Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about how the Rangers, as currently constructed, are not a team that is rich with depth. It’s something that we’ve discussed on about a weekly basis at this point, but depth is only a part of the problem. The issue of depth is easy to address, but that won’t matter if the star players on the Rangers roster do not contribute in the way they are supposed to.

Last season the Rangers relied heavily on Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards, and they delivered. They were the top two scoring leaders (76 points for Gaborik, 66 for Richards) on the team at even strength and on the powerplay, Gaborik led the team in goals (41), and Richards led the team in assists (41). Coming into this shortened season, these two were expected to at least contribute at that same level. Rick Nash was to come in and give them some breathing room and spread out the scoring a bit. Nash has lived up to his end of the bargain. Gaborik and Richards have not.

Despite the fact that they are in the top-five in scoring this year, the duo has fallen off a cliff. Gaborik has a line of 9-10-19 in 34 games, while Richards has a line of 5-13-18 in 32 games. Gaborik has just one goal on the powerplay, Richards has just four points in those scenarios. Therein lies the problem: If the Rangers’ stars aren’t producing to expectations, it doesn’t matter what kind of depth help they bring in. They will only go as far as these two will allow them.

Gaborik is currently on pace for a full-season pace of 45 points (21-24-45). That’s a full 30 points off his pace from last season. Richards is on pace for about 46 points in a full season (12-34-46). That’s a full 20 points off his pace. In 2011-2012 the two combined for 142 points, a full season at this pace would be a whopping 51 points less, a 36% decrease in production.

No team, no matter how deep they are, can succeed when their top two scorers from the previous season decline at such a rapid pace. No addition (Nash) can account for this decline. The addition of Nash was supposed to compliment the production of Nash and Gaborik, not replace both of them combined. In a perfect world, Nash’s current production (point-per-game) is added to the Gaborik and Richards production. In a perfect world, Gaborik and Richards produce to their expectations and career averages and we aren’t looking at a Rangers club that is fighting for their playoff lives.

Yes, depth is an issue that needs to be addressed. But in the end, it won’t matter who the Rangers add unless both of their stars from last year are able to score. This team will only go as far as these two take them. That may be what is so infuriating about this club. They should be better, so there is always that hope that they snap out of it and go on a run. But 34 games into a 48 game season they have not. They need to, or this club is dead in the water.