Rangers Bruins Jake Leschyshyn
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 19: Vincent Trocheck #16Jake Leschyshyn #15 of the New York Rangers skates against the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden on January 19, 2023 in New York City. The Bruins defeated the Rangers 3-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images )

Remember when Chris Drury hired Gerard Gallant, and they force fed anyone that would listen their plans with roles for the NY Rangers? What happened to that? The Rangers fourth line needs a role, and it hasn’t had one since at least the Jake Leschyshyn acquisition. The Rangers fourth line has mostly been comprised of spare parts lately, which not only is a recipe for disaster, it means a quick out in the playoffs.

Successful teams have roles for all four lines. Generally speaking, there are two scoring lines and a shutdown line, with one additional line filling a role based on matchup. If you look at all of the prior Stanley Cup teams, they are matching up specific players against opponents with a goal of exploiting matchups (scoring lines) or shutting down offensive players (shut down lines). The Rangers have the personnel to make this happen, but it’s the Rangers fourth line that has no role at the moment.

As it stands today, the Rangers could, and most likely should, have three scoring lines and a shutdown line. That shutdown line can be the third or fourth line, it doesn’t really matter, as long as it is deployed properly. The other line in the bottom six is most likely going to get sheltered zone starts and quality of competition to maximize output. Problem with the Rangers is their last few iterations haven’t been that. They’ve fallen back into spare part mode.

The problem with the Rangers fourth line lacking a role is they wind up never playing, as we’ve seen in each of the five games since the Leschyshyn acquisition. The most the Rangers fourth line has played with Leschyshyn is 8:52 in the blowout win over Florida. That has nothing to do with Leschyshyn, mind you, it’s just an interesting coincidence. The issue at hand is Gallant doesn’t give the Rangers fourth line a role. It’s basically meant to give the top nine a breather.

So how does the Rangers fourth line get fixed?

Since it appears the Rangers are set on figuring out what they have in Leschyshyn, Will Cuylle, and potentially Vitali Kravtsov, the easy answer is to simply give them that sheltered offensive role as the Rangers fourth line. That leaves the top six, and primary scoring, to the Kid Line and the Kreider, Zibanejad, Panarin line.

All of a sudden, you have a good shutdown line with Goodrow, Trocheck, and Vesey too.

But. And this is a big but.

Gallant would need to actually roll his lines with these matchups in mind. That means getting away from his usual and predictable rotation. That’s a whole other topic covered in this week’s Patreon post (subscribe here!).

Even if Leschyshyn ,the only center in this scenario, doesn’t work out, the Rangers can go out and acquire a cheap scoring 4C. Perhaps someone like Pius Suter in Detroit could fill that role after the deadline.

But again, this requires Gallant to run the Rangers fourth line, and all the other lines, in a manner that is true to their role. Roles are great if deployed in such a manner. Otherwise it’s just empty promises and words from a coach and GM that have done nothing to endear themselves to the fanbase.

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