The New York Rangers may be atop the Eastern Conference despite some streaky play over the last two months, but there is no disguising their recent offensive struggles. A prime example was last night's 2-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, in which it was a grind to generate much of anything in the offensive zone for the Blueshirts, and they were unable to convert on the very few legitimate scoring chances that did arise. The concern here is with the team's secondary scoring, which has been absent beyond the top three - Marian Gaborik, Ryan Callahan and Brad Richards - and is in need of a change.
Next Monday marks this year's trade deadline and it is widely suspected that GM Glen Sather will go down that route to acquire his team another player who can put the puck in the net. However, for the time being, they need to work with what they have, and it baffles me that forward Wojtek Wolski has been sitting out as a healthy scratch night after night while the Rangers struggle to score goals. Head coach John Tortorella has kept guys like John Mitchell and Brian Boyle in the lineup, even though they've contributed very little in the last few weeks. Hell, he even had Stu Bickel playing offense for several games, but still no Wolski.
Wolski has only played in nine games this season as he missed quite a bit of time (30 games) due to sports hernia surgery. The original injury occurred on November 3 in a game against the Anaheim Ducks, and he did not return until mid-January. After playing in three games in January in which he recorded an assist but was a minus-2 overall rating, he found himself scratched each night before eventually being assigned to the Connecticut Whale of the AHL on a two-week conditioning stint.
In six games with the Whale, Wolski recorded 3 goals and 2 assists and seemed to be performing well before returning to the Rangers. Now we fast forward to today, where Wolski has been scratched for a week straight now and has yet to crack the lineup. Why? There's no logical explanation in my opinion.
The Rangers have now lost two of three because of their lacking offense, which even struggled to score in a 3-2 OT win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday. Wolski, when focused, can be a very effective offensive threat. He has much more skill than John Mitchell or Stu Bickel, so there's no reason why either of those two should be in the offensive lineup over him.
And it's not only the issue of scoring. With the deadline approaching, the Rangers need as much trade bait as they can get, and Wolski could certainly be that if a team is in search of a secondary scorer. But since Tortorella refuses to insert Wolski into the lineup, he is not being showcased and is sort of being forgotten in the mix here.
I've been thinking over Columbus' asking price for Rick Nash often lately, and I've been coming up with proposals of my own that would make more sense for the Rangers than what was originally out there. Out of curiosity, I'm wondering what GM Scott Howson would say to a proposal of Brandon Dubinsky, Wojtek Wolski, a prospect defenseman (Erixon?) and a first round pick. Wolski is no Chris Kreider, but if Columbus is getting desperate to depart with Nash at the deadline instead of having to re-visit the issue in the summer, they may bite for a thinner offer.
If I'm the coach, I'd enter Wolski into the lineup on Friday against the Islanders, drop Bickel back to defense and scratch Steve Eminger. I don't understand Tortorella's fascination with Eminger, because the guy is out of position more often that not. Maybe Torts finally realized Emmy isn't worth all the hype when he benched 44 for the entire third period in Pittsburgh last night.
But the bottom line is, to help both the team and management, I think it would be beneficial for Tortorella to get Wolski some playing time before the deadline, especially since Columbus scouts and management have been following the Rangers around for the past two weeks.
* Larry Brooks of the New York Post is reporting that the Rangers have initiated talks to re-sign gritty forward Brandon Prust, who becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.