Colton Orr has gradually become one of the top fighters in the NHL.
Rangers fans saw a side of him last year that we hadn't seen before. At times, he would dominate other fighters. Hockeyfights.com has his record at an impressive 12-4-2 in the '07-08 season.
As well as fighting, we also saw improved play in the defensive zone, and a little bit of good hitting. In one game, he crushed Matt Cullen as he entered the neutral zone, and followed it up by beating down Mike Commodore—yes, I know he isn't really a fighter, he was just standing up for his teammate.
Ever since we saw the misleading headline "Rangers claim Orr from Boston," we have seen Colton (or KOlton) grow into a top 10 fighter.
While he has yet to get to the level of George Laraque or Donald Brashear, Colton has shown that he is among the best, with the way he has manhandled Riley Cote, and with other key wins against guys like George Parros and Wade Belak.
But with some of the acquisitions the Rangers have made so far this off season, it appears that Colton Orr will be seeing a lot less ice time.
According to their website, the Rangers have 14 forwards on their roster. This does not include any possible call-ups from Hartford. While there is a chance Orr might be forward No. 13, ahead of Aaron Voros, it still leaves him out of the lineup.
Since it's doubtful we call up a forward to play on the fourth line full-time, it seems that there are five players who could be realistically put on the fourth line. Blair Betts and Fredrik Sjostrom are most likely to be guaranteed spots, barring a strange turn of events.
That leaves three players for one spot on the wing—Colton Orr, Aaron Voros and Patrick Rissmiller. Colton will have to beat both of them out to keep his spot on the team.
Tom Renney has some tough choices to make. Does he go with the better defensive play of Rissmiller, or the lesser toughness, but much better offensive upside of Aaron Voros?
Colton Orr might wind up only playing in the games that look like he will be needed—such as those against teams that might make it really physical, like the Flyers, or perhaps against other top fighters like Wade Belak in Florida, George Laraque in Montreal, or Donald Brashear in Washington.
Colton Orr has worked really hard to add another dimension to his game. He improved his defensive play and has become more then just a goon for the Rangers. But with the forwards the Rangers have gotten, it seems that the slower Orr is being pushed farther down the depth chart.
Although him being scratched might make us a faster team, there is a huge downside to it as well—taking Orr out of the lineup might make New York one of the softest teams in the league.
If Voros, who is on a two-way deal, is actually on the team, he would be our only tough player, and he is far from being a top fighter in the league. Who else would step up?
We know Brandon Dubinsky is willing to do it, but we also know he's not very good. Dan Fritsche will drop the gloves, but like Dubinsky, he isn't great at doing it.
Looking at the players we lost, it's no suprise that we got a lot softer. We lost Jason Strudwick—who even if he was still a seventh d-man, would add a good fighting to the roster along with good leadership. We lost Sean Avery, who's antics always stirred things up physically.
We also lost Ryan Hollweg. While most people hated him, you can't deny his willingness to do what he at least thought was necessary. He wasn't a great fighter, but at least the other team might think twice about doing something if Hollweg would put them in to the boards from behind afterwards.
We also lost Fedor Tyutin—and although he doesn't fight, we at least knew he would hit. We replaced those players with Wade Redden, a puck-moving defenseman, Dmitri Kalinin, an offensive defenseman, Nikolai Zherdev, a sniper, along with the other two players I mentioned earlier.
They hardly make anyone think twice before taking runs at any of our players.
Colton Orr would give us that comfort though. He'd be the guy to say "If you mess with Gomez, or Drury, or Redden or Naslund, your gonna have to deal with me." This becomes even more necessary after the trip to Prague, when New York plays 11 games in 21 nights.
If the Rangers are going to be tired, they can't be getting knocked around, or they could crumble and fall into a costly losing streak—just because they would be all banged up and injured.
While losing Colton Orr from the roster would be a huge loss, can the Rangers pay Rissmiller $1 million and Voros $1.2 million to sit in the press box and do nothing for most of the year?
They can either sit Orr and be a soft team that gets bullied by everyone, or play him and lose some possible offense and some more solid defensive play—yeah, Colton has improved there, but is still far from being a defensive forward.
It's a tough choice, and Tom Renney will have to make one soon. Either way, there will be some people who disagree with it.