With Zibanejad back in the lineup, who deserves to sit?
Mika Zibanejad, who has been out since November 26th, returned to practice in his normal spot yesterday between Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich. Additionally, David Desharnais returned to his original spot on the fourth line replacing Boo Nieves and ending back up where he was before Zibanejad’s injury. With Zibanejad expected to return to the Rangers lineup tonight against the Ducks, Nieves now appears to be out. With Nieves out of the lineup and Desharnais still in, some Rangers fans are frustrated. However, it is not as big of a deal as it may seem.
Desharnais has not been as bad as everyone makes him out to be. He definitely has some flaws, and when you compare him to Nieves, there are plenty of differences between the two. Desharnais very much lacks the size and physicality that Nieves has, as he is only 5’7″ and 180 lbs compared to the 6’3″, 212 lbs. Nieves. Yet, when you put aside the differences in size, physicality, and age, there are reasonable arguments for both players to be out on the ice.
If you let the numbers do the talking and compare both of them playing on the fourth line, Desharnais might seem like the better option. Prior to Zibanejad’s injury, Desharnais put up two goals and six assists playing on the fourth line. Meanwhile, Nieves has had six points in 19 games so far this season on the fourth line.
On the other hand, if you put the numbers aside, Nieves seems like the better option. Overall, he brings so much more to the table than Desharnais. Nieves is a player who has earned his spot in the lineup and has a lot to contribute. He has the size, speed, and ability to play the defensive zone. He is also not afraid to block shots and also has offensive playmaking skills. So it also makes total sense to play Nieves over Desharnais who is smaller, slower, and doesn’t play defense.
But what about Paul Carey? Since Nieves has played wing before, in addition to center, he has the potential to take Carey’s place in the lineup as a winger. Both Nieves and Desharnais are better players than Carey, so it would make total sense to sit Carey and slide Nieves or even Desharnais over to wing because both deserve to be in the lineup, especially over Carey.
When you boil things down, both Desharnais and Nieves deserve to be in the lineup, but Nieves is definitely the better player overall, despite the stats which are in Desharnais’ favor. If Alain Vigneault could find a way to play both Desharnais and Nieves then get rid of Carey, the Rangers could be better off.