The series is moving along nicely and I want to thank my readers for their support. I have taken the comments from the prior installments into consideration and have therefore altered the second line from how it appeared in part 1. Keep the comments coming. Part 3, Here we go:
Left Wing: #82 Martin Straka
Personal: 34 years old from Plzen, Czech Republic. Stands 5 ft 9 in and 180 lbs. Drafted 19th overall by Pittsburgh. Shoots lefty. Contract: 1 yr 3.3 mil. Entering his third season with the Rangers. 2007 stats: 76 gms, 29 g, 41 a.
Strengths: Straka is a very fast forward who excels at creating scoring chances. His speed and stickhandling allows him to create space to utilize his playmaking skills. He sees the whole rink well and can hit an open man with a pinpoint pass. He has a good hockey sense and knows where to be at all times, with and without the puck. His great positioning leads to scoring chances that usually result in goals thanks to his accurate wrist shot. He has been an integral part of the Rangers since the lockout and his already high production should increase with the addition of Drury to his line.
Weaknesses: Straka is a smaller player and he struggles is battles along the boards. He prefers playing center and although he often has played wing, it is difficult for him to dig out the loose pucks in the corners, an important responsibility of a winger. Not playing with Jagr, his linemate for most of last season, will also be an adjustment.
Why line #2? Although he could play on the first line, keeping Straka on the second line creates better depth in the line-up. He could also center the third line but because the top two lines will be getting 65% of the ice time, the second line looks right. His style of play allows him to gel with any linemates so chemistry should not be an issue.
Center: #23 Chris Drury
Personal: 30 years old from Trumbull, CT. Stands 5 ft 10 in and 200 lbs. Drafted 72nd overall by Quebec. Shoots righty. Contract: 5 yrs 35.25 mil. Entering his first year with the Rangers. 2007 stats: 77 gms, 37 g, 32 a.
Strengths: Drury is clutch. He is known for coming through in pressure situations, the most recent example being when he ended the Rangers season, for all intents and purposes, with 7.7 seconds left in Game 5 of the Sabres-Rangers series. Combine that with a great shot, good speed and leadership abilities and you have one of the most complete players in hockey. He has Stanley Cup experience, having won with Colorado in 2001, and is still in his prime. He brings many intangibles to the ice along with his skill and the respect he has earned from his peers. Drury will flourish on his hometown team and when Jagr retires, will take over as captain of the Rangers.
Weaknesses: There is not much to be said regarding talent other than the fact that he is not dominant is any one of the ways in which talent is measured. The biggest worry is that his leadership will clash with Jagr's lazy play. The Rangers do not need internal conflict, especially between their two best forwards. If the two do not form a good relationship, it could be tough for both players.
Why line 2? Drury will be playing against the second best defensive pairing on each team so the playmaking of Straka should suffice. Drury is a top-line center but Jagr needs a center who can give him space to create chances, something that Gomez does better than Drury. With the top two lines getting similar ice time, Drury should produce well with Shanny and Straka.
Right Wing: #14 Brendan Shanahan
Personal: 38 years old from Mimico, Ontario. Stands 6 ft 3 in and 220 lbs. Drafted 2nd overall by New Jersey. Shoots righty. Entering his second season with the Rangers. Contract: 1 yr 2.5 mil + 2.8 mil performance bonus. 2007 stats: 67 gms, 29 g, 33 a.
Strengths: Shanahan is an experienced leader who won 3 cups with Detroit. He is a presence in the locker-room and is respected by teammates and opponents. He has kept up his production despite a rise in age and is still known for his screaming one-timer. He is very strong and can jostle for position in front of the net and in the slot. He is a threat to score from anywhere on the ice because of his quick release and can potentially score 40 goals this season.
Weaknesses: Shanahan is getting up in age and you never know if this is the year that his production will drop off. He missed 15 games with a concussion last season and if he gets another, it could be career-ending. He is also slowing down and it will be difficult to join the rush with the speedy Straka and Gomez. At this point, the biggest concern is for him to stay strong and healthy and that will decide how well he does.
Why line 2? Shanahan is another first line player but despite his skill, it would be disastrous if he played with Jagr. There are not enough pucks on the ice for both of them so they have to be split up. Playing with other experienced players in Straka and Drury should make for an effective line combination.
Line 2 grade: A
This line is made up of three players who could play on a top line. They have good experience, a combined 6 Stanley Cups between them and they all picked up over 60 points last season. They have somewhat less skill than the first line but do not have the downside of questionable chemisty and an unpredictable Hossa. The top two lines should average around 20 minutes a night each so this line is more of a Line 1a next to the Jagr line and one of the best second lines in the league.
COMING TOMORROW: ANALYZING THE RANGERS: PART 4: OFFENSE #3.
TO VIEW ALL MY BLOGS, CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW: