In an attempt to take our minds off of the inevitable lockout, let’s turn our focus to the Rick Nash acquisition and if he will play with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik.
The concept of a “super” line with these three sure is enticing. After all, it worked in Ottawa with Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatly. It has worked in the past with Sidney Crosby, Evgeny Malkin, and any winger that gets placed on that line (let’s be realistic here, you or I could play with those two and put up 35 goals). But what it gives a team in superior scoring talent, it takes away depth issues.
There are pros and cons to putting those three together, but it’s something that the coaching staff will at least look at when Gaborik is healthy. Whether that is before the season starts or after, well that’s up to the owners and the NHLPA.
- Three elite talents on one line creates havoc for the opposition. The defense will simply be overwhelmed. This is a line with two 40 goal scorers and a player capable of putting up 70 assists with these two. All three are capable of 70-80 point seasons.
- When putting these three together, all three will likely –can’t prove this until it happens– get a boost in stats. Nash is not known for generating assists, but he’s never had talent like this to play with. Gaborik has never had another winger to take the scoring pressure off him either.
- To a point mentioned above, Nash has never really generated assists because he hasn’t had much talent with him. Imagine what could happen if people started burying his passes.
- Richards now has two options, instead of one. Before, the defense would be able to lock in on his passes to Gaborik, and let the lesser players attempt to beat them. That option won’t exist if Nash is there as well.
- The Rangers don’t have proven scoring depth to make other teams pay for loading up on them. Will any combination of Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, and Chris Kreider be able to score enough to make teams think twice about focusing all of their defensive effort on the Big Three?
- Nash and Richards both like to carry the puck into the zone, creating a questionable chemistry. Would Richards defer to Nash, or vice versa? We all thought Scott Gomez would click with Jaromir Jagr –both of whom like to carry the puck– and that didn’t work out.
- None of Gaborik, Richards, or Nash are known for their defensive prowess or their two-way game. They aren’t liabilities, but they aren’t necessarily strong. A poor match up (i.e.: an icing) could be disastrous.
- What happens if/when the other lines can’t score enough to take the pressure off the top line? Will they be broken up? Would there be enough time for them to generate chemistry with the younger players.
- Speaking of younger players on the top six, wouldn’t they benefit from having one of these guys to play with, and to learn from?
- The line of Hagelin-Richards-Gaborik has shown tremendous chemistry in the past. Is that worth breaking up? Is it worth breaking up knowing that Nash could very well find some solid chemistry with Stepan?
In the end, the Rangers are going to need to try all options until something sticks. Maybe they will luck out, and Nash will find chemistry with Stepan from the start, leaving this point moot. Personally I don’t believe a “super” top line works, but every team is different.