Monday, January 11, 2010

Four's a Crowd

When Prospal went down with a knee injury - the Rangers took a gamble.

First, though, they had to hit rock bottom with a terrible loss to the Flyers - where Brandon Dubinsky was exposed as a Center who was at his worst doing Center-type stuff like stick handling the puck through traffic (or, more accurately - trying to and failing).

After watching Brandon struggle, the Ranger's coaching staff had an epiphany (Editor- he means "a big idea"). They realized the Dubi was best at crashing the net and cleaning up rebounds and other stuff that Forwards - not Centers - are generally used for. So they realized that Center Brandon Dubinsky might be able to contribute more to the Gaborik line if he didn't play center.

Realizing this, they moved Brandon to wing - opposite The Gifted One. But in solving that problem - they created another:

Who plays center on the top line?

The answer - incredibly - has been Christensen. Christensen, a few weeks ago, was kicked off his team and put on waivers where any team could claim him. This is what the Rangers had done to Valiquette - it’s a move that often is the beginning of the end of a player’s NHL career.

But Christensen managed to jump off the trash heap and into the Ranger's top line. He's been Centering for Gabs and Dubi - and the Rangers have responded with their current (season-saving?) hot streak.

This is great news of course - particularly if he can keep it up. But if he does, here's the problem:

What happens to the top line when Prospal is ready to play again?

Clearly Gaborik stays on the Gaborik line. But then you'll have 3 players: Prospal, Dubinsky, and Christiansen, who can all play center and all play wing. There are, like, four different viable (Ed - he means possible) combinations:

Dubi Center, Prospal wing
Prospal Center, Dubi wing
Christensen Center, Prospal wing
Christensen Center, Dubi Wing
(You could also play Christensen at wing - but that makes no sense)

And honestly, if it were up to me, I don't know which I'd pick. If Dubinsky plays better at wing - and if you want to keep him on the top line - then you have to pick between Christensen - the natural center - and Vaclav - who has been thriving on Gabby's line for most of the year.

And if you want to keep Prospal with Gaborik - which has been a potent combination this year - you have to decide whether make Vinnie play Center - which puts two players sort of out of position - or give Christensen a shot at centering for them.

And whoever you drop off the top line can potentially make a 2nd or 3rd line that much stronger.
So I really don't know which way to go on this. But I can take comfort in two things:

1 - John Tortorella doesn't care what I think. (This is to his credit), and

2 - John is almost sure to try every different combination he can think of. So unless one combination clicks instantly and produces many many goals (not a bad thing) John is sure to shuffle his players around until we see every possible unit on the ice.

Of course - for this problem to even occur we need Christensen to continue to play well and Prospal to get well. Both of which would be really good things.

So this is one Ranger problem that I'm actually rooting for.


  1. Anis, Cally, Dubi second line? In my mind they have enough combined talent and hard work to score somewhat consistently and it gets Dubi on the wing.

  2. Not a bad idea, Mike. But they're keeping the Captain on line two - especially when the US Olympic team has their eye on him.