New York Rangers: What type of fourth line should the team have?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 22: Jesper Fast /

The New York Rangers have had a wide range of fourth lines during their run of success. Now, the team’s coaching staff has to determine what makes sense for a rebuilding group.

In terms of importance, the fourth line is often overlooked in the NHL. They are considered a luxury or premium expense for a quality team. Investing considerable cap space on forwards that play less than 15 minutes per night does not make a whole lot of sense. The New York Rangers have had different approaches to what a fourth line’s job should be.

When the team started its run of success, it had a fourth line that reflected its then head coach John Tortorella. The fourth line for a majority of the season was enforcer Brandon Prust, checking center Brian Boyle and either Mike Rupp or some other grinder.

This was a meat grinder group of a bottom six. Tortorella’s concept for the team was to win most games 2-1 or 3-2 and grinding the other team into submission over the course of the game. These Rangers emphasized throwing hits, blocking shots and out working the other group.

Just three years later, New York transitioned to the modern NHL fourth line. The 2014 team’s fourth line of Dominic Moore, Derek Dorsett and the aforementioned Boyle was the best in the entire league. This group was effective in all three zones and was able to contribute in the offensive end of the ice.

The 2014 Rangers were able to get so deep in the postseason in part due to the elite fourth line play it got out of this group of forwards.

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Based on what the Rangers’ new head coach David Quinn wants from his fourth line, he has options.

Time machine

A major point of emphasis for Quinn during training camp has been being relentless on the puck and playing aggressive. It is no secret that the Rangers have not exactly been a difficult team to play against the past several seasons and the Boston University alumni is looking to change the culture.

If Quinn wants to ensure that his team won’t play soft he has a variety of options. First, if he’s dead set on sending a message every night, he could dress enforcer Cody McLeod. Based on the enforcer’s limited action during the preseason he is likely not a serious candidate.

On the other hand, the forwards with a snarl to their game while still being competent players present a viable option. No matter what, Jesper Fast will likely be one of the wings on the fourth line. In addition to the Swede, Quinn could choose to role with Matt Beleskey on the opposite wing with Peter Holland in the middle.

This group would not be flashy by any stretch of the imagination but would play a sound game with some aggression to their game. This is a low ceiling but safe choice that would not be a liability on the ice. A combined point total of 40 between the three would be on the higher end of things and Fast would probably have at least 20 of them.

Outside the box

Or, if Quinn wants to go with a more modern fourth line composition, he has pieces to compliment Fast. I’ve always argued that Jimmy Vesey is a high end fourth liner at the NHL level and rolling him opposite the Swede would present a chance for an offensively productive fourth line.

In addition to these two forwards with a knack for playing aggressive, they’d need a center. The outside the box choice would be Lias Andersson. Giving the 19-year-old forward 15 minutes per night as the fourth line center for a group with high upside would serve his development well. Of course, it’d be difficult to not lose the fourth line on the bench down the stretch in games.

This is a long shot being that Andersson will either play top nine or the first line in the AHL. It’d be a shame that his great preseason would be stunted because of the logjam at the center position. Having him on the fourth line would be a practical solution to the problem.

Giving Andersson two above average fourth line wingers to play with against the other team’s bottom six would present the opportunity for a high upside group.

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This decision rests with Quinn and what he wants from his fourth line. Every indication is that he wants a team that is difficult to play against. Having Beleskey and Brendan Smith in the same lineup on a nightly basis will keep things in order.