A lack of depth up front was New York’s Achilles’ heels this season
As former coach John Tortorella repeatedly mentioned, New York’s depth up front was gutted during the summer of 2012 following the trade of Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov and the free agent departures of Brandon Prust, John Mitchell and Ruslan Fedotenko. The Rangers struggled mightily to replace that depth all season, but had a difficult time doing so in part due to injuries and inexperience. As a result, Tortorella was left with very few reliable forwards and it showed throughout the 2013 campaign.
It was a very disappointing regular season for Boyle, who was an occasional healthy scratch and never regained coach John Totorella’s trust. However, in the playoffs Boyle was one of the best, most consistent Rangers, scoring three goals and finally using his big body along the boards and in front. Boyle admitted to being extremely frustrated by his performance this year, which he blamed partially on his decision not to play during the lockout. He wasn’t the only Blueshirt that was negatively affected by that decision, but it may offer hope for a return to form next year.
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Per Dan Rosen, Ryane Clowe left the optional skate early this morning, while Arron Asham stayed on the ice a bit longer. This generally suggests that Asham will be a scratch, and Clowe will make his return to the lineup. Rosen also noted that Marc Staal is physically ready (reading between the lines of his tweet), but it’s more of a mental thing with Staal. He has to be able to play without feeling like his decision-making will burden the team.
Naturally, Torts isn’t revealing any of his lineup decisions until the warmups, so don’t expect any updates until just before puck drop.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
In case you missed it, the Rangers re-signed Mats Zuccarello, who will likely join the club within the week. Zuccarello will bring some stability and scoring to the bottom-six, something that is desperately needed. The addition of Zuccarello will lead to some lineup changes. When all the pieces fall into place, the odd-man out is not who you might think it is.
It’s been very clear that the organization wants offensive talent to play alongside J.T. Miller on the third line, so it’s a logical assumption that these two will see some ice time together. Since Zuccarello is rather flexible and can play either wing, that opens up a few options for the Rangers. If Torts wants to try Miller at center, then the Rangers can try either Marian Gaborik (RW) or Chris Kreider (LW). Each line will have a lot of skill and speed, but the downside is that the trio will be defensively inept. The rest of the top-six remains the same.
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Depth has been a discussion point around here since before the lockout, to the point where we have too many posts to link to when we bring it up again. Despite an injury to Arron Asham, the Rangers have more useful depth this year than they have had in years past. They have a fourth line capable of eating 10-12 minutes of ice time per game when healthy, with some of that coming on the penalty kill. Depth is critical for a team like the Rangers, who will need all four lines to make a deep Cup run.
Despite all this, the Rangers fourth line barely saw seven minutes of ice time each. Eliminating Stu Bickel from the equation, as he’s only in because Asham is out, it makes you wonder why there is no trust from the coaching staff. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a post bashing anyone –as you all know, we love Torts here and aren’t afraid to show it– but it’s still worth asking why these guys don’t get ice time.
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There was a lot going on today in Rangerland, and there may be some significant roster changes for tonight’s game. Per Andrew Gross, the Rangers are dealing with the following injuries/lineup changes:
- Arron Asham is out with back spasms. Christian Thomas has been recalled to take his roster spot.
- To make room for Thomas, Rick Nash has been placed on IR, retroactive to last Saturday.
- Marc Staal has the flu, and is a game time decision.
- Michael Del Zotto is a game time decision with the lower body injury sustained on Thursday.
- Martin Biron is starting tonight.
I think that sums it up at the moment. There’s a lot going on tonight.
Taylor Pyatt has displayed impressive hockey sense in his first two games
A two game sample size is hardly enough to evaluate anyone, and clearly none of the Rangers played particularly well in the season’s opening weekend, but here are some initial impressions of the newest Blueshirts:
Rick Nash – As coach John Tortorella said following Sunday’s game, “he’s the real deal.” Nash has been an absolute puck magnet, has already displayed soft hands and creative stickhandling, is using his body extremely well to create separation between the puck and defenders and has even thrown a few solid hits. Nash understandably wants to make a good impression with his new club, but I’ve also been pleased to see that he’s continued competing very hard in both losing efforts.
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AP Photo/Matt Slocum
For those that remember last year’s “epic fail” series between the Flyers and the Penguins last year, recall the aftermath of the Game Three bloodbath. Arron Asham was suspended for four games following his intent to injure Brayden Schenn. The Penguins played three more games that series, before bowing out to the Flyers in six. That leaves one game remaining on Asham’s suspension.
This means that Asham will actually need to serve the final game of his suspension on Saturday while the Rangers are in Boston. This leaves the Rangers with a hole to fill on the fourth line for one game.
I reached out to Jim Cerny, who kindly responded that the Rangers will likely deploy Stu Bickel at forward for that game. This was on Monday, about 24 hours before the Rangers placed eight players on waivers.
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No doubt about it, the Rangers have had some serious roster turnover this season, especially among the bottom six forwards. Gone are Brandon Prust, John Mitchell, Ruslan Fedotenko, Artem Anisimov, and Brandon Dubinsky. In are Arron Asham, Taylor Pyatt, Jeff Halpern, and possibly Michael Haley (at least to start the season while Marian Gaborik is out). While the Rangers will surely miss most of the departed, where they will miss them the most is on the penalty kill.
Fedotenko, Prust, and Dubinsky were all top penalty killers for this club last season, with Anisimov and Mitchell seeing some time there as well. Of those coming in, only Halpern has experience as a top penalty killer. Asham and Pyatt have played there in the past, but not much (if at all) last season. This leaves a hole that needs to be filled, and needs to be filled from those already on the roster.
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The Rangers were eliminated in the Eastern conference finals against the Devils for a few reasons. Most fans question the lack of goal scoring and high end skill and rightly so. The fact that the Rangers still haven’t gone out and addressed this frustrates many, even though Glen Sather has been right to not over react.
Then there is the theory that the Rangers may have run out of gas, with two gruelling series against the Senators and Capitals taking a lot out of the young, hard working team. Finally though, was the fact that the Devils’ depth out produced the Rangers equivalent. This however, is an area that Sather has begun to address and is a reason why a lot of Rangers fans should calm down and not panic about the apparent lack of offseason progress.
Forget for a moment the uncertain future regarding next season and the CBA discussions. Assume that the Rangers start the season on time with the current assembled roster. It has improved. As the Rangers added Taylor Pyatt, Jeff Halpern and Arron Asham, most fans were left underwhelmed and frustrated that the new signings names didn’t begin with Zach or Bobby. Sather still did well.
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Over the past few days, we have seen some fairly significant roster turnover for the Rangers. While the majority of the core remains intact, the Rangers saw Arron Asham and Taylor Pyatt come in to –for all intents and purposes– replace Brandon Prust, Ruslan Fedotenko, and John Mitchell.
We’ve analyzed Asham versus Prust and Pyatt versus Fedotenko individually. But to be fair, you need to compare both Asham and Pyatt versus Fedotenko, Prust, and Mitchell to get a real idea of where the Rangers stand after three days of free agency.
Using the same metrics as the two posts prior, let’s look at the defensive metrics of these five players combined:
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