It’s becoming increasingly clear that Ales Kotalik will be an important member of the 2009-10 New York Rangers. Not only does he have a booming shot on the power play, he’s shown strong defensive responsibilities, and a nose for the net. So far, he has 3 goals and 2 assists, and he’s done that while spending two games on the fourth line. Which brings me to my next question: How do the Rangers find ice time for Kotalik?
The first two lines are set in stone: Prospal-Dubinsky-Gaborik, and Higgins-Drury-Callahan. Both have created plenty of scoring chances, and have been the top two lines on the ice in most games. The third and fourth line is where things start to get tricky. When Sean Avery returned, he was placed on the third line, with Artem Anisimov and Enver Lisin. Kotalik was moved to the fourth line, and Aaron Voros was moved to the bench. The problem is, Kotalik is not a fourth liner. Hell, for 3 million a year, he’s probably not a 3rd liner either. The Rangers, I believe, have to find Kotalik more time. But, how do they do it?
The easiest scenario is moving Enver Lisin to the fourth line. His speed would be a welcome addition. And although Dave thinks otherwise, I think Lisin has been very impressive in the offensive zone thus far. Defensively, he’s a work in progress, which is why I think a fourth line assignment wouldn’t be good for him. Lisin needs to be with other offensively talented guys to succeed. Playing with Boyle and Brashear is probably not the answer.
You could also bench Lisin, and bring back Aaron Voros. A line of Brashear-Boyle-Voros is intriguing, and they played well the first couple of games together. But by benching Lisin, you risk stunting his development. If you send him down to Hartford to play regularly, you risk the chance of him bolting for the KHL. It’s a no-win situation.
The final scenario is putting Avery on the fourth line. His goal scoring would be a nice addition to the hard working fourth line, and something about Brashear and Avery on the ice at the same time gets me excited. But, Avery is not a fourth line player. He’s a legitimate top 6 forward.
This is a good problem to have. I can’t remember the last time the Rangers had too many guys who could provide offense. I’m not sure what the coaching staff will do. There are a lot of variables, but I can’t see Kotalik staying on the fourth line all year. You could switch Lisin and Kotalik depending on matchups. That might be the way to go, but then you risk chemistry. It’s a tough call, but one I’m glad the Rangers have. So what do you think? How can the Rangers best find Kotalik ice time?