Rangers preview Part II: Position by position

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Forwards

The look all changed when Brad Richards signed for $60 million over nine, years. Throw a legit No. 1 center onto any roster and it trickles down mightily. Now the Rangers have an elite playmaking center to play with Marian Gaborik, who had a terrible second season (22 goals, a 20-goal drop from the year before) as a Ranger and they have, in Richards, a proven power-play point man, theoretically fixing what were two glaring weaknesses last year. But Gaborik, who has played two seasons without another legit No. 1 linemate, must rebound, and this pairing must work.

At the start, that will be Brandon Dubinsky, who is perfect for the role, will play left wing on that line.

But Dubinsky played on such a cohesive, effective line with new captain Ryan Callahan on the right and Artem Anisimov in the middle, and coach John Tortorella hesitated to break that up. That was the Rangers’ de facto first line last year, and it will reap benefits of facing lesser checking by opponents if Richards-Gaborik-whomever click.

Tortorella thought about using Brian Boyle on Richards-Gaborik’s left after Boyle’s breakout season, in which he became a team leader. Again, though, Tortorella leaned on Boyle and Brandon Prust, often with Ruslan Fedotenko, to be an effective third line, check opponents’ top lines, play critical late minutes, and kill penalties.

Sophomore center Derek Stepan probably has too much upside to play fourth-line minutes, but at the start he probably plays with newly-signed Mike Rupp, a tough, huge and versatile forward, and Mats Zuccarello, who struggled at times in his rookie year but had a good camp. Wojtek Wolski didn’t do enough with his preseason shot at the top-line left wing spot, so where he plays is another question. Inconsistent Erik Christensen, if he remains, will be the 13th forward, despite his puck skills.

Defensemen

The fly in the ointment of a returning, young, and very good top four is Marc Staal’s headache issues, believed to be post-concussion symptoms. He didn’t make the trip to Europe and there is no timetable for Staal to play, and no way to guess if/when/or for how long he plays once he’s better. That would be a major hit for the Rangers and could force them to make a trade.

His partner, Dan Girardi, got better and better right to the end of the last playoff game last year, and the second pair of Mike Sauer and Ryan McDonagh, both rookies last season, has cornerstone written all over it, though Sauer had knee and shoulder injuries in camp and the preseason.

The third pair is where the questions arise. Michael Del Zotto still has all that potential, after a sophomore slump season. Steve Eminger, who was the seventh D-man last year, was signed to serve that role again. With Matt Gilroy and Bryan McCabe gone, there’s an opening on the third pair. Who gets it? Again, a trade is possible.

Goalies

No questions here. Henrik Lundqvist proved — again —down the stretch last year that he is one of the top goalies in the NHL, when he had to start every game after Martin Biron suffered a broken collarbone. Biron is the ideal backup: Good teammate, funny guy, who can go in and throw in a big performance after not playing for a while. Lundqvist needs rest, and Biron provides that without costing the Rangers.

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Next: Part III looks at the obstacles, distractions and challenges of the Rangers’ schedule.

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AP photos.

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41 Comments

  1. If youtube is any indication Woywitka is no fighter. Hopefully he play some D. Looks like a gentle giant. Hopefully he will be on the WHALE most of the season.

  2. REPOST…JUST IN CASE:

    Doodie

    i made a topic in the league for people to post their RR names. We aim to please! :)

    Thanks for coming to the draft. Good luck!

    Woy-WHO-tka?

  3. Eric Staal is a moron who had no reason to lambast his brother on that fateful play in February. The Marc Staal situation is really tough, and the fact that his own brother did that to him is a disgrace. If you watch the play, it was a meaningless one. What a disgrace to his family Eric is. Hope he has an emotional downswing and a gutter season.

  4. Doodie – Wanted to bring up something you said a couple days ago because I didn’t see a response from you. You said that Avery came to the Rangers when Tortorella was already here. While that is technically true, he was assigned to the Wolf Pack while Renney was still coach and brought up to the Rangers a litte over a week into Tortorella’s tenure. So it’s not like Torts had much of a choice in the matter as you stated.

    On Woywtika, It amazes me how so many people still don’t understand how waivers work (look at SNY Rangers Blog, and he cited Dan Rosen, who must have also forgot and then deleted his tweet) Just because Woywitka has a two-way contract doesn’t mean he can be sent to the AHL without first going through waivers. I’m guessing that the Canadiens wanted to send him to their AHL affiliate and were not just putting him on waivers for the hell of it.

  5. bull dog line on

    Woywitka makes sense as a stop gap. at one point he was though of as a real good prospect.

  6. I think it was a dumb and meaningless play by Erik Stawel. He could have held up since it was his brother…but, his tenaciousness and pursuit of the physical side of the game is a huge part of what makes him an All Star…he would probably do it again…

    Plus, it was a clean hit…just a bit late and high…

  7. LOL at ORR and doggy

    may I suggest replacing the “potvin sucks” chant with “Eric staal sucks”. Especially, and I hate to even think it, if the hit was career ending.

    Watching a replay of the hit reminded ne of just how unnecessary the hit was…and to do it to your brother? Your younger brother at that?? WTB???

  8. Doodie Machetto on

    Spider, I remember saying that but what you are pointing out is irrelevant to my original point. I agree with what you’re saying. Torts didn’t have a choice with Avery in 2009.

    My point was different however. It was in response to the people who said Torts changed Avery’s game. You can’t say Tortorella changed how Avery played his game because we didn’t see Avery play his game in NY the 2nd time around before Torts got here. All we know of Avery’s 2nd tenure is the game with Torts. Who is to say he would have played any differently with a different coach? All we can say is his play from his first tenure in NY was different from his 2nd. But he was pretty lousy in Dallas that year, so that could have just been him continuing his lousiness. Or it could have been the anger management. Who knows? That was my point.

  9. And I didn’t notice until watching replay that Marc really hits his head hard on the ice after the hit. I’m guessing that’s where the concussion happened.

  10. bull dog line on

    Carp,
    you mentioned a trade for a Dman a few times in your preview. my question to you is, how long do the Rangers wait on Staal, and how long do they wait to react to the issue on D. they are going to need a top 4 guy even if Staal comes back.

  11. Doodie, I saw your question. A bit busy at work, so I’ll be short. I saw the report, they are grading his as Grade 2 ( 4 being the most severe). In one word- I’m not surprised. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they find more non-fighters with much higher grade in the future.

  12. It’s even worse when your team blows a three goal lead, and loses in OT.

    Butt-Chin better have a damn good year. After that game, and the way he played in the playoffs, he, at the very least, should put up 40+ goals.

  13. why did the wascally wangers want Woy-Wit-ka?

    wonder what was wangers worry ?

    wed wover, wed wover, Waiver Woy-Wit-ka

  14. Yeah, he running out of excuses…especially playing with Richie and Dubi/MZA/Whoever…he should put up 40+ with no problem…

    But, let’s remember that he had a concussion too last year….hopefully his brain is functional…

  15. double, this diwector is weally starting to wub me the wong way.

    bull dog, that depends on how they want to roll the dice. because there is the great uncertainty with Staal … he might not come back for months. or it could be weeks. or days. if you want a good d-man, you will have to give up a lot. so do you wait and see? I don’t know.

  16. Also, the deaths of his close friends shouldn’t be used as an excuse. If anything, it should motivate him to honor them.

    Hopefully Horse Teeth and Butt-Chin have Jagr/Nylander chemistry.

    Speaking of Jagr, I can’t wait to see what he does tonight. Should be a good game!

  17. Yeah! definitely…I’m more interested in that than the Yanks game…and I’m a Yankees fan

  18. Things you find out late in life…Didn;t know that Flyers dumped both Richards and Carter….and Carcillo winds up with the Hawks???? And gets praised in the write up as a part of the new Hawks DEFENSE rebuilding attempt.

    It’s obvious that they envision him as the next Befuglieahhhe eh heheh eh he. ( did I cover all the H’s?)

    If you must wear a hair shirt for anyone, wear one for Hawk fans.

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