The Rangers placed Ryan Carpenter on waivers yesterday, which likely ends his Rangers tenure. Fourth line centers who win faceoffs are likely to be claimed, especially by teams like Colorado who have an all-injury lineup that looks like an All Star team. Placing Carpenter on waivers more or less solidified the NY Rangers bottom six, at least that’s what it looks like. The players may be set, but the roles are far from it.
When Gerard Gallant was hired, he and Chris Drury sold us on roles for each line and each player. The top six, naturally, are your scoring lines. At some point, it’s clear that Gallant wanted a shutdown line. But there was never any clear indication of what the fourth line should be. Excluding the 2013-2015 seasons, the Rangers’ fourth line has mostly been roster leftovers. Players that didn’t mesh in the top six, but they still wanted on the roster.
The first two seasons under Gallant appear no different. There is some leeway for last year, as the Rangers didn’t have the depth to give the roster any set roles outside the top five forwards. This year, the roles appeared set. The NY Rangers bottom six would have a shutdown line and a tertiary scoring line, with all three kids playing. Naturally, that hasn’t happened.
The current iteration of the fourth line –Sammy Blais, Johnny Brodzinski, Julien Gauthier– isn’t a shutdown line. It isn’t a scoring line. It’s more of a speed and forechecking line. And that’s quite alright, mind you. Brodzinski added a much needed burst of speed to that line over Carpenter, while Gauthier fought his way from 15F to fourth line mainstay. Blais has always been this kind of player, but he’s the clear weak link on that line.
Don’t misunderstand. Blais’ game and style is fun to watch. He gets in on the forecheck, he cycles, and he creates space. He’s just a step slow, likely due to his ACL injury carrying over from last year. But at least he fits the role for the line at the moment.
The third line of Chris Kreider, Vincent Trocheck, and Jimmy Vesey is a sound three zone line with speed and scoring touch. This is an ideal tertiary scoring line, and can probably be used as a shutdown line if need be. The Anthony Cirelli comparison is popular here, and again it’s a good comparison. The NY Rangers bottom six needs a line like this, and it appears that line has been found.
The question that we all have is about the bottom six makeup. More specifically, in calling out the weak link in the bottom six, Blais’ inclusion on the fourth line over Barclay Goodrow. This is less about Goodrow on the fourth line and more about Goodrow on the second line, which is a mistake.
Here's the simple one-pager on Goodrow.
Any Forward with Top-9 talent generates more offense without him (and it was the same last year too).
That's it. That's all you need to know. pic.twitter.com/PnIF0rSKSR
— Rob Luker (@RLuker12) December 8, 2022
Goodrow is not a top six forward, and the only place in the lineup he wasn’t a major detriment to his linemates was on the fourth line. And that’s fine, mind you. He belongs there, it’s his ideal role, and he is a perfect substitute with better on-ice results than Blais. Goodrow is miscast in the top six, and everyone except Gallant and Drury know it.
The goals for one actually is nuts with Goodrow. At 5v5 this year he's been on ice for 12 for and 15 against (bottom 5-ish team).
Without him on the ice: 44 for, 37 against (Top 10-ish team).
GG & co. can't seem to separate the player results from the overall team.
— Rob Luker (@RLuker12) December 9, 2022
If you don’t like using underlying numbers, then the simple goals for and against while Goodrow is on the ice in the top six still paints the same story.
This is the product of an old school NHL mentality that there must be a gritty player with your star. Wayne Gretzky had Esa Tikkanen, Steve Yzerman had Darren McCarty. And apparently Artemiy Panarin has Goodrow. But the problem with old school mentalities is that they are old school and not relevant in today’s game. Goodrow has been a drag. Whereas Vitali Kravtsov has done nothing but produce solid underlying numbers on that line.
Interesting stats on Vitali Kravtsov through 10 games played. His 57.63% xGF is strong, but his actual goal rates are even better.
The #NYR are averaging 3.56 goals per 60 at 5v5 with him on the ice and allowing only 1.16. That 75.42% margin is best on the team.
— Vince Z. Mercogliano (@vzmercogliano) December 7, 2022
The second line is meant to produce offense at even strength. Goodrow doesn’t fit that role. This appears to be a case of Gallant clearly coaching for his job, thus falling back to “old reliable” which isn’t reliable anymore. The Rangers won two in a row to start the week, but only four of those periods were strong periods.
Generating sustained offense across the top six at even strength is still a problem for the Rangers. It’s easy to point and say swap Goodrow for Kravtsov, but that’s unrealistic. This is a two-fold problem. The first is the unhinged attachment to Blais, who should be the 13F given his results. The second is whatever logic puts Goodrow in the top six over Kravtsov.
This isn’t Goodrow vs. Kravtsov either. It’s Blais vs. Kravtsov. As long as Gallant chooses Blais in the NY Rangers bottom six, then Kravtsov will be in the press box. The Rangers are winning in spite of these roster decisions, not because of these roster decisions. Playing Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko with Mika Zibanejad was a good move that is overshadowed by keeping Goodrow in a scoring role and keeping Blais in the lineup.
Gallant is thisclose to the right lines. We know what works, and we know what doesn’t work. Maybe he just needs to luck into the right lines again?
Thoughts on the NY Rangers bottom six roles, makeup, and getting the best out of the lineup – Blue Seat Blogs – Blue Seat Blogs