Moving Brett Howden to the wing could be the right move

It is no secret that the center position has significantly more responsibility in the defensive zone than the wingers. This holds especially true for David Quinn’s Rangers, as he uses a simple 2-1-2 DZ scheme, or at least that’s what I saw through most of the year. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him change that up with an upgraded RD across the board. But that’s a whole other topic for another day.

Under Quinn, the center is expected to play the high slot in the defensive zone. He is responsible for reading the play, reading the coverage, and adjusting accordingly. There is significantly more responsibility for the center under Quinn than under Alain Vigneault. Which brings us to Brett Howden, who struggled mightily across the board, but mostly in the defensive zone.

This shows us how many shots came from high danger areas while Howden was on the ice. Now of course this isn’t all on him, but it’s worth noting that that giant amorphous blob of red covers a good amount of his responsible areas in the DZ. Suffice it to say, he wasn’t doing a good job in the defensive zone. That’s ok though. It was a rough rookie season.

To take some of the pressure off of Howden, it might make sense to move him to wing, where his defensive responsibilities are limited. His role would be to cover the points and cover his defenseman sneaking in. He’s a good skater, and he might be in a better position to trap a pinching defenseman and transition better than he has in the past. It allows Howden to transition to the NHL with less on his mind, allowing his offensive creativity to take over.

Also worth noting is that if the Rangers are truly set on Filip Chytil as the 2C and Lias Andersson as the 3C, they might want to get more playing time for Howden in the top-nine. He can always shift back if someone falters or once he has gained enough confidence back after an abysmal November through April. An added perk is that the Blueshirts may wind up short a winger or two if/when they dump a forward, and if one of the rookies needs a month or two in the AHL.

The name of the game this year is growth and development. The shift from center to wing is a relatively easy one to make, and one that promotes confidence and an easier transition to the NHL game. With Howden’s struggles last season, this move might be in line with getting him back on track.

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  • “… if the Rangers are truly set on Filip Chytil as the 2C and Lias Andersson as the 3C…” did I miss the Rangers announcement on this? I feel like this has been said a lot, but I didn’t realize it was such a foregone conclusion. Not that arguing with the article, just noticed this assumption a lot.

    • I wouldn’t mind moving Howden to the wing. I’d like to think he is closer to the player that got off to a hot start the 1st month of the season and less like the guy that struggled the rest of the way.
      We win in this league by being strong up front down the middle and on the back end. Wingers IMO can be filled in with a patchwork mix of veteran players and your young prospects from within the organization.
      I still think this team needs to find that stud centerman or those 4 centerman that can all chip in and control possession. You win that way by forcing the opposition to use their top 4 defenseman more than they’d like and getting better matchups for top 6.

  • There is alot of work for the FO to get done to make room for Howden in Top 9.

    Assuming we get cap compliant by moving a highpriced DMan and Trading one of Names/Strome we have Bread/Zib/Buch, CK/Chytil/Kakko, Names or Strome/Lias/Kravs.

    Id prefer they let him work on his C with guys like Fast and Lemieux (2 strong defensive forwards) on the 4th line. We dont have a lot of Fwd depth in our system, cut we especially do not have Center depth…especially if Names and/or Strome are gone by seasons end.

    • DQ will have to maneuver based on what players he has. We don’t know what the team will look like in 50 days. Howden at wing may be the case, but we just don’t know yet. I like him at 4C.

  • I hate that you can’t edit comments after a few minutes. But on a related note, from the other article about Lias, there’s about 350 minutes of difference, but he’s only a – 17% in the d zone. So… Howden was definitely not better despite the eye test.

  • “The shift from center to wing is a relatively easy one to make, and one that promotes confidence and an easier transition to the NHL game.”

    The move suggested may well be what is needed for the best interest of the team, with it’s current roster. Just think about this for a moment, we trade both Names, and Strome, or possibly Buch, (which I’m against), he is the best option until we replace the wings with better people. Howden can be replaced with Boo on the 4th line, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Time will tell folks, this is nothing but an exchange of ideas, and or what if’s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Chytil and Anderson’s development as Centers is critical this season, otherwise we have some serious question marks and depth issues down the middle. In defense of Howden’s stats, both the makeup of defenders and the allowance of zone entry would kill anyone’s stats. I look forward to seeing who we get rid of on the blue line, who Panarin’s partners are, and how the rookies slot in. It will be a fun season to watch.

    • Jrrangersdad

      The obvious question is who came up with that ridiculous defensive scheme????????

      That also has to be a primary issue that needs attention this season………………..

      • Yet we still have Lindy Ruff coaching the defense. I can see leaving him there last year as DQ needed to learn how to be an NHL coach, but he is still there, creating defensive schemes that we play poorly.

      • I can’t believe what I am reading. Everyone is jacked up over the signing of Bread and the acquisition of Trouba. Together they will eat up almost 20 million in capspace. They join a group of overpaid underachievers Smith, Staal, Shatty, Names and Lundqvist to create the Nation’s most expensive country club.

        The problem with this franchise is not Howden, Andersson or Chytil. These are young players who are adapting to playing in the NHL and this will take time. The problem with the Rangers is they are more preoccupied with marketing and selling jerseys with the big name on the back then they are putting a winning team on the ice.

      • The Defensive scheme was approved by the head coach whom deserves all the blame or credit. If the scheme was to get the best pick possible, then having Ruff sabotage the defense, that would be Genius. Its about time people start analyzing the decisions the coaches made during last season. I am sure most won’t because you like the guy. So he gets a pass like Fast.

        Ruff should coach the AHL league because we are in need of a coach then again maybe not.

      • Walt, Maybe Genius is on to something. It’s hard to imagine DQ ran the same type of defense in college so perhaps there is some level of truth in making sure our compete level (standings) weren’t too high. The defensive strategy would need DQ’s signoff so I think front office was involved with that decision. With the recent additions they now have no choice but to roll out our most competitive lineup and strategy.

        I don’t care which line Panarin is on but they will need to keep him and Kreider on separate lines in order to help create space (for different reasons) for both lines. Kreider stretches the defense while Panarin helps space opponents Defensemen in the Rangers offensive zone. I’d start off with Panarin Miko and Kakko. I just think Chytil and Kreider need more of a distributor in Buch (over Kakko). If Keider moves to 1st line with Miko then Buch goes with him and you have Chytil, Panarin, an Kappo. Actually I don’t mind either scenario as it will make decisions difficult for opposing coaches.

        And don’t be surprised if the 3rd line gets less time than a 4th line that includes Lemieux and Fast. I am just not confident that the 3rd line will have chemistry to be dangerous offensively thus the 4th line getting more defensive assignments. Just my gut!

        • jrrangersdad

          Good points, but I have to hope your wrong about the 4th line getting more time than the 3rd. Kravtson will be on the third, unless Buch is traded, and I’d hate to see him denied playing time. I suspect he will be the surprise of the season for this team!!!!!!!!

  • Why does Lias get treated like Cinderella and Howden gets treated like the ugly step sister? No one here can say Lias has done enough to even make the roster. He might not even be the 1C in Hartford

    • A couple reasons: 1) he was drafted by the rangers, 2) he was sold to us as someone who has intangibles which the blue collar in all of us likes, and 3) he is now considered an underdog because of how down many of us (not I) are on him at this early juncture.

      If Howden shows us a stronger game (in both bulk/size and durability) this season, he will have more Rangers fans behind him.

        • Lias and Brett have much different ceilings projected so its unfair to compare Boo who I actually like (my kids have been at clinics he has helped with). You may have just listed note reason 4) TB trade, which a good majority of us fans weren’t huge fans of (for different reasons).

  • Brett Howden is just not that good. He showed early quality, which quickly disintegrated. He is the type of player you throw into a Shatty or Smith deal to make their Cap hit go away. At this point, Boo is a better option at 4C. –

    In fact I wouldn’t mind seeing Lias AND Howden gone if we can trade Shatty and his Cap hit. We have a real Cap problem and cannot find anyone to trade with. Shatty seems like a necessary buyout and Smith will spend time in the AHL. Maybe if we include some of these “assets” we can make the deal. Gorton has about 10 days to bring in a Trouba and Buch contract or make a trade that will allow us to be Cap compliant. I do not envy the position he is in, but he needs to start thinking about including some of his 2nd and 3rd year players. – How is it that no one is interested in Strome or Namesnikov? It cannot be our asking price, as Gorton has to be giving them away. CAP hell here we come.

    I saw an article where 10 of the kids on this team make up about 12% of the CAP, while the defense alone will eat ~45% (not counting Hank). These bad deals stick around forever. Can’t we try to talk Staal into retiring? We are really in a very tough position – and Howden has got to go.

  • At some point, you need to let all the young centers play center, or none of them will be developed the right way. You can’t just keep moving them to wing. We’re not even pursuing centers since we have them, and now we can’t seem to just let them play their natural position. We assume Chytil can be 2C, but really who knows? We should have a decent idea by now. But he did not get consistent time developing as a center last season.

    I still believe either Lias or Howden should be spending at least some time in Hartford…probably both. If you’re worried about their ice-time, then they should be down there DE-VEL-O-PING.

    We shouldn’t pursue centers since we have three kids. But they’re not that ready to play center in the NHL. But we should keep them up here, ya know, so they can learn to play center. But they also need ice-time. So we should keep them up here and move them to wing so they get some NHL experience. They’ll get some experience, but not the experience they will need to be able to play center in the NHL (see Chytil). Geeesh! This is how you botch prospects.

    They should really be 1C and 2C in Hartford. Or have just one here and shuffle them back and forth when the other gets cold. But make a decision on their position already and develop them the right way.

    • Chris – great observation. I don’t see the logic of Dave’s point about moving Howden to wing to take the pressure off him defensively, but moving him back if LIas fails at 3C. How is Howden going to improve defensively at center if he doesn’t play center? It’s not like Lias or Howden project to be quality wingers. They will likely either make it as middle 6 centers or they won’t make it at all. Also this is probably the last year where development is prioritized over results as we should be ready to compete the following season. This is the season to figure out where all the prospects appear to be heading.

      Let Howden and Lias battle it out in preseason for the spot and let the loser play 4C or go to Hartford as a 1C.

  • Lias hasn’t even shown that he is an NHL level hockey player yet. If his name was Joe Smith and he was a 2/3 round pick, everyone would be alarmed at the fact thtat he played as many games as he did without doing a damn thing in any of them.

    You can’t even compare Howden to Lias so far in their careers. Before injuries and rookie fatigue set in on Howden, he was one of the 10 best rookies in the league.

    • In 3 years if Lias continues to show what he has so far in his career, he will be back in the SHL. The dude is famous and has perceived leadership qualities because he threw his medal into the stands? BFD! He also scored two of his 3 goals with his ass. Not trying to dump on the kid. Just stating the truth. He was a brutally bad pick. Thank god we got Kakko to forget this disaster of a pick.

  • I know it is tough on the fans to wait for some of the kids to develop. But unless they are other wordly talents like Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews, 19 – 21 year old players generally need some time to blossom. It is too early in my opinion to give up on Brett Howden or Lias Andersson or Filip Chytl. Lets see what they do this season. If two of the three come into their own, then that is a home run in my book. If all three do, it is a hat trick. If only one does, then you might need to start looking for other options.

    I know people want this team to make the playoffs, but right now what is most important is developing the young talent they have on the roster and with the addition of Kravstov and Kakko and Fox, they have a lot of kids on that roster. Some of that deelopment will happen at the NHL level, some in the AHL. But the team is probably at least a year away from being more than a bubble team.

    • 100% right. We may be the youngest team in the league next year depending on whether some of the dead wood can get moved out. What young team goes all the way. We should use this year primarily for development and evaluation and to position ourselves for the great leap forward starting 20-21. Plus – this team should be very entertaining so that should enough for those who struggle to wait. We have only missed the playoffs for 2 seasons – some teams go over a decade. THE FUTURE WILL BE OURS!

  • I just can’t over how some of you are willing to bury quality prospects (Lias, Howden, etc.) in a heartbeat if they don’t measure up right away to your preconceptions/expectations. Take a deep breath, step back and allow them the time to fail or succeed instead of declaring them dead after a season or two.

    Re: Howden, he didn’t have “… an abysmal November through April” Dave. He started the season off pretty well for a rookie and finished the season off better than the time sandwiched in the middle.

    • Everybody leaves out Howden came from Juniors to a bad team….and at least he showed flashes of his ability…Lias played with Men in Sweden ans then here in Hrtford

      • What does coming from juniors mean? Howden is 1.5 years older than Lias. What league they came from, regardless of stature, is in the rear view mirror now. Most peoples opinions are based on what we have seen of them in the NHL with some additional subjective influences sprinkled on top that I mentioned in an earlier post.

        • sorry, 7 months older. Either way they already have a NHL sample size to gauge first impressions, not predict future output.

          • I never said anything in any posts that suggests I think Lias is better than Howden or vice versa for that matter. Someone asked why some fans seem to like Lias more. I gave them some likely reasons. I doubt that the majority think Lias is better at this juncture. It seems more likely they are just pulling for him more to succeed over Howden.

            In my opinion neither have shown anything at this stage to suggest either has a ceiling of more than a solid 3rd line player. The one caveat is that they are still very young. Lias will need to pick up his offense while both improve defensively (though more so for Howden). I do think Lias is less of an injury risk as well. Howden needs 15-20 more pounds on him to survive under DQ’s punishing system/expectations. Lias has those 20lbs (on him) in a frame that is 4 inches smaller.

          • Everybody should be pulling for both of them. This isn’t a 0 sum game and yet that’s how some people seem to view it.

    • What’s even worse is that most of these opinions are, for the most part, worthless. No one knows what Howden, LIas, Chytil even Kratsov will be like in 3 or 4 years. Some may be busts and some may turn out better than anticipated. The only prospect that is close to a sure thing is Kaapo. A look at the top 10 draft picks over the past 10 years shows how uncertain even top prospects futures are, plenty of out right busts.

      • I don’t see a BUST in that group to be honest. They’ll all going to be NHL players … to what degree only time can answer that.

        • I don’t SEE a bust in the group either. But my point is we don’t know. And in fact taking any 4 prospects it is pretty safe to assume that at least one will never develop as everyone thinks they will. Go back to any list of NHL draftees from say pick # 8 on for ten years. You will be surprised to see how many never made it.

          • Oh I wouldn’t be surprised if 2 out of the 4 don’t develop as thought, but I still think they’ll all “make it”.

          • Agree but that definition of “making it” is of great value to the player, but of little value to the team. Most highly regarded prospects get to kick around in the league for at least 5 years if they are borderline.

        • Breadman, Kreider, Chytil, Kratsov, Kaapo and Buchnevich should stay. Clear cap space with rest of forwards, and other then Trouba, defensemen.

  • Hopefully the Rangers have learned their financial lessons with long term deals. That said I have no problem with Panarin because he is truly elite. Unfortunately I can’t say the say for Trouba but that has more to do with my lack of exposure to him. But don’t forget – he will be expecting far more and for longer than Shattenkirk, Staal and Smith did – so eyes open.

    Besides being a sniper – Panarin is a terrific playmaker. I hope they combine him with someone that can finish. Nice to find someone other than Mika but what a combo they would be…..

    I have great hopes for Lemieux; besides being a grinder – he has an uncanny ability to put the puck where he wants it!

  • Brett Howden should be given a chance to compete for 3C, not Lias Andersson.
    Howden showed a lot more than Andersson, he certainly has a high ceiling than Andersson.
    So far, Lias Andersson is a bust, the kid has no tools.

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