 19-40-59 during the regular season, Zucc kept it turned on during the playoffs with that aforementioned chemistry, with a respectable 13 points in the 25 games played. Perhaps the most promising sign is that Zuccarello is listed at 5’7, yet plays as big (and often bigger) than the 6’4 Rick Nash. Re-signing Zucc must be an absolute priority for management this summer.
Derick Brassard: B+. Brassard’s first full season with the Blueshirts certainly showed that his flashes of brilliance upon his arrival were not for naught. He showed up as the player that the former sixth overall draft pick was expected to be: A natural playmaker with an eye for when to shoot. Brassard’s hockey IQ led him to be third on the team with a shooting percentage of 11.3%. Brass only missed one game this season, proving to be much more consistent than the Blue Jackets seemed to find him. With his contract expiring, it’s necessary to find money to offer and keep this line together.
Benoit Pouliot: B+. Another high first round draft pick (fourth overall), Pouliot has found himself to be a quintessential journeyman at the ripe old age of 27. Much like Brassard, Pouliot suffered with consistency and an ability to live up to the potential expected of him. Also like Brassard, it appears that Pouliot has found his niche on this third line. Pouliot ended the regular season at 15-21-36, and continued to be productive throughout the playoffs. Perhaps the power play time helped his success; with 7 PPG in the regular season, he tied for first on the team with… you guessed it, Derick Brassard. Pouliot needs to control himself in the offensive zone and stop taking unnecessary penalties, and once he does, he looks to be unstoppable.
Brian Boyle: B. The mysterious case of Brian Boyle is that he always plays mediocre during the regular season, but like a superstar in the postseason. His postseason play would get him an “A” rating, but in analyzing the regular season as well, he played merely above average. Boyle tends to forget that he’s enormous (6’7, 244 lb) and for much of the season wasn’t playing in front of the net. Boyle was, however, phenomenal on the penalty kill along with Moore, almost entirely neutralizing a deadly Montreal PP unit during the Eastern Conference Finals. Boyle’s stellar postseason play earned him a huge raise, and maybe one that won’t be granted by the Rangers. I think Boyle’s contract will end up like a Brandon Prust situation, with him landing somewhere else grossly overpaid and the Blueshirts looking for a replacement.
Dominic Moore: B. Moore’s resurgence into the hockey world with the Rangers was certainly inspirational; however, the beginning of the season showed that it may have been a bit tougher than he anticipated. Moore found himself a healthy scratch while he tried to figure out the game again, but once he came back he came back stronger than ever. A career journeyman, at 33 years old it was interesting to see if Moore would find his stride again. It appears that with the confidence found in his camaraderie with Henrik Lundqvist (the two were drafted together), Moore played his role well. Much like Boyle, he proved his worth on the penalty kill and in the playoffs, where he rotated from line to line and played well despite facing more minutes and more potent defensive pairs while playing with the first and second lines. Moore’s shining moment was getting under the skin of Sidney Crosby in game six of the Eastern Conference Semis and helping lead the team to a win.
Derek Dorsett: C+. Part of a great fourth line? Yup. Completely replaceable? Absolutely. Dorsett was part of the Marian Gaborik trade that brought over Brassard and John Moore, lauded as the replacement for Prust that the Rangers needed .We didn’t see Dorsett play until this season, and I think we’re still waiting to see Dorsett win a fight. He’s tough but, as his Beginnings episode will remind you, he’s small. The addition of Daniel Carcillo (below) from LA reminded us that we needed more muscle, as Dorsett wasn’t quite getting it done. He didn’t do poorly this season, but he did nothing spectacular either.
Daniel Carcillo: C+. Same camp as Dorsett, except that the addition of Carcillo did add a spark that was required to push the Rangers into the postseason. Carcillo was a necessary piece in the Flyers series (who could forget this beauty?), but that incident with the linesman during the Canadiens series – no matter whose fault it was – showed that his head isn’t always in his actions. That was a concern with Carcillo, who has a nasty reputation as a goon. I personally never thought I would like him as I do, but I also know his worth and wouldn’t cry seeing him go.
Note: JT Miller and Jesper Fast were both incomplete; as we don’t have a large enough sample size to properly assess them this season."Report card: Bottom six forwards",