A story worth watching as the season progresses is Lias Andersson, his ice time, and how David Quinn uses his 3/4C. After having a strong preseason, the best among the non-Kakko kids, Andersson was supposedly looking at 3C duties with Brendan Lemieux and Vlad Namestnikov as his wingers. Fast forward through the first game, and Andersson was on the fourth line with Lemieux and Brendan Smith. His ice time: Just 8:33 total and just 1:29 in the third period. For comparison’s sake, Lemieux had 9:35 ice time and he doesn’t even play on the penalty kill.
As Larry Brooks noted, Quinn stated he doesn’t want to put the kids in a fourth line situation, yet after one game here we are with Andersson, repeating the same ice time as last year. If third line ice time wasn’t going to cut it for Filip Chytil or Brett Howden or Vitali Kravtsov, why does it work for Andersson? Especially when Brett Howden, who had a goal in 14 minutes of ice time, was objectively worse during camp and the preseason?
If, for Quinn, Howden is the 3C, that’s fine. Hopefully the kid turns around his game away from the puck in his second pro year. While Howden and Andersson will always be connected as they compete for that 3C role, this isn’t really about Howden and more about Quinn’s usage of Andersson. If the fourth line role isn’t suitable for the other kids, then why is it suitable for Andersson? How does that help him grow?
Another point, and one that is worth mentioning – in a game where the Rangers were absolutely caved in defensively to the tune of 47 shots against to 32 for (35-26 at even strength) and an xGF% of 37.12% to Winnipeg’s 62.88%, Andersson stood out as one of just four Rangers with a xGF% above 50%. He led the team with a 65.10 xGF% – he had a very strong game!
Don’t get me wrong, if there’s a legitimate reason –such as easing Andersson into regular NHL shifts due to some lingering whatever we aren’t being told about– then by all means, go for it! We won’t get that kind of information out of DQ though. These are simply questions that I have and likely won’t get answered, but something I am watching intently as the season progresses.
The counterpoint here is that it’s only been one game, and that is true. The counter-counterpoint is that this is a direct contradiction to preseason quotes from the coach and a lingering habit from last season.
There is a simple solution here too – one that ensures both Howden and Andersson get the third line ice time they both need. One that possibly helps Howden’s defensive liabilities while simultaneously (potentially) giving Andersson the offensive boost it looks like he needs. Move Howden to wing. I’m going to beat this drum until my arms fall off.