Looking for lefty? Take a Step left


Gotta tell you, I’m starting to be fascinated on this No. 1 left-wing thing.

I mean, it shouldn’t be that hard to find a winger to play with the two most gifted forwards on the team, right? It could be all types of players, couldn’t it? Could be an offensive guy, a defensive guy, a big guy, a fast guy.

But the Rangers, for whatever reason, don’t seem to have that right guy. Or at least, they haven’t identified him.

I do think that Brandon Dubinsky would ultimately fit just fine there, maybe better than fine. He’s their best left winger, he does a lot of things, including retrieve pucks from dirty areas, and has some toughness for protecting Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, and he certainly has enough skill to put up numbers.

On the other hand, the Dubinsky promotion, the whole robbing Peter to pay Paul thing, is a legit concern, because Dubinsky was so good with Artem Anisimov and Ryan Callahan last year, when that line was really the No. 1 line. And because, without Dubinsky, maybe Anisimov-Callahan don’t work as well, and maybe the Rangers’ depth takes a huge hit.

I don’t think Wojtek Wolski works on the No. 1 line, simply because he’s not even a top-six forward. He’s not. He has size and puck skills and has improved his skating — or so we’ve heard — but unless he’s a lot better this year (anyway, he’s got a wonky groin now), he’s not top-six. He might not be top-12. That goes double for Erik Christensen, and I’m not going to pile on him again.

Brian Boyle got a look there, but I don’t know if that could work, and that’s another robbery of Peter if he moves up. Mike Rupp? I don’t think so. Ruslan Fedotenko? Hmmm, I guess that might be worth a try.

So here, again, is the suggestion I brought up in July and several times during the summer: Derek Stepan. He has the skill and speed to play with those guys. He’s not the best on the team along the boards, but he’s not the worst, either, and he’s willing to go to the wall and battle for pucks. He has the instincts and hockey IQ to do something with the puck when he gets it; gives Richards another target who can score goals; is not bad defensively.

More important than all of that, Stepan needs more minutes than he’s getting, or than he’s going to get if the top three centers in terms of ice time are Richards, Anisimov and Boyle. He needs to play with better players than Rupp and Wolski, Christensen or Mats Zuccarello. He’s a kid with a lot of upside, who needs a chance to develop that upside.

I know that Dubinsky is going to start the next game on Richards’ left. But I think Stepan should get a shot, and soon. Or at least, give him a crack at playing the left side of Anisimov and Callahan for now, and then a chance on the No. 1 line in the near future.

Why not?

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  1. why is everyone giving Anisimov a pass. the Dubi Cally ,AA line success had nothing to do with AA. he was a big hole in the middle. Dubi, and Cally made that line go without a center. lets stop trying to figure out the left wing with Richards, because the right guy is already there. the problem that needs to be solved is the number 2 center. Stepan needs to there yesterday. let Anisimov play a role of a checker. I heard all about how good he is in his own zone ( unless there is size going against him), so lets put on the shutdown checking role.

  2. and please don’t give me the AA potential bit because of his side. he doesn’t use it anyway. potential does nothing but get coaches fired. I guess that would make Bob happy.

  3. Good morning, boneheads!

    I, too, believe Stepan deserves a chance on that line. His deceivingly hard R handed shot coming off the L wing could prove to be a real force. But I also think that at the end that position may not be that crucial. Richards eluded yesterday that he and Gaborik are still finding their own tendencies and positional play. Once they get to know each other better, the L wing player may actually depend on who they’re playing against. So rotating many different people at the moment may not be a bad idea.

  4. Blueshirt in Paris on

    Bull Dog, I have no idea what you are basing you opinion of AA. All advanced stats prove that AA is performing VERY well. Stepan got very protected minutes last year while AA go some of the hardest in the ENTIRE league and still produced.

  5. Morning carp,
    Thanks for the quotes from yesterday. I agree with your comments on step. He needs more ice-time and he needs it in better situations and with the right kind of personnel. I feel like with the uncertaintly on D, torts is determined to get Richards/gabby going early and which is why he dubi on their LW.
    I could see a line of fedo-step-zuccarello having some success, but it seems wolski’s still unreliable, so all the LWs have been slotted up a line.
    Haven’t liked stepan’s body language in the first two games. I sense frustration at his minutes and linemates, but he shouldn’t get a crack at that first line until he puts in some proper work. I agree with you that he has the skillset and the competitiveness to play alongside Richards/gabby.

  6. Bulldog- you and Carp are both right. I think both ideas have to be examined at this point in time. We don’t even have 6 top offensive forwards. We have 5 and Stepan is one of them. There’s no getting around it. Yes he’s young but he’s better offensively than Fedentenko and He’s much better overall than Wolski. Try him at LW with the big boys and try him in the middle with Callahan on his right.

  7. Carp – great analysis. I agree that Dubinsky seems to be the best fit there because of his ability to go to dirty areas and forecheck to get the puck. I have to say that, although it’s early, I really like what I have seen from Gaborik (and definitely Richards) so far. I will submit to your reasoning though. Stepan really needs to get a look at that top line.

    I also think that we need to ride some consistency on that line. Don’t switch up who gets to play “1st” line every shift until something immediately clicks.

    We don’t marry the first person we date. You have to give each relationship some time to flourish.

  8. It’ll be interesting to finally have a home game and see how what type of matchups the 10/19/? line gets. It looked like they were going “power vs power” for substantial stretches in the 2 games this weekend, although with LA there’s not a huge difference to the overall play of Kopitar’s or M. Richards’ lines, the drop off from Ryan^2 + Perry is pretty steep in the case of the Ducks.

    It wouldn’t be the worst thing to try Stepan at wing. What’s interesting is that he’s he seems fitted to be more of a goal scorer at the NHL level than in NCAA. I’m a bit wary that his shooting % last year was higher than his numbers at Wisconsin, that’s could possibly means he’s a prime candidate for regression. He’s not gonna get the ice time at center, that much is clear with Richards and AA getting the bulk of top 6 assignments and Boyle getting checking line duties.

    The Rangers wouldn’t be the first team to face issues with moving guys out of their natural positions in order to get them more minutes. The Flyers did a lot of it with Giroux and Briere, given a fully healthy center slot the Pens were proposing moving Malkin to wing in order to get J. Staal better minutes as well as improving their face-off percentage from the second line.

    I’d much prefer the Rangers be in this situatuion than what the Devils are in without Zajac.

  9. I for one am all for juggling lines until something works. But do it wisely-Richards, Gaborik, Callahan, Dubinsky, Stepan Anisimov. Some combination of those guys have to make up the top two lines. They’re the ones who need the ice time if they’re going to generate offense.

  10. I agree that Stepan needs more minutes BUT Stepan should be placed on a line with Anisimov. The problem like so many have pointed out is that you are robbing Peter to pay Paul, and all that crap.

    Here is the thing: Moving Stepan up, and leaving Dubinsky on the 1st line, basically leaves you with a 3rd line and thats it.

    So unless we are going to play the game with 3 line we have a problem! A problem that Tort’s thinks doesn’t exist or the EC is the guy to finish out that 4th line. Which I don’t have a problem with becasue he shouldn’t be getting even a sniff of top 6.

    Some where in here is the story of Tort’s and Sather not seeing eye to eye thus we have guys the coach doesn’t want and refuses to use or something like that.

  11. I don’t think Torts will put Stepan there full time….but I could be wrong…

    I think he wants to keep Stepan fresh and not wear him down over a long season…

    I proposed MZA and Stepan splitting time in the LW spot. That way, you get two offensive guys solid ice time with the team’s top scoring players…

    I also think that those 2 would shine playing with Richards….

    We don’t have a legit #1 LW and Torts is going to have to make due with Steps and Zucca.

    There is no sense trading or acquiring anyone since Kreider is already penciled in as the future #1 LW…He should be here by next season at the latetest….

  12. NYR – while you and I adore the ^hobbit wizard^ i don’t think he has the body to go on that 1st line. I think we need a guy that will get dirty and throw those pucks to the front of the net. I know everyone is now thinking Sean Avery but he didn’t do it consistently enough to warrant first line minutes. Get me Kris Newbury as a part time 1st Line LW and Faceoff guy on PP.

  13. LOL! You don’t know until you try! And, we haven’t seen enough of MZA to make that determination….

    I happen to agree with bull dog’s statement the other day: If MZA isn’t playing top 6 minutes, he shouldn’t be on Rangers….what’s the point?

    We have already seen what Avery can(‘t) do….

  14. I think a whole lot of unnecessary noise is being made about who plays LW with Richards and Gaborik. Most successful scoring lines have 2 players who mesh and the third can be to a certain extent interchangeable.

    The key, therefore, IMO is getting Gabbie and Richards to mesh. The 3rd player isn’t quite to important.

    I do concur, however, that it’s downright silly to have Stepan getting 4th line minutes and having to play with offensively challenged wingers – he’ll regress that way. This is what you get when you sign an UFA skilled centre.

  15. We have already seen what Avery can(‘t) do….


    that is a great way to but it!

  16. “I don’t think Wojtek Wolski works on the No. 1 line, simply because he’s not even a top-six forward. He’s not. ”

    Listen Carp, I don’t know what your agenda is, but Wolski scored 65 points 2 seasons ago and so far he did not have a serious enough shot on the top line for anybody to take your propaganda seriously. We don’t care what you think, we want to see with our own eyes that Wolski does not fit on the top line with Gaborik and Richards.

  17. The other question here is “what are we doing with Zucc?” Are we even going to give him a try at any top 6 posistions? Just seems impossible to put a team together with the way the Rangers roster is currently made up. Plus we have a coach who says “”I don’t know how it’s going to work out,” Tortorella said. “I’m going to let it play out and see where we go with it.” His idea of working out means nothing is set and I’m gonna F*** with it cause I can. LOL

    Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/rangers/rangers_stay_in_line_with_dubinsky_ipEfj39xOSf1kKXETKUY8M#ixzz1aTzpGXqz

  18. “Derek Stepan. He has the skill and speed to play with those guys. ”

    Do you even watch this team? Stepan is one of our slowest forwards.

  19. “I know that Dubinsky is going to start the next game on Richards’ left. But I think Stepan should get a shot, and soon. Or at least, give him a crack at playing the left side of Anisimov and Callahan for now, and then a chance on the No. 1 line in the near future.”

    seems like you are desperate getting Stepan icetime, but mention nothing about Zuccarello also needing more icetime.

  20. I think plenty of people around here mention Zuccarello needing more ice time.

    _See_ :all posts by NYR_FAN

  21. That shows that you believe he _will_ get that extra ice time. Which is awesome. Heck, let him play on the top line. Let’s get something going!

  22. Oh, bob!
    Alas, poor bob(rick)! I knew him well, Carp(atio), my fella’. Clown, of infinite
    jest, when comes to Tortorella. He hath bore hockey world on his untiring back, but was advised to go, hope never will come back.

  23. Hopeless bob,…
    It is shame, really. Because, if you take out his coach bias and clinical admiration for Aves (and he has all rights for it, except moral rights for endless repetition to deliberately annoy others), I rather enjoy his hockey sense and even emotional analyses.

  24. hold on…didn’t we have a left winger with some skill, great speed, great along the boards, and who was 6th among all Rangers forwards with 21 assists last season… his name escaped my mind… can anyone remind me his name, please? :)

  25. 4ever – you just became the resident Bard of the blog! That was awesome. I can hear the minstrel music in the background.

  26. Very astute!

    Put out the light, and then put out the light.

    (sorry to jump plays and sorry to involve Interview with the Vampire)

  27. oh, and a last one to bobik, ( common name for little dog in Russia)
    please, don’t be rude,… to Carp in particular. Not like it’s not very popular here, which it is, (still follow?), but even a small dog shouldn’t bite feeding hand. Have nothing to do with the 1st Amendment, just common decency, I think.

  28. so what’s going to happen next year when guys like Bourque, Hagelin, Kreider, etc. are all ready to crack the line up… who are we moving out of position then?

  29. As for a LW.?… There is no problem at all. We have a lot of Left Wingers downtown, ready to tear down this opposition’s fat cats hockey millionaires, just for the sake of that and fun. Hire for soup.

  30. Wolski and Fedotenko are probably gone after this year. MZA may or may not be depending on how he’s used this season.

  31. Boom Boom Bathgate on

    Anyone know where we can find out, several hours in advance, which goaltender is starting for all teams playing on any given day or night? Thanks.

  32. Maybe we need to break out the Tortarenney Line Generator. It includes an option for random LW’s.

  33. You know….one of us has to be crazy enough to have made this team in NHL 12 or whatever that video game is called. Who does the game think should be the LW on the top line?

  34. Wow. So far — with a couple of exceptions — a very intelligent hockey conversation. Not much jibberish (gibberish).

  35. I honestly think that if Boyle could use his body more often to either forecheck or perhaps screen the damn goalie he might be a great choice for LW on that top line. I don’t know what it takes for him to get into shooting lanes and body people out of the way so Gaborik can net a few goals.

  36. Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan should always be together. It was our best line last season

    I also agree that unless Wolski returns to the player he was 2 seasons ago (where he was a borderline all-star) Stepan is the best option for the top line LW.

    I still think Prospal would have been the perfect fit there but no point harping on that…

  37. Right. Sorry dde I didn’t mean to give the impression that he wasn’t physical. I just want him to plant himself in the crease, clear bodies and deflect pucks for GOALS. That’s all. I think his physicality makes him a decent fit on the 1st line until we can find someone else.

  38. Another point about Boyle is that he can play both ways and Gaborik “suffers” defensively. So maybe putting Boyle on that line (a guy who can skate) makes them a bit less risky in the +/- area.

  39. So, let me get this straight. There’s a guy that reads the blog, but doesn’t want Carp to give his opinion because he wants to observe everything himself. However, he wants to use the blog to give his opinions for the whole world to see.

    Have I got it so far, Bob?

    Stepan on the first two lines makes a lot of sense. What good does it do to give him 4th line minutes paired with a couple of stiffs? Put him in a position to be able to score, whether it’s the first or second line.

    IMO, the big problem is Boyle. They’re probably thinking that last season was a breakout season for Boyle, but I think it just might have been an abberation. He’s the type of player that should be on the fourth line. He can pot a couple of goals. He can give you some banging. He can play some defense. Stepan on the fourth line is a waste.

  40. Charlie – I agree that last year will be a bit of an “outlier” in Boyle’s career. That’s why I like him in a position to just use his body to assist the other guys on that line. I don’t think he’s going to go chair a line on his own and lead them in goal scoring. He needs to use his skill set in other ways.

    To be clear though, I think Stepan should get the first shot. I might even like Newbury to get the second shot. I just want to throw some guys names in there for debate purposes.

  41. Hate to say it with such pleasure, but Bye, Bob, or Rod, or whatever your name is.

    Oh, and Wolski=a big Christensen.

    Now go back to your Avery shrine and pray.

  42. Funny how all the trolls start looking alike just before they vanish….

    There is nothing wrong with keeping your young, potential future 1st line center on the wing for a season or two. Besides, he will learn from Richards.

  43. “Avery shrine” – I like it too.

    I am trying to picture what it would look like. An Avery statue with his nude image draped across it on that Marc Jacobs T-Shirt. Maybe a pair of Ray Bans in the corner. Some cologne. Suspenders. Checkered shirt.

  44. Ryan Bjork is an interesting choice. I really like how that kid looked in pre-season. I guess it’s just scary to me to think about bringing someone up to join our 1st line. It says a lot about the team that we don’t have someone already there to fill that spot, right?

  45. The good news- Torts will make that decision. He sees the play better than anyone else here. The bad news- whatever his decision will be, people here will say:”I said he sould’ve done long time ago.”

  46. If nothing else, I would FIRMLY agree with Carp at least with a point that Stepan doesn’t have an established place anyway, like AA and Boyler in terms of playing with more or less (Torts discretion) constant partners and, as developing, talented player, who can enormously benefit from being with guys like Gaby and BR, definitely have no business be wasted on 4 line minutes.

  47. Stranger Nation on

    Suggested yesterday Artie on Line 1 with Rich/Gab and Step between Cally/Dubi. That can be a line 2 for the next 4 seasons.

    Artie could flourish with those two as he does not seem to be around the net enough like Step and does not create enough (though he is young and developing.)

    His line-mates had 47 combined goals and he had 26 assists last season. Some of those goals were PP or with Dubi on different lines, but still, that’s with Dubi and Capt out for stretches last year with injuries.

    Let’s not worry about Line 4 either, until Line 1 is sorted out.

    Is Artie holding them back? Not saying to trade him, but need to see what pieces work best.

  48. Thanks, ilb. I tried to make the shrine contain only the essential Avery items. I guess I forgot slim-fit, selvedge denim jeans.

  49. wicky© (Our D is a bunch of poussins and belongs in MAMBY PAMBY LAND!!!!) on

    morning ILB , mulcher, and all!!

    As far as the top line LW goes…I feel that if WW isn’t in the top 6 (similar to someone’s argument earlier about MZA), he really doesn’t offer much. I am not as sold on the “pack line” as some of you, but can’t gabby play LW and move cally up on the right?

  50. Stranger- disagree on that. I believe AA, despite people mention otherwise, is perceived by our organization as one of the better two-way centers in the league. There is a reason every time Slats talks trade, his name comes up right away. At 23, he is already deployed by his head coach to play against opposition’s best centers. Production? How about 50% increase each year for two years. He should stay on second line. Stepan, however, is probably groomed as our future 1st line center. Whether he can do it, remains to be seen. He certainly has the potential. That’s why giving him 4th line minutes during his 2nd year in the league doesn’t make sense. They protected him well against opposing best checkers last year, this year he needs more experience. He needs to improve on his positional play and in the faceoff circles.

  51. no, wicky, it will change completely the whole team structure and will make vulnerable and sensitive forward even more uncomfortable, IMO

  52. It all goes back to the point that, although it’s been great, this youth movement, none of them are guarenteed top line guys. We may need to make something out of a couple of these guys if we want to take the next step.

    Otherwise we sit middle of the pack, not bad enough to get a number 1 pick, but not good enough to really do anything in the playoffs. I’m not saying blow up the roster, or trade whoever the staff thinks is the best AHL’er, but we need to do something to get to the next level.

    When most teams have won multiple cups they have brought in some talent, while letting some talent go. We need to stay young (building a modern day dynasty) but also pick up more HIGHLY talented guys along the way.

    Otherwise we throw away a season like the Penguins did so they could get Crosby! LOL

  53. Oh man. All the best with that Tony. Don’t forget to take pics of everything. Enjoy the “dry heat” which should assist with the swelling.

  54. Oh and, Tony. I promise that whatever they give you for the pain will be an adequate substitute for smoking!

  55. Carp, I’ll have nothing to do but be a full time bonehead !
    On a good note , the DR told me not to smoke any cigarettes the day of surgery. You should see the look on his face when I told him it’s been over 5 months that I’m smokeless – a proud DR !!

  56. How about using Avery’s cap money and finding someone Torts will trust on the left, and then putting Dubi back where he belongs? Is that possible?

  57. wicky© (Our D is a bunch of poussins and belongs in MAMBY PAMBY LAND!!!!) on

    oh oh eric nystrom on re entry waivers

  58. Septemous…..that point has been made ALOT on this blog, some agree, some don’t, but more importantly Tort’s doesn’t and he won’t be coming back.

  59. wicky© (Our D is a bunch of poussins and belongs in MAMBY PAMBY LAND!!!!) on

    I believe avery’s 1.9+ was used to bring erixon in per woywitka—>

  60. Speaking of Woywitka (the player, lol) His contract brought the team up to only $850K below the cap. Not too much wiggle room there. The bonuses can not be deferred this year because of expiring CBA.

  61. Stranger Nation on

    ILB – good points – I don’t know if either of them are 1st line centers – a rare breed – Richards makes that need go away for 3 yrs (or so) hopefully.

    Step has more Offensive upside as seen over one season and Artie has skills and great hands – if his offensive productivity does not increase this season, need to consider all options. Rangers do not have Dmen how can break out of zone to lead rush so more reliance on Centerman to do so – an area where artie needs to develop more to spring the hsi productive wingers Dubi/Capt on the wings.

    Question – should your second line center be going against the oppositions top line? Have not be following match ups, but who is the 3rd (checking) line being matched up against then??

  62. Boom Boom Bathgate on

    ORR – Some would say that Renney puts his goaltender out there, AFTER the game is over.

  63. And This One Will Last A Lifetime on

    Carp, Bulldog, and the rest of you bonehead coaches….

    leave the line up suggestions alone. the coaches see these guys day in and day out, while us fans and bloggers see them on game night only. they are breaking down film, running drills, scrimmages, special teams, etc., all week long. they know best what to run out there for combinations.

    I am looking forward to this team getting better all season long, not peaking too early, not getting too up or down during the regular season, and just hopefully getting a decent seed for the post-season.

  64. NBA cancelled 2 weeks of season? If it continues that way we may see MSG finished ahead of schedule…Thoughts?

  65. wicky© (Our D is a bunch of poussins and belongs in MAMBY PAMBY LAND!!!!) on

    good luck and keep working out that “refresh” finger!

  66. Yeah, there’s a Tony from Arizona, or Phoenix, who calls WFAN every night. That one wears pants, has two good knees, and smokes.

    And This One, just engaging in some conversation. The last thing I want to do, or am equipped to do, is coach.

  67. Oftentimes when I read some comments I think people truly believe they know hockey better than Torts does. Or any other coach in the league…It’s entertaining for sure….

  68. I second ilb, on AA, and wanted to add that Anisimov is very balanced package: smart, great hands, excellent skating, wicked wrist shot, defensively responsible, big frame – potential improvement for strength with puck and along the boards (he needs it). He has a presence around the net and showed it with his last goal, does crash the crease better than anybody in a team (Boyle did it few times last year) but it is *his* trade mark, he likes this “speed train to the wreck” and scores this type of goals and we will see it more with time by. On the open ice I have more confidence in him than Gabby, when it’s comes one on one against a defenseman. Finally, he is obviously in a great physical shape and health and not prone to injuries, despite being hit, played ALL games in a season, which IS a big deal for our team and have a tremendous trust from coaching staff in any possible situations. All it in his 23! Bright future – looks like a big team building block for me. No trade!
    …and I didn’t even touched his personality…(beat Avery obsession?)

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