Comparing last year's team to this year, one surprising stat that stood out was the allocation in ice time among the forwards. This year the top six forward group are given on average 8:10 minutes more than last year's group, while the bottom six had their minutes decreased by an average of 6:39 minutes.
The top four spots remained constant:
- Ryan Callahan (21:00) - used in all situations
- #1 Center - Richards 2011/Stepan 2013 (20 minutes)
- #1 Goal Scorer - Gaborik 2011/Nash 2013 (20 minutes)
- #2 Center - Stepan 2011/Richards 2013 (19 minutes)
After the top four there's a change
5. Dubinsky (16:16) vs. Gaborik (18:56)
6. Anisimov (15:24) vs. Hagelin (18:11)
This illustrates how the current team both relies heavily on its top two lines, which are not built for a defense first philosophy, and highlights the team's lack of depth. Last year the team's first line was a true offensive (Richards/Gaboriik/Hagelin), followed by second and third lines composed of two-way/defensively-minded forwards (Callahan, Dubinsky, Stepan, Boyle, Prust, Anisimov). The depth allowed the team to have balance throughout the roster, as well as, a true checking line to match up against opposing team's top lines. Last year,Brandon Dubinsky (16:16 minutes/+16), Artie Anisimov (15:24 minutes/+12) and John Mitchell (10:10 minutes/+10) were defensively responsible and could score. In fact John Mitchell outscores the 2013 combination of Pyatt, Boyle, Miller, Halpen, Asham, Rupp and Powe 16-15. Not the entire 4th line, just John Mitchell all by his lonesome. Granted, Mitchell played more games in the comparison, but that's one player vs. seven.
The addition of Nash gives the current team two legitimate scoring lines, but the defensive first system may be hampering their offensive potential. Last year's team had a strong forecheck that cycled the puck in the offensive zone; playing both an offensive and an defensive purpose. This year's team generate offense through the rush or by dumping and chasing the puck, often resulting in turnovers. This method is challenging especially when the team is trying to come from behind and the opposing team falls back into a defensive posture. The third and fourth lines seems to be a mix and match of the remain players on the roster, lacking defined roles. With Boyle paired with Miller, Kreider, Gaborik and Pyatt they've become an ineffective checking/scoring line hybrid that's become a liability on both ends of the ice. The result is a short bench with match ups of top lines against top lines. This hasn't bode well for the Rangers and will only become worse with the rest of schedule containing mostly away games where line match ups are more difficult. Also defensive troubles can be seen in the increased number of penalties taken. Nash leads all Rangers forwards with 24 min (in 27 games) vs. the 40 min (in 82 games) he had a year ago. Girardi has 12 min, when is took 20 all of last year.
Overall, the current makeup of this Ranger team is not going make the playoffs. Even if they did, it's doubtful they can handle the rigors to advance into the later rounds, as Eastern conference teams can easily match up against our top two lines. Perhaps a roster change or an adjustment in the team's philosophy might help. With 17 games left, if the Ranger intend to make a serious run at the playoffs, the change better happen soon.
BTW, the biggest surprise in the comparison involved Stu Bickel. Last year he averaged 10:26 minutes and was a +2 in 51 games, this year he averaged 5:31 minutes and -2 in 16 games.