Rangers final grades: Bottom six forwards

A lack of depth up front was New York’s Achilles’ heels this season

As former coach John Tortorella repeatedly mentioned, New York’s depth up front was gutted during the summer of 2012 following the trade of Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov and the free agent departures of Brandon Prust, John Mitchell and Ruslan Fedotenko.  The Rangers struggled mightily to replace that depth all season, but had a difficult time doing so in part due to injuries and inexperience.  As a result, Tortorella was left with very few reliable forwards and it showed throughout the 2013 campaign.

Brian Boyle

It was a very disappointing regular season for Boyle, who was an occasional healthy scratch and never regained coach John Totorella’s trust.  However, in the playoffs Boyle was one of the best, most consistent Rangers, scoring three goals and finally using his big body along the boards and in front.  Boyle admitted to being extremely frustrated by his performance this year, which he blamed partially on his decision not to play during the lockout.  He wasn’t the only Blueshirt that was negatively affected by that decision, but it may offer hope for a return to form next year.
Grade: C-

Arron Asham

I’ll readily admit that I was vehemently against the Asham signing last summer.  His penchant for crossing the line in rival uniforms left a dirty taste in my mouth, but Asham turned out to be a model citizen for the Blueshirts.  Injuries kept him out of the lineup for much of the season, but when he was healthy Asham showcased the speed and shot that could make him an above average bottom line contributor.  Asham never quite found his role this season, but he has the tools to be more than just a policeman next year.
Grade: C+

Derek Dorsett

The third piece of the Gaborik return was doomed from the get-go after immediately drawing comparisons to Ranger fan favorite Brandon Prust.  Unfortunately, Dorsett was unable to suit up until the postseason and once he finally did hit the ice, he took way too many penalties in critical situations.  Dorsett does have many Prustian qualities that will serve him well on Broadway going forward, but his introduction was not the greatest.
Grade: D

Chris Kreider

Many Rangers fans blame departed coach John Tortorella for Kreider’s struggles this season, but the fact is that Kreider was playing poorly for the CT Whale long before the NHL season started, and that carried over.  Kreider was asked to learn to play responsibly at both ends of the ice and to work with his teammates rather than relying on his individual talent.  The result was a difficult season for New York’s 2009 first-round pick, as Kreider was up and down from Connecticut and rarely played more than a few minutes a game when he was included in the Rangers lineup.  Tortorella certainly didn’t help Kreider’s confidence, but this was a learning year for the 22-year-old in every aspect.  There’s no reason to think Kreider can’t bust out next season.
Grade: C

J.T. Miller

Rather than delaying the start of Miller’s Entry Level Contract, the Rangers chose to bring him up early in the season in an attempt to stretch their lineup.  Amazingly, Miller stepped right onto the third line and wasn’t overwhelmed by the NHL at the young age of 19.  Miller made some costly turnovers and didn’t contribute much offensively, but for the most part he was pretty effective.  The future looks bright for New York’s 2011 first-round selection.
Grade: B+

Darroll Powe

In the first of a flurry of early-season moves, New York sent enforcer Mike Rupp to Minnesota for Powe.  Powe immediately boosted New York’s penalty kill, but unfortunately, two concussions interrupted his season.  Powe proved to be a reliable defensive forward, his primary role, but it’s still incredible that he failed to notch a single point in 42 games this season.
Grade: B-

Taylor Pyatt

After lighting the lamp three times in his first four games, Pyatt did next to nothing offensively the rest of the season, drawing the ire of Rangers fans.  Despite his almost comical speed, Pyatt was consistently a bull along the boards and played smart hockey at both ends of the rink.  And like Boyle, Pyatt raised his game in the postseason.  Still, at this point in his career Pyatt should be no more than a fourth-liner and it wouldn’t be surprising to see New York cut bait this summer.
Grade: C+

Conclusion:

Injuries to Carl Hagelin and Ryan Callahan plus a probable Brad Richards buyout could leave New York thin up front again.  Getting more quality NHL bodies will undoubtedly be a priority this summer, but the Blueshirts should also receive a boost from within as prospects move into full-time roles on Broadway.

Click here to read Chris’s grades for the top six forwards.