Wojtek Wolski was the natural player to pencil in for the top line in training camp and the preseason. He is clearly the most skilled of the Rangers forwards after Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, and has proved in the past that when he has solid players playing with him, he performs as well. When he was placed on the top line with Richards and Gaborik, the line looked good. It’s tough for that line not to look good, but Wolski seemed to be a nice fit in that left wing spot. Then he hurt his groin.
Wolski’s strained groin led to him sitting out a portion of the preseason games, forcing cocach John Tortorella to juggle the lines a bit. Brandon Dubinsky played nicely there, and now Derek Stepan is getting his chance. Should Stepan succeed, the Rangers have a very dangerous 1-2 punch with their top six forwards. Unfortunately for Wolski, he likely won’t get an opportunity to play with Richards and Gaborik should the Stepan experiment succeed. That begs the question: did his injury kill his top line aspirations?
It’s tough to say yes or no to this question. On the surface, it appears that it did, as Wolski was the penciled in guy. But, it would be silly for the coaching staff not to try all available options and see what works out not just for that line, but for the other three lines as well. Those two answers make it difficult to really say whether or not his groin cost him his spot.
While it is a good assumption that the first 15 games will be spent doing some line tinkering, that may not be the case should these current lines succeed. The top two lines are a dangerous top two, and we’ve seen what third line is capable of. Since coaches don’t juggle the lines to get the fourth, there is a good chance that we may not see any changes to the top nine forwards. If that winds up being the case, then Wolski may never get another opportunity to prove his case for the top line.