Rangerland was torn yesterday when Chris Kreider was returned to the AHL. On one side, many blamed Torts for not playing the kid enough to allow him to grow. On the other (note: more rational) side, many looked at is as a way for Kreider to get some solid playing time to work on the aspects of his game that need maturation. It’s clear how we feel on the matter.
This isn’t the first time the Rangers have sent a player back to the AHL to work on some things. Most recently, the Rangers did this with Michael Del Zotto, and it paid off wonderfully. For those that forgot, MDZ was in the middle of an awful sophomore season when the organization returned him to Connecticut to work on his game and rebuild his confidence. Now, he’s a top-four defenseman.
MDZ wasn’t the only player to receive this treatment either. The Rangers did this with Ryan Callahan in 2008 as well. The future captain had some areas of his game he needed to work on. He did. Now he’s the captain.
Kreider is no different from MDZ or Cally in this regard. He’s not ready for the NHL, so he needs to work on his game at the AHL level. Many were blinded by his playoff performance –his very sheltered playoff minutes against inferior competition– and they believed he could continue with that pace. But Kreider struggled in the AHL during the lockout. He wasn’t scoring, he wasn’t playing well defensively, and he just looked lost at times.
When he was called up to the NHL, it was only because the Rangers were thin on the bottom six. His play in the AHL didn’t warrant a call up at all. But his struggles in the AHL stayed with him at the NHL level, and it was only a matter of time before the Rangers sent him back to work on his game.
At the current moment in his career, the coaching staff couldn’t trust Kreider in any situation other than a favorable offense situation. That’s not how Torts uses his key guys. Kreider is going to be one of those key guys, and he needs to be able to play confidently both with and without the puck to be counted on in this system.
Kreider will rebound. He’s too skilled and too smart not too. Players need development time, that is the only reason for this move.