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Thoughts on the new Rangers lines

Brett Howden moves to the second line, Brendan Smith to the third line

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:

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.

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35 Comments

  1. Look, the Rangers are first on the graph!!

    Panarin-Zib-Buch
    Kreider-Chytil-Kakko
    Strome-Howden-Krav
    Lemieux-Andersson-Fast

    And leave it A-LONE for 25 games.

    You would think watching 3 games of non-first line ineptitude would force the Rangers to bring up the young guys from Hartford that should be here anyway.

  2. The lines will work themselves out and expect a different lineup after the trade deadline. We are still rebuilding. My big concern with the Rangers is drafting. In the last few years we:
    1) drafted center Lias Anderson at #7 overall when his highest goal total ever was 18 in 2013. He may end up being a solid 3rd/4th line guy, but we could have gotten a guy like that in round 3.
    2) we draft a goalie in the 2nd round (Lindbom) WTF was that.
    3) we will see on 1st round pick Krav – some reports are poor work ethic. If that is true – again WTF are we doing? What does Gorton do all day and i hope Davidson is seriously looking at our scouts to replace and/or starts becoming more involved in our picks.
    In selecting the guys above, we passed on some players with higher ceilings that we will regret.

    I really hope Chytil works out, and i do think he will. But we are too often very weak in the draft (thus no cup in 25 yrs)

  3. “for the life of me, can’t figure out what Andersson needs to do in order to get off that fourth line”

    Great question Dave, we all feel the same.

    As for this coach, he is full of sh*t, and talks from both sides of his mouth. I stated this before, so this shouldn’t surprise anyone, the man has zero credibility. How many times has he stated that Andersson is doing a very good job, only to take precious ice time from him. It’s not that Howden is blowing down any doors to justify his reward, he isn’t. I’m not trying to put this kid down, but he didn’t earn this promotion, whereas Lias did. It’s just BS!!!!!!!!

    Getting to what Tony stated, both the Chytil, and Kravs kids belong here over Strome, Smith, McKegg, why aren’t they? Kravs showed he could play, instead he’s down on the farm being benched??????? I understand that it’s early in the season, but please don’t force feed us this crap about a person playing well, and rewarding others for going thru the motions…………..

  4. Andersson is in a tough spot.

    It’s not that Howden is a better offensive force. It’s that Andersson is very good defensively. And Howden isn’t

    So if you gotta pick someone to form a stable line. You pick Andersson. And hope Howden comes to play.

  5. “The fact is that Chris Kreider, whose two points, in the form of a pair of assists, were both recorded on the power play, has the eighth-most even-strength minutes among the team’s forwards who have suited up for every contest. Only Brendan Lemieux, Brendan Smith and Lias Andersson have gotten less time.

    As Mets managerial candidate Joe Girardi might say, that’s not what you want. It is also not what the Blueshirts need in order for this team, which is so young and inexperienced in so many critical areas, to keep its head above water while the kids develop both in the NHL and at Hartford.

    There is the contract and pending free-agency issue that may or may not be playing with Kreider’s head. It never seemed like a particularly good idea to bring the winger back absent an extension, and it was surprising that the hierarchy didn’t recognize the inadvisability of proceeding in that fashion”.

    This from Brooks article this morning, and he brings up some very good points. Where has Chris been on the fore-check? Is he hurt, he was the first off of the ice after practice yesterday, normally the last? Is the contract hurting his mindset, ala Zucc last season? At the rate he is playing, he should be traded before his value turn to mud. Sorry my friends, I like Chris, and defended him all along, but this is garbage, and should be addressed soon. If need be, put him back with Zib again, just to see if this doesn’t jump start his game. Another idea, why not put Andersson on the same line with the two K’s, the second coming of the “Bull Line” of the late 60’s, early 70’s. Sorry to be venting folks, but again this is on DQ, and I suspect that he isn’t sharp enough to figure this out!!!!!!!!!

  6. Walt

    Hello my friend. I do understand why some are mystified a CK’s disappearance. One consistent mark of Kreider is that he is VERY inconsistent.
    There isn’t any way the Rangers should even come close to offering an extension near what he will command on the open market, for a player that plays, sometimes………..

  7. Agree. Andersson good defensive ability gives him the 4th line for now – a line that (along with his linemates) is not constructed for goals, thus less ice time in general since line 3 is also not a goal scoring line. That leaves Quinn leaning on line 1 while trying to get more scoring from line 2.

  8. Tony

    This came from an article on the Blueshirt Banter web site:

    “This was another strong weekend for the Pack, and not just from the usual suspects of Filip Chytil and Igor Shesterkin. Players like Patrick Newell and Nick Jones created an energy line with Tim Gettinger. Boo Nieves is making his case to be the Rangers’ fourth-line center as he continues his strong play, and Vitali Kravtsov continues to take steps in the right direction.”

    Just to inform people of the progress being made from our young stars to be Chytil, and Kravs!!!!!!!

  9. Jerry

    Hope all is well with you my friend. Your right, and I believe that a move should be made as soon as possible to maximize our return for Chris. He isn’t worth the current pay he’s getting for the production he’s giving us now, and he wants more? Just my thoughts!!!!!!!!!!

  10. First of all, we just need to play more games. I’m amazed at the amount of content being produced for a team that has played 1 game in two weeks. Your #7 point is a little extreme and the very definition of a small sample size. I’m glad I don’t buy too much of the analytical bs, cuz you’re already making yourself miserable. Do you not remember where the Blues were in December, and where they ended up in June? I can only imagine the blogger “analytics” around St. Louis last year.

    The problem I see is we all want these the centers to be better than they are. To me, Chytil is the only one I’d consider with top-6 potential at this point. Leave him in Hartford for an extended period of time and let him develop. It seems to be working. And then I think you have to make a call on the other two. Move one to wing, maybe send one to Hartford when you bring Chytil up eventually, maybe even trade one. But no sense in creating a logjam of 3rd and 4th line centers here for an extended period of time. It’s too many. The development of all of them is going to suffer. And sorry to say it boys, but Lias is looking a lot like Jamie Lundmark to me, IMHO.

  11. This October line-up is probably going to be different from the December line-up. What is happening now is just trial-and-error on the part of DQ. I think he wants to play his 2nd line more, but he needs more output and grit from them. I am thinking that Howden sticks as the 2C and Chytil and Kraftsov come up to make a formidible 3rd line. This is going to be okay, so we need to relax and re=evaluate after 10 games.

  12. My issue is this – either we are prioritizing prospect development, or we are icing the best team we can. Can’t do both. I think Hartford will be good for Chytil, and would be good for Andersson and Howden as well. We aren’t winning the cup this year, and there is nothing wrong with developing the kids on an improved AHL squad. We’ve (I’ve) been so excited about our shiny new toys, but as it’s been said, this doesn’t necessarily speed up our ‘build’ all that much. Chytil, Andersson, Kravtsov and Howden all need more time to develop, and I’m fine with management moving personnel around, increasing/decreasing ice time, benching, demoting/promoting – and I have faith that management is well focused on Hartford now.

  13. Walt, yep I read it too. I’m a regular there as well, under a different name.

    I suspect that Chytil and Krav will be here soon.

    Strome needs to get traded, like Names.

  14. The problem with Strome is that he is a better winger than a center. Too much responsibility for his shoot-first mentality. Put him on the 3rd line wing with Chytil as the center and Kraftsov as the other wing and I am guessing we get some offense out of such a line. The 4th line can be Fast/Lias/LeMieux. Smith, should either go or sit. He is not the answer as a winger and PK defender.

    Wondering if the contract situation is weighing on Krieder’s mind.

  15. Regarding #6 … yes we’re talking small sample size but watching these games I keep telling myself that the team really isn’t that bad… but so far they really are. They are pinned in the defensive zone a lot and they look so overmatched more than not. It appears, to me, that they open the door at the blue line but then have a hard time managing the puck and before you know our goalies are standing on their heads.

    Is it the forwards too? Probably. But they ain’t so great on the forecheck either at 5v5. Is it the system? The coach(es)? Man, I also had playoff hopes but that’s just not realistic.

    Oh, I believe Kreider isn’t playing balls out, that’s the problem IMO. Seems like he’s in his “I don’t give a $hit” mode.

  16. It’s a rebuild, fellas. Our touted prospects (Lias, Howden, Chtyl and Kravstov) are very young and green. They all have holes in their games. Some are terrible at sticking with their men in the d-zone, others get bumped off the puck way too easily, while others are weak along the boards. They all just need seasoning in the AHL to hone their craft. It’s perfectly normal.

    Just because you were drafted 7th, 9th or at 19 does not mean you deserve to be on the big club or warrant a spot in the top six. You have to work for it and earn it.

    We are NOT cup contenders this year. We’re rebuilding….sometimes keeping players who aren’t ready for NHL up with the big club can ruin a player.

    Realistically, Chtyl, Kravstov, Howden and Lias all could use some major development time down in Hartford. None of them have lit up the scoreboard, and none of them have dominated shifts consistently during their tenures.

  17. Walt, you made some good points. However, Chytil needs to play against NHL players and not get pushed out of the play so easily, before he can center the second line. Which is why they changed Hartford coaching and why he is in Hartford.

    Same with Kravs, who apparently has an attitude issue, that needs to be corrected, before he plays third line for the Rangers, and eventually the second line probably. Again, which is why they changed Hartford coaching.

    McKegg has shown he is NHL 4th line material, so putting Anderson between him and Lemieux (who must stop taking stupid penalties) could help him move up to being the third line center playing with Howden and Kravs. Rangers are fun to watch again, but now they have some good young players that need to learn to play at the NHL level.

  18. Nieves would be fine on 4th line. The chat makes me think that the Rangers drafted a bunch of centers that might not work well into lines 2 and 3. I wonder if we see Howden and Anderson together on a line maybe with Krav if he can get it together one day? This assumes Chytil becomes the full time #2 center.

  19. Chytil may just be a bust – there, someone needed to say it. He cannot handle the pressure of the NHL and might just be a career AHL player.

    In fact, other that Shesty and Kraftsov, the whole Hartford team is void of real NHL prospects.

  20. I just have to comment even though I tried not to.
    As far as Kreider goes, he is a professional who is under a contract he agreed to sign. He should play like a professional. All this talk of the contract in his head is ridiculous. If what he is worried about is getting a good contract next year, no matter the location, he should play for it this year, act like a professional, not a baby!
    Sadly, I doubt he ever finds consistency. Never had it, never will. This will be his last year with the Rangers unless he proves differently

  21. I think that it is likely that Chytil is back soon. The Rangers have hardly played any games, but Hartford has been playing. That has probably been good for Chytil and also good for Kravstov. So, while I might have liked to see both of them up with the big club, it is not unreasonable that they are not. Chytil needed some work on his game and Kravstov needed some conditioning and some more time to get used to the rougher North American style play. I think they will reappear on Broadway pretty soon.

    I wouldn’t have a much of a bone to pick with DQ’s placing Andersson on the 4th line if the coach would roll the lines much more consistently. I’d also rather that he stick with some line combos and defensive combos for a while instead of mixing them much.

    It is real early, even earlier than usual because of the lack of games. Fortunately they will be playing a more regular schedule soon.

  22. To Eugene above, Keefe is the eventual replacement for his current org’s big club. I assume.

  23. Last year, Lias Andersson was awful – both in NY and in Hartford. Perhaps if he had the chance, he would have been the worst player on the Maine Mariners. Even he has to have realized how bad he was. This year he seems much improved. What DQ is doing this year is placing him in a role in which he will succeed (the old BSB cliche). And he appears to be succeeding. This has to be great for his confidence. He has to be starting to feel like he is a real NHLer. But it is only three games! Let him center the second line and if he fails, he will have every opportunity to lose every single bit of the confidence he has amassed so far.

    The Rangers were never going to be a good team this season from day one. The goal is for the young players to grow into stars. Kravtsov and Chityl need some time in Hartford. Lias needs confidence. The young defenders need – at least at first – to not be the focal point of the defense.

  24. As Taylor Swift would say, “you need to calm down, you’re being too loud”. It’s just 3 frickin’ games people!

  25. I remember when a close acquaintance of mine had to move away during our senior year. It was during the hockey season, which unfortantly had happened four days before the SWEET FOUR New York state playoffs. If you aren’t just some spectator for the game and you’re a local to this state, than you already know!!! Well anyways the kid played like a champ a week before he had to move. He knew we were going to state and everything while he had to play his last hockey game without the feeling of “maybe reaching the state championship”. It stung, but he produced without any NHL $$$ to his name or coverage…

    So I don’t buy this narrative of Kreider acting like he doesn’t care. This is the typical 45-50 of Chris Kreider that we’re use to seeing. He’s never been a true menace on the forecheck like the Tkachuk bro’s, Ryan Reaves, Evander Kane, Tom Wilson etc. I use to wish he would follow through with his body checks like Scott Hartnell use to do but oh well. He is what he is… If you want to see a more productive version of him at 5v5 than put him on a line with Zib. I’m sure he saw the writing on the wall after they traded away a ufa 200 ft top 6 center who attacks the ice in all situations. Than added a winger who plays his position on the top line with the rest of the $$.

    If Kreids wants to get paid like Hayes than it won’t be to a club like Philly. Matter of fact I can’t see him remaining in the East after this season is over. A team like Arizona Yotes will have to open it’s check book to get close to his demand. I hope he is more grounded and doesn’t care about national attention. Has anyone seen Derek Stepan?

  26. David Quinn has had his honeymoon and the bloom is now off the rose. We are starting to see some blind spots (all the player deployments mentioned above). And beyond awful defense. And don’t blame it on rebuild or lack of talent. Barry Trotz came to the Islanders and turned them from the worst GA/G defense into 3rd best. Yes, talent plays a role, but so does coaching/schemes.

  27. The Rangers have ALWAYS had a problem developing young, European talent. Quinn is just the latest coach to favor North Americans over Europeans.

    There’s no reason in the world that Kravtsov shouldn’t have made the team. What kind of stupid excuse is it that he’s a top-six talent, so he should play…in Hartford?!?!

    He’s been hard on Chytil, and he was hard on Buchnevich up until he decided out of the blue to automatically put him on the top line. (The only reason he got more ice time at the end of last season was bc we already traded almost everyone else away.)

    If Kakko hadn’t been such a big deal internationally, I bet he too would have started in Hartford.

    With the way lines 2-4 are going, what harm would it be to try Kravtsov-Chytil-Kakko together?

    Why must Quinn be forced into a corner before he tries the obvious?

    IDIOT!!!

  28. What was it again that Lias did to earn it?

    I must’ve missed that. Everything has been about how he isn’t getting a chance.

  29. Switching Kreider with Penarin woul improve both lines. Kreid had most success last year with Z. He is also better D than Breadman, who would blend well with Kakko since he is a better playmaker than Kreid.

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