Vitali Kravtsov a scratch for Hartford: Some Thoughts

Vitali Kravtsov was a scratch for the Hartford Wolf Pack yesterday

News struck last night that Vitali Kravtsov, the Blueshirts’ first round pick in 2018 and presumed top winger in Hartford, was a healthy scratch for the Wolf Pack’s second game of the season. Initially there was no reason why Kravtsov was scratched, and a lot of people jumped to conclusions.

The reactions were standard. Folks over reacting before understanding what could have happened, stating that the Rangers were doing the same old thing by scratching rookies. I even saw someone mention that he should go back to Russia. Suffice it to say, this was hyperbolic over reaction and completely not worth stressing over.

I had theorized that since the Pack were playing a back-to-back to start the season, something common in the AHL, that new head coach Kris Knoblauch could be simply resting Kravtsov to ease him into North American hockey. That though, was incorrect.

Kravtsov was actually benched in the second and third periods of the Pack’s season opener due to lack of effort. Development is the top priority in Hartford, and ensuring players give 100% each shift is part of development. You can’t win on talent alone.

This is part of the new environment that John Davidson and the Rangers want in Hartford. They want to ensure that the cesspool of negativity that was left unchecked for the better part of a decade doesn’t continue. Benching players, even highly touted rookies, is part of that process.

So for Kravtsov, it appears the message was sent. Give a full effort. This looks like it is a blip for the skilled winger. If it lingers, then it’s a problem. But one game, two days into the season? No cause for concern.

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  • Kid is a bust. The AHL gig has crushed his confidence and he is done! Thought he was “all-that” and ready for the NHL. Time to look in the mirror and realize it is time to stop reading your own headlines. Back to Russia by November.

    (you think this is a bit too early for this judgement?)

  • That explanation Dave is BS, SAF (shady as f) … so the coach not only benches him for 2 periods because his 1st period didn’t show the requisite effort and then scratches him for another game? 5 periods benched/scratched because of one bad period? Talk about overkill … for a kid like Kravs who is use to playing 18-20 minutes a night in the KHL a 2 period benching should be enough of a lesson/punishment. Put him back in and see whether the message takes hold. Scratching him for another 3 periods is just stupid and gross exaggeration, overkill. That isn’t some dose of tough love, it’s a dose of stupid love IMHO.

    • Next game (that he dresses) tells the tale of whether the tough love worked or if it really stunted his growth. Too bad it is about 5 days away.

      A lot going on with this kid. Came over from Russia, not great with the language, and thinking he is made for the NHL. He not only can be homesick, but thinking he is a failure. Let’s hope the coaches are positive with him if he hustles in practice.

      • No, this kid put in a great effort. He spent the WHOLE summer here learning the language (he can conduct interviews in English, unlike Rykov, Panarin, Shesty and tbh even Kakko), practicing with other Rangers and working out with the NYR S&C coach … sure he may be disappointed, and well he should be because he was the best youngin’ of the under 21 set in camp. That said my issue isn’t with the benching, it’s with the scratch following the benching. Until you know that just a benching won’t work to “stimulate” his effort, why heap on punishment by scratching him. You scratch him if the benching doesn’t have the desired effect — and in fact you may wait two benchings before taking that type of step.

    • There is also effort in practice. It makes little sense that this punishment was meted out if Kravtsov was giving his all in practice. So, giving the coach the benefit of the doubt, Kravs was already a problem and was given a chance in game one, a test he failed.

      Knowing human nature and the number of players involved, it seems inevitable that one or more of the Ranger kids lack the character to be NHLers. What we can hope is that this group does not include the handful of the most talented.

      • A test he already failed? Come off of it … he was good in training camp. DQ praised him for his skill and play, even away from the puck — no one said “boo” about poor effort. Sure, you want him to play 20 minutes a night in Hartford instead 10-12 in NY (that’s what Gorton said) … I get that. The benching should be warning enough, at this early stage of the season … if that doesn’t work you pull out the bigger stick, a scratch … but this is overkill at this point.

        • You don’t understand the notion of a test. The test I am alluding to was a very simple and short one. Would Kravtsov take Game 1 in Hartford seriously? And yes, he failed that particular test. Now it would be utterly ludicrous to suggest terminating his contract on the basis of this, but that is not the issue.

          We can be fairly certain that Kravtsov came over wanting to play for the Rangers from day one. I suspect he even expected this to be the case, but here I am only speculating. With such an attitude, good effort in the preseason games was certainly to be expected. How much effort he made in practice and how well he listened is something we know little about. I have no reason to cast aspersions, but I also know management rarely airs their dirty laundry in public and so we really have zero positive or negative information. I presume he was disappointed to be sent down.

          Knoblauch has had a few days to deal with Kravtsov and the scratching is consistent with early trouble. We can speculate Kravtsov’s practice effort was lacking and perhaps also that he is waving his European out clause. Perhaps Knoblauch gave him a chance to snap out of it in a game and he didn’t. Then again, perhaps Kravtsov is simply depressed and needs time to work things through and the scratching is really for his own benefit.

          There is just so much we do not know.

  • I don’t have a big problem with giving an 18 year-old a time out. Sometimes it is necessary. Let’s see how he reacts.

    • Peter, they benched him 2 FULL periods … you put in your prized prospect (ranked #1 by most prior to this last draft) after that, not tack on an additional 3 periods with a scratch. I’m all for accountability and teachable moments, but this is overkill — and he was good in training camp, DQ had a ton of positive things to say about his play, even away from the puck.

      • Tanto, I usually agree with most of your wisdom, as it is always well thought out and honest. However, this train you’re on does not seem like you. You seem to be missing the point. As Ray says, we don’t really know the reasons, but it does appear this “issue” began with Kravs being sent to the AHL, not during the pre season. If he was acting like a spoiled child who didn’t get what he wanted then I have no problem with the benching. Kid needs to grow up, and if he’s whining about playing in the AHL and thinks he belongs in the NHL, then he should be benched. If he is waving his out clause, than who needs another entitled millennial on the team. He needs to do what the coaching staff says, stop his moping, and play as well as he could. If not let him go play in the KHL and make less money. Just to be clear, by less money in the KHL, I mean career earnings not this year.

        • I object to the overkill Joe, you bench a kid for not giving the requisite effort — fine, no complaints. You tell him that if the effort isn’t there tomorrow, you’ll bench him again — or worse, you’ll scratch him. That should be enough to get the message across … and if not, you go to the scratch. Kravs is their 1st rounder, a prospect rated as the #1 prospect in all of hockey before the 2019 draft — of course he’s disappointed, but you give him a little whack in the arse first before whacking him over the head.

          I’m sure it will all work out, but that doesn’t mean a slightly more normal light touch wouldn’t have worked just as well.

          • Fair enough, but given the fact that we are not in the room or know what happened, I will defer to the coaching and mgmt. staff. I guess we will agree to disagree.

      • Tanto yes, the kid was good in camp. I don’t know it for a fact, but, perhaps he is moping because he thought he should have made the team. If so, maybe a time out and some good conversations with the coaching staff are needed. Hopefully someone speaks Russian!

        • His English is good enough to understand hockey speak. lol I just object to the “volume” of the hockey speak at this stage of the season and given who he is. 😉

  • Unfortunately we still have old school hockey mentality.

    I didn’t see Artemi Panarin giving full effort every shift. But he puts the puck in the net.

    Each player responds differently. If you want a Spursian culture then it starts at the top down.

    You don’t see hank getting benched for his 4 or more performance.

    So they need to treat skill players like skill players and tough players like tough players.

    Of all coaches knobby was a poor choice.

    • I didn’t see Saturday’s game, but Panarin put the work in every shift on Thursday night.

      Kravtsov should’ve played the 3rd period, because when you only get the stick and not offered the carrot, you’re not going to enjoy the game and might tune the coach out that much quicker.

      • Agreed … besides, with “punishment” you always have to build up, you don’t shoot your load first thing.

        • Unless you really think a serious message needs to be sent. We just don’t know what is going on, but I suspect it is not good.

          • When you’re suppose to be the #1 winger on the AHL team and you get benched for 2 periods, that’s already pretty serious.

  • I don’t get it… DQ benched much more established NHL-ers regularly last season. The fanbase had a hissy fit when they sent down 2 very young prospects. And now having another one from a one game scratch? We’re not even 7 days into the season!

    It’s a message being sent, and very similar to DQ’s benching last season. EVERY player down there just took notice. They are creating a new environment down there, and this is a very quick way to do so. You have to see how he reacts now. If he goes out and puts up 1G/1A in the next game, then it all WORKED!

    He’ll be fine. If he can’t take this and learn from it, he’s not ready for the NHL yet then anyway.

    • Kid may opt out and go back to the KHL if this happens again. He actually was making more money in the KHL than with our AHL affiliate ($70k). This is a new AHL coach teaching everyone who the new sheriff in town is.

      • CF

        He has a clause in his contract that he could go back to the KHL if he doesn’t play for the mother club, and then return after the KHL season ends. I don’t believe he will exercise this clause, but it’s out there for everyone’s information!!!!!!!!!

    • What don’t you get? He benched him 2 periods and then doesn’t give the kid the opportunity to redeem himself the next day. Too much too soon — the benching sends the message, if the benching doesn’t work then you consider the scratch.

      • I give the kid a little more credit than to just turn around and pack his bags like that. He would never have made it this far if he was as sensitive as the fanbase is on message boards.

        I seriously don’t think more than half the online fanbase has the stomach for this “build.” We’re only a week into this, and folks are already going off the dead-end over…literally…NOTHING.

      • perhaps he wants to see the kid demonstrate in practice this week that he got the message.

        What’s wrong with that?

      • It might be possible that he showed up at Hartford with an attitude, and that was noticed, then didn’t play with any intensity in the first game, and was warned about it, then came out with no effort in the second game, and got his butt sat down for a game to think about the situation.

  • No one knows how Kravtsov responded to the first benching in practice, in the locker room or elsewhere off the ice. Maybe he deserved it, maybe not. None of us really know. Some of us are more inclined/disinclined toward this type of discipline in general, and that’s shaping our opinions. That’s it. Bet if you were a fan of benching DeAngelo last year you’re fine with this.

  • For a brighter note, in two games Chityl has two assists and is +3 while Lindgren has a goal and is +4. So two of the three guys people did not want to send down are off to great starts.

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