Thursday, December 16, 2010

Where Do Rangers Turn To Fill Callahan Roles? Drury, Zuccarello, Weise, Others?

Earlier I discussed why losing Callahan would be the Rangers toughest test year. Now that I took the morning to in a sense have a type of mourning over the injury to Ryan Callahan and his loss for the next six weeks it is time to look at the what the Rangers options to take in attempting to fill the roles of Cally.  The best way to go about this is probably with a list of candidates followed by analyzing each for what they can and cannot do in these scenarios.  Let us not forget either that what the Rangers are likely to actually do must be a huge factor in considering all the options on the table.

Chris Drury: From the game last night it appears that at least for the short term they are going to use Drury as the main guy to fill Callahan’s spot in most phases whether it be the second line, the power play or the penalty kill.  Drury is more than capable on the penalty kill of taking that role and doing it just as well as Callahan does as long as he too does not get injured blocking a shot.  At even strength I do not think Drury really fills the same role on the line with the energy and forecheck as Cally does because of his lack of speed in getting in on the play.  On the power play I am not big on Drury down low, but I would move him back to the point and allow Stepan to move down low because Drury has much less hesitation to take the shot from the point and it will allow Stepan to move back to a better playmaking position for him.  In accordance with this though I would take Christensen off the first unit and put Boyle on as the presence in front of the net. 

Brandon Prust: I would hate to break up Prust and Boyle as they have been brilliant together but I believe that Prust is the best “alternative” to Callahan at even strength in terms of getting in on the check and scoring similar types of goals.  As I said the drawback is just that of breaking up the great work that Boyle and Prust are doing together so maybe in the end it would just be plugging a hole and causing another one.

Mats Zuccarello:  I expect this to be the popular option for many as Zuke is a dynamic player who is on fire right now for the Whale and could potentially provide another dimension to the offense.  The problems with this move is that to be effective Zuccarello likely needs a top six role which Callahan’s injury does afford, but the question is whether he is ready.  The Rangers seem to be very happy with how fast he is progressing but do not believe he is there yet, which makes them unlikely to make the move.  More interesting for me is whether or maybe how he would fit in with Dubinsky and Anisimov.  Zuke is a high skill player with excellent vision and passing skills which could certainly help Dubinsky and Anisimov in the goal department on the rush, but would his lack of size hurt the overall dynamic of the line in terms of forecheck and the fact they have been predominantly used against the other team’s best offensive players?  Also if the Rangers go with the Drury option then the Zuccarello move should be off the table.

Dale Weise:  I said last week that I believed Dale Weise might be the most pro ready of the guys with the Whale and if not for his injury he would have been the one to get the call when Gaborik was hurt not Grachev or Williams.  If Drury is the move up to the second line which for me removes Zuke from contention for a call Weise is certainly someone capable of coming up for a 3rd or 4th line role right now and contributing some offense as well.  To me this is a better alternative to inserting Todd White into the lineup on a consistent basis.  Weise is a big physical player will skill and has been hot in his last three games with three goals and two assists to bring his season totals to 6 goals and 5 assists in 12 games.  For me if a call is going to be made this is the most likely one.

Ruslan Fedotenko:  This is the one move that could throw a wrench into my Zuke to the second line or not at all thinking.  Fedotenko has been one of the Rangers best forecheckers this season and would help to keep the type of style that Dubinsky and Anisimov have been used to with Callahan at even strength.  What this would open up as well would be a position for a skill player to go with Stepan and Gaborik on the top line which Zuccarello could fill potentially but that is a lot to ask of a guy who is still adjusting the North American style of play.

Matt Gilroy: A wildcard to this could be Gilroy not for the Callahan spot but for a bottom six forward instead of Todd White though the Rangers seem reluctant to move Gilroy to forward even though at the moment all they are doing is scratching him.

For me the most likely outcome is Drury takes Callahan spot and Weise gets a call, but the call for Weise would be unlikely to come before tomorrow’s game.  Hit me with your thoughts on the suggestions I have and if you have other ones.