Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Should Rangers Bench Chris Drury When Injured Forwards Return?

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With the emergence of young players like Mats Zuccarello and acquisition of Wojtek Wolski, the New York Rangers forward core looks considerably different compared to when Ryan Callahan and Erik Christensen went down with injuries.  With both Callahan and Christensen on the mend and hoping to return in the next few weeks now is a good time to consider what the lineup might look like when they do. 
With Kris Newbury and Dale Weise currently here the Rangers are carrying 13 healthy forwards.  When Callahan and Christensen return it is likely both Newbury and Weise will be sent back to the AHL, with Weise likely going before then.  Even if Weise goes before anyone comes back to the lineup the first return, presumably Callahan February 1, will force someone back to the bench.  The obvious choice in that scenario is for it to be Newbury, but the coaching staff has been very pleased with his play and how he fits the system, so that might not be such a given outcome.
When Christensen comes back the decision making process becomes more complicated both for what Christensen has the potential to bring, but also what others in the lineup are not.  Many are discussing whether he has a role with the team when he returns and that is certainly a valid topic to consider, but there is another Rangers forward who on merit should be the one on the outside looking in; Chris Drury.
It would be surprising to see, but certainly not without merit for John Tortorella to scratch Captain Chris Drury who has basically become a face-off man, penalty killer and spare forward.  There is no production from Drury on the offensive end to speak of as he has zero goals and four assists in 16 games this season.  Those numbers include Drury being without a point in the Rangers last ten games.  The Rangers showed in Drury’s absence that the penalty kill can certainly survive without his presence and with Callahan back that would be the case again. 
Beyond that the team showed with Callahan at the helm in terms of leadership there was no significant void in that department either.  It is said that Drury is a leader by example and well respected in the room, which I have no doubt about being the case.  The reality is this team is supposed to be about results on the ice and as hard as Drury busts it on the penalty kill there are other guys who can fill that role as well while giving more potential offense to the team.  This team is supposed to be about accountability and earning your time and scratching the captain would certainly send a message that no one is above that standard.  For me the biggest advantage Drury has to staying in the lineup is not about leadership or penalty killing, nut the utter lack of solid face-off men on the roster.
This decision on Christensen vs Drury if those are the two main considerations may once again come back to Marian Gaborik as seemingly all lineup decisions do right now.  If the team is still searching for a match to get Marian Gaborik going when Christensen returns, I would expect him to be in the lineup.  Like it or not the most consistent and effective center with Gaborik has been Christensen.  If Gaborik is still struggling and Anisimov does not pick up his own production I could easily see Anisimov being pushed back to the fourth line and Erik getting another chance with Marian.
Asking this same question after the Wolski trade I thought that the guy who was going to be the one drawing the short straw, no pun intended, was going to be Mats Zuccarello, but after his recent play they must find a place for him in the top nine.  The Rangers best lineup in my opinion would roll four lines and look something like this:
For me all of these lines have worked in the past to varying degrees and would allow the Rangers at least a chance at consistency in their lineup.