Jumbled Forward Lines Not Helping Underperforming Stars

Richards needs a spark, but Brandon Prust isn't the answer (NY Post)

Brad Richards is in a funk, we get it. It’s something he needs to play his way out of, and while I’m sure he will, his cause isn’t being helped by John Tortorella’s puzzling line combinations.

I love Brandon Prust as much as the next Blueshirt, but under no circumstances is he a top-six forward on an NHL roster. Tortorella’s peculiar line combinations and faith toward the likes of Prust and Brian Boyle led to the former skating on the second line ahead of captain Ryan Callahan in the 4-1 defeat to Pittsburgh at the Garden last night. Take that in, think it over, and commence head-scratching. Keep going, I’ll wait.

Prust, Boyle, Rupp, Fedotenko? Grinders. Nothing more, nothing less. With Richards failing to consistently impact the scoresheet at this point, why not reunite he and Marian Gaborik for a few games? It makes far more sense than persevering with players that have no place on an offensive line.

Putting Richards with a Prust or a Boyle really isn’t the answer to his problems. Putting players that can’t score with players that DON’T score? Well, it’s a recipe for a shutout. Realistically, everyone knew Boyle’s 2010-11 campaign was a fluke offensively. He isn’t a 20-goal scorer and he doesn’t use his large frame well enough (or consistently enough) to have realistic hopes of ever touching that marker again. If I’m wrong then I’ll buy you all a beer. No, really.

Richards, Gaborik, Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and Artem Anisimov are the only skaters that should be sniffing top-six time on this Rangers roster. Square pegs in round holes don’t work no matter how hard you hit them.

Richards is a phenomenal hockey player, but his time spent in Dallas and Tampa Bay afforded him the chance to play with some excellent wingers. Loui Eriksson, one of the NHL’s most underrated young players, did as much for Richards as Richards did for him. Give Richards and Gaborik another go Torts, I beg of you.

One side-note on Richards: I’ve seen people this morning suggesting that he needs to ride the pine for a game or two. When your alternative options are Erik Christensen and Wojtek Wolski, you needn’t look too far to see just how absurd that idea really is. Richards won’t break his duck from the bench.

Topics: Artem Anisimov, Brad Richards, Brandon Dubinsky, Brandon Prust, Brian Boyle, Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan, Loui Eriksson, Marian Gaborik, Mike Rupp, Ruslan Fedotenko, Ryan Callahan

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