I’ve tried to emulate Carp’s blog, but the following is an offering that Carp would never have provided: an entire post dedicated to line combinations! No reporting, just complete editorial, clearly this is a HAV.
Over the past decade, the Rangers have employed a traditional 4th line; a mix of grinders, defensive forwards, enforcers, and penalty killing specialists. It appeared coming into this season they would be doing mostly the same, albeit with upgrades from Tanner Glass and Dominic Moore in Michael Grabner and Jesper Fast. Additionally, there was an injection of skill in power play specialist Brandon Pirri as the center, especially while Oscar Lindberg recovered from offseason hip surgery. All three of these players (as well as Lindberg) can move up the lineup in a spot, which was a big difference from last season, when Fast was incorrectly relied upon as a top six forward for long stretches of the season.
The season started with this set of lines:
Everything was going fine until injuries hit, most notably Kreider and Buchnevich, forcing AV to shuffle his lines. In shuffling his lines, he created a line of Grabner-Hayes-Miller, and caught lightning in a bottle, as the line exploded and has been very good ever since. As it stands, the lines have looked like this since Kreider and Buchnevich have returned:
At first, the newly assembled lines with Grabner and Vesey went off to great starts. The new fourth line struggled early, but over the past three games they’ve produced, and Buchnevich has really started to emerge as a player. However, his line hardly has anything to do with it. He deserves more ice time.
For differing reasons, Vesey and Kreider have found themselves benched in two out of the last four games. Personally, I think Zibanejad has been the worst skater over the past five games or so, but AV has seen fit to sit Vesey and Kreider instead. Bearing this in mind, I think it’s time for Vesey to start a game or two on the fourth line. In coming to this conclusion, I am operating under the following set of premises:
1) Grabner-Hayes-Miller is still working. They didn’t score against Vancouver, but they had a few good chances. I don’t think it’s time to split them just yet.
2) Buchnevich is playing great. He needs more ice time.
3) Someone from the other two lines must replace him on the fourth line and it can’t be Stepan or Zibanejad.
4) Vesey is not as good as Kreider, Nash, and Zuccarello.
If you accept all of those as true, then Vesey should be the guy to go to the fourth line. The line combinations could look like this:
Should Grabner-Hayes-Miller’s production dry up, then you switch Vesey and Grabner in the lineup.
All of this also ignores that Oscar Lindberg, who before the season was expected to fill the fourth line center position after recovering from his hip surgery, is still being Prucha’d on a nightly basis. AV has said that he is fully healthy, so I’m not even sure that they could get away with sending him to Hartford for a conditioning stint anymore.
This also ignores Josh Jooris, but that’s because I think he’s a fringe NHL player who is clearly no better than fourteenth in the forward depth chart.
What do you think? Should Grabner-Hayes-Miller be split up now? Should it remain and some other lines be adjusted to accommodate Buchnevich and/or Lindberg? Should everything be left alone? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
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