The New York Rangers are not the Boston Bruins, meaning the Rangers are not a team built for size and strength like the Bruins are. The Rangers, under head coach Alain Vigneault, are a speed team. That is their identity. That is their strength.
However, being a team built on speed does not mean you should neglect some size and strength. If you want to win a championship, in my opinion, you have to have a team identity, which the Rangers have, and you have to make sure to compensate for your weaknesses in order to win multiple ways.
For example, the Rangers plan A is to beat the opposition with speed, but unlike some top teams, the Rangers do not have a plan B. If you shut down the Rangers speed game, you will beat them.
If the Rangers want to be better than last season’s team, that made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, then the Rangers must add some size and strength in order to establish a plan B in case the opposition is able to neutralize the Rangers speed game. If the Rangers speed game is shut down then they should be able to answer by using their size and throwing their bodies around, however there is a current problem with that strategy. The Rangers have no size and are currently one of the smallest teams in the NHL.
Not only are Rangers management aware of this problem, but also recognize that the team needs another natural center because they have only had 3 in their starting lineup all season long. Since opening night, rookie Kevin Hayes has been the Rangers 3rd line center, yet his natural position is right wing. This shows in the faceoff department, as Hayes is one of the worst faceoff men in the league, and as a team the Rangers are one of the worst teams at winning faceoffs in the entire league.
So you could say the Rangers really need both a player with size and strength and a natural center who can win faceoffs. But what if I were to tell you that all of those attributes exists within one single player?
So far this season, Hanzal has 8 goals and 16 assists, in 37 games played, totaling 24 points, and is one of the best faceoff men in the league, winning them at 56.5%. And while it does not really show up on the stat sheet, I would also like to mention that Hanzal is also very sound defensively.
Another plus is Hanzal’s cap hit, which is just $3.1 million, and is under contract until 2017. This is also key because of the abundance of RFAs and UFAs the Rangers need to resign after this season, so trading one or two of them for Hanzal would be a very good deal, depending on who those two future UFA/RFAs are.
Unfortunately Hanzal is currently out injured with an upper body injury, just like Rangers starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, but is supposed to return to the Coyotes lineup next week unlike Lundqvist who is supposedly going to miss at least 3 weeks.
But when Hanzal returns from injury, given his size, strength, offense, defense, position, and the ability to win faceoffs at a high rate, Hanzal just makes so much sense for the Rangers and would be a very welcome addition to the starting lineup, if Rangers GM Glen Sather is able to get a deal with the Coyotes for Hanzal done before the trade deadline on March 2nd.