Guest blogger: Jon Levy

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Editor’s note: Jon Levy is a Rangers fan who also writes a U.S. soccer blog, “The Yanks are Coming.” He also tweets about soccer and the Rangers, among other things, at @TYAC_Jon.

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With Brad Richards signing on and expected to play on a line with Marian Gaborik, recent fan and media discussion has been devoted to who will play the other wing spot. That’s all well and good, but we’ve got to wait to see if Gabs and Richards can play together as expected before taking measurements for the final piece of that puzzle.

What I find more interesting, is the third spot on the Callahan/Dubinsky line. Cally and Dubi have an uncommonly good chemistry when they’re on the ice together; it’s better than Ovechkin/Backstrom or Crosby/Dupuis (though I won’t argue that either Ranger individually is on Ovie or Sid’s level). Don’t believe me? Check out Callahan’s no-look backhanded pass to set up Dubinsky’s game tying goal against the Bruins just prior to Ryan taking that fateful Chara slapper. That play’s a nice microcosm of how hard these two players work, and how well they work together. Thankfully they’ll be doing just that for the Blueshirts for the foreseeable future, and hopefully for USA Hockey as well.

My question is, “What should Torts do with the third spot on the Rangers best line?” I liked Anisimov there this past season, and it seems like Fedotenko is a responsible and useful option at that spot given his performances down the stretch. I believe we’ve also seen Prust, Wolfski (Carp’s boy), and even Gaborik and Boyle play with the NYR’s Dynamic Duo.

Should the Rangers just keep cycling guys into that spot (which can be a center or wing given Brandon Dubinsky’s versatility) based on who’s playing well for a stretch of games, or will they look to stabilize what could be one of the consistently best all-around lines in hockey for years to come? In my time watching the Blueshirts (I’m 28), the team has never found a consistent long-lasting partner for either of their Cally/Dubi level partnerships:

Messier, Graves… Gartner/Larmer/Kovalev/Verbeek/etc.

Jagr, Nylander… Straka/Prucha/Marcel Hossa/Rucinsky/etc.

This is no indictment of the Blueshirts, because dynamic three-man partnerships are hard to find in the first place, and not sustainable, especially in the relatively new salary capped landscape. But that doesn’t mean searching for the best fit shouldn’t be a priority. So what type of player should Torts look to put in that spot?

Part of the draw of the Callahan and Dubinsky partnership is that both guys play a physical style, have a nose for the goal, and track back on defense responsibly. They’re the most complete forwards the Rangers have, unless you ask Tortorella, who I’m sure would point to Fedotenko and tell the “kids” not to get cocky. So one option has been to add a similarly complete player to the mix, with a similar skill set. Artie Anisimov isn’t naturally as physical as either American, but he’s got a big body, and he made great strides last year in using it to his advantage.

Another option is to go with a grind-over-goals selection. I’m looking at Brandon Prust and Ruslan Fedotenko. There’s a school of thought that a guy in this mold would essentially put a restrictor plate on the offensive potential of the line. Then again, there’s also a school of thought that a guy like this will win more pucks in dirty areas and provide our heroes with more offensive opportunities. This guy’s also going to camp in front of the net and take himself a good beating game in and game out. We all know Prust would love this job. I’ve got the feeling Mike Rupp’s looking for the sign-up form too.

Going in the opposite direction, how about a pure shooter? We can’t compare Cally/Dubi to Jagr/Nylander because they played so differently, but we can sure look at Messier/Graves. The latter pairing benefitted from playing with Pat Verbeek in the late 90’s, and all he wanted to do was wait for the puck to find him and to shoot the damn thing. Maybe Wojtek Wolski and his big cap number have a spot on this team after all? And you don’t even have to have an exceptionally great shot to play this role if you’re opportunistic enough … look at Mike Knuble’s career. Garbage goals count.

Or how about a pure playmaker? An Adam Oates or Ray Whitney type. I’m not sure the Rangers have that guy on the roster, but you don’t know if Mats Zuccarello or Derek Stepan can be that guy until you try them out.

And finally, the pure goal scorer. The Rangers have one, and he’s Brad Richards’ date to the prom, sorry boys.

Personally, I’m in favor of letting Artie play more with Captain Callahan and Dubinsky in order to build on the chemistry he was starting to be dealt into last year. How bout youse guys? Who ya got?

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77 Comments

  1. good am-jon great guest post this is great stuff! all the focus is on brad and gabby but they will face the best dman every night and callahan and dubi have some pressure now with their contracts and will obviously need to step up their game….i hope artie bulked up a little bit during this offseason and i would give him the start between our core upfront but i think wolski could be the ace in the hole if artie does not work out in that position

  2. iDoodie machetto on

    I am a fan of the yanks are coming, but this blog post is just riddled with incorrect information and laughable comparisons.

  3. Good morning, boneheads!

    Good work, Jon.
    Be nice, Doodie.

    I’ll just say this: it took them a couple of years to realize it, but it finally became obvious to Torts and Co. that Dubinsky’s game is best suited on the wing rather than center. So that makes the decision easy. I also would like to respectfully disagree with people who suggest AA needs to bulk up. He may gain a few pounds but if he gains 15-20 as people are suggesting, he may lose his skating and pivoting speed. IMHO, his game is perfectly suited to play with those two. He is less physical, but more finesse and has an outstanding sense of position. He’ll be where the puck is more often than not. I expect him to increase his point production at good pace this year. I wouldn’t change that line until they prove they can’t play together.

  4. The White Plains Batman on

    Keep Anisimov/Dubinsky/Callahan together.

    This is a Torts run team so we’ll be seeing all kinds of combos anyway throughout the year but those three work excellent together.

    Anyone ready for the Wolski/Richards/Christensen line at some point in mid-December? :)

  5. Good post Jon! I like Artie in that spot as well, but what about Boyle? He got better on face offs, is a little more physical, plays decent defence like Dubi and Cally, and had similar number of goals. Not saying I want to break up Dubi/Cally or Boyle/Prust, but he might be able to make it there.

    I think Stepan will do well on any line as long as he avoids the dreaded sophomore slump.

  6. Boom Boom Bathgate on

    One of the comments, above, is as unkind, thoughtless, and utterly lacking in any kind of social skills communication I have ever read, here. I want to thank Jon for taking the time and putting forth the effort to share with us your views, outlook, and what you see as our prospects for the coming season. Well done!

  7. That could potentially kill two birds. The first line LW and a likely logjam at C.

    Anyone know how defensively responsible Rupp is playing C?

    And good job, Jon.

  8. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    I hope Avery busts out of the big house and joins gabby and BR to form the most dangerous line in hockey.

  9. Absolutely, Eddie3. Yesterday’s events have certainly cemented his spot on the first line….

  10. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Opening night – “and playing left wing, hailing from the penal colony San Quentin, # 45746752 Sean Aveeeeeeeeeeeeeeery.”

  11. iDoodie machetto on

    Don’t get me wrong, when I read who the guest blogger was, I was very excited. I actually read Yanks Are Coming. I like it. I think it’s well written. I was just so disappointed in this.

  12. lol Carp “Let’s quit talkin’ and start chalkin'”

    The cast of characters and ex-athletes from those commercials goes on and on

    Norm Crosby
    Bubba Smith
    Rodney Dangerfield
    Billy Martin
    George Steinbrenner
    Dick Butkus
    Deacon Jones
    Ken Stabler
    Dan Fouts
    Bob Uecker “I must be in the front rowwwwwww”
    Marv Throneberry “I don’t know why I was asked to do this commercial.”
    LC Greenwood
    John Madden
    Bert Jones
    Steve Mizerak
    Ray Nitschke
    Ben Davidson
    Joe Frazier
    Boog Powell
    Mickey Spillane

    Rodney is classic
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGNqiYmuv50

  13. Wicky(grating PIBG)© (The she/it on our D is sofa king SOFT!!!) on

    Morning ILB and all!!
    Rough night last night, we lost 31 operators in Afghanistan and 7 of their Afghani counterparts…sucks

  14. Wicky(grating PIBG)© (The she/it on our D is sofa king SOFT!!!) on

    Nice write up btw Jon. Thanks for taking the time to share with us.

    Not going to be around today. I’ve got a lot to process, later assens!

  15. Hey John. Nice read. Thanks for doing it!!

    I completely agree about Dubi and Cally. I just think Artie needs to play that center spot. The Pack Line was the Rangers best line. Artie was a key member as well. He showed some real sickness on that line last year. I’d expect 50-60 points from Artie this season, if they all stay healthy…It’s time for him to step up…He has the tools to do it…

    I think Stepan, Zuccarello, Hagelin, Dubi, and Wolski will all get time with Gabby and Richards…at some point…Torts will wind up mixing it up…

    Avery will be on Bravo, not MSG….

    Wick, that Chinook had 37 people on board. Man, that is sad…

  16. That sucks wicky. After 10 years you’d think the Taliban would be running out of weapons/supplies. They must have built some factories in them caves. Can’t we just smoke ’em out?

    At least we still have our strong credit rating and our freedom, which they hate, is as strong as ever.

  17. arty should def be the 3rd player on that line.

    there were strecthes last year where that 3 some was hot for an extended period of time.

  18. eddie eddie eddie on

    carp – tonight? sure…i was thinking 7th tomorrow for monday…but tonight is fine…by 11pm or so your time, yes?

  19. “Law enforcement sources tell TMZ that when Avery was being released, he had a friend ask the officers if they would let Avery go out the back door … so as to avoid any waiting cameras. Law enforcement denied his request and treated him just like everyone else”

    I bet my left nut, Torts told the cops to not let him go through the back.

  20. Boom Boom Bathgate on

    I just want to share something nice about this site which I really appreciate. That is the fact that there is a pervasive maturity here that allows comments, within reason, to be critical of the Rangers, the coach, the players, and certainly the GM, without the person doing the commenting being banished as a “troll.”

    I mention this because I just had the shocking experience of being banned after my comment submission to a Phillies blog site (Crashburn Alley), where my first comment at the site was, predictably, highly critical of manager Charlie Manuel, and I backed up my criticism with hard-core factual, indisputably evidence. I mention this because, reading some back columns at that site, I came across one where the host of the site quotes someone he also banned as a “troll,” a female who endorsed the Phillies trading Jason Werth, before he signed with Washington. For this sensible position, which was widely discussed from both sides of the issue, she gets banned?

    Look, when some of us are constructive in our criticism, it is not because we are coming from an agenda to undermine the site. It’s much like the “tough love” you put on your child, it doesn’t mean you don’t love your child, it means you want your child to adhere to higher standards and maximize the quest for success and happiness in life.

    So thanks to Carp and everyone here, that those of us who don’t always agree with team and management philosophy on everything, just to be safe and still be welcomed here, can have a voice. There is nothing wrong with having a dissenting opinion, unless you live in Cuba or someplace where it can get you shot at sunrise.

  21. eddie eddie eddie on

    speaking of idiots, the mets, who are 5-12, have played quite a few games less than everyone else….what’s up with that?

  22. eddie eddie eddie on

    Boom boom was the name of the fictional Cleveland Brown punt returner in the hilarious Jack Lemmon-Walter Mattheau movie “the fortune cookie”

  23. While we can still dissent.

    “The Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011″

    How the hell could someone not support_that_, right??

    Who’s got the onions to say they object to that?? Only some disgusting perverted pig. Isn’t that how you’re supposed to feel?

    Will it make a difference in the prosecution of child pornographers and pedophiles? Who knows. But read what House Reps from both parties have to say:

    “The bill is mislabeled,” Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) tells CNET. “This is not protecting children from Internet pornography. It’s creating a database for everybody in this country for a lot of other purposes.”

    Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) “This is not about child porn. It never has been and never will be,” Issa said. “This is a convenient way for law enforcement to get what they couldn’t get in the PATRIOT Act.”

    If passed, the bill will keep the names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers and temporarily-assigned IP addresses of everyone on the Internet on file for a full year.

    ISPs would be required by law to do so.

    If it were called something like the “Internet Personal Information Collection Act” how would most people feel about it?

    With all the hacking and cyber-crime, not to mention the simple matter of privacy, who wants to trust yet another party will all their personal information? Just Sayin.

    ^Big Brother is watching 8)^

  24. bull dog line on

    Dubi is going to be playing with Gabby and Richards. the real question remains who is going to center the 2nd line.

  25. I’d really like the last line to have guys that are trustworthy defensively and that could help take about :30 seconds of PK from Dubi and Cally per game.

    We also lost Drury in that role although he only played 24 games. In total it would be about 1:30 per game. Artie might take a little, maybe Step.

    It might be an opportunity for Hagelin. He said he likes to block shots. :) Where he’d fit otherwise is another question.

  26. Boom Boom Bathgate on

    ddebened: Re “On file for a full year” = Man, are you and optimist! You really think they discard any of the files they produce and often deliberately falsify about we the people when some statute expires? Good luck with that.

  27. Boom Boom Bathgate on

    ddebened: But, let me add I really appreciate the content of your posting – that was gutsy!

  28. The LW job on Gabby’s line is Wolski’s to lose. I expect a big year from him. He’s a lot more skilled than he showed last year playing with different people every game. With set linemates, plus being in a contract year, he’ll put up lots of points.

    As a second option, I’d also try Zucc with Gabby & Richards, because they are probably the only two forwards on the team with the skill to receive his Gretzky-like passes.

    Dubi-AA-Callahan stay together. Torts won’t mess with success.

  29. eddie eddie eddie on

    rocketnyr – i do not know TGO, TGO is not a friend of mine, and I never worked with TGO…..but allow me to say, MZA is no TGO

  30. Thanks I guess, Boom Boom. I’m still kind of surprised I posted it.
    I can’t say it wasn’t without considerable reservations.
    Was it unfair to Carp, taking advantage of the latitude he gives us for non hockey posts?
    Was it unfair to boneheads and other visitors that generally come here to get away from that kind of BC?
    Was I overwhelmingly on the right side of the equation? I sure hope so.
    I think in my mind the bill has so little to do with protecting children that any controversy from that angle disappeared.
    Then at that point, I get really ticked that someone is trying to pull a fast one and I hit submit.
    What someone else was going to think about me wasn’t much of a factor, which I find really surprising.
    Still, if anyone is offended I apologize. I hope not.

    http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-07-29/news/29848111_1_house-panel-isps-bill

  31. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Dde – could you send me your pin number, SSN #, DoB, mother’s maiden name, and anything else that I could use … I will only store this information for a short time. And btw, let’s always keep our posts to hockey related topics. Do you ever see me post gibberish?

  32. Ha ha – 3E you gibberish?, nevah!

    I’ll give you my year of birth – 1985 but you already new that didn’t you?

  33. ^Psst CIA Backed Google Plan To Kill Internet Freedom -gotta be true, I just googled it^

  34. Hey guys, thanks for reading and weighing in! Sorry I couldn’t get here to comment twelve hours ago; it was a busy Saturday.

    I appreciate all the support, and of course Carp giving me the opportunity. And don’t be too hard on Doodie, he’s entitled to be disappointed, especially if he’s already a yanksarecoming.com reader. I’ll deliver for him on my preview of US Soccer’s Klinsmann unveiling Mexico match this week. But I do need to know what he took issue with.

    Did he not agree about how certain players were depicted? Pissed at an over-simplification? Befuddled why the Czech Mate line was omitted? Or just a big Mike Knuble fan? Just curious where I gave misinformation and bad comparisons.

  35. 3E: I didn’t say he was another Gretzky – I said he made Gretzky-like passes that most of the forwards on this team are not equipped to handle.

    Tortorella made a couple of references to that last season as well: “He sees the ice. He makes some plays that some players don’t see.”

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