I have not watched every single minute of pre-season this year, so forgive me if this line combination has already been tried.
As of right now, the most obvious and likely choice to land the left-wing spot on the first line of the New York Rangers is Wojtek Wolski. With newest acquisition Brad Richards being brought in to hopefully be that elusive star down the middle, and oft-injured Marian Gaborik planning on having a bounce-back year and return to his former greatness, the Rangers would like to compliment their skill with a player who has the potential to come in with a bang. Wolski, however, can join a long list of former players the Rangers have had, both loaded with talent, but equally susceptible to a disappearing act. The former first round pick from 2004 only had 12 goals last season, one he split with the Phoenix Coyotes. While he does add some much-needed size, he lacks toughness and is not much for checking.
To put it bluntly, the Rangers have had too many players act as reclamation projects, and it is already known that the rope Wolski is on is very short, and can be yanked at any time, especially given his $3.8 million price tag. If he clicks with Gaborik and Richards, then by all means, he could put up more than 20 goals, even though that is something he has accomplished only twice in his career. However, given the circumstances, and the fact that I do hold out much hope for players to automatically reverse their bad habits, if Wolski does not find himself cut to free up cap space before the season starts, then by the middle of October, the Rangers will be making that move.
Other than Wolski, another name that could be a fit for the top line wing spot is Brandon Dubinsky, because again, he brings size, and this time, actual toughness and fighting ability. But he also showed great chemistry with Ryan Callahan, and it would not be worth disrupting that just to load up on one line, because secondary scoring is equally as important. So, is there anyone on this team who could excel in that role? Well, how about another one of their free agent signings this summer, Mike Rupp? The enforcer and hard checker could be perfect on the line because he would not be relied on to score goals, just the occasional chip-in. His presence would allow Richards and Gaborik (not as a knock against them, but neither of them are physical players) more room on the ice, as well as acting as protection. Rupp could add size and balance, and be a force to be reckoned with in front of the net. Can Wolski do that?
Bottom-line is, when Wolski does not score, he is absolutely useless–worthless is the better word. He does not check, fight, or do anything aside from take up space. Rupp, on the other hand, can throw that body check to free up room, stand in front of the net to set a screen, and worst comes to worst, fight to stick up for a line-mate in case they are taken advantage of.
The Rangers have not had luck in recent years with enforcers. Donald Brashear was too old and Derek Boogaard experienced a severe injury. Colton Orr was the last good fighter they had, but alas, he did not have much hockey sense aside from rearing back and clocking someone in the head. Rupp has been known to score the occasional goal (ironically enough, he scored too many against the Rangers while a member of the Penguins) and his 22 goals in the last two seasons combined are very good for an enforcer, if not abnormally high. He is not a tremendous skater, but he can get around well enough that he won’t be a detriment. The Rangers should give this combination a shot. We know Wolski is going to be a bust, so lets just forgo the disappointment and give this threesome a shot in exhibition. Gretzky had Semenko, so why not let Gaborik and Richards have Rupp?