The Rangers are in the final stretch of a dismal season. They were surprisingly solid in October, and then fell off a cliff as the season progressed. It’s what we expected from this club, despite that 9-1-1 stretch early on. The Blueshirts blew any opportunity at finishing dead last with that run, but that was never really in the cards anyway, at least not with the forward group they had –before the deadline– and the goaltending. With single digit games remaining, these games are not meaningless to the players or the coaching staff. There are some experiments, some changes, and some gripes that I’d like to see as the season ends.
1. Filip Chytil at center
This is a big one. Chytil was drafted as a center, but was moved to wing early this year to help him stick in the NHL. With Mika Zibanejad solidified as the 1C for the immediate future, I’d like to see what Chytil can do back at center and see if he can earn 2C minutes next year. Otherwise the Rangers are going into the year with Ryan Strome as the 2C, since he’s the only other center right now that can consistently (somewhat) produce. Lias Andersson isn’t ready for that role. Ditto Brett Howden.
2. Middle-six minutes for Lias Andersson
This is another big one. I like that David Quinn is big on earning minutes. That instills good work ethic into the club. I don’t want that to change. I would, however, like to see Andersson get a chance with some legitimate NHL players. Six minutes a game with Connor Brickley isn’t going to cut it from a development standpoint. There is nothing to lose here. This kid was the 7th overall pick and is barely 20 years old, after all. At the very least, play him more than six minutes a game. That shouldn’t be too much to ask. He got 11 minutes last night with Brendan Lemieux and Brendan Smith, so that’s a start.
3. Give John Gilmour a legitimate chance
John Gilmour has lit up the AHL all year. Yet he was third in line for a defensive call up, behind both Ryan Lindgren and Libor Hajek. It’s understandable, as both Lindgren and Hajek were specifically targeted by Jeff Gorton at last year’s trade deadline and are a part of the Rangers’ future. Gilmour was beat out by Neal Pionk in camp before putting up 20 goals in the AHL. He deserves a chance to unseat the very bad Pionk. Give him powerplay time. He can’t be much worse than Pionk anyway. What is there to lose?
4. Give Neal Pionk a chance to succeed
Pionk had a strong start to the season on the score sheet. But when that dried up, holes in his game were front and center for quite some time. Compounding matters was DQ’s insistence that he play Pionk with Marc Staal for 20+ minutes a night against top lines and on the top penalty kill unit. Pionk struggled mightily. He’s not a top pairing defenseman. He might be a decent bottom pairing guy who moves the puck, but until he’s put in a role that best suits him, we will never know. He has not been put in a good spot.
5. Win or lose in regulation
Here’s a stat for you: The Rangers are last in the league with 22 regulation/OT wins. That’s worse than LA and Ottawa, the bottom feeders int he league this year. Kudos on the Rangers for having the fighting spirit to get to OT and duke it out with some solid teams. But boy those loser points are killing them. If even half of those games are regulation losses, the Blueshirts are bottom-three with an 11.5% chance of nabbing the top pick, and a 33.9% chance of staying in the top-three. Currently at 6th overall, the Blueshirts have a 7.5% chance of the top pick and a 23.3% chance of getting into the top-three. This goes up to 8.5% and 26.1% if Anaheim passes the Rangers. Every lottery ball counts when it’s Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko.