rangers hurricanes pavel buchnevich

Pavel Buchnevich has had an interesting start to the season. Through ten games, he has a line of 3-2-5 (1-2-3 at even strength), which isn’t bad, but it isn’t “next step” production. That puts him on pace for 40-45 points, which is where he’s sat the past two seasons as well. It doesn’t show progress, it shows stagnation.

Stagnation with Buchnevich is a problem, as he’s being looked at as a potential top line forward, and at worst a second line winger. Forty point production keeps him in the second line winger discussion, but not much else. Under David Quinn, this was supposed to change. Instead, he was a healthy scratch for a third game last night, his second straight.

The concern is less about Buchnevich’s production –which will need to improve– and more about his overall play. Quinn has had long conversations with Buchnevich, and it appears that it’s his play without the puck that is the driving force. Quinn is on record saying he expects every player to play 100% and never take a shift off. While he hasn’t called out Buchnevich on that, it’s a logical assumption this is a main culprit, even if we only have anecdotal evidence to support this argument.

From a numbers perspective, Buchnevich isn’t driving the possession game like he was under AV. It’s very early, but Buch is still in the bottom ranking of Blueshirts’ forwards with a 42.11% CF%, 40.74% SCF%, and a 40.85 xGF%. It’s not like Buch is getting crushed by on-ice SH% either, as the team has been shooting at 7.41% (average) with him on the ice. Simply put, Buchnevich is struggling.

There are a few things at play here. First is the obvious: Buchnevich isn’t going to improve if he isn’t playing. However playing time is earned, and at the very least Quinn has shown that he will bench veterans as well…for now. But when Buchnevich is playing, he’s been on the fourth line a bit more often lately. Cody McLeod isn’t really the best offensive dynamo to help ignite Buchnevich.

However there may be something more subtle at play here, and that’s Quinn’s play style preference. It appears that Quinn prefers more of a John Tortorella approach, with more aggressive and “blue collar” “get to the front of the net” style. That’s not Pavel Buchnevich, nor should he be shoe-horned into that role. Sometimes, giving your skill players the ability to create on their own is worth more than making them fit your system. Torts adjusted with Zach Werenski in Columbus, and it’s working there.

The best coaches work with their skill players to figure out what works offensively. For Quinn, he’s still learning, and as is Buchnevich. Figuring it out is in their best interest, for player, coach, and team. There’s no right or wrong yet, but Quinn should –at the very least– be looking to put Buchnevich in positions to succeed, while also teaching and helping him grow. It’s a fine line that has yet to be established.

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