State of the Rangers

The next step in the Rangers rebuild is finding a viable fourth line and playing it

The Rangers don't play their fourth line, and it's hurting the rebuild

One theme of the Rangers rebuild has been getting the prospects time with the top-nine forwards. It’s a pretty fair expectation, especially with the prospects that are/should be here for a while. Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil, and Brendan Lemieux (yes, Brendan Lemieux) should be getting that top-nine time. They are going to be here for a while, and they need to be put in spots to succeed. But that’s only three kids and 75% of the lineup.

As of today, the fourth line has consisted of some combination of a journeyman fighter, a pair of 4A guys, and a defenseman on the wings with one of two young prospects as the center. That is wholly unfair to both Lias Andersson –who is tearing up the AHL at the moment– and Brett Howden. They aren’t being put in a position to succeed, and haven’t even been given the ice time (with Howden’s ice time issue being more recent) to even show they should be in the NHL.

Now there are a couple things to consider here, as not everything is black and white. Lias had a great preseason, much better than both Howden and Chytil, and was saddled on the fourth line from the get-go. No matter what you think of the former 7th overall pick, that’s just unfair and doesn’t send the right message. But if 4C is where you see Lias, then it is the obligation of the coaching staff to give him linemates to best get the most out of him. If Lias’ issue is pace, then perhaps playing him more with some offensively driven players would help him learn that? He’s lighting up the AHL while playing with much more offensively talented players, so perhaps that was the plan all along.

As for Howden, we can argue til the cows come home about if he should get a stint in the AHL. But playing him five minutes a night with Micheal Haley, Brendan Smith, or Greg McKegg isn’t going to help his growth and development. Howden’s issue is on the other end of the spectrum from Lias’, as he needs to work on his defensive side of the game.

Perhaps this is all in the plan, where the Rangers rotate their “big three” centers through the AHL to get big minutes and confidence before re-inserting them into the lineup. They are one-for-one with Chytil, and Lias looks to be improving right now, trade rumors aside. With that improvement, and the willingness to move Ryan Strome to wing, perhaps there’s a 3C role up for grabs at some point. But that doesn’t solve the immediate issue of needing a fourth line that actually plays and produces.

David Quinn appears to be stuck in an old adage that his line rotation needs to be 1-2-3-1-2-3-4. The best teams, the ones that are competing for a Stanley Cup, run all four lines equally at even strength. Special teams comes in enough to ensure your top guys get more ice time, especially on the power play. The ice time will work out.

The fourth line is no longer a throwaway line to eat ice time. It’s time for Jeff Gorton and David Quinn to find a fourth line that is worthy of a steady rotation at even strength. It gets the top guys more rest, which we’ve seen they desperately need, plus it presents an opportunity for rookies to get sheltered NHL time at more than just five minutes a game. This is the critical next step.

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26 Comments

  1. Let’s not get carried away with Lias-tearing up the AHL-hype. One 2 goal game and highest PIM of any frontliner,plus still a minus player. Trade bait.

    1. 4 goals in 7 games down there actually, while the team has been slumping. And his 14 PIM might indicate a certain level of physicality/agitation. But hey, why stop to think when you’re looking to justify your dislike of a Ranger draft pick?

  2. I believe Lias is making positive steps down on the farm and likely we will see him back in the new year. Haley is not only a horrible hockey player but a light middle weight at best. I don’t see how watching him get beat up from the bench inspires his teammates. I would like to see Fast on the 4th line playing with Lias. As Jester doesn’t have the scoring talent to be on the 1st, 2nd or 3th line for that matter.

    1. Enough of Fast in the top 6, agree 100%. Enough of Haley as well, he should never see the ice again.

  3. Haven’t we seen enough of Howden as a 3rd line center? The results are not that good. Do the Rangers have enough forwards to field a competent 4th line this year?

    Top six: Zibby, Panarin, Kaapo, Kreids, Strome & Chityl.
    Bottom six: Buch, Lemieux, Howden and Fast. I don’t think Howden should be with big club at this point.

    Rangers barely can field a descent 3rd line much less a fourth. Maybe that can obtain a solid winger or 2 if they decide to trade Georgie, Buch, Kreids or Tony D.? Or wait until next year. Usually a 4th line consists of good defensive checkers or bangers like the Isles had a few years back. Not rookies and fancy perimeter players like the Rangers have.

  4. Jesper Fast is a great hockey player, he does everything a person playing in the top 6 should do, except finish. (Consistently). I really like the way he plays, he is very sound defensively and brings a lot of grit but he should be on the third line on his best night.
    The fourth line is not great, but Mckegg is growing on me, mostly because he’s the only option, but Smith seems pretty good in that role, almost excelling.
    That last one was a weird sentence to type.
    I think Quinn just needs to roll four lines throughout one period. Let it simmer for twenty minutes and Maybe something will start to come together. One bad shift two bad shifts should not warrant benching and demotion. Looking at Buchie on the fourth line last game, someone make him shoot the puck!
    I’m very interested to see what happens after the all star break, If the team implodes like last year ultimately we need some shuffling behind the bench or a legitimate defensive coach.
    So all that said, who makes your fourth line Dave?

  5. Fogarty? He’s big, a leader, plays hard and is putting up good numbers for the pack. Is he not an upgrade over Boo and Hailey? Try him with McKegg and Smith? Maybe when/if Andersonn is back, reunite him with Fogarty? The two seem to have found some chemistry in Hartford. Fogarty centering Fast and Andersonn might be the type of 4th line they need to have that full rotation.

    1. I think if Andersson and Fogarty are finding chemistry together in the AHL then we should let them develop down there together.
      Lias is a very passionate player and I think he needs to win and accumulate points, find some chemistry with some one that isn’t Mika.
      This is still a build and keeping those young guys in the AHL playin with people who are all competing to win in the AHL and competing against each other for a spot in the NHL

  6. One indication that the rebuild is over and that the NYR are really competitive will be when Fast (whom I hope we keep) is on a 4th line that’s playing 12-13 minutes per game.

  7. CK-Zib-Buch
    Panarin-Chytil-Kakko
    Lemiuex-Strome-Andersson
    McKegg-Howden-Fast

    Skjei-Trouba
    Lindgren-Fox
    Smith-DeAngelo

    Problem solved.

  8. One thing that AV could do, despite his many flaws, was roll four lines consistently. When the Rangers made their deep playoff runs under him the Rangers would wear out the other team by quickly changing four lines, putting fresher legs on the ice consistently. DQ has had nothing but 3 lines and an occasional cameo by the 4th line. I think that is not the way to go. Get a fourth line together that you want to play and let them play.

    I am glad Lias is having some success in Hartford. I’d keep him there a little longer, let him work things out and then give him a real shot. I don’t get the commenters who obsessively want to label the kid a ‘bust’. I am sure there were those that said the same thing about Tony DeAngelo, and Ryan Strome. Chill out. He is a young player and has time to learn.

  9. Interesting observation made in this article by Steve Paulus in the Blue Line Station web site, which some of us picked up on before, enjoy the read.

    The European factor
    Twice in the last week, Quinn has raised the issue that his team is built with European players and his belief that European players are trained and developed in a culture that doesn’t encourage Quinn’s brand of hockey. He has also blamed the new generation of hockey players, but his repeated mentioning of European players is revealing when you consider how many players from Europe are on the team.

    After practice on Wednesday he spoke about the reluctance to shoot and said, “I think it’s a problem throughout our game as these kids are growing up and when you’re the youngest team in the league, but I also think it might be a little bit of a European thing too so, we have to keep harping on it and getting them to do it.”

    Some observers have wondered why Lias Andersson was perpetually relegated to the fourth line while Brett Howden got an opportunity on other lines. Pavel Buchnevich has been a favorite target of Quinn for criticism. Quinn had issues with Filip Chytil and Vitali Kravtsov, issues that risked alienation with their coach. Kaapo Kakko has demonstrated his ability to control the puck and play skillfully in the offensive zone, but there is a feeling he hasn’t had the opportunities he should have had so far this season.

    Sure, you could argue that the Rangers have drafted or acquired too many European “finesse ” players, but if the idea is to draft the best player available, that’s what you end up with.

    This could explain why Staal, Smith, and other North American players get a free hand, and the Europeans kids get railroaded!!!!!!!

    1. Good points, Walt. I can remember when they hired DQ that his ideal team consisted of fast, north/south, hard hitting simplified offense. But what the roster is comprised of is mostly the opposite type of players… regardless of where they’re from. Maybe the Rangers aren’t the best fit for DQ? There are plenty of coaches that are good with young players. Sometimes it seems as if DQ is jamming square pegs into round holes. I’d like to start to see DQ show us something where maybe his coaching strategies wins some games.

      1. maybe the SCOUTING staff needed to be overhauled at the same time AV was gone. they are clearly not on the same page with coaching staff.

      1. Still carrying the Lias torch n revisionist history of his time in NHL…totally ineffective. Doing ok in AHL…needs to do better though for call up…not fast enough for top six n Howden stronger on skates than Lias is…dem the facts

    2. 26 of the top 50 NHL scorers are Canadian born. If European hockey players were so skilled you would think they would show up on the scoreboard more often.

  10. It’s on Quinn, he’s the one who determines who plays on the 4th line and what type of ice time they get. The idea that you need to roll 4 lines in order to be successful isn’t new, it’s canon law.

  11. lias “lighting up the ahl” 5 points in 8 games, all of which came in 2 games. id sloowwww down there. (pun intended). he has more penalty minutes than his games played and points combined.

  12. For the past few weeks a recurring theme has been that we are supposedly short on wings and potentially overstocked on RHD. Assuming thats true why don’t we give Tony D a shot at the wing. He can certainly skate, stick handle and shoot and his size would be less of a factor.

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