Saturday, July 28, 2012

Playing Glen Sather

(New York Rangers)
I am not really much of an Olympics fan so I spent my Friday evening looking over the New York Ranger roster and seeing how I would put together the line combos. The top two lines really were not much of a problem other than accommodating for Marion Gaborik's injury.

Yet the more I played with the bottom six, the more I became convinced that Glen Sather still has to make at least one if not two more moves to strengthen the Rangers. One thing I know for sure I would do and that is to tell Stu Bickel that tell his best chance of sticking with the Rangers all season would be if he also could play forward.

I have to be honest and say that I'm not a fan of Brian Boyle and sure you would have a valid argument if you attribute this to seeing Brandon Dubinsky traded. I still think while Dubinsky played his way out of New York, in my book Brian Boyle got away with a freebie last season.

When I look at the signings of Jeff Halpern, Taylor Pyatt, and Arron Asham then I can say that if Boyle did his job the way he should have last season; none of them would be needed. You can also say that's my way of saying that I really don't think these three fit in with what the Rangers are trying to do.

Let's start with the easy stuff which is first two lines.


Yes I know the first thing that you are wondering is why not Rick Nash on the first line? The idea here is to build two strong scoring lines and to put players where they would be most effective.

Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin are best suited for a speed/skill type of game. Kreider can also play with power but by putting him with Hagelin that their speed opens up opportunities for Brad Richards.

Richards can be both goal scorer and playmaker (so can Kreider but he is still a rookie) as the two younger players will be bending defenses with their speed so that Richards can come in as third man high and have plenty of opportunities to score from.

Kreider and Hagelin are also very good defensively which takes pressure off of Richards (not that he's a bad defensive player). The hope of course is that John Tortorella realizes he has to allow this line more freedom to be creative on offense.

The other reason to put these guys together is their versatility as all three can be swapped into any of the forward positions on this line and be effective. You have Kreider's size and speed with Hagelin's speed and fore-checking while Richards provides the veteran leadership to help them both develop.

If Tortorella does that then opposing teams are going to have a very hard time deciding which line they want to try to stop because the second line is this one.


Here is Rick Nash's opportunity to show what he can do with two very talented players. I put Nash with Derek Stepan because Stepan is the next Ranger playmaker and in his third season Stepan needs to show it.

Ryan Callahan on the other side will play the Adam Graves role perfectly because he will go right to the net and cleanup whatever leftovers Nash and Stepan leave him.

Rick Nash won't have to feel like he is having to carry the entire load on this line; putting him with Stepan and Callahan gives him a support system that will increase Nash's effectiveness. Ryan Callahan is the best player for Rick Nash because Callahan has proven over the years that he can play with anybody as a linemate.

Not to mention Callahan's willingness to go into corners and do all those little things that make the entire line effective. This will open space for Stepan to see the ice and set up the other four guys on the ice with him.

That was the easy part now becomes the jigsaw puzzle.

Pyatt/Boyle/Asham (Thomas or Bourque)

If you want to look at where Marion Gaborik's absence will be felt the most then look at the bottom six not because Gaborik would play there but rather because Hagelin or Callahan are needed elsewhere. I have to be honest I don't understand why Taylor Pyatt was even signed.

He may be 6'4 but he doesn't use it, he doesn't fight, and he doesn't play the kind of defense that John Tortorella wants to use. I don't think Pyatt's foot speed is strong enough to play on the checking line in the Eastern Conference.

I give him 10 games before John Tortorella starts to hide him either on the fourth line or the press box. I would be more surprised if Pyatt lasts the entire season as a Ranger.

Want to know who's going to miss Brandon Dubinsky the most? That would be Brian Boyle because now people are going to see Boyle and question if he was if a one season wonder.

Forget that Boyle is 6'7 because Brandon Prust did all the fighting on that line last year. Forget that Boyle is 6'7 because they had to bring in 36-year-old Jeff Halpern to handle face-offs because Boyle was barely over 50%.

What you won't forget is that Boyle after scoring 21 goals to earn that contract he has; dropped to 11 goals last season and let's see what he does this season. On the right side, it's kind of scary that Arron Asham might be the most effective player on this line.

Asham at least will fight, will throw his body everywhere and whatever job John Tortorella needs him to do to will do it. Only wish that Asham wasn't 34 years old but if he can hold this spot warm until Gaborik returns than he's worth the money.

Once Gaborik returns then you can slot either Hagelin or Callahan here which would make the checking line much more effective.

Rupp/Halpern/committee (Lindberg, Bickel, Bourque, Thomas)

We all know how little John Tortorella likes to use the fourth line so unless somebody really forces the issue these guys might be lucky if they see more than 8 minutes in a game.

In a perfect world the Rangers use Jeff Halpern to mentor Oscar Lindberg on how to be an NHL center. Halpern is mainly here to win face-offs but if he can teach the tricks of the trade to Lindberg then he too is worth every penny his paid.

Mike Rupp is here despite Tortorella's honest preference not to carry an enforcer because the rest of the NHL forces the Rangers to carry one. He too can earn his pay by teaching Bickel how to fight at the NHL level .

Rupp also would be the perfect bodyguard for Christian Thomas or Ryan Bourque because despite his age very few people still want to fight him. Of the three rookies, I can see Lindberg getting a chance before the other two simply because he's not 5'9 like the other two are.

Lindberg from every report I have been told and what I've seen myself is very good with face-offs and doesn't mind playing physical game. He needs to adapt to the North American game as well as strengthen his entire body.

Having several other Swedes on the roster will pay huge dividends when the rookie discovers what homesickness is. He's a good kid with a very positive future for the Rangers.

Christian Thomas is a legitimate NHL scorer, I will pray that John Tortorella will overcome his fear of using Smurfs to give Thomas a chance. Thomas is known as a goal scorer but his ability to run a power-play is vastly underrated and he can help fix a weak spot on the Rangers.

Oshawa used Thomas at the point to let him quarterback and they didn't have the kind of offensive talent the Rangers have. Thomas makes my team as a power-play specialist to start and if given the chance could do a lot of damage for the Rangers on offense.

Ryan Bourque on the other hand is a fore-checking wizard; you don't want Bourque and Hagelin or Kreider fore-checking you as a unit. They are relentless and again this about Tortorella's fear of size that will determine whether Bourque gets a chance.

Stu Bickel if he can learn how to play forward could be a very valuable Ranger depending on the situation. If Rupp is not available Bickel will be, if they need him on defense then they can drop him back.

A 2 position player is almost a must in today's NHL and if Bickel can pull it off then the Rangers would be in great shape. Still I for one would be scouring over the waiver wire to see if I could improve my bottom 6 as I am not sure the Whale will have NHL quality replacements.

Next the defense doesn't rest.


william Peace said...

No one is discussing how pointless it is to talk about next season. The odds of next season starting on time are nil. At best the season will start in December or mid January. Any discussion seems silly, interesting but silly.

Jess Rubenstein said...

Actually William you are the only person who thinks it is silly to discuss next season.
There is 181 comments there

Kevin and his 2 pals are talking about next season

Kevin, Dave, Chris, Jason and the Suit are talking.

Yes all of us realize that the odds are very good that on September 15th that the NHL will lock out the players or the NHLPA will go on strike.

But what we can't do is give up hope that the NHL/NHLPA might perform a miracle and settle the labor issues.

I can only speak for myself and that is I am not going to stop talking about next season just because. I know I am going to have a hockey season because of the CHL and NCAAs but that does not mean I should lose hope.

The Other Neil said...

Simply put: When Callahan and Hagelin are both playing on the 3rd line, the forwards will be slotted appropriately. This means Gabby coming back and one other top 9 forward signed (or brought up). Shane Doan is that missing link as he either slots in, in the top 6 and Callahan moves down, or he slots in on the 3rd line with Hagelin (once Gabby is back).

As for Boyle, I prefer him as the 4t line center, with Halpern becoming more of a black ace role. Currently, only the emergence of JT Miller can make that a reality.

Jess Rubenstein said...

Other Neil

Sorry but if Shane Doan is the "missing link" then the Rangers are in trouble. At 35 there is no way I would want to see the Rangers give him more than a 1 year deal.

Nothing personal against Doan but at 35, anything more than 1 season is too risky a proposition for the Rangers to take.

If reports are true and somebody is willing to offer him 4 years at 30 million (I pray it is Philly) then the NYR need to run as fast as they can away.

I would say Callahan would be better suited for the 3rd line than Hagelin is in the Ranger system.

If Boyle is the 4th line center then that will make the 4 line the most overpaid 4th line in the NHL.

Halpern was brought in because Boyle wasn't getting the job done. It would be nice if Halpern was a BA but I would like to see Oscar Lindberg as the guy who send Halpern to the press box.

As for JT Miller, I think how the CBA talks go will decide whether or not he is given a chance to turn pro.

A lockout/strike and I don't see Sather burning a year of his ELC.

Kalel9 said...

I think JT Miller is the next move from the system, he or Thomas. And I still think the Rangers will move for another scorer and another D, before the offseason ends.

Jess Rubenstein said...


I can see them moving Thomas because of Tortorella's fear of playing Smurfs but not Miller.

It is bad PR to give up on your own first round pick before he has even played a game for you. Erixon was not a NYR 1st round pick but he struggled in 2 stints with the NYR.

Think Sather will spend cash before trying another trade.

The Other Neil said...

Jess - a few things.

1. On Halpern. You're making a leap that Halpern was brought in because Boyler wasn't getting the job done. Not the case. Especially if you ask Torts. Halpern may very well have been brought in because Slats knew he was going to have to deal both AA and Dubi in a Nash deal. Outside Richards, no C could be depended on to win a big faceoff consistently. That includes Step, Boyle, AA, Mitchell. So, the faceoff thing is a team wide problem. Crap, Dubi was probably 2nd best on the team at Faceoffs. Halpern solves that, but to think he's more effective at any other aspect of the game than Boyle at this point is patently false. (and I like Halpern).

Furthermore, Boyle's success the year before had a lot to do with Prust and Feds playing up to (or beyond) their offensive capabilities. Prust had an injury plagued year in 11-12 and his offensive game completely dried up. He was a stride behind on the forecheck and had a harder time holding onto pucks against the wall. Feds just had an off year. Boyle scored a lot of goals off one-timers and goal-mouth garbage in 10-11. That's his offensive game. That's the kind of offensive game you want out of a bottom 6 guy. Put him out there consistently with Cally or Hags or Bourque and numbers might improve.

2. The biggest concern with the Rangers bottom 6: Speed. It's a slow group. Pyatt, Asham, Rupp, Halpern, Boyle -- size, grit, but not a ton of speed/skill. The Devs and Kings both had faster groups. You get BOTH Cally and Hags playing with Boyle on the 3rd Line and Pyatt, Rupp, Asham, Halpern on your 4th line and the team is suddenly very formidable. Thus, Gabby coming back and Doan (for only 2 years) is exactly the kid of move that puts this team over the top.

3. Lindberg is IN SWEDEN this year. Unless you've heard something different than we have. He replaces Halpern NEXT SEASON (if he's ready).

4. JT Miller. I LOVE this kid. That said, I seem to remember a similarly built kid names Manny Malhotra who came up really quickly and any sort of offensive game from him never totally materialized. I think Miller has considerably more offensive potential. He could end up putting up Dubi-like numbers one day. Letting him spend at least half of a season in the A is probably a smarter move. I don't see him as an immediate solution as much as I would love it.

Jess Rubenstein said...

Other Neil

" Especially if you ask Torts."

If I ask Tortorella then other than Avery, he won't bad mouth a player in the press. It was what cost him his team in Tampa and to his credit he has learned from that mistake.

FYI that Halpern was even signed doesn't make what I said false. Boyle got a freebie last season because Dubinsky was making twice as much and didn't produce.

No offense but Prust was more injured in 10-11 (especially at the end of the season) than he was last season. But Prust isn't why Boyle doesn't win faceoffs rather why he doesn't fight.

I am sorry but putting Hagelin your fastest skater and Callahan your most consistent with Boyle and you are dragging both players down.

And please Doan at 35 is a very high risk player to sign under the Tortorella system. If you don't sign him for just 1 year then you are making a huge mistake.

FYI it is JESPER FAST not LINDBERG who is contractually obligated to play in SWEDEN. Lindberg's contract allows him to make the move to North America.

You may remember Manny but again no offense but I witnessed the reality as Manny was rushed to the NHL way before he was ready and then became a pawn in a pissing contest that Neil Smith and John Muckler had over who was better suited to run the Rangers.

If you want to use Manny as an example on how to develop Miller then your use of Manny is exactly why I would seriously consider sending him back to Plymouth instead of the AHL.

He gets more practice time to work on his game while saving a year on his ELC. I would give Miller 9 games at the AHL level so he could see exactly what he needs to work on.

The Other Neil said...

Jess, thanks for the response.

1. I thoroughly agree with you re: JT's development. That said. I think he's a very interesting case. He's got the body to turn pro now. He appears to have a style of play more suited for the pro game than Jrs. So, I think his showing in camp, more than any other prospect, will really dictate his next move - jrs, the A, or somehow making his way onto the 3rd line. I would prefer he not play in the NHL this season if it means risking his development. But, I am not certain if another year in Jrs is better for him, specifically, than playing in the A. Normally, I would prefer to send a kid his age back to Jrs like they'll be doing with McColgan and St. Croix.

2. As for Lindberg, yes, I know his contract would allow him to play over here this year. But from the reporting that came out around development camps, the word was the Rangers might prefer Oscar play one more year in the SEL as opposed to the A. I believe the decision would need to be made prior to NHL camp as the SEL starts earlier. If you are able to find out what the plan is for him (re: sweden, rangers camp) that would be fantastic.

3. As for Hagelin and Cally playing on the 3rd line. The bigger takeaway here is this: If the Rangers want to go deep into the playoffs they need all 4 lines that can play hockey. They need 3 lines who can put the puck in the net. Cally and Hags would excel on a 3rd line that isn't being counted on to score. Plays against the other teams best lines. As well, they could easily slide up and down the lines.

Say what you want, but the skill and speed level on our bottom 6 took a huge hit this off-season. You could start the season with our bottom six, but you cannot start the playoffs with it as is.

I would argue they need to add 1 more skilled, gritty forward capable of 20g. Ideally, it would be a vet that you only need to bring in for 1 or 2 seasons. Then guys like Hrivik, Miller, Bourque and beyond, replace them as they become ready for full time duty.

Lastly, in an ideal world, Boyle plays 4C, PK and occasionally stands in front on the PP. But that said, if you go into the playoffs with Hags, Cally and Boyler as for 3rd line, that's actually good. And if their production goes down, that's okay, because they aren't being relied upon to score 30 goals or anything.

Jess Rubenstein said...

I may not agree with you on some points but your arguments are strong which makes them well worth debating you over.

1- Miller-it looks like Traverse City is going to be canceled which to be hurts the guys like Miller more because he doesn't get the game ice time he needs to show what he can do.

At the NHL camp, there isn't enough time for guys like Miller to show off his skill because Torts wants to get right into conditioning with the veterans he expects to use.

I am expecting a labor stoppage of some sort which is why I say give Miller 9 games at the AHL then send him back. He would get to play in the WJC and this year should be 1st line with Plymouth.

The last word I had on Lindberg was to take a shot at North America. Then again one could use the Miller argument on Lindberg and not waste a year of his ELC.

As for Hags and Cally, I just don't see Torts using one of them as a checker, 2 opposite styles here but either I see as adding to the top 6.

Think we both can agree that no matter what we say here that Torts will juggles lines faster than you and I could type up a response to each other.

IF Torts was smarter then he would roll 4 lines but he doesn't and that hurts the team. If he did then I would not argue your points about the 3rd line.

See you say they need another gritty forward who can score 20 but Torts will tell you that he has Cally.

Your perfect world I would agree with but unless we can jump Tortorella at the school bus stop will not happen.