After the Rangers announced their final cuts yesterday, they practiced and showcased some new lines. These lines are not quite set, as Ryan Callahan is not cleared to play in games (just cleared for contact). Rick Nash, who missed practice, would take Cally’s place on the top line:
The first thing that stands out is that Brad Richards is on the wing. This is honestly a very savvy coaching move. It is clear that Richards is not the Richards of old, but can be a very effective offensive player. By placing him on the wing, Alain Vigneault is limiting his defensive responsibilities and allowing Richards to play more to his strengths. It’s a move that may seem small, but may have a big impact.
What is a bit intriguing is that Miller is on the fourth line with Moore and Dorsett. Miller had a very strong preseason –in limited action– and it was assumed that he had at least earned a spot on the top-nine. There is a definite argument to switch Miller and Pyatt, and I am inclined to agree with this sentiment. However Pyatt has past history with AV from his Vancouver days, and AV is probably trusting his veteran at the beginning of the year. There’s nothing wrong with that mindset, but it’s going to make a few people upset.
When Cally and Carl Hagelin come back, it only makes sense that Fast and Miller will be returned to Hartford. Fast is playing on the right side, presumably in place of the injured Callahan, and Miller on the left side, in place of the injured Hagelin. Both will likely be sent back to the AHL once the Rangers are fully healthy.
Once Cally and Hagelin are back, I believe AV will eventually shift Richards back to center. AV is a matchup coach, one that deploys a defensive shutdown line with 30% OZone starts. The line that makes the most sense in that role is the fourth line, one with Boyle and Moore (and a rotating RW). The line would be defensively sound and be able to chip in a goal or two. Right now, the coach is a bit limited in how he can deploy his lines, which explains the lack of a true “shutdown” line at the moment.
One thing is for sure: This is a team that is incredibly deep when healthy. They will roll three lines with tremendous skill and a fourth line that will take the majority of defensive zone draws. Balance at its finest.