With this week’s blockbuster trade, many are now wondering just how far the Rangers will go with the addition of Rick Nash. While it’s still way too early to be penciling us in as front-runners to win the Cup, one thing we can do is look at how the Rangers might change from an x’s & o’s or “systems” perspective.
Fortunately for John Tortorella, adding Nash doesn’t necessarily require a complete strategic overhaul the way acquiring Jagr once did. Nash will fit like a glove in our current team template. Why? Because Nash’s offense is versatile. He’s not a one trick pony.
Nash can score off the forecheck, he can score off the rush, he make plays cycling off the half wall, and he can jam the crease with that 6’4 frame of his. Guys like this are tailor-made for John Tortorella’s aggressive 2-1-2 forechecking system, which requires skaters to hunt for the puck down low and create offense below the dots. This is not a sit back and clog up the neutral zone type team. Their identity is built around skating and effort above all else.
Of course, 5-on-5 forechecking is just one aspect of a hockey system, so we will also look at how adding Nash might cause Torts to tweak other aspects of our system like the power play and our propensity to block shots.
Defensive Zone Strategy
This past post-season the media made a lot of fuss about the Rangers defensive zone strategy, which required our players to collapse around the net and block a lot of shots. What got lost in their slanted coverage is that in today’s NHL, more and more offensive teams are adopting this style of play. Point in case, during the 2001-02 season 9 teams blocked over a 1,000 shots. Last season 27 teams blocked over 1,000 shots, and the other 3 teams were pretty damn close.
With that said, now that we have two legit scoring lines, you may see the Rangers tweak their d-zone strategy, at least for our top 6 players. Rather than play a Box+1 (as seen above), the Rangers will probably station 1 or 2 wingers closer to the opposing defensemen at the blueline for a chance to create more odd-man rushes (as seen below).
By no means will this team be cherry picking in the neutral zone, as the Pavel Bure’s of the world once did, but I would expect our skilled forwards to be more aggressive than last season. Also, our bottom 6 players will likely still play more conservatively. They will be tasked to defend homeplate at all costs, as they should.
Obviously it is going to take some time for the Rangers to come together and all get on the same page. Hopefully fans show a little more patience than they did last fall, when all but myself and Dave it seemed didn’t want Tortorella fired. Give it a chance. When it all comes together, it’s going to be great hockey.