The Weakest Link at Every Position for New York Rangers
With the main flurry of the offseason over, the New York Rangers roster is pretty much set.
Now we can take a detailed look at each position and see which players are the weakest links.
What are these players doing to bring the team down? Which positions can be improved upon?
Read on to find out.
Left Wing: Taylor Pyatt
The Rangers are actually pretty stacked at left wing.
They're led by Rick Nash, one of the best left wingers in the game. Carl Hagelin is a speedster who can cause havoc on the forecheck, and Chris Kreider is a promising youngster.
Benoit Pouliot is going to be a pleasant surprise, as he will play important third-line minutes and score a bunch of goals.
By default, that leaves Taylor Pyatt.
Pyatt scored six goals and had five assists last season, but this is someone who once scored 23 goals.
He's an excellent penalty-killer, and he's a big body who can control the puck along the walls.
But that's about all you're getting with him. If the Rangers want more goal scoring, they're going to have to find that elsewhere.
Teams need guys like Pyatt. He's a gritty forward who will do the little things to succeed.
But in terms of scoring, something the Rangers desperately need, Pyatt is just a gritty third-liner. To compete with teams like the Boston Bruins, the bottom-six needs to put in more goals.
The addition of Benoit Pouliot, plus the potential shuffling of guys like Brian Boyle and J.T. Miller to wing, may cause Pyatt to be a healthy scratch quite often next season.
Center: Brad Richards
Maybe last year was an anomaly. Maybe it was just a weird speed bump in an otherwise stellar career.
Whatever it is, Brad Richards is on his last legs. He wasn't bought out this summer, but if the Rangers want to compete going forward, they're going to need to get his contract off the books after next season.
Richards was pretty bad last year, getting benched for the final two playoff games. He scored 11 goals and had 23 assists. He looked a step too slow.
The Rangers' top two centers are set, with Derek Stepan (assuming he is re-signed) and Derick Brassard. Brian Boyle and Dominic Moore will compete for the fourth-line center job, with the loser probably playing wing. J.T. Miller is also a candidate to play center.
Richards is not suited to play a bottom-six role. At his best, he's a high-producing center who makes his linemates better with his terrific passing.
He's never going to be a strong forechecker, and while he's adequate in his own end, he's not going to be a gritty guy who does the little things. He's an offensive wizard at his best, not a guy who gets dirty in the corners.
So unless Richards plays really well and ends up seeing time on the second line, he's going to be miscast. Either he's not going to be productive enough to crack the top-six, or being on the third line is not going to make him productive.
It's a tough spot, especially since Derick Brassard was wonderful in the postseason.
It's one last chance for Richards. If he finds his old ways, great. If not, he'll be looking for a new home.
Right Wing: Derek Dorsett
Derek Dorsett has a role, and he plays it well.
But in terms of pure hockey skill, there's a lot lacking.
Dorsett is a fighter, an agitator. In 11 postseason games, he had 28 penalty minutes.
He shows flashes of being a decent forechecker, and he can change the complexion of games with a hit or a fight.
But he's not going to score many goals. He's not going to be on the ice in important situations.
If Dorsett doesn't get the job done as a fighter, then one of the many youngsters—perhaps Danny Kristo or Jesper Fast—could potentially take his spot in the lineup.
As long as he does his job, he'll be fine. But with a renewed emphasis on offense, Dorsett could find himself on the outside looking in.
Defense: Michael Del Zotto
After the John Moore acquisition, Michael Del Zotto suddenly became the weak link on the Rangers defense.
Assuming health, ahead of Del Zotto on the depth chart are Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Anton Stralman and Moore.
Del Zotto had a rough year. In fact, he's never been able to recapture some of the magic from his rookie year.
In his rookie season, Del Zotto scored nine goals and had 28 assists. His minus-20 mark was troubling, but he obviously looked to be a dynamic offensive defenseman.
The next season, he struggled mightily and found himself in the minors.
His 2011-12 campaign was pretty good. He scored 10 goals and had 31 assists while recording a plus-20.
But he took a step back this past season, scoring just three goals and posting a plus-six.
He's not terrible. He's a young defenseman who's shown flashes of great offensive skill. He has plenty of experience and has played important minutes.
But he makes way too many mistakes in his own zone. Frankly, Moore has looked more poised than Del Zotto.
Del Zotto should make the team, although he will have Aaron Johnson, Danny Syvret and Dylan McIlrath breathing down his neck.
Of the six defensemen, Del Zotto is on the thinnest ice. If he makes a bunch of mistakes early on, then one of the depth guys could easily jump in.
Goalie: Martin Biron
All things considered, Martin Biron is a pretty good backup goaltender. Last year, in just six appearances, Biron posted a 2-2-1 record with a 2.32 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.
In 2011-12, Biron appeared in 21 games, posting a 12-6-2 record, with a 2.46 GAA and a .904 save percentage.
Because Henrik Lundqvist is one of the best goaltenders in the world, Biron doesn't need to do much. His main job is to keep Lundqvist fresh. He won't play in key games, and you'll never see him in the postseason.
The main question with Biron, then, is whether he can carry the team during a potential Lundqvist injury. A Lundqvist injury is the worst-case scenario for the Rangers, but it would be up to Biron to shoulder the load.
It's hard to say how he would perform. He hasn't had regular duty since 2008-09, when he was with the Philadelphia Flyers. He appeared in 55 games, putting up a 29-19-5 record with a 2.76 GAA and a .915 save percentage.
Those are decent numbers, but that was four seasons ago. Can Biron handle a heavy load if needed?
The Rangers are hoping they never have to find out. But it's been a long time since Biron played significant games, and last year was essentially a year off.
He's been pretty good in backup duty. But what if the worst happens and he needs to start for an extended period of time? Well, that may be the biggest question mark on the Rangers roster right now.
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