Are Rangers too Soft Without Callahan in the Lineup?
Added by Ryan Heine on September 5, 2013.
(Photo courtesy of nesn.com)
It is no secret that injured players Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin leave large shoes to fill on the New York Rangers roster. Both players’ playmaking ability complimented with Callahan’s grit and Hagelin’s speed will be sorely missed, particularly on the season opening nine-game road trip.
We are still waiting to hear when exactly both players will return, but the sooner the better, of course. It appears certain that neither will be ready for the season opener in Phoenix, but whether they return during the nine-game road swing or after remains to be seen.
Without Callahan and Hagelin in the lineup, the Rangers offensive locks (barring injuries) include: Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, Brad Richards, and Brian Boyle at center, Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello, and Derek Dorsett at right wing, and Taylor Pyatt and Chris Kreider at left wing. The remaining offensive spots will probably be filled by centers J.T. Miller and Dominic Moore, and left wing Benoit Pouliot. This is by no means the set twelve forwards for the Rangers on opening night, but this should be close to it. Unless, of course, Alain Vigneault sees the roster completely differently than John Tortorella did and experiments with new players. The six centers will probably be shifted around to fill in the left and right wing holes, depending on who is producing in the faceoff circle.
The above twelve players make up a talented, young roster. However, with those twelve in the lineup, the team lacks any real toughness. Derek Dorsett is the only offensive player in that lineup that consistently plays a gritty, physical game. Do not even try to tell me that Brian Boyle plays that style, as he is about as inconsistent in that role as it gets. This team is going to need its skill to carry them the first few weeks (really all year) if they want to be competitive. Everyone knows that Callahan is the catalyst to any physicality that the Rangers do actually exhibit, and they will be even less physical during his absence.
As has been the case for goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s entire tenure, the defense is going to have to be solid. The above lineup, although talented, will probably not have enough skill to consistently carry the Rangers. If the team’s top six defensemen in Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto, Anton Stralman, and John Moore can stay healthy, the team will be as solid defensively as any team in the league. A healthy Lundqvist will help the cause, too.
I fear that the Rangers may just not be tough enough this season. Will the team’s talented but soft offense, veteran defense, and superstar goaltender mold into a winning product? We can only hope. The opening nine-game road trip should be very telling.