The Ice Time Conundrum

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.

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  1. There’s no conundrum, just lack of forethought.

    They’ve already got them on the UFA clock, now you have to maximize development before being eligible for waivers.

    You tell the kids up front that they’re getting X amount of games in NYC, then they go to Hartford and expand on what they showed on Broadway. It’s not a demotion, it’s a rotation. Give them instruction, set goals for them and at the trade deadline those that achieved the goals come up and you clear room for them if they have done it.

  2. The conundrum is built in to any coach’s tenure. As soon as a coach is hired, they want to win to justify their hiring and preserve their future employment. So any niceties about developing youth instantly fall by the wayside, as soon as the coach’s team is down 2 goals heading into the 3rd period.

    Coaches are selfish people with massive egos. Every one of them is equal parts BS and salesmanship when looking to be hired. All of them—every last one of them—coach to the scoreboard of the game that they’re in. There’s no longterm plans with these guys, their average tenures don’t last long enough. Quinn’s behavior towards the supposed goals of this season is unsurprising.

  3. For the most part, DQ has been reasonably good at giving ice time to the kids. I would like to see more time for Anderson, ADA, Pionk, and Freddy C on defense. Chytle is an example of what can happen when you play a kid, giving him enough ice time to feel good about himself, and skate with decent players, not stiffs. Fillip is now being put in a position of succeeding, which worked wonders for the kid.

    My only bone of contention is why are some of the older players getting so much ice time if they are on the clock, and will be traded in the not too distant future? Mc Quade, Mc Cloud, Staal, even Zucc are not in the future plans. I love Zucc, but everyone can see that he has lost a step, or two, and maybe desire knowing what the plans may well be. He could be rotated in, and out of the lineup, so his skills don’t rust too much, and yet giving a kid more time to show what he can do.

    Last, but not least, Hank should be rotated some as well. I want the man on this team for as long as he wants to stay, and in a season where we really are not contenders, why not play Geogiev, instead of sending the kid down to the AHL so he can get some playing time. That seems to be counter productive to me!!!!!

  4. I think any thoughts that coach Quinn is falling short over his development imperative assumes that , as you stated, that the new guys should be given more ice time game in and game out so they can learn and make mistakes. I think the coach is doing an excellent job. Quinn also stressed accountability and I never heard him imply that winning wasn’t the goal every night. Do you think that giving the rookies 6 more minutes of ice will make a greatly add to their development. You learn by watching, listening and performing. Feedback is important and by all accounts Quinn provides that to everyone. I’m sure he would like to give the rookies more ice time and at times may miss them based on the situation and how they are doing on any given night. Quinn has several imperatives and all are equal. Don’t think you can say development trumps, accountability, the desire to win and putting players in situations that can produce positive results. At this point I don’t see coach Quinn is falling short in any area.

  5. The issue is not with Quinn, the issue is with the Rangers’ FO. Some want long term development and others want to make the playoffs this year. So, as I suspected, they’re all NOT on the same page.

    So this causes a big problem. The coach would give the young players and preach patience as long as he knows that the results (wins) don’t matter and his job is secure. But if he’s getting conflicting direction from the FO, then guess what? He’s going to try and win games to save his job, and hinder the development of the younger players.

    I’ve said it many times. For all the financial resources the Rangers have, they have a dumbass, meddling owner, that likes to keep his “friends” around. So if Jimmy Boy Dolan likes you, then you have a job for life. Sather and Clark should be put out to pasture, not given more power. They are old fools who still think that having Cody McLeod in the line up is the right thing to do.

    So while those 2 idiots are running the show, AND tying Gorton’s hands, this team has no real direction. I worry about Gorton not liking the situation and bolting at some point.

    1. Sorry to disagree with you but DQ is the problem.
      1 He likes Fasth who has 1 goal and 6 assists in 20 games and likes to put him on the top line. Stupid!
      2 He likes Cody 0 goals and 0 Assists 14 games! Giant anchor with whom ever he plays with and everyone suffers on his lines, STUPID, STUPID, STUPID….
      3 He likes to play with 3 lines! Very Stupid.

      1. I don’t know that the coach is the problem.

        If you get the ok from the FO that the most important thing is player development, then they are saying that the losses are acceptable.

        But if they are saying that they want to make the playoffs, then how does that not influence the line up on a game by game basis, and the minutes distributed to the players during the games?

  6. Quinn is developing young players in part by making them earn ice time. You may like this method or not, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that these kids are being done a disservice yet. So far, he’s pressed the right buttons. Unquestionably, several players have improved after being benched. Quinn wants tenacity and effort, and a fight for ice time can help foster those qualities in a team. It looks like Chytl, so far, has improved with a balanced combination of accountability and trust from Quinn. The same can be said of Howden, DeAngelo, Names, Shatty, Buch. Be patient with Anderson. He will get his chance, it will be earned, and he will be a better player for it.

    1. Agree 100%.
      The writer does a nice little blog that we enjoy reading. Nothing more, nothing less. When the blogger actually starts taking himself so seriously that he feels he knows what to do more than professional NHL front offices/coaching staffs, then we all need to take a deep breath. It is childish to really start believing your own BS. Real world business, professional sports, and life are a whole lot more complex than many people realize. They do not understand the nuances of decision making.a

      I am sure people will jump down my throat but it is pure folly to truly think you have all the answers sitting in your home doing a blog for an NHL team. Love the site but let’s try to keep it real. You are not a GM.

  7. what exactly is the problem so far? chytil is on the top line. howden is anchoring the third line with 11 points in 19 games. lias is on the fourth line but that’s what he has shown to be (remember pierre draft night). have you seen anything that resembles the ability to replace hayes or zib, as some have suggested ? So quinn is reacting to what the players do. you don’t just throw guys out there because of where they were picked . if anything the knock is on management for taking that type of player so early – that creates this “conundrum”. (you could see this coming from a mile away).

    1. When you are hired to “develop youth” and instead hand ice time to McLeod, McQuaid and the like while sending Lias to Connecticut—yeah, there’s cause for concern. At least of late Quinn is playing DeAngelo and Pionk every game.

      Understandable why Hayes plays a lot—he’s a multisituational player who they’re looking to trade. Zucc as well. But to me Quinn is trying to make the playoffs first, and that’s a really questionable longterm strategy that seems to contradict the public statements of the Ranger front office.

      1. “develop youth” isn’t gonna teach raw talent. that’s a misconception. but it can teach players how to be stiffer along the walls and position themselves better for winning puck battles. so if you thought he was can turn lias into Tavares… well sorry to ruin spoil your morning oatmeal.

        1. “Stiffer along the walls”? What does that even mean? And how is that accomplished by Quinn? What exactly goes into “being tougher” except a coach saying “toughen up”? If that’s how you view coaches developing players it’s no wonder you’ve got no eye for talent.

          This whole concept of player development—it’s not news, this is supposedly a strength of the Boston boy behind the bench, and one of the primary reasons he was hired by NYR. Imagine being hired for something because you allegedly have a skill set that you’ve convinced people you have, and then running away from those skills that got you hired as fast as you can. Is that really doing the job you were hired to do? Maybe in your world, but not mine.

    2. I want to see how this place reacts when Hayes gets resign. I have read enough quotes from everyone who’s apart of the FO
      and they seem to be on the same page of wanting and expecting to resign him.

      I’m still wondering where those people heard about Lias having top 6 center potential where at? It certainly wasn’t on draft night. If there was an example of a awkward pause than I suggest someone to go rewatch that part of the draft. NYR supposedly wanted 2 other people before him but they got picked. I see this Fogarty promotion as a threat to Andersson if Quinn takes a liking to him and uses his ability on the 4c and a member of the PK.

      1. What up, HayesBot? Feeling the pinch of yet another center on the roster? Don’t worry, Hayes will fit right in wherever he ends up, after all he’s the best 49-point player the NHL has ever seen!

  8. Article kinds of brings me back to my coaching years, where the parents would complain because I wasn’t giving their little Jonny enough playing time.
    Btw if any of the Ranger young guns should be given more playing time it should be Howden. He is the complete package.

  9. Did Brett Howden just fall off the face of the earth, or don’t you include him among our development projects? I think his performance has been a major factor affecting other players’ ice time, especially Andersson’s. I may be in the minority, but I already see Howden replacing Andersson as the top young 2 way center on the team. The fact remains, we have five centers competing for four slots, and Andersson isn’t in the top four.

    1. Maybe long term we have 5 centers competing, but right now it’s 4 since Chytil isn’t being moved off the wing as long as he’s producing.

  10. I’ll bring the cheese, you all can bring the whine.

    I don’t want to engage in a grievance fest every single time the coach doesn’t follow MY plan for the team/player. Sure, eventually my grievance tolerance will overflow (coaches have a specified shelf life), but we’re 20 games in (1/4 of a season) and already the complaint line is out the door and around the corner. Oh why oh why isn’t the coach following MY plan for the rebuild?!

    We sit safely and ignorantly behind a computer and wax on poetically (some not so poetically) about what should and shouldn’t be done while the coach is in the belly of the beast observing first hand the demeanor, attitude and character of each player. I would certainly hope he has a better understanding of what’s going on with the team and with each individual player, so for a time I suggest we leave him alone to work with his charges — eventually we’ll see the fruit of his labors … eventually we’ll come to understand whether his approach for developing these particular younger players was right or wrong. But for now we need to chill, relax and observe. Time will reveal whether or not Quinn has the right approach to developing our young talent.

  11. i think the FO should get going on moving some of the vets that are not fitting in and just blocking the kids. im liking the coach if there is no effort he sits them.

  12. Is this a good time to point out for all the @Henrik Lovers@, that the “Better than Lundqvist” Cam Talbot has been benched and is now the badkup goalie in Edmonton?

    1. Nicely done—was gonna mention this too. And Antti Raanta is hurt inside of the first 20 games of the season again. Strange how that happens, huh?

    2. Is this a good time to point out that Talbot doesn’t have Benny to coach him anymore (going on 2+ years)? That might have something to do with his performance degrading over time …

      Mancunian, re: Raanta … there’s no denying though that when he’s playing Raanta’s numbers have been better than Hank’s. He’s sported about a .930 save percentage over the past season and a half (56 games), Hank is down around .916 in 79 games. That said, I never suggested Raanta should be retained over Hank, I like things just as they are with Georgiev as his backup and with Shesterkin waiting in the wings. Trading Raanta and Talbot were smart moves, trading non-essential players from a position of strength (we had Shesterkin, Wall and Huska as prospects at the time).

      1. My point to anyone who brings up Raanta as a counter to Henrik is that Raanta cannot stay healthy, and that durability is one of the many qualities that Henrik Lundqvist possesses. It’s why Raanta’s not a true NHL starter no matter what his SV% is: whatever team he’s on will need 35-45 starts out of their backup. That’s not #1 material. 14 seasons as a #1 goalie is much harder than most Ranger fans seem to understand it to be.

        And I’d say that the wear and tear on Talbot after his marathon 73-start season in 2016-17 and subsequent immediate nosedive has more to do with his plummeting career track than losing access to a goalie coach.

        1. Except Raanta doesn’t have a career history of getting hurt. Yes, in the last 2 seasons he’s had injury issues but that wouldn’t have labeled him as injury prone prior to his trade.

          1. Raanta was injured as a Ranger in 2017, and yes, being injured 2 years in a row in his first 2 seasons as starter in Arizona does indicate a troubling injury history. That’s 3 years injured in a row in all. That’s definitely enough to consider Raanta injury-prone, in my opinion.

  13. I think Quinn is doing a fine job developing the youngsters so far. Saying he wants to win and trying to win isn’t a bad thing…not when the younger players like Churtle (heh) Howden Pionk and DeAngelo are getting plenty of ice time for where they are on a team and NHL level. Even Anderson is getting minutes. The key thing here is they are EARNING what they get while playing on a team that is winning for a coach that places emphasis on being a winner.

    If I’m a kid, if the team is winning and I am earning more ice team and getting put in tougher positions and I succeed, I’m feeling pretty dang good about myself. Being young a top line forward on a loser like Buffalo only gives young guys more ice time in what is a losing culture. Giving these young players the chance to earn time and succeed on a winner does a lot towards developing the type of player that will succeed later. Getting an extra 3 to 5 minutes a night on a loser isn’t going to do nearly as much for their development.

  14. DQ is doing what he needs to do to keep his job. But not doing the job he promised to do.

    Trying to make the playoffs this year is a fools errand.

    He is fielding the lineup that gives him the best chance to win today but not win tomorrow.

    Typical stuff.

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