David Quinn is shaking things up in an attempt to get scoring outside of the top line. In the swap, he’s confirmed that Brett Howden will be the 2C between Chris Kreider and Kaapo Kakko, while Brendan Smith will move up to the third line with Ryan Strome and Jesper Fast. The fourth line appears to be Lias Andersson, Greg McKegg, and Brendan
Smith Lemieux. Let’s dive right in.
1. I promised myself I wouldn’t get upset daily when the lines change, and yesterday was no different. Line changes, especially just three games into the season, are going to happen. These changes were needed. It was clear Strome wasn’t getting the job done with Kreider and Kakko, so now it’s Brett Howden’s turn. That’s fine.
2. Howden, at least according to the coaching staff, has more offensive potential than Lias Andersson, and that’s why he’s getting the shot at 2C. There’s no real issue with Howden getting that shot. Let’s see if he has made strides from last year. In the end, whoever is there is just keeping the seat warm for Filip Chytil. In the grand scheme of things, this is just a temporary move.
3. I, for the life of me, can’t figure out what Andersson needs to do in order to get off that fourth line. Maybe it’s not a matter of his play. Maybe Quinn views his fourth line as a defensive shutdown line, and Lias has been rather good so far, so he trusts him there. After all, Quinn did mention Andersson by name as one of the only players with a good game against Edmonton. I may be grasping at straws here.
4. The big “uproar” was Smith and moving to the third line. While the move is not something I would have made, Smith has played well. In fact, he’s far from the worst contract the Rangers have ever signed. In the right situation he’s been productive. He’s not worth the contract, but at least he’s not a glaring net-negative like some of the other guys so far. This, again, is likely a temporary move.
5. The counter argument to #4 is that if there is no room for Chytil or Vitali Kravtsov in the top-six, then Smith as the 3LW makes little sense. The game nowadays has three or four scoring lines, depending on the coach, so if there is room for a defenseman on the third line, then there is room for one of the kids. This, again, assumes they are ready for the NHL. Chytil has has the better start to the season, but Kravtsov has already been a healthy scratch. Perhaps just three games isn’t enough of a litmus test.
6. Something certainly needs to change, since the Rangers are so bad defensively that they are forcing Sean Tierney to expand the axes on his quality vs. quantity chart:
Quantity vs quality control
TOR dominates quantity but breaks even in quality share.
NYI breaks even in quality but allows tons of quantity against.
PHI is dominating but quality and quantity early on.
NYR allows everything, always. pic.twitter.com/0dOewrnMFX
— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) October 15, 2019
The Rangers are so bad that they allow by far the league worst in both quantity and quality against. And they’ve had an easy schedule for the first three games! Again, small sample size, but this is in line with what we saw at the end of last season after the Blueshirts traded Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello. That’s the team we compare the current one to, and even with the high end skill, there is no depth. So maybe the line changes help.
7. Expanding on #6, the line changes, specifically getting someone not named Strome on the second line, might help. But this is far from a 2C problem. The Rangers are not a good team this year. I’ve been hoping all offseason I’ll be wrong. But as currently constructed, they are a bottom-ten team and far from a playoff spot. There’s depth issues. There’s overall defense issues. There’s coaching issues. And there are system issues.