What has Lias Andersson done to warrant more ice time?

Young center can't seem to get off the fourth line

Throughout the young season, the big question that has been talked about since the preseason is where Lias Andersson will play. There has been a lot of talk about why he can’t get off the fourth line, and to David Quinn’s credit he did respond candidly saying that the young center tends to make a play and then watch. He wants Andersson to continue to follow up on the play. Yet despite looking good, Andersson hasn’t been moved up the lineup yet.

I was asked on Twitter what the numbers are that back up our claims that Andersson should be moved up. With enough games under our belt, we can dive deeper into Andersson’s performance and look to see if the claims can be justified based on performance, and not just the notion that he’s a high draft pick with a middle-six ceiling.

*Worth noting that this was again written before I went away. The numbers may have changed a bit, but the overall point going forward still stands. Also worth noting that I have not looked at the full numbers prior to writing this post – so enjoy the ride as I look to see if the numbers back up my eyes.

The first thing we look at is an overall graphical representation of how Lias has been playing. This is about what is expected so far. Focusing on offense first, Lias hasn’t generated much playing on the fourth line. A grain of salt is needed, since his best offensive linemate is actually a defenseman. The defensive numbers are outstanding when you take into account the Rangers are historically bad defensively.

Looking at the numbers, Andersson is dead last on the team in CF/60 at 40.28 and third to last (ahead of Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider!) in xGF/60 at 1.8. So yes, offensively he’s done nothing. This may be what Quinn is referring to, as following up the offensive play, or lack thereof, would impact these numbers. This is a little surprising, but then I look at his linemates and I am no longer surprised. It’s very difficult to generate offense when your common linemates are a defenseman, a pure fighter, and a journeyman.

Defensively, Andersson is second on the team in CA/60 at 60.42 (yikes), so while the team is a train wreck in this regard, he’s at least good comparatively. Only Jesper Fast has been better thus far. He’s also second to Fast on xGA/60 at 2.4. So defensively he’s at least holding his own. So at least those fundamentals appear to be there.

Comparatively to Brett Howden, whom Andersson will always be linked, Howden is right behind Andersson offensively with a 40.74 CF/60 and 1.86 xGF/60. So Howden is getting the 3C minutes with actual NHLers in Kaapo Kakko and Brendan Lemieux, but doing absolutely nothing with it. Defensively Howden is one of the worst players on the team.

Based on the numbers comparatively to the guy ahead of him in the lineup, Andersson has performed at the same level as Howden with far less to work with. That suggests Andersson might be able to produce more if moved up the lineup. It’s no guarantee, but the numbers certainly suggest he’s earned the chance.

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        • Howden is a legit superstar compared to Lias. They both need to go though. Add Smith and Haley & McKegg to the list too. Bring up Lettieri and Boo!

          No other team would keep such slugs on the roster. This is a Gorton move showing we didn’t waste the #7 Pick.

          • In what sense? The only advantages Howden has over Lias are size and opportunity. Howden has been one of the league’s worst forwards defensively since entering the NHL by most available metrics. Take away his first 17 games of last year and the guy’s last 82 NHL games have produced these poor offensive numbers: 4 goals and 13 assists. What exactly are you and O’Torts-Quinn hanging onto here with Howden in terms of positive qualities? How neat he leaves his hotel room on the road?

    • Maybe Howden and the Rangers would benefit from having Lias on that 3rd line for some defensive responsibility. Never know, maybe Lias gets an offensive boost playing with better players in the Ozone 60%-70% of the time rather than 70% Dzone starts with the aforementioned Dman and fighter.

  • I like both of these guys, but Howden has not earned the 3 C spot and Lias should at least get a look. That’s the eye test and you show the numbers to prove it. On some levels it does seem personal with Lias and the coach. The worst part of this is Lias is not only NOT given a chance, he’s actually been disadvantaged having to play with Smith and Haley. Like throwing an anchor to a kid who’s in the water learning how to swim. I am not saying Lias deserves anything other then better line mates and a legitimate chance. And I am not seeing that happen this season.

    • good points Andy but let’s compare a bit. First, it definitely is not a personal matter with the staff – any more than him tripping on the wire during opening game ceremonies is an omen that captures his season – I do like that he is MUCH more physical this year. It seems both Lias and Howdy can’t convert on their chances. They played similar minutes last night – (Howdy had four more minutes, half of those on the PP, but Lias played close to 12 minutes for the first time in a while – the last time he played more than that, we lost badly to Boston. On 5X5 last nite, Lias was a staggering -3, and this is considering the Bolts were on the PP where they did most of their damage -mostly. Howdy blocked 3 shots and was even. Howdy had a bit of an edge in the face-off circle, but other than that, unless they play him more to showcase for the Oil, I don’t have an answer.

    • Andy

      That’s exactly what I’ve been saying, give the kid a legit shot at 3C. If he fails, then we can say with all honesty that maybe he was a bad pick after all, but not until then!!!!!!!!

    • I do not want Smith, Haley, McKegg, Staal and even Strome in the lineup…..I would rather lose will all the kids…..some want protection for the kids..then trade for Reaves of Vegas……They were interested in Georgiev as well as other teams…..start moving some of these players….and please no more Brady….Quinn has to get his act together or else he will be watching meteors over Boston……Sorry friends…but this team Is not yet ready for prime time…..just way too many anchors …almost forgot Ruff….send him packing JD…please.

  • Chytil in the pre-season looked nervously timid and seemed like he was afraid to make a mistake and have Quinn get upset. Andersson seems like that too. Apparently Chytil, while in Hartford, has lost some of the fear and has gained some confidence and it’s reflected in his game here.

    Lias needs confidence, IMO, he needs to stop looking over his shoulder at Quinn. I’m not sure if he needs more playing time or go to Hartford or maybe just get away from Quinn. He needs a shot… somewhere.

    • I think the answer is a crack at the 3rd line (more playing time). Yes, he could go to Hartford like Chytil, but I think Chytil was sent down more because he couldn’t play on the 4th line — and as both the eye test and the metrics show, Andersson can contribute defensively in that role.

      A chance at some playing time with better players on the 3rd line might be the only boost in confidence that he needs. He’s done the Hartford gig before and although it wouldn’t hurt, I’m not sure how much it would help if he gets recalled and continues to get 4th line minutes with Haley/McKegg and Smith.

      If anyone should be sent down (aside from a guy like Haley or McKegg), it should be Howden — basically he’s been the golden boy as far as DQ is concerned, as if he can do no wrong — and I’m not trying to bash Howden, I don’t dislike him at all and think he can develop into a well rounded player … but I just don’t understand why he gets all these chances and how he’s earned all this TRUST from DQ.

      • I probably would agree … more playing time. It sure didn’t hurt Namesnikov when he went to Ottawa and got away from Quinn.

        • Really? And except for his second game with Ottawa what has Namestnikov done? Not to mention, his ice time has gone down considerably! Must be DQ’s fault….

          • He has 6 goals and 5 assists in 16 games as a Senator. Or to express this another way: he’s producing more under a rookie NHL coach, on one of the 3 worst teams in the NHL, than he did with O’Torts-Quinn as his coach.

            Looks like reading is not only fun, but informative!

          • gotta agree with you, Skip. Names is not half the player he was with the Bolts. He was holding the rookies spots and not to mention a $$$ salary.

          • You read the article right? It was about Lias and ice time. My point was about production and being put in a situation to possibly succeed, like Namesnikov is in. TOI and line mates matter. Lias deserves that opportunity at least.

        • I don’t hate DQ nor do I think he can’t be a successful coach in the NHL, I just happen to disagree with his treatment of a couple of players. I didn’t necessarily agree with his treatment last year of both Buch and ADA, in those two cases I was proven wrong so maybe I’ll be proven wrong again with both Lias and Howden — then again this has been going on now for a season and a quarter and I’m not seeing any real positive results with either, so that begs the question of whether he should change tactics instead of stubbornly continuing the same policy vis-a-vis the two of them.

    • Good points Frank.

      We forget that these players are basically teenagers. How immature were we at 18, 19, 20 years of age? These players are playing in the best hockey leage in the world, while we were jerking around at the same age, lol.

      Confidence is the difference between playing their best, based on their abilities, and wallowing in depression and self-doubt.

      Chytil should not have been sent down, IMO. He proved last year that he could play and had the skills to be here. So Chytil paid the price because his own coach could not draw the best out of him? This is why I am having serious doubts about DQ as an NHL coach.

      Lias does appear to be in the same quandary, or more to the point, “chateau bow-wow.” For whatever reason. You would think that the FO, who drafted him 7th overall, would have something to say about this player mismanagement.

  • I think he just doesn’t have enough traits which make him stand out. Not overly big (although listed at 6-1 doesn’t seem like it), def not a demon on skates, hasn’t shown great puck skills in few chances hes had. Deserves a greater opportunity prob, but I don’t see anyone calling for him to play ahead of chytil or strome with mika out. Maybe they thought they were picking 77th.

  • I think his ceiling is that 3C spot. I don’t think he goes up more than that. Problem is, with a healthy Mika he won’t get off the fourth line with Mika, Chytil, and Strome(if he doesn’t get moved to wing) ahead of him. It’s kind of a lose/lose situation with Lias.

  • Try to package up Lias and a 4th round pick for the Finnish kid who won’t play with the Oilers (Puljarsomething)

  • This is old BS argument for Lias.Just because he is 7th pick he still doesn’t have elite hands or speed.Can’t teach elite hands,elite speed either you have it or not he doesn’t. What is the fascination with him?He is a career 4th liner.His intangibles he plays a 2 way game which 90 % of the Swedes do.He will go in corners or in front of net that’s all nice.Not a high end player.He must do constant explosive drills in order to maybe keep up to the speed players that most teams now have as 3rd line players.

    • All of this may be true, but he’s still BETTER THAN HOWDEN, and that’s really the point here.

      No one is putting Lias in the top 6.

  • So, as some of us have been clamoring about how Andersson deserves more of a chance than Howden does, and saying that if Andersson had the same opportunity as Howden that Lias would be a better player, the stats prove it. Guess we’re not idiots after all.

    But then again, on top of it, the org (I will not even single out just the coach) has the benefit of video and whatever else they use, and they can’t see it. Meaning that Howden has had superior linemates than Andersson does, and nothing changes. Makes you wonder, huh?

    • I’ll repeat what I posted above… Namesnikov’s not looking so bad right now is he? Funny what more playing time and decent line mates can do for a guy.

      • You know Frank, there is a pattern, for some reason ex-Rangers are thriving with other teams.

        Is it coincidence? Or is there something amiss within the Rangers’ org?

        I have been to 6 home games so far, and what I noticed right away is that Kakko looked very “ridged” in his game. And at first you say, “ok, he’s nervous as a rookie” and you let it go. But it continued. And you say, as fans, “let him use his skill and just let the kid play.” Well, THE COACH, himself said that he stopped “talking to Kapo” and the kid turned it on.

        Now I’m not saying that was the answer, but sometimes, common sense is the right way to go. Coaches have big egos and they let those egos get in the way of making decisions that turn out bad.

        What’s the issue with Lias? He practices bad? DQ doesn’t like him? It could be a myriad of things that have zero to do with Lias playing in an NHL game. This is where I object, because the coach is REQUIRED to put the best team out on the ice, and put the players in the best spots to succeed. That’s his job and what he gets paid for.

      • Namestnikov is looking just like your Namestnikov with the Rangers – nothing to write about here except that you might want to do your homework – he sucks so give us back our draft pick!

        • Namestnikov is more than 1/3 of the way to matching last year’s production, in 16 games. He needs 20 points in the remaining 64 games to match or exceed those totals (11 G, 20 A w/NYR last year).

          Now, I’m no mathematician, but it seems if you’ve got 11 pts in 16 games, it’ll only take another 32 games or so to better those numbers if current production rates are maintained. How about that?

        • My homework? Do yours. 11 points in 16 games .7 ppg. Corsi % on par with the team he’s on. TOI approx. 18 minutes. He’s no superstar but he got a chance. There’s production. Ottawa would do that deal everyday.

  • I think that Lias needs confidence and a chance. I think that a chance might produce that confidence.

    McKegg and Haley/Smith are marginal NHL forwards and sticking him with them has not helped him. A shot playing on the 3rd line might generate more offensive chances for the kid and build up his confidence.

    The numbers tell me what I suspected: He has played far better defensively than Howden and about as well offensively. I would like to see DQ put him on the third line for 15 – 20 games and see what happens. When Zibanejad comes back, let Strome play wing with Lias centering the third line.

  • Lias should absolutely get a chance to center the 3rd line over Howden. That’s really more of a function of how bad Howden is. But I think the Rangers see what I see, and that is Lias is a 4th liner on a contending team. Howden, as is, is not a starting player on a contending team. So while Lias deserves a chance by virtue of him being better than his teammate, his ceiling just doesn’t seem to be very high.

  • Drafting (in any sport) is a gamble. If we look at the first round of the 2017 draft, the Rangers had the 7th pick (Andersson), the 21st pick (Chytil), Morgan Barron as the 174th overall pick (there were others, obviously, but the highest was Brandon Crawley, at 123rd, and none of those has done anything notable). Looking back at the results, Andersson was drafted too high, Chytil is better than expected for a 21st pick, and Barron may be a steal. So, overall, it was a decent draft.

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