Rangers’ Young Core Might Have Already Peaked

New York Rangers Brandon Dubinsky (17) celebrates his empty net goal with Brian Boyle (22) and Ryan Callahan (24) during the New York Rangers 5-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The Rangers are getting a bit nervous about their lack of secondary scoring.

The team has just 12 goals in its first six games of the season. A third of those goals have come from Marian Gaborik. Another third have come from a combination of grinder Brandon Prust and sophomore defenseman Ryan McDonagh.

That pattern probably won’t be sustainable over the course of an entire season.

Much has been made of the lack of offense from players like Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, and Brian Boyle. All three players saw career high scoring last season.

And that just might be the problem. What if last season was the aberration and the slow start this season is the more typical performance?

Look at Boyle. In his first 107 NHL games, he scored just 12 goals. In the next 82 games, aka, last season, he scored 21 goals. And now, in his first six games of this season, he has just one goal.

But looking at Boyle’s career, which seems more typical? Last season’s goal-scoring outburst or this season’s slow start?

For Dubinsky and Callahan, last season’s performance jumps weren’t as dramatic as Boyle’s. Dubinsky jumped from 20 goals in 2009-10, to 24 goals last season. Callahan jumped from a career high of 22 goals in 2008-09 to 23 goals in 60 games last season.

The problem is that the Rangers’ organization has been acting like both players’ scoring abilities were on the rise. The assumption has been that both will do the same or better this year. But what if the high point has already passed? What if none of those players continues to improve?

Say what you will about the Canucks trading away a solidly consistent player like Mikael Samuelsson for a more enigmatic player like David Booth, I like that both Vancouver and Florida took a risk to shake their teams up and see if things get better as a result.

The Rangers have shown no such desire, clinging to the belief that Dubinsky and Callahan are the future for the team. At least the near-term future. Callahan is only signed until 2015; Dubinsky until 2016.

So far into this season, neither player has shown signs of being able to help make the Rangers a team that can escape the early rounds of the playoffs, assuming this team is even able to make the playoffs.

Maybe all three players are feeling the weight of the contracts they all signed this summer.

Maybe Callahan is feeling the weight of the captaincy.

Maybe the team’s non-stop travel since before the season started has taken its toll.

Or maybe we’ve seen the best we’ll see out of all three players. Maybe last season’s career high years really were actual career highs. Highs that will not be surpassed.

In that case, the Rangers need to figure out a plan B or figure out a way to keep Marian Gaborik very, very healthy for the rest of the season.