|(New York Rangers)|
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.