Rebuilding also means building out secondary and tertiary scoring threats

Elite talent matters. In a rebuild, getting elite talent takes a team to that next level of rebuilding to competing. Just look at what Connor McDavid did for the Oilers, or what Henrik Lundqvist did for the Rangers. Elite talent brings a team to the next level. But elite talent does not mean instant wins. Well built teams have secondary and tertiary scoring. It’s why role players are so critical to success.

Let’s flashback to the Rangers in 2012-2013. After recognizing a need for another elite level talent, the Blueshirts sacrificed their great depth to acquire Rick Nash to go alongside Marian Gaborik. The shortened season went up and down, and it was clear depth was an issue. Out went Gaborik, in came Derick Brassard and other pieces. Too little too late, and the Rangers were decimated by the Bruins.

Throughout those two seasons, the depth, or lack thereof, was apparent with one statement: Brian Boyle was the Rangers’ third line center. That is nothing against Boyle, an excellent depth player at that time. But when he is playing 14-15 minutes per night in a top-nine role, better teams are able to matchup and defend the true goal scoring talent. The Rangers needed him to be the fourth line center. Much like how Ruslan Fedotenko needed to be a fourth line winger, not a third line winger, as he was when he was with the Rangers.

With Brad Richards and Derek Stepan down the middle, Brassard gave the Rangers that much needed third line scorer. Mats Zuccarello came back from the KHL and, along with Benoit Pouliot, gave the Rangers that critical third scoring line. Those five, with Nash, Chris Kreider, Carl Hagelin, and Ryan Callahan/Martin St. Louis gave the Rangers that delicate mix of skill and depth.

Which brings me back to this rebuild and the current Rangers. If the truly elite talent is in the forms of Filip Chytil and Vitali Kravtsov, then the Rangers are still seven legitimate scoring forwards short of the depth to match that 2013-2014 team. It’s why having players like Pavel Buchnevich, who is still a 40-point player, is critical to long-term success for the Blueshirts. It’s why Lias Andersson turning into a top-nine forward –and not a potential top-six forward– isn’t the end of the world (not saying that is what we should expect, but he’s in no way a bust if it does. The kid is 20, let’s be patient).

Assuming, for a second, that the Rangers keep both Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, that gets them more than halfway to the nine legitimate scoring threats needed to compete. Using the Boyle/Fedotenko analogy here, we will know the Rangers are ready to compete when players like Jimmy Vesey and (don’t hate me) Brett Howden are on the fourth line. When that happens, it means the Rangers have so much talent in their top-nine that these two are forced to the fourth line. Remember how great that Boyle/Moore combo was? The fourth line wasn’t a demotion or a slight against them. Where else were they going to play?

And that’s what is being missed in this constant need to find elite talent. Depth needs to be there too, and is just as critical as that elite talent. True scoring depth forces players out of roles in which they may not fit. Remember that Jesper Fast was a fourth liner in 2014-2015 (admittedly reaching here since it was his rookie season), and not forced to play in the top-nine.

As we have progressed through this rebuild, the focus has been almost entirely on the defense and elite talent. But there are nuances to a rebuild that can’t be forgotten, and scoring depth is a critical aspect of this. Without depth, we run the risk of becoming the Oilers, wasting McDavid and his prime years. The good news for the Rangers is that they have some of the pieces in place already. There is a process.

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27 thoughts on “Rebuilding also means building out secondary and tertiary scoring threats

  • Feb 6, 2019 at 8:15 am
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    You are so correct and on point. Good teams have that depth, and we just are currently a 1 line team. Our bottom 6 are just that, bottom line players. We will need to strengthen up the offense with middle six talent. While Hayes (for the short term) can be a good second line center, he lacks scoring strength on the wings.

    Howden, Vesey and Fast would make an excellent 4th line, if we had real scoring on that 3rd line. If we have to wait for Lias and Kraftsov to be the real deal, it may take 2 more full seasons.

    We need to make trades for other teams great prospects, not just 1st round picks. We need to jumpstart an offense that goes 1 line deep. This is why I think we need to package Hayes with another talented player (Vesey or Buch or Skjei) and get in return someone ready for 2nd line scoring action. This is Gorton’s time to shine, and if we do not come away with super talented prospects and first round picks, he just is wasting everyone’s time.

    • Feb 6, 2019 at 9:08 am
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      I don’t see how trading Hayes—a very good 2nd line center who scores well and defends decently—is going to bolster the Rangers’ second line. If Hayes is going anywhere he has to bring back at least a top 4 defenseman prospect and a 1st rd pick. Or a current NHL top 4 defenseman in their prime plus a pick. If NYR is so worried about their 2nd line, I think they would’ve locked Hayes up before he had a chance to improve his bargaining position.

      The fourth line on this team should be Vesey/Nieves/Fast. It would arguably be a top 10 fourth line in the NHL. Andersson could play wing on this line if Vesey is traded at the deadline. Would like to see Howden grab the 3C slot next year.

      I’m in the camp that says the forwards aren’t the problem with this team. It’d be nice if they improved at some point, either thru development or trades—but the real problem with this team is the defense.

      • Feb 6, 2019 at 9:17 am
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        Hayes is a perfect 3C on a good team. IMO, he will be a very expensive 3C on our team. Use his value now to bring back young quality. It can be on either side of the blueline for all I care. We do not have a player with the talent of Austin Matthews, who just signed a new contract. That Toronto team has 3 players better than any of our players. We need elite and top talent to compete. Move assets, combine assets and get superb young talent that will blossom into something special in the next few years. I do not want to be “just good enough” or “tough to play against”. We need superstars, and our cupboard is currently bare.

        • Feb 6, 2019 at 9:37 am
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          I’m not disagreeing with their need to improve their overall talent. But right now Zibanejad and Hayes are producing pretty damn well as 1 and 2 centers. They have 88 points between them, behind only Crosby/Malkin, Giroux/Couturier, and Backstrom/Kuznetsov in their division. I think we can agree that’s pretty good company to be in. Hayes is not a third line center, he’s clearly a 2nd liner and has produced as such for the bulk of his career, excluding his terrible 2nd season in the league.

          If you trade a guy with 36 points in 43 games you’d better be getting back more than a draft pick.

          • Feb 6, 2019 at 9:46 am
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            If you are not trading Zucc and Hayes, what assets are you moving that will obtain either top prospects or first round picks? We are not a 2019/20 competitive team without an influx of talent. Panarin is a possible start, but IMO Chytil, Kraftsov and Lias Andersson are not yet elite talent. We are not 1 player away, and the only way to secure young talent is to move assets for better young players.

            • Feb 6, 2019 at 10:21 am
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              I never said I wouldn’t trade Zucc and Hayes. They both have to be traded because of their contract status. What I said was if the team’s main concern was the 2nd line, then it makes little sense to trade a good 2nd line center. And I said that the top 6 center position is producing well for NYR. Zuccarello wasn’t part of the discussion.

      • Feb 6, 2019 at 10:45 am
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        Before last year, Hayes wasn’t a sure thing a s a second line center, and the offer he got reflected that. He’s a smart guy, so when he finally figured it out, and started playing like at top center consistently, he decided he’d rather take his chances by declining the Rangers’ offer. Bad timing for us, probably good for him. I agree with you completely on what we should get back if we trade him now. We can’t just trade away good players without getting players/prospects/picks who are a true upgrade for the team.

    • Feb 6, 2019 at 10:12 am
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      I agree with you, but much easier said than done.

      Great article, Dave!

  • Feb 6, 2019 at 8:39 am
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    This is where the draft comes into play. The higher we are positioned, the better our chances to get the best there is out there. For too many years we wanted instant gratification, and wasted our draft picks, traded them for retreads, and over the hill types. Finally we woke up one morning and discovered that any shoot at quality, top tier players will come thru the draft, and the rebuild started. My hope is we continue to pursue that path, draft top players at their positions, and sign, or trade for the secondary players needed to obtain our objective. LGR!!!!!!!!

    • Feb 6, 2019 at 9:25 am
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      Fully agree Walt. And this draft is really deep. And we should be targeting teams like Edmonton and Colorado for their draft picks. They may not be top 10, but they have a good shot of being top 15. And this year top 15 is going to be very strong, particularly for wingers. There’s a couple D men this year too who may very well be available in the 10 to 15 range. Embrace the rebuild and draft well.

      • Feb 6, 2019 at 9:50 am
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        Picks and prospects will bring us closer to the promised land in a few years. Remember, we are not looking at a a Cup run next year

      • Feb 6, 2019 at 3:47 pm
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        Well said Andy!!!!!

  • Feb 6, 2019 at 9:53 am
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    agree Creature and we need a steady flow of talented players joining the team each year to help manage the cap and stay competitive. And ultimately win the cup!

  • Feb 6, 2019 at 10:10 am
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    Bravo! Bravo!

    LGR!!!!

    All in On Quinn Baby, develop develop develop… if you develop them, others will come… we will become a well built machine!

  • Feb 6, 2019 at 10:29 am
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    Unless we move about 5 players at the deadline, we are not going to get enough return to be any good in 2 years. We ought to pick up at least 4 picks in the upcoming draft. This team has one forward line and no first line defenders. Not sure we will contend until 2022

    • Feb 6, 2019 at 5:20 pm
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      In the first place this appears to be a buyer’s market unless by some miracle a whole group of top flight potential rentals get signed prior to the deadline … secondly you don’t want to flood the market (an already over saturated one) with players … thirdly, the 2020 draft appears to be even deeper than this one, so it might pay to wait on a couple of these unnamed players getting moved until the next trade deadline. Then factor in that it’s hard to imagine how we’ll replace 5 starting players all at once and the fact that the kids we draft in 2019 probably wouldn’t be able to truly contribute in a significant way until 2022-2023 (unless we’re lucky and 1 or 2 of them can).

  • Feb 6, 2019 at 10:30 am
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    Brilliant Dave! Comparing Fast to Boyle. Boyle is 6’7″ and Fast is like 5’1″. When the Rangers Played against Suban who has a mighty slap-shot and Boyle neutralized him, I could not believe we got rid of him, stupid AV. Boyle could fight and one year improved his skating so much no one could believe it. I agree he would have been better on the 4th line, but it really wasn’t a 4th line it was a 3B line. Boyle was a high draft pick. Did not play with top line players and still produced.
    Fast on the other hand is a rag doll and his checks are like Gnats checks. It sucks when those bugs get in your eyes but it does no damage. Again you can’t teach size, though he is OK on the 4th line and plays with top line players with little to nothing to show for it.
    Boyle is better than Fast, was better than Fast and will always be better than Fast. Fast sucks as compares to Boyle.

  • Feb 6, 2019 at 10:34 am
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    Is it safe to say that you are NOT Fast’s biggest fan?

    • Feb 6, 2019 at 10:37 am
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      Do you think?

  • Feb 6, 2019 at 10:36 am
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    I have a new name for Fast lovers, Fasters!

    • Feb 6, 2019 at 10:40 am
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      Not so Fast!

  • Feb 6, 2019 at 11:21 am
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    Been saying this for years which is why I hate it when people only harp on elite talent, or when some say that the only reason this team was so successful since 2005 was because of Hank, or when people just paint Sather as a total incompetent hockey man.

    PS: Fast is a great bottom 6 player to have on a team.

    • Feb 6, 2019 at 11:41 am
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      The problem is he is not playing bottom 6.

      • Feb 6, 2019 at 11:49 am
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        Yes, on a good team Fast is definitely a 4th liner, a penalty killer, and only elevated to the top lines in case of injury or emergency. His teamates and his coaches think highly of the guy and that cannot be easily dismissed.

      • Feb 6, 2019 at 1:44 pm
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        That isn’t HIS problem. You need to separate how the player is used from the player’s actual abilities when evaluating his true value. That’s why I object to your constant whining about Fast. This is the type of player you keep if you want to win a championship.

        • Feb 6, 2019 at 3:33 pm
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          I respectfully disagree. His abilities of not scoring with good players on his line. His abilities? Its a disability to not be able to score. He is inept, but he tries hard. All he does is try hard. And that is not good enough.

          • Feb 6, 2019 at 6:06 pm
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            You can’t blame a bottom 6 guy for not scoring that much more in a Top 6 role, nor should you blame a Top 6 guy who can’t play a standard bottom 6 role. Different strokes for different players.

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