Dec
05

At what point are the kids in Hartford the better option?

December 5, 2017, by

neal pionk

It’s no secret. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault has a comfort level with veterans over youth, sometimes to his detriment. Larry Brooks mentioned this in his article yesterday, where he specifically called out AV’s decision to dress the likes of Steven Kampfer, Nick Holden, and Paul Carey over Neal Pionk, Vinny Lettieri, Filip Chytil, and a number of promising prospects seemingly ready to make the jump.

AV’s comfort with veterans is no secret. However there is one point that Brooks makes that is often overlooked. While there is certainly value in keeping kids in the AHL to ensure they aren’t rushed, at what point does AV’s comfort eventually stifle a kid’s growth? At what point does that comfort level truly block a kid from making the jump?

Full disclosure: I don’t/can’t follow the Hartford Wolf Pack as much as I used to. I simply don’t have the time anymore. But I do read a lot of those that do, and it sounds like guys like Pionk, Lettieri, and Ryan Graves are all deserving of at least a cuppa. Which brings us to the primary concern: Is AV’s stubbornness and refusal to play kids killing the Rangers’ youth movement?

As of the writing of this post, the Rangers have nothing to show on the main roster for the Derek Stepan trade. The last rookie to make a significant impact following a midseason call-up was Carl Hagelin, and Ryan McDonagh before that. Both were under John Tortorella, not Alain Vigneault. AV’s first rookie call up midseason to last more than a handful of games is Boo Nieves, this year. At least it looks like he will be sticking.

To say Vigneault doesn’t want to play rookies isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s what drove him out of Vancouver. It’s the same schtick here in New York now. Holden, who aside from that epic gaffe last week has been surprisingly solid, is bound to have the bottom fall out of his game soon. Carey and Kampfer offer less than nothing. At what point is it AV holding back Pionk/Lettieri because of his stubbornness hurting the team?

There is an important distinction between AV not trusting rookies versus AV not trusting young players. The latter is no problem, with many cases on the roster today to prove the point. However AV seems to be stuck in an antiquated method of thinking, that if a player can’t make the team out of camp, then he won’t impact the team at all in the season.

Sometimes people nitpick, but there are some legitimate gripes with the way AV has handled the roster over the past few seasons. Trusting the veteran presence over legitimately better players is going to continually hold this roster back. At some point, the kids in Hartford are the better option than the “trusted veterans.”

"At what point are the kids in Hartford the better option?", 4 out of 5 based on 29 ratings.
Categories : Prospects

83 comments

  1. Richter1994 says:

    “At what point is it AV holding back Pionk/Lettieri because of his stubbornness hurting the team?”

    You can fill in different names into this sentence over the past 5 years. I mean how much “worse” can these young players be? And if they are that bad then at least the Rangers will know and have the opportunity to do something about it.

    Wash, rinse, spin.

    And to be fair, it’s not like Arizona is having a dream season because Stepan and Raanta are there. Raanta has been injured more than he’s played, so I guess it should not have been assumed that he was the better option than over our HOF goalie. Huh, shocker. Not.

    • Ray says:

      How much worse can these young players be? Well, Hartford is well on their way to missing the playoffs again. The notion that they have all these great players flies in the face of the fact that the team is terrible.

      Fans ALWAYS get excited by prospects. However, the Ranger organizational depth presently is very poor. Yes, it may be true that Carey and Kampfer are no more than good AHL players. Alas, such players are few and far between at Hartford.

      • Resident Genius says:

        Maybe it’s not the players but the system. Every year it’s the same thing.

      • HARLEMBLUES says:

        Just because Hartford is bad doesn’t mean some of the kids aren’t ready for the show.

      • Moose Klein says:

        Hartford has been mediocre to bad for several years…. the draft has not been great… aren’t Vesey and Hayes isn’t rookies? Sjkei and Kreider didn’t spend much time in minors….Teams that draft dominant players build dominant teams…..GMs that are shrewd find talent…
        How would you rate both?

      • Richter1994 says:

        Noted Ray, but I think I can answer without hesitation that this current Ranger team is going no where this year, as is.

        Which means that “changes” are needed for them to be competitive, whether it be via internal and/or external personnel moves.

        Staying the course because it makes people feel nice and fuzzy is unacceptable, IMO. Comfort is not the goal, winning is.

    • Fotiu is God says:

      This narrative is nothing less than a long, bad feedback loop, Anthony.

      Mike Sullivan/his assistants lean on and work their kids into the lineup. Come March or April they exhibit poise. That they can play at the pro level. Lo and behold Pittsburgh wields the depth to overcome injuries to key veterans. They go deep.

      Torts has done likewise in Columbus. Look at the youth CBJ employs, which translates into enviable depth.

      Mr Gorton and Slats have to recognize that the regime behind our bench has ossified. They’re reactive, the antithesis of dynamic. As relevant or innovative as Mormon buggy wheels.

      After his epic mental fade in last year’s playoffs AV should’ve been fired. Full stop. His counterintuitive favoritism towards veterans with tired legs will only continue to impede what prospects we have.

      • Richter1994 says:

        “This narrative is nothing less than a long, bad feedback loop, Anthony.”

        You gave me the thumbs down bro? lol

  2. Spozo says:

    I guess Skjei being called up in the middle of the playoffs as a rookie and given significant minutes doesn’t count.

    • Richter1994 says:

      All sarcasm and kidding aside, you do not think that, based on the crap that we have now, that guys like Pionk and Lettieri shouldn’t get a shot here? That the Rangers should be “satisfied” with this line up?

      Holden gives up goals on a regular basis. His “stats” are better only because he was partnered with McD, otherwise they are atrocious.

      Carey, a lifetime AHLer, tries very hard, no question, but is very over matched by the speed of the NHL.

      So, there’s no room for the 2 young players I mentioned? Or even Graves or Crawley (who is supposedly doing very well as a shut down D man).

      • Spozo says:

        Sure they COULD be better than what we have. Maybe getting a chance to play wouldn’t be the worst thing.

        But it’s these blanket statements of “AV doesn’t play rookies” that my response was to. It’s more like AV doesn’t play rookies unless your name is Skjei, Vesey, or Hayes. He also gave 25 year old rookie Mcilrath more NHL games than the other 2 teams he has since been on conbined.

        This article summed up. “I think some players should be called up fron the AHL but I’m going to blame the coach and say he hates rookies”.

        • sherrane says:

          Agreed. The backup QB is the best player on the football team unless the starter is Tom Brady or someone else of that stature. Just look to earlier this season when the coach was the worst because he wasn’t playing DeAngelo. Why wasn’t his name called? Oh, that’s right, because he’s struggling in Hartford.

          • Richter1994 says:

            Using QBs as a comparison is not relevant. The QB is one of the single, if not the single most important player on the football field and they directly impact game outcomes.

            4th line players and 3rd pair D men are not and only slightly impact game outcomes, but still could provide valuable playing minutes, even if it is to eat up minutes without causing any real damage during the game. To give top minute players a rest, basically depth players.

            I think back up QBs and back up goalies are a good comparison.

        • Richter1994 says:

          I get it my friend, broad strokes should not be portrayed in either direction. I do tend to brush that stroke but I am wondering why Hartford players are not being called up to replace vets that have no business being in the line up.

      • Michael says:

        McDonagh has not been very good either and personally I believe it is time to move him while we can recoupe some draft picks. Nash Stahl and Holder should be moved along with this miserable excuse of a coach.

    • Rangersfan says:

      He was called up before the playoffs ONLY BECAUSE OF INJURIES.

      Of course he played absolutely fine before/during those playoffs. That is the point!!!

    • Mancunian Candidate says:

      Regarding Skjei—now AV deserves credit for playing a first-round draft pick? I think the fact that you actually credit Vigneault for playing Brady Skjei says more about Vigneault’s treatment of rookies than your supposed defense of him here, Spozo.

      Has the standard of proof fallen so low here that playing one of the team’s first-round picks regularly is somehow a credit to the coach?

      • Spozo says:

        Actually my point is that a players treatment is decided on how good they are. Personally I think good players tend to become good players, regardless of the system, coach, and whatever else you want to add in. Skjei is a good player. The coach trusted him from day 1 with a significant role. Mcilrath sucked. AV gave him every chance to succeed and the rest of the league has confirmed that he isn’t an NHL player.

        If the organization has decided Lettieri and Graves aren’t ready. Then maybe they know what they are doing.

        • Mancunian Candidate says:

          I think the point that me and a few others are making is that the league has changed due to the cap & the infatuation with a speedier, more skilled game. The cap forces teams to get value out of younger players, and that’s why recent NHL championship teams have done so. Would AV have played Tyler Seguin? Or would he have trusted Kuhnackl & Sheary enough to have them contribute to a Cup? There’s no way to know of course but the question bears some thought.

          Vigneault seems determined to hold true to the old model of players playing up thru the bottom of the lineup before they are rewarded with more responsibility. That has its merits, but also it has its flaws.

  3. Spozo says:

    Who’s that prospect that AV refused to give a chance that left the Rangers organization and became a regular with another team?

    Hmm the names seem to elude me.

    Classic. Just because we haven’t seen player x means they are better than what we currently have and it’s all because the coach is a moron.

    • Richter1994 says:

      Like I said, without sarcasm and kidding around, I am asking you seriously about the players they are playing now vs. giving new players a chance. And what I mean by that is more than 2 games.

      How many more games are you willing to lose with some of these current players in the line up?

      • DJ Dan Girardi says:

        We had the best record in the league in November. We’ve also consistently played our best hockey since 1994 under AV. I trust him.

        • Fotiu is God says:

          Dan Girardi:

          Please take AV, his total detachment/epic feebleness in the crunch–last year’s playoffs–with you to The Sunshine State. (In all likelihood that was our last best chance to reach The SCF.)

          Canadians love Florida.

          Perhaps emperor douchebag Denis Potvin can take AV for a ride in his golf cart.

        • Richter1994 says:

          We also “won the Cup” last year at this time of year, scoring 5 goals per game and everyone getting excited.

          They have the best record in November to basically get them even for the season.

          This was the easy part of the schedule. Let’s see where they are after the next 2 months. I hope in contention but admittedly I have doubts.

    • John B says:

      Who’s that prospect that AV and management refused to give a chance to that never had a chance to become a regular with anyone because of the good ol’ boy network?

      I figure since you’re using a negative to attempt to prove a positive I could ask the same question.

    • Resident Genius says:

      That seems like a silly question if you think about it. Who would you say John Tortorella did that to?
      Is the question who played for AV and is still playing for someone else?
      Like Del-Zotto, Hagelin, Stralman, Brian Boyle, Yandle, Talbot, Eric Staal, Domonic Moore, and maybe a few others.
      Tell me which coaches have that problem?
      It sounds like your repeating something silly someone else is saying. Someone with a forked tongue.
      You can’t have a problem with prospects, if you don’t give them a chance.

      • Spozo says:

        No the question is, what prospects have AV mismanaged that succeeded elsewhere? Since the only confirmation For him mismanaging rookies is that they excelled under a different coach. I’m not talking about the established NHLers you listed. Can you think of another way to confirm he has mismanaged kids?

        The common misconception is that AV hates rookies, doesn’t trust them, and won’t play them.

        Brady Skjei, Kevin Hayes, and Jimmy Vesey would say otherwise. Mcilrath would also say otherwise.

        My point is that I believe talent prevails at the end of the day. If the kids aren’t here in a significant role it’s because they aren’t good enough at this time.

        • Resident Genius says:

          Please name the other coaches Who’s prospects were refused to be given a chance that left the organization and became a regular with another team?
          Not many!
          It is a non-sequitur.

  4. James Carr says:

    Why do we want a rookie like chityl or letteri to come up and play 4th line minutes

    • Walt says:

      At that, they’d be lucky with the man deploying them! Chytle may see another 6 minutes over another three game span!!

    • Richter1994 says:

      Chytil would play 3C and Lettieri wold play 4th line, but so what? He’s a 4th line player to begin with. He’s not cracking any top 9 spot so playing him big minutes in Hartford to keep him out of the NHL is counter productive.

  5. Jake W says:

    I thought Pionk deserved a shot right out of camp and pre season. And I’d really love to see Lettieri called up in place of Carey. Holden hasn’t been bad but hasn’t been great. I’d leave Chytil down for now. If we call up anyone Lettieri Pionk and Graves are my top 3 in that order. We’re gonna have to swing a significant trade for a top 6 center even when Zib returns. That’s just how bad our Center situation is. Don’t care that Deharnais has had a decent 2 games since Zibs went down with a concussion. It won’t last and tbh he shouldn’t be in the lineup every night any way IMO… Brian Little from Winnipeg should be a target for us. He’d make the team better immediately.

    • Mintgecko says:

      I wouldn’t want Little as the 3c. Pass!

    • HARLEMBLUES says:

      Jake moves like trading for B. Little is what has gotten this organization one cup in 75 plus years. We have two young stud centers coming next at the least. Why trade for a over priced stop gap. Same sad story.

  6. DAVID k says:

    Lettieri Pionk and Graves would be better off getting limited minutes on Rangers rather than getting lost in Hartford. Holden is covered by playing with McD and with Zib out we are down to one RH forward (Fast) Carey has done nothing and probably won’t if he stays in the lineup.

  7. roadrider says:

    Is it AV who decides who gets called up or is it an organizational decision? Is it not possible that the guys who are much closer to the Hartford situation than AV who have decided that those guys are not ready?

    • John B says:

      Option 1 (possible)-

      AV: You know Jeff, I think this Player ‘D’ kid might give us a spark in the lineup that we’re lacking. He can let us do ‘x’, ‘y’, and ‘z’. What do you think?
      Jeff: Well the staff down there says ‘a’, ‘b’, ‘c’. So I’m going to say no.

      This equals bad management.

      Option 2 (possible)-
      Jeff: You know Alain, I think this Chytil kid might give us a spark in the lineup that we’re lacking. He can let us do ‘x’, ‘y’, and ‘z’. What do you think?
      Alain: Well Jeff, I really like the play of ‘insert horrendous lineup decision here’. I trust them more in these must win games.

      This equals bad management.

      Option 3 (most likely)-
      Jeff and Alain see nothing wrong with ‘insert horrendous lineup decision here’ and want the status quo. Cause if they didn’t “like” Nick Holden, Steve Kampfer, Paul Carey etc, they wouldn’t be here.

      This equals bad management.

      • roadrider says:

        So, in your opinion (based on your extensive coaching and front office experience at the NHL level … oh,wait) any decision taken by Rangers’ coaches or front office personnel equates to “bad management”. There’s absolutely no possibility that there are sound reasons that the guys in Hartford do not merit a call up – right?

        I personally have no idea what the situation is with those guys and I would wager that you don’t either. If you want to contest that please supply evidence. Dissatisfaction with the current Rangers’ roster, which I can certainly understand and agree with, does not automatically mean that the guys in Hartford will be an improvement or enough of an improvement at this time to disrupt their development at that level.

        I seriously doubt that AV and JG think that guys like Holden, Kampfer and Carey represent a great status quo. Much more likely is that they recognize the limitations of those guys but are boxed in by the lack of ready alternatives and as long as they keep winning they are not going to upset the apple cart. Is the current status quo desirable or sustainable? No. And I think AV and JG both know that. That doesn’t mean that there’s some miracle cure being kept under cover at Hartford.

        Neither you, nor I nor any of these self-styled “experts” on the blogs really knows what’s going on behind the scenes. As much as I enjoy reading these blogs I do have to point out that in the past these same guys were beating the drum for scrubs like Emerson Etem, Adam Clendening and Dylan McIlrath – none of whom have done jack since they were cut loose by the Rangers. I’ve had my issues with AV and JG (especially for the current roster construction) but I’ll bet those guys have forgotten more about hockey than I ever knew. That’s not to say that every decision they make is correct or they never screw up. But this tendency for bloggers and commenters to think that every decision is so obvious and that every fault with the team could be corrected by dumping the coach is just insane.

        • John B says:

          “does not automatically mean that the guys in Hartford will be an improvement or enough of an improvement at this time to disrupt their development at that level.”

          What exactly is “development”? Rick Nash never played a game in the AHL, did that stunt his “development”? Did those whole 38 games in the AHL make Ryan McDonagh who he is? Is Marc Staal as bad as he is cause he didn’t “develop” in the AHL?

          Paul Carey- 29 years old has been “developing” in the AHL for 6 years now. Has zero NHL upside. Rangers Management, which includes Jeff Gorton and Alain Vigneault want Paul Carey on the NHL roster despite the same exact player with NHL upside being available. That is, bad management.

          Steve Kampfer- 29 years old has been “developing” in the AHL for 9 years now. Has zero NHL upside. Rangers Management, which includes Jeff Gorton and Alain Vigneault want Steve Kampfer on the NHL roster, even saying they didn’t want to risk losing him to waivers, despite the same exact player with NHL upside being available. That is bad management.

          I could go on. However, I never called for the coach to be fired in my reply. I pointed out that New York Rangers entire front office management, asset management, and deployment of assets leave a lot to be desired and are generally bad, bordering on very bad. IE:

          “Option 3 (most likely)-
          Jeff and Alain see nothing wrong with ‘insert horrendous lineup decision here’ and want the status quo. Cause if they didn’t “like” Nick Holden, Steve Kampfer, Paul Carey etc, they wouldn’t be here.”

          • roadrider says:

            Oh, please. You want to compare those guys at Hartford to Nash and McDonagh? The likelihood that those guys are as good as Nash or McDonagh were at a comparable age is pretty low as is the likelihood that they will be as successful at the NHL level as those guys. Again, you’re simply mistaking evidence-free, wishful thinking for a factual argument – which apparently you can’t make because you lack the expertise and first-hand knowledge of the actual situation required to do that.

            Of the guys at Hartford, Chytil is the most likely to be special but he just turned 18 for crying out loud! If its the judgement of the Rangers’ player development folks that he and the organization’s future is better served by having him spend more time in the AHL than I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Besides, hasn’t he just suffered a concussion?

            Your “Option 3” is just plain silly. Its absurd to think that AV “likes” those guys so much that he’s blind to whatever other options exist in the organization. Besides, my original question was whether its actually AV that makes those decisions. How do you know that he hasn’t requested help from the AHL ranks and been told that the organization doesn’t think its the right time?

            • John B says:

              “Oh, please. You want to compare those guys at Hartford to Nash and McDonagh? The likelihood that those guys are as good as Nash or McDonagh were at a comparable age is pretty low as is the likelihood that they will be as successful at the NHL level as those guys”

              No, I asked, “What is ‘development’?”. I cited just a couple, only a couple, of NYR on the current roster and asked, if AHL ‘development’ is so important, did the LACK of AHL development hurt Rick Nash? Did it make Marc Staal as bad as he currently is? Did the whole 38 games of AHL experience make Ryan McDonagh what he is. These are all non-generational players. The NHL is LOADED with many excellent and Cup-winning players who never played a single game, or played minimal games in the AHL. So, what exactly is the “development” our players are getting in the AHL? What benefit are they truly getting there, that they couldn’t get in the NHL? There is more than enough evidence in the past 5 years across all 31 NHL rosters, that playing in the AHL or not playing in the AHL has absolutely nothing to do with how well they play at the NHL level.

              “Again, you’re simply mistaking evidence-free, wishful thinking for a factual argument – which apparently you can’t make because you lack the expertise and first-hand knowledge of the actual situation required to do that.”

              My argument is simply: current AHL level players with no NHL upside are on the NHL roster and performing badly. How much worse can current AHL level players with NHL upside be? Worst case, status quo. Best case- you improve your roster. Win/Win. You either improve yourself, or you know you have nothing and need to start over.

              “Your “Option 3” is just plain silly. Its absurd to think that AV “likes” those guys so much that he’s blind to whatever other options exist in the organization. Besides, my original question was whether its actually AV that makes those decisions. How do you know that he hasn’t requested help from the AHL ranks and been told that the organization doesn’t think its the right time?”

              I’ll point out again. When the season began both Alain Vigneault AND Jeff Gorton agreed on the best personnel on the NY Rangers NHL roster. Roster decisions are not made in vacuums. I’ve said it before and will repeat it here again:

              If the head coach is asking the GM to keep subpar players on the roster, and the GM allows it; that is bad roster management and inept front office management.

              If the GM is forcing subpar players onto the NHL roster, and the coach allows it; that is bad roster management and inept front office management.

              If the GM and the head coach, who have both evaluated the talent at hand, and are both OK with the roster as is; that is bad roster management and inept front office management.

              This roster mess belongs to BOTH Gorton and Vigneault.

          • RichS says:

            Excellent comments and analysis of this current rangers team/organization……..
            AV’s eventual downfall, which was his downfall in vancouver stems from his unwillingness to replace some terrible veterans with some unknown yet promising rookies…….

      • sherrane says:

        So you’re saying the answer is bad management despite not iterating all the potential options?

        Option 4 –
        Alain: We could use an upgrade over Kampfer, Holden, Carey, and Desharias. How are the kids performing in Hartford?

        Jeff: They are progressing and are beginning to perform well at the AHL level. The coaches and the scouts don’t think they are ready yet and we might retard their development if we bring them up to NY.

        Alain: Are there any players available via trade that can help?

        Jeff: Only short term solutions. We will benefit this year, but will begin to feel the effects of trading any prospects as early as next year.

        Alain: So the answer is to stand pat for the while, get the most out of these borderline NHLers, and wait for the right opportunity.

        Is that bad management?

        • John B says:

          Kampfer- Made the team over several other better performing players in Hartford and the preseason. Why? Because Alain Vigneault AND Jeff Gorton did not, and I quote, “Risk losing him to waivers” Not wanting to “risk losing to waivers” a career AHL level defenseman by Occam’s Razor equals a wanted asset at that level.

          Carey- Made the team over several other better performing players in Hartford and the preseason. Why? Again, Occam’s Razor. Because he was a wanted asset at that level by Alain Vigneault and Jeff Gorton.

          Desharnais- Was signed as a free agent by Jeff Gorton over multiple better available free agent centers. Why? Again, Occam’s Razor. Because Jeff Gorton and Alain Vigneault wanted David Desharnais.

          Nick Holden- Continues to play out of position (off-side) and above his natural abilities, despite better options available that would allow him to slot into the lineup where he has the best chance to excel. Why? Occam’s Razor. Because Alain Vigneault and Jeff Gorton have no issue playing him in that position.

          Failure to sign better free agents, inadequately evaluating and then trading for players, playing players out of position, holding onto career AHL players at the NHL level, hoping for rookies to solve your top-6 holes that you created by all of the above, yes all do equal bad management. In fact this all the very definition of bad management.

  8. Creature Feature says:

    We will never know what these kids can do if they don’t get a chance. No reason why Letteri can’t play a game or 3 now. Is Carey better?

    As for Pionk, He also deserves a few games. I highly doubt Kampfer or Holden are that much better.

    I think when you go further down the line than these 2 (right now) you are stretching it.

  9. Eugene says:

    I would say Holden is solid….. is quiet over over over confident statement, he is shitting every game in a bulk

    • John B says:

      Nick Holden, paired with a competent defensive partner is acceptable. Nick Holden playing on his natural side with a competent defensive partner is slightly more than competent and acceptable.

      Nick Holden playing his off side with Marc Staal, playing at all with Steve Kampfer, and being asked to cover for Branden Smith taking the grand tour of every lavatory in each NHL arena is not acceptable and is asking far too much of Nick Holden.

    • Mancunian Candidate says:

      The last line of your post is awesome, Eugene, it sums up Holden’s game perfectly. Can’t wait for him to be elsewhere, I cannot stand Holden’s game—he is an occupier of space & little else.

      • Matt R says:

        Who do you like better, Smith or Holden? As a former defensemen it hurts me emotionally to watch Smith’s game, he tries to lead the rush and abandons his partner far too often in the zone because he assumes the breakout, interested to see how you think the two compare because for the most part I do not mind Holden’s game he just tries to do too much sometimes.

        • Mancunian Candidate says:

          Smith has been horrible this year, but was really good in the playoffs last year for NYR, when Vigneault wasn’t losing him on the bench during third periods. That gives me some hope for his game.

          Holden, on the other hand, offers me no hope. He’s a terrible defenseman in my opinion, with egregiously poor reads and positioning being his biggest flaw. Holden has size, but doesn’t use it; he handles the puck like it’s a leaking chemical weapon; his decision-making with the puck has been thoroughly horrendous throughout his Ranger career; and overall he plays a thoughtless and panic-stricken game, which increases his already epic penchant for turning the puck over in the worst parts of the ice. Even his offense last year was a Kevin Klein-style fluke—he scored 60% of his goals in a 20-game stretch last year. I don’t see any positives to his game this year at all.

  10. Mancunian Candidate says:

    Here’s a fun fact about our dear coach: Pavel Buchnevich is the first Russian player to play regularly under Vigneault’s “tutelage” since Vigneault’s first couple of seasons in Montreal, where he inherited Vlad Malakhov on defense. Malakhov was injured and left Montreal, then Andrei Markov & Sergei Zholtok played for Vigneault in AV’s last full year there. In Vancouver? Not a single Russian ever cracked Vigneault’s regular lineups in seven seasons as the Canucks’ head coach.

    I’m sure it’s all a coincidence though, and that Vigneault loves Russians as much as he loves rookies. Especially Russian rookies…..

    • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

      MC-

      I think you are really reaching now, simply because you don’t like the coach. AV is not in charge of player acquisition. His GMs in Vancouver and NY handled that. If you took a deeper look, you would see that the Canucks haven’t had a Russian player of note on their roster since Alexander Mogilny back in the 1999-2000 season. AV didn’t come on board in Vancouver until seven years later. That has nothing to do with AV.

      For what it’s worth, both Buchnevich and Shesterkin were drafted while AV was coach. There is no indication whatsoever that AV has ANY bias towards any player. I know that at one time, some coaches were very anti-European players, but there is no way a coach can survive in today’s NHL with that kind of archaic thinking.

      • Mancunian Candidate says:

        Only basing what I’m saying on the coach’s track record. And to act like Vigneault doesn’t put his lineup together is disingenuous, of course he does—and he’s allegedly had a fair amount of input on trades & draft choices between Vancouver and NY. As a top-tier winning NHL coach, of course he’s got a heck of a lot to do with who plays for his team. And then he’s the one who fills the pressbox with players.

        Honestly, I’d been curious about his relationship with Russian players after last season’s poor handling of Buchnevich. And when I went thru his career season-by-season, I was truly surprised to see how little he’s ever dealt with Russian players. To coach over 560 games with one team like AV did in Vancouver, and never have a Russian regular in the lineup in the NHL of today defies credulity. That sort of lienup oddity can’t happen without it being planned that way.

        I don’t like Vigneault, it’s true, but I’m not blind to the man’s strengths behind the bench. I’d suggest that you are willfully blind to his weaknesses—you literally never criticize Vigneault, and you’re too smart a guy for that to happen accidentally. I’m gonna go back thru the records of some of the other top-tier NHL coaches of the last dozen years and see if anyone has any sort of roster patterns like Vigneault, in terms of steering clear of Russian players.

        • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

          So are you saying that AV should have pursuaded Gillis to draft more Russian players in order to fulfill some diversity quota. 🙂

          Seriously, isn’t it more likely that both Gillis and to the extent he was consulted AV made drafting decisions based on the best player available, regardless of where the player was from?

          The only way you can really support your argument would be to look at each draft and see if there was a pattern of drafting lesser players over better Russians. But even then, you’d have to dig even deeper, and see if the pattern was specifically about Russian players, or whether Gillis was just awful at identifying young talent, which many in Vancouver think he was.

          As for defending AV, I can see why you say that. I’ve said this before, I like to be contrary. Especially when the narrative is so totally skewed against someone who clearly has been succesful. If the narrative out here was overwhelmingly positive for AV to the point that I thought it was ridiculous (which is the way I feel about the negative AV comments), then I probably would take the opposite position. I enjoy engaging in intelligent debates with you and others, and am always curious as to why people think the way they do. That’s just me.

          I certainly do not believe AV is above reproach. He is a an excellent coach who has his flaws, just like all 30 off his counterparts. I said last year I would not have extended him when Gorton did. I would have certainly waited until the season was over to assess if a better option was out there.

          In general, I believe every coach has a shelf life—AV included. But it seems Gorton is very satisfied with the job his coach has done, based on the mammoth raise and extension he got. It’s kind of like my argument about Hank. Hank is certainly not going anywhere, and barring a total collapse, it is highly improbable AV isn’t going anywhere either in the near term.

          I see a coach who wins a lot of games. He has a remarkably high winning pct. He’s gone deep into the post-season quite often. He checks off most boxes except the big one obviously, but that doesnt make him a bad coach.

          I look at AV as an asset to be retained or released, just like any other asset on the team. If there is an opportunity to UPGRADE any position, including the coaching position, I’m all in favor of it. I am vehemently against change for change sake. Just ask the folks in Florida how that went last season. Just ask the Football Giants what happens when you fire a future HOF coach and bring in a hotshot untested novice. Sure, you MIGHT hit paydirt but more likely than not, you are just setting yourself and your franchise back when you do it—and then it’s the GM that gets canned.

          So, I don’t evaluate AV in a vacuum. I evaluate him based on his record and based on who is likely to be his successor. To me, right now, the Rangers have the best option available. Next summer? TBD

  11. Spozo says:

    “AV hates rookies!!!!”

    They recall Boo Nieves and he becomes a regular in the lineup

    “But I want another rookie!!!! He still hates rookies!!! Wahhhhhhh!!!”

    • Richter1994 says:

      It’s been a fun thread, lol.

      • Spozo says:

        Honestly I don’t know why we are arguing whether Kampfer and Carey should be in the lineup vs Graves and Lettieri. Kampfer and Carey have only played lately because of injuries.

        To me, since they haven’t called anyone up, that means Zib is closer to coming back.

        • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

          Totally agree.

        • Richter1994 says:

          Only because this is an, in general, underwhelming roster and every little improvement would help. They need 4 lines and 3 D pairs to even have a chance.

          There’s only one position where the Rangers are superior.

          • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

            But ONLY if it’s an improvement. And there is no real indication that they are ready to help on the NHL level, given how unimpressive they have been on the AHL level. So if they are not, why bring them up?

            Round and round we go…where it stops… 🙂

            • Richter1994 says:

              How do you know if it’s an improvement or not if you don’t try?

              Yo assume that they (Ranger management) knows what it’s doing.

              2 Cups in almost 80 years, don’t assume.

  12. Kevin Kreiser says:

    The NHL is a young man’s league. In order for teams to be successful, you have to empower younger talent. Guys like Holden, Kampfer, Carey are simply not cutting it.

    I think the younger talent in HFD is starting to look like a better option. I am sick of seeing Nick Holden not able to handle his own end and yet again be another boat anchor who latches to McD. Kampfer and Carey are career AHLers.. I think it’s time to see if Pionk/ Graves/ Lettieri can play. I don’t see this team as is going very far if at all to the playoffs.

    • SalMerc says:

      Everything you say is true, but I think, since we are on somewhat of a hot streak, you don’t introduce these guys in right now. Let’s see how the team progresses in the next two weeks and lets also see how Mika is. If Zinbad will be out for 7 more games, I would slot in Letteri for a few games over Carey.

      As for the defense, they on a whole are not playing bad. Whether a new Pionk is immediately better than Kampfer or Holden may be a tough sell.

    • Richter1994 says:

      Kudos, I don’t know why fans aren’t seeing this.

  13. Pete says:

    I have been a bit pessimistic recently on the outlook fot the team for this season, but I sincerely hope they prove me wrong. If Zibanejad comes back healthy and they win a bunch of games then they might be contenders and not pretenders. The problem I see is that I do not believe that this team is one player away from being dominant. They’d need Leetch or Messier or Gretzky or McDavid to get there. Man, I hope I am wrong.

    However, if by mid-to late January they are still on the cusp, it will be time to be sellers and that is when you bring up the kids. Let them play and they will likely lose a bunch of games as you shed the likes of Nash, Grabner, Zucc (yes Zucc!), Holden, Staal (if possible), DeSharnais, and maybe even McDonough. Then armed with picks galore in a deep draft go get some more players to join Chytil, Andersson and Pionk and Day in developing. It might take two seasons, but they will be much stronger in the long run.

    That is where I see things headed unless this team suddenly puts it all together.

  14. HARLEMBLUES says:

    Forget the statement that AV doesn’t play rookies. Now let’s talk about getting better like faster, more skill, smarter and play with some edge(fire) start to finish. This team isn’t winning a cup but will make the playoffs again. I want a Cup. See what we have in the A and make the trades at the deadline for assets. What the Yankees finally did. Now they are set up for years to come. They also when out and got a Coach who they feel can lead their young group to a ring. AV must go.

  15. avsucks says:

    if you bring uo the kids you need a coach who will trust them and help them take the next step. we don have that coach.

  16. Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

    Well this was certainly an interesting thread…one filled with over-the-top exaggerations, if not outright distortions.

    Let’s start with Dave’s overarching statement at the top—“Brooks called out AV’s decision to dress (veterans over rookies).” I certainly did not interpret it that way at all. This is what Brooks said—

    “Full disclosure: I haven’t seen the Wolf Pack play other than in highlight clips. Rangers’ assistant GM Chris Drury likely has a better handle on whether Lettieri and Pionk, both of whom have had strong games, are ready. If they need more time, well, no sense in rushing them.

    “But if they are ready and only remain in the AHL because they are being blocked by workmanlike veterans, management should review its position. The Rangers require upgrades. And the team could use an infusion of energy kids naturally supply.

    “Is that because the organization’s default policy is to rely on veterans or because of an absence of qualified kids in Hartford?”

    Brooks did not “call out” AV. Indeed, he never even mentioned AV one time in this article. He referenced Gorton, Drury and the Rangers front office. None of those guys are AV, last I checked.

    And take it a step further, he wasn’t “calling them out”. He admitted, he has no idea whether the kids are ready to play and assumes that Drury probably knows when and if these kids will be ready. He was merely speculating that IF they are ready, then yes, one or more should be called up. I 100% agree with this. But, sorry Dave, the way you are characterizing this seems to me to be an exaggeration of what Brooks meant. It was a Monday with lots of days off between games. Brooks has a column to fill. He was not calling out AV or anyone else. He was filling column space with reasonable discussion points which you and other are distorting—IMO.

    Let’s look at other facts. Pionk was a free agent. He chose to sign with the Rangers. Same for Lettieri. If it were actually true that the Rangers and AV specifically were not open to playing young talent, then explain to me why so many college FAs have chosen to sign with the team? That makes no sense. If the organzation and the coach were unusually reticent to go with young players, they would certainly sign elsewhere.

    Dave later references Vancouver, as did others on this page. That narrative has taken on life of its own—one that has been badly distorted by the “Anti-AV” faction. Yes, it is true that AV was not wild about some of the Canucks prospects near the end of his time there. Turned out there was good reason for it—they weren’t good options. Gillis canned AV to save his own hide, and then after the Torts experiment imploded on him, it was Gillis who was canned a year later. Main reason Linden wanted him out—he left the Canucks system in tatters. Gillis hasn’t resurfaced since and probably never will. The success that AV enjoyed in Vancouver happened with core players acquired before Gillis came on board.

    So to blame AV for the fact that Gillis epically failed as Canucks GM to bring in quality young talent is unfair and distorts the reality of what actually happened. Yes, I’m sure that someone, probably Rich, will recycle that same old link from a 2013 blog post that somehow proves that AV was the one to blame. And if you do post that one, I have at least four stories, two from legit hockey guys who make a living doing this, that blame it all on Gillis and chastise the GM for making AV the scapegoat.

    There is no evidence whatsoever that AV won’t play kids. What he won’t do is play kids that aren’t that good simply because they are kids.

    I do not understand the premise that for some reason the kids must be recalled in order to see if they can play. That’s absurd. That is why you have player personnel people. That is why you hire a Chris Drury—so that he can tell Gorton and AV when and if a player in the AHL is ready to make the quantum leap to the NHL. No coach is going to risk valuable points on experimenting with young players who may not be ready. There is so little practice time now—how would they be integrated effectively into the lineup if they were not truly ready to contribute in a meaningful way in the NHL?

    Now, like Brooks, I certainly have limited knowledge of the players at Hartford. But from what I’ve been able to gather, the team is one of the worst in the AHL. Our young “saviors” have had mixed results thus far. A few of the suspects (I mean prospects)—

    Player. Season Total. Recent stretch

    Pionk. 0-6-6. -8. 0-1-1. -4 (11 games)
    Graves. 0-4-4. -13. 0-0-0. -10 (13 games)
    Sproul. 2-8-10. -6. 0-0-0. (5 games)
    DeAngelo. 0-3-3. -6. 0-1-1. -3. (6 games)
    Tambellini. 6-2-8. -6. 1-1-2. -2. (12 games)

    No one in the group above, at least statistically speaking, looks close to being ready. Pionk has been “meh”, I’d say. Graves is shaping up to be another one of our overrated “tease” players that may never pan out. Sproul has done nothing as of late. ADA has been a huge disappointment thus far. Tambellini got off to a good start but has since tailed off. Seriously, have ANY of these guys done anything to actually EARN a promotion?

    Now, that leaves the Big 2–Lettieri and Chytil. Lettieri certainly on the whole has played pretty well. 9-7-16 -4 is not bad. But a few weeks ago, he had an awful stretch where he was a -5 in two games. Since then, he’s been ok….1-2-3 -1 in 4 games. I think it’s fair to say that he’s been up and down. Why not wait for a little more consistency?

    Chytil is obviously the one potential future difference making player in this group. He’s 5-7-12 +4 (on a bad team)…certainly good numbers. BUT, last 6 games, he’s 0-1-1 +1. Maybe he’s leveled off. Now of course he’s hurt. But once healthy, he may be recalled mid-season. They just have to decide if calling him up this season is in his best interest.

    So again, I ask, what is the rush? The Rangers are the hottest team in the league at the moment. Obviously, they are flawed—we know this. But the chances that any of those guys in Hartford are going to help the team now are pretty slim. I want to see some of them on the big club as much as you do….but ONLY once they are ready.

    • Richter1994 says:

      “So again, I ask, what is the rush?”

      There’s only so many games and not having the best line up on the ice constitutes a failure of Ranger management. For, you know, what they are supposed to being paid for? To do their jobs?

      Ok, there was sarcasm in there, I admit it, lol.

      • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

        Then if that’s the case, then as I said yesterday, that means you believe Gorton and Drury are incompetent and not capable of doing their jobs. And if that is true, then it really doesnt matter, does it? Because we would be doomed regardless.

        I have no feel for Drury or Gorton at the moment. It’s too soon to tell. But still, I suspect they PROBABLY have a better idea of whether these guys are ready or not than we do. Cam me crazy. 🙂

        I will say again, I’d be willing to bet that 90% or more of the talent evaluators in the league probably believe the Rangers DO have the best lineup possible at the moment—relative to who is available to them. We make these assumptions about our young talent out here, and so far, the blogosphere has been proven wrong every time.

        • Richter1994 says:

          Up until now, I have been a huge Gorton supporter. But then we have what we have now, and that is:

          1) Major holes in the center position cased by, ironically, themselves.

          2) One of the worst defending D corps in the league.

          3) No real back up goalie.

          4) A Hartford team of players that no one trusts.

          So, the results speak for themselves, right? No matter how much I would like Gorton to succeed.

        • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

          Well, that I can’t argue with. But as you said, maybe he had a deal all set to get another center and it fell through. Maybe, although he would never admit it, this is a year to take a step back, see Nash’s deal come off the books, and then remake the team next year.

          Think about this….

          He signs AV long term.

          He lets his center depth go.

          He is making the team younger year by year.

          We can certainly say that, if the plan was to contend for a Cup this year, then yes, he has epically failed and perhaps should be replaced. But the three things that I listed above suggests to me that this is all part of a longer range plan to make the team a contender as Crosby and Malkin age and decline in Pittsburgh, and Ovie declines in DC.

          I might be wrong, but we shall see.

          • Pete says:

            I think that this could have been a possible plan.

            I, for one, do not argue that by bringing the kids up the Rangers will be better now. In fact, I believe they’d probably fall out of contention.

            I’ve been arguing that if by mid to late January the team does not look like a contender, then it is time to sell high on some of the older players, get picks or young future studs, and add them to the young players they have to build a team that will compete for years.

            If AV is really adverse to playing youngsters (which I don’t fully believe, see Skjei, Vesey, & Buchnevich) it won’t matter because that is all he’d have. Two problems solved! 😊

          • Richter1994 says:

            Based on what I heard at the time, Gorton’s statements to the media at the time, and even AV’s statements to the media at the time, I would bet a large amount of money that they all thought that some sort of deal for a center was in place.

            They ef’d up, plain and simple.

  17. Eduardo!Eduardo!Eduardo! says:

    I heard AV ties kids up in the locker room and beats them so they can’t play no matter how good they are. He doesn’t want to win he just wants to prevent kids from playing. I also heard when he was a kid the coach never let him play in any reign deer games so he swore to get revenge

    • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

      Good job my alter ego!

      Just a wild guess…are you a Honeymooners fan? (“Don’t call me Norton, call me Eduardo!”) 🙂

  18. Arisrules says:

    Bill Parcells used to call the equivalent of guys like Holden, Staal, Kampfer, and Carey “progress stoppers.” Maybe the marginal benefit in the short-term is higher (in the case of STaal, Kampfer, and Carey absolutely not), but the detriment in the other direction long-term is massive.

    Holden is an interesting case because he’s been solid this year. Obviously it’s a mirage before he falls back to Earth eventually and reverts to snow angel god, like he did in the playoffs. But putting in him in a position to fail is such an AV thing. And the morons in the media do not want to discuss how poor this defense is.

    • Richter1994 says:

      It’s like starting Geno Smith over Davis Webb, at the expense of a 13 year consecutive games streak.

  19. O'Spud says:

    I think the biggest problem with Hartford is it’s more of a holding tank than a developmental level. The Rangers want to play a speed and puck movement game. Whether they succeed on that as well as they want is a matter for debate, but when they’re good that’s how they play.

    Hartford’s been such a mess in recent years that it’s not developing players to function in that kind of system. I’d like to see the organization start with style of play at that level. Then we’d have a firmer grasp on who might be able to step into the parent club. Right now it’s just players doing what they can as individuals on a team in survival mode.

    So, while I’d love a right-sided D, I can’t say Pionk would upgrade Holden. Hopefully Chytil can return as a top 9 player before the end of the season. Yet they’re not really being prepared to make the jump outside of getting ice time on a pro team. A better structure around them and we’d be able to say with more surety if they were ready.

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