Sunday, August 26, 2007

Forward March

With the European trip and cruise coming up soon, September 14th, I will start previewing the season and start with the forwards. We will return on October 1st and that would not leave much time for any early season preview, not that it matters much. But everyone likes to make a fool of themselves early so why not yours truly.

First of all I will defy the conventional wisdom that puts Scotty Gomez as the number one line center. To me putting Gomez on with Jagr and Straka would ensure the continuance of the tic-tac-toe style of hockey the line played most of last year. I would like the first line to be Jagr-Drury-Hossa. Hossa? Oh my, how the Pundit has changed. Drury, who scored 37 goals last year, loves to shoot and is also an excellent playmaker, go to guy and clutch performer. More of a shooter and scorer than Nylander he will benefit from Jagr's passing and quite possibly be a 50 goal scorer. Yes, I know that Nylander outscored Drury by 14 points last year but playing with Jagr helps a lot. Hossa on the first line? Why not. If the Rangers really believe he has the potential to blossom, start him out early on the top line and lets see what he can do playing with two all-stars. So there you have the first line, Drury-Jagr-Hossa.

Most of last year the lament was that the Rangers did not have a second line center and we even had TV color commentator Brett Hull lamenting about Shanahan playing without a center. Well now we have two great centers and the discussion is where to slot them. Well Shanny now has a center and I propose that it be Scotty Gomez. Gomez had 60 points last year of which 47 were assists. It is a perfect fit, a true sniper, Shanahan, and an excellent passer, Gomez. The third member is Sean Avery. Avery brings grit and agitation. He can also work as the enforcer for this line though there is no doubt that Shanahan can take care of himself. So the second line is, Gomez-Shanahan-Avery.

The third line the Rangers offer is one that could be the surprise line of the three. The opposition will need to check two tough lines and how many checking lines do teams have? Martin Straka is a perfect fit for the two young wingers, Prucha and Callahan. At 35 years old, Straka can still skate and put up 70 points in 77 games last year including 41 assists. This will probably be the Rangers fastest line and it doesn't lack for grit either as all three are fiesty players. Prucha could have a breakout year with the veteran center, Straka. Straka will also help in the developement of Callahan. This line excites me. So there is the third line, Straka-Prucha-Callahan.

Finally the fourth line that most fans and Tom Renney ignore with regularity. The only sure spot is Blair Betts. Betts is only 27 years old and this will be his third year with the Rangers and if you take away the 35 games he played for Calgary in three different seasons, it is his third full year in the league. He is top face off guy, big shot blocker and very good penalty killer. He has scored only 17 goals with the Rangers in limited ice time. With this years crew it is hard to see his ice time improving. Holdovers from last years fourth line include Ryan Hollweg and Colton Orr, the hit man and wallop man. However, there is no guarantee that their positions are safe and I see them getting spot playing time depending on the opponents. They will be challenged by guys like Nigel Dawes, Brandon Dubinsky, Jason Strudwick and Artem Anisimov who will also try to move up to the higher lines. Opening night fourth line looks like Betts-Orr-Dawes.

So there it is, an awesome display of talent that if used correctly, and that is a big if, could bring us that big parade down Broadway. More later.

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  • Wes Putnam said...

    That sounds good Mike. The Gomez-Shanahan-Avery line is my favorite.

    What do you think are the odds that Renney will implement anyone of these combinations?

  • HabsFan33 said...

    A war is brewing between the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers in the

    Thought you would find this amusing. The FHF reply will be posted today.

  • mike said...

    wes putnam-The same odds as Sather resigning.

  • mike said...

    habsfan33-I like to stick with hockey though it is fair to warn you that any Canadien blogger trying to match wits with a Ranger blogger comes half armed.

  • The Dark Ranger said...

    Ah, the French. I do think the Habs have enough to worry in the newly built Maple Leafs, so perhaps stick with your own division rivalries.

    The first two lines are interchangable, still feel Gomez grit will match better with Jags European style of play, but good for you... The third line excites me, and the youth of that line will 'break-out' the Prucha we all bought jersies for. Love that guy and the right chemistry will make the line. Love Callahan too.

    Fun stuff...slowly out of summer doldrums, so keep up the good work.


  • mike said...

    tdr-I'm closing the pool in two days so you know the summer is over. Bring the NHL on.