Preseason

Thoughts following the Rangers’ final roster cuts

Thoughts following the NY Rangers final roster cuts

The Rangers and David Quinn finalized their roster for the October 3 opener against Winnipeg, and suffice it to say there was some controversy regarding the decisions. Regardless of who made the cut for this Thursday, we know the roster is a fluid situation, but as per usual I have some thoughts. There’s nothing alarming either.

1. Let’s go player by player, starting with Ryan Strome. Strome solidified the 2C spot about halfway through the preseason when he was lined up with Chris Kreider and Kaapo Kakko for a game, and then that trio stuck for the rest of the preseason. Strome getting the 2C spot isn’t a surprise to me or anyone, since the competition was really between him and Filip Chytil for that spot. Chytil struggled, and Strome got it by default. I will be absolutely stunned if he remains there all year, and it will be a sign of development problems for Chytil if he does.

2. Transitioning to Chytil, that 2C spot was likely his to lose to start preseason, and lost it he did. It’s not that he had a terrible camp, it just wasn’t good enough to warrant a 2C spot. There’s a valid argument that he will learn more playing with Kreider and Kakko, but the counterpoint is that he will also learn playing top line minutes in Hartford. Once Lias Andersson solidified himself as the 3C with an excellent preseason, the writing was on the wall. He will be back up before the end of the 2019 calendar year, if not sooner. Remember, the schedule played a role.

3. On to Andersson, he had the strongest preseason of the kids (and Strome). He worked his butt off this summer, focusing on his skating, and it paid off. He may not be a prolific point scorer, which is viewed as a disappointment by many for a seventh overall pick, but he’s likely going to hit that middle-six, two-way center floor most had him pegged for. His ceiling is still the 2C spot, and he’s a dark horse for that role. He outplayed Brett Howden by miles, and has already earned his spot on the to penalty killing unit.

4. Now to Howden, his struggles away from the puck continued, and that’s why he was barely given a game for a top-nine spot. He slots in as the 4C, or at least he should since Andersson, as mentioned, Andersson skated circles around him in the preseason. Of all the roster decisions that matter going forward, Howden’s usage is the one I am keeping an eye on, especially when compared to Lias. Howden had that flash last season, but has been terrible since. The only way to go is up for him, and 4C minutes is a good way to transition him into a full time NHLer. Hopefully.

5. With Andersson, Strome, Vlad Namestnikov, and Brendan Lemieux seemingly playing top-nine roles, the roster was getting crowded for skilled guys like Chytil and Vitali Kravtsov. The issue is that the Rangers want to ensure they get their minutes, and fourth line minutes in the NHL for two potential offensive dynamos won’t cut it. This is why both were “surprise cuts” from camp. They simply need ice time.

6. The battle for the 12/13F spots was an interesting one. It was a three way battle between Micheal Haley, Boo Nieves, and Greg McKegg. In the end, Nieves was waived and Haley earned his spot as the 13F. McKegg had an excellent camp and is going in as the 12F. For me, the difference between Haley and Nieves is negligible, and the cap situation is a wash for both. Haley’s spot as the 13F had no impact on Chytil, Kravtsov, or others being cut. Only Nieves. I don’t really think Haley is a positive asset on the ice, but this isn’t the move I lose sleep over.

7. The blue line played out almost exactly as everyone predicted, with the final spot coming down to Brendan Smith vs. Ryan Lindgren. Since the cap situation was again going to be close to a wash with Smith or Lindgren, it came down to development. Smith is best served as a 7D or 13/14F, and can take that role without sacrificing Lindgren’s development time. It also helps that Smith can play both defense and forward, giving the Rangers options.

8. A lot of discussion was made about the schedule and how the Rangers can increase their cap accumulations by keeping 20 players on the roster on non-game days. That would require paperwork transactions in sending down (most likely) Andersson and Adam Fox. While that isn’t happening leading up to the October 3 opener, the Rangers may still do this with one player, knocking the roster down to 20 in those off days. I’m unsure what the implications of this are, in regards to players practicing at the NHL level vs. the AHL level, though.

9. I’d be remiss not to mention the culture and old time hockey notion that your top three lines need to be skill lines while your fourth line needs to be a grinding, shut down line. Hockey is shifting away from this, and it will be the counterpoint to all these decisions to keep Haley and send down Chytil/Kravtsov. However the ice time piece still comes into play here. You win by playing your best players, so you want to play your top-six as much as possible. If the organization doesn’t have the skill depth of players like McKegg to round out the bottom line, then you wind up with this Haley situation. This is a rebuild. I’m not overly concerned with this right now. However if the same decisions are made when the Rangers are competing for a Cup, then yes I will be concerned.

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27 Comments

  1. Don’t have a problem with the final roster and as the season progresses; we’ll see some players being replaced based on production. Still believe that both Chytil/Kravtsov will come up and contribute down the stretch.

  2. Thanks Dave for a well thought out (because I agree) summation of where the Rangers are at as the season begins. Excellent job by Quinn/Gorton from the standpoint of player development., which is still job # 1.

    And further agree that Howden is the biggest question mark. Has not really earned his spot but got it by default when Chytil failed to impress and needed more time in Hartford. The center position is our biggest question mark and I’d be surprised if there aren’t mid-season changes, as play dictates.

    Also agree that the 13F/14F consternation is so overdone. Those guys will play or not as needed. No issues with the ice time they get for development purposes, which is why Smith, McKegg and Haley are well suited for their roles.

    Let the games begin!

  3. i sense the venom over howden being there … i think the nyr have 3rd line A and 3rd line B. (or if you will, 4th line A and 4th line B.) so i wouldn’t get so bent out of shape which ‘line’ lias/howden are – im sure it will flip flop numerous times. “lias skating circles around howden” – i mean in terms of being an overall presence yes , but not like he was dangling guys out there. lets face it neither have 2c skill (presently shown anyway) and the org likely is aware of this.

  4. This all is a by product of the cap situation, and in due time the dust will settle. I also believe that it’s a wake up call for Chytil, get tough or stay down there. His game is too soft, and his battle is non existent, hence the move in my opinion. Let the season start, it’s been a long off season!!!!!!!!

    1. Agree 100%. For all Chytil’s talent he has been unproductive and shown zero improvement. It would have been coaching/management malpractice to promote him to 2C. He needed a wake up call that he has to change his approach significantly to make it in the NHL.

    2. I agree it’s a wake up call for Chytil, though I take DQ’s comments as earnest about observers overstating things while wringing their hands about how worrisome it is to send a 20 year old to the AHL. He still needs time. But, I disagree that Chytil played soft this preseason. He was noticeably more physical along the boards and willing to forecheck where he was hesitant in the past. It’s just that…he doesn’t seem to have a strong hockey sense yet, I guess? His movement without the puck is indecisive and not always purposeful. He appears to me to be watching a lot and reading play’s development a step slow. This strikes me as a developmental matter, one best served by weeks or a couple of months in Hartford. It’s hardly the worst thing.

  5. To me, the team is better with Chytil as a 3rd line wing and Names as the 4th line center with Howden in the AHL. Not sure that helps develop Chytil as a 2C, but sooner or later some one will conclude Chytil will never be a center.

    1. Chytil will never be a bottom 6 forward. He’ll never be a grinder. It’s 2C or bust.

  6. For the AHL/NHL send downs, the players have to actually show up to practice. I recall reading about it with Anaheim when they had guys yo-yo one year.

    1. Nothing explicit about it in the CBA, Coyotes just did 2 paper transactions this week.

      A player can’t be taken off the active roster if he has played, practiced or traveled with the team before 5pm daily deadline, but once off the roster they can do everything but play.

      I could see them going 18&2 except for the Friday before the EDM matinee, then back to it until the 17th.

  7. I know that the Chytil cut was the most dramatic, but I think that anyone who watched all the pre-season games could see it coming. The kid was not impressive. That is unfortunate because he has the talent to be very impressive. So I tend to believe that some hard work in Hartford will be very helpful. He has to talent to be their 2C, but he has to learn to be one first. I think putting him on the wing would be wasting the opportunity for him to become that center that he has th tools to be.

    Although Howden can use work too, I guess Chytil being sent down meant Howden had to stay. I like that kid too and hope he improves his game significantly. He apparently came to camp in good shape, so that is a start.

    1. “I guess Chytil being sent down meant Howden had to stay.”

      I don’t think so. There is no reason the Rangers could not have kept Nieves inatead. In a sense, it was tactically better as Nieves makes less money and they could avoid asking waivers on him. It seems clear that Howden was kept because that is what management thought was the best way to develop and/or utilize him – he’s here because the Rangers want him here, not because they had no choice.

  8. Not sure what the problem is with all of you supposed hockey fans who all of a sudden think a guy who protects the stars isn’t needed anymore. I’m not crazy about it but don’t object to it as long as it’s not 2-3 guys. This is still a ruff sport and has a lot of headhunters in it. So for me I want a guy who will step up when one of our stars get hit. THAT’S HOCKEY! I for one like the N.H.L. more than the K.H.L. Plus I’m not ashamed to say I like to see a good hockey fight every now and then. I’m following this sport for 58 years and know you need an enforcer to protect your players.

  9. Strom as a 2nd line center – spells trouble, they had to give Chytil time to adapt with responsibility….. no PO this season, sorry ny rangers fun brothers

    1. They’re giving him that time AND responsibility in Hartford. How much do you think playing with Chytil in the NHL would benefit Kakko, who would be his line mate? The NHL is not a development league, and he’s better off playing in the AHL until he gets his act together.

  10. I still believe that Kravs earned a spot on the roster over Howden — until you put a player into an NHL game you’ll never know just how well they will perform. I watched Kravs closely, he got better with each game, he made a serious attempt to play a 200′ game … he wasn’t “lost” out there, he’s smart and his skill is through the roof. I think he would have benefited from 2 weeks up with the big club practicing and playing a couple of games in a 3rd line role. Let that be his “audition” for staying with the big club or being sent down for more seasoning — I think he earned that. With regard to Howden it would have been a wake up call, just like it is for Chytil … and he needs it.

    1. Force feeding these young prospects on the big team is the exact wrong move, and probably explains why Chytil and Howden have shown little improvement so far. Lias probably benefited from his time in Hartford last season.

      I trust that Quinn/Gorton will make the right decisions and continue to learn from their mistakes, vs. those in the fan base with their preconceived notions and belief that thay know best viewing from miles away.

      1. There is no forcing, he was better in camp than a good number of players — not just 1 or 2.

        1. Yes but his future ceiling is way higher than the majority of the team. I believe JG/Quinn are thinking long term with as they should.

    2. A 19 year old hockey player does not earn anything in one month of camp and maybe an hour of ice time in preseason games. Phrases like a “a serious attempt” “got better with each game” “skill is through the roof” are not used with complete players. And this is not an audition. When it comes to Kravtsov, the Rangers are thinking when, not if.

      And the notion that you can’t tell what will happen until you see him in a game is an assumption about the intellectual skills of other people. There are hockey people who are way smarter than you or I (pertaining to hockey matters).

      In a sense, the goal here is to give Vitali Kravtsov a HOF career. (It isn’t to get him to NY ASAP.) The Rangers (and I incidentally) see this as the best route to that goal.

      1. Ray he beat out a slew of players who made the team … and it isn’t just about his offensive capabilities, he’s doing a lot of the little things right as well. I believe Howden was the one who should have gone down even if it was just to give him a wake up call — his play was very mediocre through the whole camp.

        Re: “And the notion that you can’t tell what will happen until you see him in a game is an assumption about the intellectual skills of other people. There are hockey people who are way smarter than you or I (pertaining to hockey matters).” I have a background in the sport, I know something of what I speak … that said we’ve all seen plenty of players that play well in the preseason and then look like duds in the regular season, or who play well in the regular season and look ineffectual in the playoffs. There are always players that surprise you when challenged, both in a good and bad way. Gorton and company have made errors in judgment before, as has DQ and certainly AV before him. I respect their experience and judgment, but that doesn’t mean they’re always right — just as sometimes two competing ideas about where to put a player can be right.

  11. Chytil needs to learn from Buch, I remember when he played soft and didn’t have that toughness playing inside the dots. Chytil needs to pick it up

    The way Buch was handled paid off, I hope it’s the same for Chytil too!

    Great Article, loads of info!

    It’s Here … If it’s not too much Trouba, I’ll have the Q2 & Kappo sandwich on that new BREAD please!

    LGR!!!!!!

  12. Actually, I think a lot happened on defense. Going in, there were questions. Were Hajek and Fox up to handling starting assignments in the NHL. Was Lindgren good enough to handle that important role as eight defenseman (injuries happen alas)? The Rangers brought in Joe Morrow and he did all he was asked to, showing himself a useful addition. The Rangers decided that they did not need him, i.e., the kids were up to their designated roles. Assuming they got things right, this is actually a very good sign indeed.

  13. On the subject of fourth line grinders, there Is one matter completely overlooked by modern metrics. Players actually have some impact on what happens when they are not on the ice. Playing against some players takes a physical toll, while other players are easy to play against. And that physical toll influences how well the affected players play in their other shifts. If you can get away with playing a tough fourth line against a Crosby or an Ovechkin or a McDavid, those players might not be as imposing during the rest of the game. Of course, if it is just fourth line vs. fourth line always, it doesn’t matter.

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