Brett Ritchie and Curtis McKenzie were recalled by the Dallas Stars the other day, which means they are potential options if Dallas so chooses. But they should be more than just mere options and here's why.
Muck Brothers in Arms
One of the best lines in all of cinema, for my money, is Jaws' "you're gonna need a bigger boat".
McKenzie and Ritchie are that bigger boat in question. And St. Louis promises to be every bit as threatening as the great white.
This is easily the weakest part of my argument, but I believe it has a semblance of merit. The St. Louis Blues are a big, burly team. Dallas, despite their ability to be physical, is not. They're a lot grimier than they're given credit for but in my opinion they're more like indistinguishable anime henchmen to St. Louis' Bolo Yeung. They've got guts. Not much guns.
Does it actively matter that Dallas can punish St. Louis physically? These can be silly discussions. If you're hitting you're not in possession of the puck. However, I wouldn't discount the human notion that players might be hastier in their decisions when pressured by violent contact. That's just human nature. The concept of "aggressive forechecking" does not hinge of the physicality of the forecheck, but it can be an element.
If these guys were Brian McGratton types, this argument would be stereotypically awful. Instead it's just mediocre on its own. Which brings me to my next point:
4th Line Efficiency
The era of a icing a 4th line with nothing but goons is obviously over. Well, Hitchcock tries to go retro by icing up Ryan Reaves, but Reaves is at least a decent skater who absolutely obliterates on the forecheck. Dallas can do the same thing without sacrificing their collective speed or style.
In the 2014-2015 season, both McKenzie and Ritchie actually got put on a line together. With Shawn Horcoff. For 117 minutes of ice time together. Their collective shot differential? 59 Percent per Corsica Hockey. That would be good for 5th in the playoffs right now, right above John Tavares' line and just below the Jamie Benn, Cody Eakin, and Patrick Sharp line.
Now, Dallas doesn't have Horcoff but Vernon Fiddler is basically a wash. If a potential 4th line of McKenzie-Fiddler-Ritchie could be used efficiently this would be solid addition to a team losing bits of its depth at a time with Tyler Seguin and Patrick Eaves out.
Muck Bros In, 1st Round Pick and Cup Winner Out
Before getting to the controversial part, let's be clear. Ritchie and McKenzie have experience in Dallas' system. It's not like they're throwing a pair of rookies into the mix. In addition, Ritchie and McKenzie just finished playoff hockey in the AHL. The idea of spiritual revenge for Texas losing gives them an added edge.
So what will Dallas lose? Travis Moen played all of five minutes in Game 2. And he doesn't play special teams. Even if McKenzie and Ritchie (particularly Curtis since he plays Moen's wing) struggled or had to be sheltered, they'd be no more sheltered than Moen has. At least both can offer better speed in addition to their size, and probably contribute points to boot. There's zero reason for Moen to be playing over either one of them. Yes, he won a Cup. So did Mike Commodore but I don't see anyone asking a red priest to resurrect him in victory green from his Babcock Vendetta Cocoon.
Colton Sceviour looked good in his brief stint with Mattias Janmark and Jason Spezza. He also plays prime PK minutes. He can also finish. I pains me to say it, but Ritchie should get a look over Valeri Nichushkin. Line 1 and 3 are locked. Line 2 has flexibility on the right side but if Sceviour can be that guy until Eaves comes back in, a 4th line McKenzie-Fiddler-Ritchie sounds most appealing.
I'm not in the 'trade Val' camp so this isn't me being salty about his performance. It's about his style with Spezza. Nuke actually reminds me a lot of Hemsky. Just without the finishing abiltiy. I think that's why he looks so awkward with Spezza in the offensive zone and why he worked well with Benn and Seguin; Spezza plays an east west game that demands more anticipation and selection whereas BennGuin are pure north south types which is less taxing on Nuke's brain. Benn and Seguin are the pop to Spezza's poetry. And Nuke strikes me as the Beyonce more than Beethoven type.
Nuke will get there, just not right now. The best part is that McKenzie and Ritchie can slot into top six roles if need be. Ritchie has spent time with Benn and Seguin, while McKenzie has actually played with Jason Spezza when both formed a line with Erik Cole. Both also play special teams in Cedar Park.
It's not about Dallas adding just size. It's about Dallas adding versatility at every level of offense.