Were this any other kind of season, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Over the past decade or so, the Rangers have been firmly in contention, and as such placed their largest allotments of ice time in the hands of their biggest stars – Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, Henrik Lundqvist (ok that last one is a joke because he usually plays the whole game, but he’s certainly the biggest star on the squad). This is a totally natural thing to do, because imagine a contender that didn’t do that. They wouldn’t be a contender.
We’ve know since just before the trade deadline last year that this wouldn’t be any other kind of season. The Rangers issued a big missive to the fans, traded a bunch of guys, hyped up the young talent, and so on. They even hired a coach who has made it explicit that development is the goal here, and if we happen to win a Stanley Cup then great, but since that’s not going to happen, well, development is the goal.
Implicit in development is what I brought up initially: ice time. It make sense, and we’ve seen other teams do it to great effect. When you’ve got literally basically nothing to lose, and you want to sharpen young talent into bona fide NHL skill, you just kind of put them out there night after night against top-tier competition, give them room to make mistakes, and watch as they bloom into the kinds of players you need them to be. But folks, we’ve got a problem here.
Our two biggest developmental projects are, without a doubt, Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil. Picked in the draft directly preceding the explicit start of the rebuild, they are, nonetheless, essential components of it. They are precisely the kinds of players you want to turn into NHLers ASAP, precisely the kinds of players you want to give big minutes to. So uh, why aren’t they getting big minutes night in and night out?
To wit: last game (not counting tonight’s tilt against Florida, as I’m currently writing this on Saturday afternoon) Chytil had 10:52 TOI and Andersson 8:19, just above Lettieri and McLeod. The game before that against Vancouver was a bit better, with Chytil at 11:27 and Andersson at 11:45. That’s not so bad, but the game before it Filip had under 10 minutes again, logging 8:13 ahead of only McLeod, while oddly enough Lias hit 14:31. I know that last bit doesn’t seem so bad but the prior game our latter rookie played less than half that, dead last on the team, at 6:10, with Lettieri sandwiched between him and Chytil, who was third to last with 9:09 TOI.
I could keep doing this, but I won’t, because it’d be pedantic – the point here is that David Quinn is failing short on one of his primary imperatives a little over a month into the season. These two players are going to be centerpieces of the contending teams to come, and if this indicates anything about what’s to come when Kravtsov, Miller, and all of the other youngsters in the pipeline show up we may be in for a rude awakening as far as DQ’s allegedly developmental propensity goes.
This is a conundrum, plain and simple, and while I’m sure the next fire sale will come soon and we’ll make room in the lineup, at what point do we begin to at least ponder if the coaching staff could be handling things a bit better? That’s not really a totally rhetorical question either – I’ve got plenty of thoughts on how we should begin to construct a framework of understanding Quinn’s nascent Rangers tenure, but I’m trying a new thing where I keep it relatively short and sweet. As always, sound off in the comments.