Maybe I am still finding my way through this first go-round on the hockey beat, but I still feel like I know a few things. And one is this: I’d hold on to this Shanahan guy.
When the team signed the future Hall of Famer during the off-season, they did so knowing they needed to take the scoring load off Jaromir Jagr’s shoulders. With 14 goals in the Rangers first 19 games, that’s exactly what they’re getting.
But still, it merits asking: what about everyone else? Go past the first line of Jagr, Michael Nylander, and Martin Straka, and then Shanahan—who, given his time on the power play, is essentially a first line player anyway—and the production tallies drop off sharply. Petr Prucha has 11 points, Matt Cullen has 10. From the third line on down, the most productive player is Adam Hall with a mere two goals and three assists.
Or look at it another way: the Rangers have scored 10 goals over their last four games, and none have been from their third or fourth-lines.
Is it a problem? It depends on who you ask, or more specifically, what you’re looking for out of your third- and fourth-line players. If the likes of Hall, Blair Betts or even Marcel Hossa are charged instead with just neutralizing the opposition, wearing them down, while giving Jagr and Shanahan time to rest, maybe it doesn’t matter if they score a goal all year.
“I think first off, if that’s what your job on the ice is, if that’s what the coach’s mandate is, that’s where your focus should be,” Hall told me today. “On the other side, it’s going to be hard for the other team to score if you’re in their end the whole time. If you’re able to cycle the puck in the offensive zone and create some chances, it’s only going to wear them down.”
OK, fine, except what happens if Jagr and Shanny fall flat? Or worse, what happens if they get hurt?
Maybe in November it doesn’t seem like a pressing issue. But it’s something to think about nonetheless.
A few other thoughts: