The need for a center is growing with every game

November 8, 2017, by

filip chytil

The Rangers need a center. That part we know. It’s something that has been known for quite some time, actually. Jeff Gorton sent Derek Stepan to Arizona and failed to replace him. David Desharnais was a shot in the dark that, while a low risk move, has worked somewhat, hasn’t been a replacement for Stepan.

All in all, Gorton replaced Stepan with Desharnais. Filip Chytil was initially given the role, but was sent to the AHL after two games and nine minutes of playing time. With the flu bugging Boo Nieves –and Paul Carey being his replacement– the dire need for a center has intensified.

During the Monday night win against Columbus, the Rangers benched both Desharnais and Carey (and Jimmy Vesey, for the most part) in the third period. That left them with Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes as the only true centers that period, with JT Miller filling in here and there. Assuming Miller is best on the wing, it’s not ideal.

The good news is that the flu will eventually go away and Nieves will return. His presence has stabilized the fourth line, and he is a significantly better option than Carey. The bad news is that Desharnais is still being used as a top-six center.

Don’t get me wrong, Desharnais has been a pleasant surprise. He’s been fine. However he is miscast as a top-six forward. A good comparison here would be Jesper Fast. He’s a solid bottom-six guy, but is miscast when put into a top-six role.

There isn’t much available on the trade market. The Alex Galchenyuk/Montreal Canadiens fire has simmered lately. The club avoided paying through the nose for Matt Duchene, who is basically a less defensively-aware Stepan anyway. So crisis averted there.

Chytil is the obvious choice to be called up and given a chance at the 2C role. But given Alain Vigneault’s lack of trust in the kid –and rookies (note: not kids, just rookies)– in general, that’s a tough sell for me. But it’s probably the only realistic option right now. He’s the only offensively gifted center who might be NHL-ready in the system.

While we don’t know what Gorton has in his head, we do know that this is a severely flawed team without a true 2C. Even as the team climbs out of that October hole, there are major issues at even strength that the powerplay is masking. A 2C helps with those issues.

"The need for a center is growing with every game", 4 out of 5 based on 18 ratings.
Categories : Forwards


  1. amy says:

    the center spot for the rangers is sore spot you have Mika as your number one center but what about 2 center Hayes is doing a decent job maybe Duschene would of helped now he is in Ottawa so the search continues

  2. Eugene says:

    There are practically 3 options right now:

    1. Trade for Bozak lease

    2. Center Miller and call Chytil to play wing

    3a. Center Miller and call Lettieri to play wing

    3b. Give Nieves top 9 call Lettieri to center 4th line

    • James1090 says:

      Nieves is nothing more than a border line NHL 4th line center. He should never play above that.

      • JERRY MALEY says:

        Nieves skates like the wind, has size, physical, fearless and has great potential. James, you must not know much about hockey with your comment

        • Matt R says:

          I think Boo is somewhere in the middle between you two, hes a solid 4th liner but he’s only had his cup of tea in the NHL, he needs more time to see if he can develop into a top 9 C. Keep him at 4C and enjoy being able to finally roll 4 lines again, the true secret to the Ranger’s (and others) success.

          • Richter1994 says:

            good post Matt

          • John says:

            I agree. He is a big kid who can really skate and seems to have some sense of how to play the game. He is not going to score 30 goals, but he looks like he could be a good 4C. His skill set seems to say a guy who can fill a checking line role and be effective at the end of the game. Add Fast and another good defensive player and maybe they can stop giving up tying goals in the last minute of the game.

          • Reenavipul says:

            He’s never shown a decent scoring touch at any level of hockey since, maybe, midget; I wouldn’t expect him to start now. 4th liner would be his ceiling but for AV willing to bump players like Fast up on a non emergency basis because he’s a genius who has never done anything wrong, ever. .

            • pavel_burrito says:

              Three points in his first NHL game this season. While playing on the 4th line. Yeah, let’s give up on this kid already

              • Reenavipul says:

                3 points against the worst line on the worst team in the league. Whoop-de-damn-do.

                That and $5 will get you a cup of coffee.

                What did he do after that? Win a decent number of faceoffs.

                I like the guy if he can stay healthy, but to think he’ll ever put up40 points in the league is beyond a stretch unless he gets Grabner & Buchnevich as his linemates all season.

            • Matt R says:

              Yes but the reason why this works with Fast in limited stretches is because he is an excellent passer, being in the top 9 isn’t all about one’s ability to finish. I am not saying Boo Nieves deserves the 3C shot, all I am saying is, just be happy that we have someone we feel comfortable with at 4C and maybe one day he will be capable of more.

        • James1090 says:

          First off you are in no position to call someone out on there hockey knowledge. Second I’m not the only one who thinks that, other commenters on this site do as well.

          As to Nieves. He’s 23 years old. He doesn’t have much developing left. This is what you get, a borderline NHLer. Second he’s an injury risk, just look at his history. There are much better options in free agency and trades every year. Someone like a Sheahan is much more preferable.

        • Richter1994 says:

          Query, have you ever seen him play prior to now? I have and Boo was less than dominating at Michigan. Maybe it was the system? Possible. But other than naming physical attributes, what have you seen that screams Buch like potential? Or Chytil? Or even Andersson?

          I would be interested in hearing your hockey knowledge on this topic, because I don’t see great potential here. 4th line center? Ok, but they’re a dime a dozen. Guaranteed Boo is not higher than Zib, Hayes, Chytil, and Andersson.

          • John says:

            I agree.

            But I think there is also a need for guys who can shut down another team’s top line. This is a skill that seems to have been forgotten in today’s game. On the great Canadian teams no one was more valuable than Bob Gainey. If all you looked at was his stats you wouldn’t give him a second thought.
            I am not saying that Nieves will be that type of player. More likely that he will always be a marginal guy his whole career. But a team shouldn’t discount the value this type of player brings. He is big strong and can skate with most. Necessary traits to be that type of guy. Time will tell if he does. But he should be given the chance.

            • James1090 says:

              My point exactly Richter. Fans always over value the players in the system all he time. Nieves is a perfect example. That’s why I said he is either a 4th line player or AHL depth. That’s his ceiling. If he is playing in your top 9 you’ve got serious problems.

              • Richter1994 says:

                Agreed James, I think he’s nothing special. The 3 assist game was against the Yutes and would have never happened with a real NHL goalie in nets. But that game got everyone excited.

            • Richter1994 says:

              Not saying Boo doesn’t have a place on the team but it’s at 4C, at best, not with Buch and Kreider.

    • RichS says:

      3A is where we need to go eugene!!!!!

  3. Peter says:

    I really think that Miller as 3C is the most realistic option. Chytil looked as if he needed to bulk up some and there is no doubt that he will be on the team at center next season. This season might be expecting too much from him physically. Hey I could be wrong and he slides in now just fine. The kid is very talented. Chytil at the wing for now might work too. I’d rather not trade for a rental.

  4. SalMerc says:

    I can see them making a move, but we would probably have to include a young defenseman and Zucc or Vesey.

    Buffalo, Florida and Montreal all need a shake-up, but who?

    • Mintgecko says:

      The truth is that the bottom 6 in general needs a revamp but I think Fast and Vesey are safe. We need role players who are going to get a shutdown role so every other shift one of the top 6 lines gets freed up. Zucc is my name who I would like to see in a trade. Ottawa’s maybe cheap but if Brass gets in the ear of that GM then that’s a team that might overpay for him. Nash on the other hand could be dealt to San Jose for something more of what the NYR need and last month the GM was talking about being open to any trade that would help them.

      • scrangersfan says:

        zucc is a Ranger true and true,He had stated that he would only play for the Rangers. IMO if he gets traded, he would go back to the Swedish Elite league.

      • pavel_burrito says:

        Why would we trade of the of the few players that truly want to be here. Zuc, like Hank, are the soul of our team. He’s not past his prime, he’s still contributing, and he’s infectious on the ice.

        I understand that sometimes hockey deals have to be made, and fan faves get moved, but there needs to be a good reason

    • wwpd says:

      MTL-centers we don’t want
      BUF-centers they won’t trade

  5. chrisqct says:

    I cannot agree more. The problem up the middle is a big issue that isn’t going away. I don’t believe they make the Playoffs like this… and they’ll get eaten alive if they do squeak in. IMO, this team will hover around .500 (or worse) until this is addressed.

    If Mikka or Hayes gets hurt, we’re completely screwed. That’s almost the bigger risk here right now.

    • Mintgecko says:

      There are alot of teams who who would be just as screwed if any of their top 6 centers went down. The luxury of having Hayes skate as the 3c for the past few years doesn’t happen all the time to certain teams in this league.

      • Mancunian Candidate says:

        Yeah, who doesn’t get excited about soft 6’5” players who have 13 points in their last 40 regular season contests? Add in last years’s playoffs and Hayes has 16 points for NYR in his last 52 games played. Hayes is a disappointment, writ large.

        • Reenavipul says:

          And plays against the other team’s best line. Only a disappointment if you expected him to be steered towards playing against bottom 6 types so he could feast.

    • ZonaNative says:

      If you look at the 2017 numbers, Desharnais numbers look like an exact match to Stepan’s current numbers – while Haye’s numbers actually look a little worse.

      Remember, we moved Stepan to give us Cap space that would allow us to land Shatty. We did that and his replacement (Desharnais) is putting up Stepan-like numbers.

      Let’s stop looking for a Stepan replacement, and start looking for a real #2C. If we can’t get that, than we have to add a stud winger to that line and drop Zucc to the 3rd line.

  6. DAVID k says:

    infuse some youth in the lineup and put them on the wing for third line and let them develop with the team. Gorton traded away Stepan and we need to see what they have as pros. Chytl needed to get ten games to see what he has but A.V. would not give him a chance.

    • wwpd says:

      You make it sound like NYR has buried him and moved on. By all accounts the org is still very excited about him. It’s not a given that an 18yo, #21 draft pick center can step in and be meaningful in the NHL his first year. Let’s see what he has as a pro with the Pack playing meaningful minutes and working up to it. No reason to rush either him or Andersson playing limited ice time with NYR this year. There will be inevitable injuries and maybe some call-ups if he is still producing a point per game and playing solid back check in the ahl.

    • John says:

      Watching Chytil for the first few games, it seemed to me he just isn’t ready physically. He got pushed off the puck to easily and struggled on the boards.
      The skill is definitely there, but it doesn’t make any sense to push him when he isn’t ready. With the Pack he will have trainers who can help him develop physically, while learning to play the North American game.
      You don’t want to put the kid into a situation where he is just physically overmatched in the NHL. Too much chance to get hurt, get into bad habits and most importantly to lose his confidence.

  7. Rod Seiling's Twilight Zone says:


    • Jeff says:

      Rod agree 100% on players…….hope Mngmt make no moves till at least January. Issue for me is still AV and his lineup choices…..and as a fan that’s my take. I know wins count. The wins only count after you make the playoffs. Getting there is R&D, or product placement or market research. The same product with nothing new guarantees decline. AV mix it up! Let the kids FU. Correct them and come back with them in the same game….lose a few….its OK! Regular season wins may keep your job, but we fans want to see you win in apr, may and June! Come on dude! It’s all on you…..Not JG, Drury or even Slats…….YOU! Your press conferences will look like “the kids grew with their mistakes…..not “we need more from our veterans”. Trust change…not the same old same old.

  8. HARLEMBLUES says:

    AV is to damn stubborn which has hurt this team over the years. Great coaches aren’t stubborn they come up with a system to fit the players they have to work with. Pat Riley is such a great example showtime in LA and bump and grind with the Knicks. He changed because he had different players. That being said JT Miller is a center and should be put there. Now if you want him on the wing when Fillip is ready later this year so be it. One other thing Shattenkirk will put up big numbers and he has helped the PP. what does that mean for McD next contract? I can’t pay him more than Shattenkirk or that much more. We may have to trade him if he’s asking for to much cash. He will bring back a center.

    • Reenavipul says:

      Talent dictates tactics. I think AV has figured it out a month into the season. What happens when other teams adapt?

      Another month long slump.

  9. Lace says:

    Personally, I think Gorton gambled a little that Andersson was an NHL ready replacement for Stepan straight out of camp. That didn’t work out and now the Rangers are left grabbing their ankles a little at ES. The longer they continue with Desharnais, the more the need for a center will present itself. The sooner Gorton finds a move worth making, the less he will be at the whim of a potential trade partners.

    • wwpd says:

      probably more like an NHL ready replacement for Lindberg. nobody had Andersson producing 55 points with 1st line minutes in the NHL this year (or maybe ever)

      • Creature Feature says:

        I think the lesson here is that not too many players move from draft to the NHL directly. It helps if your team is under-achieving and has a coach with patience too.

    • Reenavipul says:

      Andersson’s D was good enough as a 4th liner with upside right now, but AV would rather have an old dwarf that he’ll dress and not play than a plug n play rookie he won’t play.

  10. jrrangersdad says:

    The team’s difficulty is that they have 3 fairly comparable lines (8 skilled players offensively, 9 if you include Grabner), which means they need a #2-type Center (aka similar to Zib and Hayes). If we didn’t have offensively skilled players at #7 and #8 (true 3rd line), DD would work fine in traditional 3rd line role. Unfortunately he doesn’t help generate the offense we and AV expect from any of our Top 8 forwards. In order to get the #2 Center, Nash or Zucc will likely be heading the other way. Those suggesting Vesey are crazy. He’s cheap and has additional upside in a top 9 role. Our problem then becomes who is our #9 guy, likely a winger. I’d argue Grabner is fine in a Top 9 role. So let’s get on with it and find that center.

    • DAVID k says:

      They should move Nash this is the last year of his contract and he is not a top 9 anymore. It is more important for them to get a third line center rather than lose Nash after the season for nothing.

  11. RichS says:

    Cant disagree enough ……..we DONT need a center , because JT Miller is a natural center, ask his USA coaches who stated this ……..and his college and minors coaches who frequently played him there. AV had him at wing against CBJ the other night for the first period, we were down 2….
    Then AV came to his senses or more likely just got lucky and put him at center and the game rapidly changed in our favor!!!!!!
    Within a year , if , JT Miller stays at center he will be OUR BEST CENTER,,,supplanting Zib as #1 , with hayes moving to #3…..although I am starting to think Mintgecko is right….hayes is underachieving offensively big time ………
    I can just see another bobby carpenter for mike ridley and 6 ft 6in kjell samuueslsson ……..
    I was right about strallman, and lindberg and hagelin and middleton etc etc
    NO MORE STUPID TRADES !!!!!!! NO more panic, chitly and andersson will be here next year !!!!!!!!!

    • jrrangersdad says:

      I tend to agree. The majority of Centersr that has come through the USA Development team the past 5 years as started at Wing in the NHL. One thing I loved about Miller at Center is the crocodile hands some of the opposing forwards had taking passes in the neutral zone. I think he will be very successful at Center. Defensive (responsibilities) learning curve will take a bit a time though.

  12. Chris F says:

    Aside from getting PP time, how is Desharnais being slotted in as a top-6 forward?

    That hasn’t happened. He’s consistently been on bottom-6 lines, where be belongs. And his ice time has been getting limited lately.

    And why the assumption that Miller is better at wing, when he’s naturally a center and has actually been plugging in there occasionally and is playing like a guy who can run the show with decent wingers?

    There are more options here than many are willing to acknowledge. Chytil is most likely not our savior.

  13. Reenavipul says:

    Desharnais, he of who didn’t play the 3rd period last game, will play/not play half a game again tonight, because this stronzo of a coach won’t change a “winning” lineup.

  14. lv says:

    We probably can’t trade for a center, since a quality 2nd line center costs a fortune in a trade (except for what we got in return for Stepan)
    Miller to 2nd line center. Hayes to 3rd line center. Nieves/Desharnais rotate 4th. Best options right now.

  15. Chris A says:

    Kevin Hayes is ranked second and Mika is ranked third among all Rangers forwards in even strength ice time per game. DD is ranked ninth at even strength and tenth in overall ice time per game.

    How exactly is DD in the top 6? If DD keeps playing the way he’s playing and is the Rangers 3C, I don’t see an issue. If you watch DD closely you’ll see how effective he is at breaking up the opposition. He’s kind of a hybrid of Fast and Zucc. Like Fast, DD is effective at disrupting the opposition’s breakouts and causing turnovers that lead to offensive zone time and like Zucc he’s a small offensive player that can make slick passes to open linemates. All for a $950k cap hit.

    I’ll be honest, I thought DD was going to be Hartford bound before training camp. But he showed up in shape, can still get around the ice surface, and has been good at the faceoff dot. Through 16 games, DD has been a checkmark in Gorton’s good move column.

  16. Arisrules says:

    I cannot believe that the Rangers went into this season penciling in Desharnais at 3C with Anderson as 4C with no insurance/backup plan! Having said that, since Boo came up, he’s stabilized the forward units. AV just needs to get his head out of his ass and roll Desharnais at 3C and Boo at 4C.

    The bigger problem remains AV’s uselessness, but also our blown tire of a defense. I think ti is a systems issue and also personnel underperforming. These two issues are much bigger problems than the Center issue.

    • Chris F says:

      Actually, they went with Zibanejad/Chytil/Hayes/Desharnais.

      Chytil didn’t pan out. That’s on Gorton for not finding a more sure thing replacement for Stepan.

      And AV was running Desharnais at 3C and Nieves at 4C until Nieves got the flu and missed the last couple games.

      • Creature Feature says:

        Give Boo 10 games and he will become a fixture on the 4th line. He is defensively responsible and unselfish.

        Agreed the bigger problem is the backline. Maybe it is Brendan Smith who needs to get his head straight. Having Holden and Kampfer around isn’t making AV put Brendan in. Gorton needs to move one so Smith plays.

      • Arisrules says:

        No I mean in the off-season. The lack of foresight and planning from Gorton is pathetic, not to mention how he and AV are not on the same page. This organization is a tire fire.

  17. Rangers Rock says:

    AV wants to prove to everyone he can play with 3 lines. He’s a fool!
    The proof that we have great players is we can win with 3 lines. That won’t work in the playoffs.
    Ya teach that Vessey a lesson jerk!

  18. Mikeyyy says:

    I’d call up chytil. You have nothing to lose by playing him on the 3rd line. If it’s process that av wants then send him through the process but we need a decent pivot and chytil is an upgrade over both Nieves and desharnais.

  19. Bloomer says:

    Toronto is looking for a dman. Offer up Smith for Bozak. Cuts ties with Bozak after the season and go after the fish sticks big fish with the free up capspace of Smith and Nash.

  20. Njb45 says:

    Edmonton is the answer. They need d and a wing,its what they are out there looking for. Offer Holden,Gropp and a mid rd pick for Ryan Strome who is available. Stabilizes the lines!
    2.Miller- Hayes – Zuc
    3. Vesey – Strome – Nash
    4. Grabs – Boo – Fast
    13th DD

  21. Zuccnessofitall says:

    That is some statement about a guy who has played all of 3 or 4 games at the NHL level. You have no idea what Nieves can and can’t be at this point.