Over the past few years with the Rangers, the clearest indicator of a slump is when the 3rd line is the most effective line on the team for several games in a row. Really, the best way to know the team has been playing poorly is when you hear Sam Rosen say the 3rd line has been the team’s best line.
The common misconception amongst Rangers’ fans when this happens is that the 3rd liners deserve to have a bigger role on the team because they’re more noticeable than the top-6 forwards. When a team’s 3rd line forwards are guys who have produced points in their career but accepted roles as defensive forwards (think Jordan Staal or Franz Nielsen) for the sake of the team, the idea of giving that type of player more minutes makes sense. When a team’s 3rd line forwards are guys like the Rangers have had the last few years, it’s a bad idea at best.