Gameday musings: Rookies, playing time, holiday roster freeze
A lot has been made about the coach’s apparent decision to sit Dylan McIlrath tonight against the Penguins. I understand both sides of the argument. If the kid is up in the NHL, he should play. But the kid has some glaring holes in his game, and putting him up against the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Crosby’s isn’t exactly the best matchup for someone who has trouble skating. Then again, neither is Justin Falk.
My thought on this: If the kid isn’t going to play 8-10 minutes a night, then send him back to the AHL. AV is a fan of having kids sit in the press box to get a bird’s-eye view of the system he runs, but McIlrath has less than 100 pro games under his belt. He needs to develop the raw parts of his game in the AHL with top minutes. If he is going to play 8-10 minutes a night, then keep him here, because Falk sure isn’t getting the job done.
One more bit on McIlrath: He is far from NHL ready. I understand the need for a bruiser and a right-handed shot, but the kid has a few glaring holes that need to be fixed by Jeff Beukeboom in Hartford. The kid has made tremendous strides this year after a gruesome knee injury ruined last season. I’m big on this kid, but rushing him to fit a need doesn’t help in the long-term.
In the second point, I touched on playing time. Something that is missed among the constant complaining about playing the kids is that playing time is earned, not given. Chris Kreider is the best example under AV. He didn’t earn his time in camp, he didn’t earn his time with his first call up. He earned it with this call up, and he has now earned a permanent spot on the top-six. J.T. Miller has not earned that time yet. The kid can’t even legally drink, so maybe having him spend time in Hartford isn’t a bad thing. McIlrath is in the same boat, except he can buy a Guinness if he wants.
The holiday roster freeze hits on Friday, and while there may not be a flurry of movement (that usually comes before the Olympics), the rumors are starting to flow. The biggest target right now is Michael Del Zotto, but that’s no big surprise. There are two rumors that had legs at some point: Jake Gardiner from Toronto and Raphael Diaz from Montreal.
The Gardiner swap would be a “change of scenery” deal for both teams. Gardiner has more defensive value, but MDZ will put up more offensive numbers. It’s a sideways move for both teams, which is why that rumor has cooled off considerably over the past few weeks. Gardiner’s recent play has also made the Leafs a bit more reluctant to deal.
On paper, a deal around Diaz (a right-handed shot) for MDZ isn’t that far-fetched. The problem is that Diaz doesn’t address two things: Solid defensive zone coverage and physical play. MDZ outclasses Diaz in pretty much every category, so the Habs would need to add. Since Montreal is pretty much guaranteed a playoff spot at this point, adding a roster player seems far-fetched. The Rangers are likely headed to the playoffs –mostly because the Metropolitan Division is an unmitigated tire fire– so dealing MDZ for Diaz and a prospect likely doesn’t whet the palate.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the “anonymous player quote” from Larry Brooks’ article today:
I asked one player this week whether he had been shown video relating to a specific play on the ice. The response, not offered as a criticism but in a matter-of-fact manner, was, “He says what he says and then expects you to figure it out.”
First thing is that these are professional hockey players, and picking up a new system isn’t a novel concept for them. They’ve done it their entire lives. We do it in the workplace as well: You constantly learn and adapt. If you don’t, you get fired. I don’t see how that is different for hockey players. Second, it wouldn’t shock me if this was taken out of context. People are jumping on this saying that AV doesn’t coach, which is probably the most untrue statement you could make. People are saying that he doesn’t use video, which is another fallacy. At this point, people are using that quote to hate on the coach, and it’s honestly irrational. He’s not perfect, but he’s a good coach.
One non-player note: The Rangers took baby steps in their win against Calgary. It wasn’t pretty but they did some things right, and it’s something they can hopefully build on. Getting out of a bad slump doesn’t happen overnight. You take baby steps until you hit your stride. The Penguins are beaten and battered, so there’s a chance for confidence building tonight. It’s a very big game for New York.