After the Rangers no-showed the first two periods over the weekend, then looked somewhat decent in the third against a team on the second of back-to-backs while shelling to protect a lead, David Quinn showcased some new lines:
Practice lines today… (key word: practice)
— Vince Z. Mercogliano (@vzmercogliano) October 21, 2019
There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s discuss.
1. Jesper Fast on the first line is fine since he’s the only forward who has been a bright spot for the Rangers this season. He leads all forwards in xGF%, and he’s overall just been steady. No one should be surprised by this, Fast has been doing the little things for years. He’s not the most skilled forward, but if it spreads out the offense to beyond the top line and powerplay, then works for me.
2. Brett Howden gets another shot at the 2C role, which shouldn’t really surprise anyone. It’s clear Ryan Strome isn’t cut out for that role, and it’s clear that Quinn wants Howden to get the next shot. Maybe he’s just keeping the spot warm for Filip Chytil. Howden hasn’t been good in this role –or any role– when given the opportunity, but I honestly have no problem with seeing if he can handle it. I may be in the minority here, but let the kid see what he can do…
3. Given that if he doesn’t hold his own, that Lias Andersson gets the shot next. I, for the life of me, can’t figure out what he needs to do to get off the 4C spot. It seems everyone else who earns it gets a promotion except Andersson. I was given the argument that maybe it’s because this is where the organization sees him, or he’s been so good in that role that Quinn doesn’t want to move him up.
3a. To the first argument, he’s 20 years old and was a 7th overall pick. You have an obligation as an organization to at least see what he can do. You may be right – he may be a 4th line center. But to make that judgment now when saddling him with AHLers at best is irresponsible and downright dangerous for future development of prospects.
3b. If it’s the latter, then picture this. You’re at your job doing very well. Better than all your colleagues. A promotion opens up. Your boss calls you in and says, “You’re doing so well in this role that we don’t want to give you the promotion because we like you here.” Imagine hearing that. You’d immediately begin looking for a new job, right? Same concept applies here.
4. I have a very simple solution that would make the Rangers better. Scratch Marc Staal, give Brendan Smith his 2LD or 3LD minutes. Smith has been surprisingly solid in his LW role, and he’s never been an albatross on defense. Just simply not worth his contract. When Staal has been one of the main reasons the Rangers look so bad (see below), then it’s the only choice.
So far this season when Marc Staal goes onto the ice NYR goes from an almost average shot/chance team to a very bad one. Astounding that he isn't in the press box (ideally, permanently). pic.twitter.com/8MnZVHCvEK
5. Which brings me to accountability. The entire team has been playing poorly, which is fine. But let’s rewind to when Kevin Shattenkirk was a healthy scratch because he was playing poorly. It was applauded, few had a problem with it. But Staal –and a ton of other people– has been atrocious and he’s never seen the press box. Something something defensive defenseman. How are we the only ones who see this?
6. The Rangers toyed with someone like this before – JT Miller. He then found himself as part of a change of scenery trade in the Ryan McDonagh trade. Now it’s way too early to say that Lias is going to turn out like Miller, but it’s one of those lessons you should learn. For some reason, only some kids need to play their way into a role, while others are given the role until they show they can’t handle it. I’m a fan of the latter, but Andersson has shown he earns to be off the fourth line. Or at least to play with actual NHL talent.
7. Remember that this is a rebuild, and when kids are playing well they should be rewarded, the same way that if they are not playing well they should be taught what went wrong. It’s a two-way street, but as Justin wrote yesterday, clearly Quinn has his favorites. I’m not on the anti-Quinn boat yet, like a lot of other people, but I’m growing weary of lack of consistency and questionable lineup decisions. I’m going to give it the full second year to see what the lineup looks like and how the kids take the next step.