With the trade deadline approaching, it’s become clear the Rangers are going to target, among other things, a center to replace Filip Chytil. The dividing question lately is not the positional need, but the spot in the lineup. Jonny Brodzinski earned a roster spot for sure, and where the Rangers see him playing will impact the type of center they acquire.
The other elephant in the room that won’t get addressed is the play of Barclay Goodrow. Goodrow has never really been a universal fan favorite, with many fans divided between his poor metrics and play on the ice with his “intangibles” and locker room presence. Both are factors, and neither should be ignored.
But before a decision is made on Goodrow, the Rangers need to see where they want Brodzinski to play. Again, Brodzinski earned a roster spot, but the big question is where. Should he stick at the 3C spot, where he has shown chemistry with Will Cuylle and Kaapo Kakko? Or should he be the 4C, where his metrics imply he might be better off.
The case for 4C
Even if you’re not the biggest fan –or don’t quite understand– the possession metrics, the above is pretty damning for Goodrow. He’s been a significant net-negative on the ice this year, and if not for Jimmy Vesey and the surprisingly efficient Tyler Pitlick, the Rangers 4th line would be a disaster.
But Goodrow isn’t coming out of the lineup. We know this. So let’s stick to reality.
The reality, of course, is that Brodzinski earned a roster spot. Given his solid defensive metrics, it’s safe to assume he’d do well in shutdown minutes. At the very least, it should be tried a few times by giving him minutes against top competition. If he looks fine there, then perhaps he can be the 4C.
In this scenario, Goodrow –who is best served as a winger– would shift to 4RW and Pitlick would become the 13F. Again, we are operating under the assumption Goodrow won’t come out of the lineup. Vesey-Brodzinski-Goodrow would be just fine.
The case for Brodzinski as the 3C
While Brodzinski’s stats and metrics this season show he might be best served as a 4C, it’s hard to ignore how well he’s played as the 3C. Brodzinski earned a roster spot because he finally stabilized a line in desperate need of a quality center. Goodrow didn’t work there and neither did Nick Bonino.
One chart doesn’t tell a whole story, and to rely on the one above on its own would be silly. It’s a tool to tell us where Brodzinski has excelled and how Brodzinski earned a roster spot. It’s also used to prove something we’ve all seen on the ice, that Goodrow hasn’t played well.
But the Vesey-Goodrow-Pitlick 4L has looked good, with Vesey doing most of the heavy lifting. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it is the usual phrase used here, even if I personally disagree. But with 4L looking good and Brodzinski stabilizing 3L, why change things?
If the prices for centers remain high, then perhaps this is the best bet? It would open up more cap space and resources to get an upgrade at 1RW, where Blake Wheeler appears to have become more of a plug and a temporary player. Kakko’s success on 3L has solidified Wheeler’s likely scratching once a scoring RW is obtained. But that’s a story for a different day.
Brodzinski earned a roster spot – but will he keep it?
It’s clear to most people that Brodzinski earned a roster spot. What is less clear is where he should play. If Peter Laviolette and Chris Drury are willing to make the difficult decision, then he should slide into the 4C spot for now to see if it works. If it doesn’t then switch it back.
But as Ranger fans, we are all far too used to seeing guys with big contracts get ice time over better performing players. Goodrow was brought in for a very specific reason, and it’s safe to assume there’s a bit of a blind spot to his on-ice performance right now.
The question is whether his leadership and Cup experience is overshadowed by his significant net-negative results on the ice.
This is where we are a bit conditioned to fear the worst case scenario. That, of course, is Brodzinski coming out of the lineup despite earning his roster spot. His optimal line may still be up for discussion, but it does appear many agree Brodzinski should stay in the lineup. Do the Rangers see this too?