The New York Rangers depth at the forward position has been a concern since the off-season when they lost Brandon Dubinsky, Brandon Prust, Artem Anisimov, and Ruslan Fedetenko. They got back Rick Nash for Dubi and AA and brought aboard Jeff Halpern, Taylor, Pyatt, and Arron Asham, but who was to fill in should someone under perform or get hurt?
That question was quickly answered when Asham strained his groin and the usual sixth defenseman, Stu Bickel, filled in on the wing. Then when a struggling Chris Kreider was scratched Kris Newbury was called up. And finally when it was discovered Kreider had a bone chip the next turn was to Benn Ferriero, who had been acquired just days before. Not exactly a list of household names and whom John Tortorella admittedly has little confidence in.
This lack of depth has resulted in a huge reliance on the top two lines and in particular Rick Nash and Brad Richards. The pair has averaged well over 20 minutes per game each and rank 14th and 16th respectively amongst forwards. Ryan Callahan (20:00) and Marian Gaborik (19:56) are not far behind on average ice time, while the members of the fourth line have averaged between about 3:30 (Bickel) and 9:00 (Halpern) minutes per game. A team like the Boston Bruins has eleven of their twelve regular forwards averaging over 10 minutes per game.
Now when a team is relying on four or five guys and one of those guys goes down for two weeks it means there is a huge hole to be filled. So who is going to fill that hole? Torts certainly doesn’t believe in any of the bottom six enough to let it be one of them (not that he is at fault for that) and last night Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin didn’t exactly evoke a ton of confidence it would them to fill Cally’s skates.
This is where Chris Kreider and JT Miller enter the conversation.
Reports are Kreider is getting closer and could be back within the next two games. He has had a season long struggle dating back to his time in the AHL, but the Rangers will need him to claim a spot on the top two lines in Cally’s absence. He has all the ability to succeed and needs to return to the level of hockey he played during the playoffs. No one is expecting him to be perfect as a rookie, but someone with his size and speed should at least be a presence on the ice at all times and that was not the case before his injury. Hopefully the ankle was a major reason for his lack of performance and he picks things up upon returning.
Then there was this little blurb Paul Doyle dropped last night:
— Paul Doyle (@PaulDoyle1) January 31, 2013
In 35 games with the Connecticut Whale Miller has 7 goals and 10 assists. He was recently selected as the youngest member of the AHL All-Star Game at 19 years old. This season Miller also won a gold medal in the World Juniors this where he contributed with a 2 goals and 7 assists.
The stats show that Miller still has some work to do on the offensive end. Where he can contribute to the Rangers right now is by bringing the “right” attitude. So much was made last year about playing the “right way” and Dubi, Prust, and Feds were all players who embodied that style. Miller has been hyped as a player who is willing to sacrifice his body for the team and contribute defensively, two areas of focus I would like to see the Rangers address. It would be an aggressive move to put Miller on the team, but if things do not look much better 7-10 games from now I would not hesitate to move him up.