The Sports Daily > NY Rangers Blog
Guest Blogger #21: An Inside Look At Torts’ Poker Hand

By Stephen L.

It seems like with the deadline for the guest blogger being Midnight on July 31st, it could be the last chance to do this. Start of August means that camp will soon call and with that will come the lineup decisions from Torts. Hopefully I am somewhat on target with his mindset but Torts juggles everything around so much. As much as I may see this to be the best option for the Rangers, I could see things being different and touched on why a little bit. Alright, let’s start talking about opening day.

Possible Line-ups: Now, Torts being the shuffle-master himself, will always toss around lines trying to get everyone producing. Eventually he may have to stop doing this because something will click and the Rangers will comfortably make the playoffs. But who says we cannot speculate what will work and what may not? On the Rangers website, there are 13 forwards listed, 5 defensemen.

‘Defense wins championships’ so let’s start there. I think that everyone can guess that Staal, Girardi, McDonaugh, and Sauer made the starting 4. Eminger will be rotated in, listed as a 7th defensemen. Del Zotto will be given another shot to start the season on the roster. Everyone would like to see him and Richards at the point on the power play but unless Del Zotto can show improvement in his defensive game, maybe the Rangers would rather not see this happen right off the bat. Short-handed chances for the opposition killed all chances on any possible goals the Rangers could have got.

The last spot on defense could prove to be quite a battle. Valentenko, McIlrath and Erixon look like the possible candidates. Erixon I think can step in and change the entire perspective. The passes he can make and the development he has shown has surpassed any of the prospects that the Rangers currently have on defense. McIlrath could use more time developing and Valentenko could crack the roster if Del Zotto does not impress Torts. Erixon could be on that power play unit with Richards at the point. Rangers’ fans should be ecstatic about Erixon. For only 2 second round picks, the Rangers got a kid on defense who can shoot, pass, and be a game changer on defense. Somewhere there was a comparison made between him and Alex Edler of the Canucks. Edler is a great defensemen. Rangers would love to have an Edler. This kid makes everything that more exciting.

Offense is where everything gets somewhat exciting. Since scoring goals has been a problem, this makes it even more interesting. The Rangers need to find a way to put the puck in the back of the net. It is easier to show this as a ‘chart’ so here is my best shot:

Tank -Richards – Gaborik
Dubinsky – Stepan – Callahan
Rupp – Boyle – Prust
Wolski – Christensen – Anisimov

This does not mean this is how much I think they will play; I think everyone knows that where players are placed in the depth chart does not matter to Torts. He will use each line to the level he thinks they can be effective in that game. Now I did not include any rookies even though I think Thomas will give a big shot at cracking the lineup and may do. If Thomas cracks the lineup, I would like to see him given playing time with Richards and let Tank play on the “4th” line. Avery, who is already losing a good reason to start every game with the club, will be scratched a lot more until he gets released as a free agent (Wolski too). Even though Anisimov was just signed to a new contract, I would not be surprised to see him traded. A lot of teams have asked about him and with him packaged along with a few prospective defensemen, I would see something good in return coming back.

Kolarik, Zuccarello, Weise, and Bourque could make a case to make the lineup too. Zuccarello could get traded too if he does not fit into the system as planned or the right asking price comes along. This gives more of a chance for guys like Thomas, Weise, and Kolarik to come into the lineup, possibly more frequently. Weise may not be as skilled as Anisimov or Zuccarello, but this guy hits and moves fast. The 3rd line may be a ‘hitting line’ or a game changing line (I would like to patent the PBR line now), but having another guy who can do the ‘dirty work’ does not hurt anyone (especially if he could be rotated into that spot).

Tank is placed on the first line and not Wolski because this is how I think the season will start out. Also, Tank seems to know how to play with Richards and top-level guys already. Wolski needs to find his groove. I think this starts with preseason. This guy probably did not come to the Rangers as good of shape as the Rangers would have hoped. Torts runs a tough workout that makes sure every player is in shape to his playing style. Now this may make Wolski play on the first line and have Tank help out the 4th line, maybe even rotated into the 3rd depending on the game. If Tank is not on the 1st line, he will be seen jumping around on lines because he is a smart player who seems to know what to do with the puck. Point is, is that the future of Wolski comes to how in shape he will be this offseason. He could be traded early in the season if he is not in as good of shape as Torts wants his players to be in. Personally would have liked to see Wolski work with the same skating instructor that Boyle had last season and that him and Zuccarello were seen working with a month ago.

Message to Wolski: play hard, skate fast, and adapt to the system. Putting the puck in the back of the net goes a long way too. If you cannot, I hope you find your game somewhere else because the quest for Stanley does not wait on you.

On another note: There is one prospect who I am keeping my eye on. Maybe he is not NHL ready but the prospect trade with the Coyotes could have benefitted the Rangers more than people think. Oscar Lindberg is a kid who may not show a large amount of points in the Swedish Elite League (was on the same team as Erixon too), but his style of play is the Rangers philosophy. A heavy hitter who is always moving, looking for the right opportunity to strike and make plays happen. I am looking for this kid in the next 3 years (at the most) to crack the lineup in some way. Here is a video of him giving a devastating hit, even though after watching it many times, I tend to look at where his elbow is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5w50pTqOHn4

My fellow fans: The level of excitement for this season is something that Rangers fans probably have not felt for a while. I am praying that the Rangers make an unbelievable season happen this year even though there are still a few young guys that will have to start playing at a NHL level. It is time for Stanley to come back to MSG. Selling out the Garden every night is something that will help out. Let’s pack it out, make it loud, and help our team bring the Cup home. The next few years are ours. Time to win it all, over and over again. It’s time.

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