The Lesson of Lias Andersson

High draft picks are odd things.  Obviously, no player drafted in the top-10, or drafted at all, for that matter is guaranteed to go on to a long and successful career.  However, there is quite a bit of pressure in drafting that high, as fans view it as compensation for a poor season or a prolonged rebuild.  High draft picks are currency for the price of future success.

Philosophically, I have always been of the mind that you should always shoot for the highest possible ceiling with any draft choice.  Clearly, if that upside carries an irresponsible amount of risk, that needs to be taken into account, but the general rule would be to shoot for moon.  Now, it is my decision to make and not my career on the line, but certainly the energy of a possible superstar as your shiny new toy helps assuage the fanbase and helps them buy in to your vision of the future.

This is the main reason why I was never a huge fan of the Lias Andersson pick, especially in the context of the trade that brought the pick over from Arizona.  I do understand it, though.  The first round of the 2017 Draft is ugly after the top 6 picks.  I can only assume that the thought process was to get the guy who had the highest probability of being a productive NHLer, even if his ceiling wasn’t that high.  Not the way I would have handled it, but I get it.

Now, a little over two years after being taken as the number seven overall pick, Lias Andersson has requested a trade.  It has obviously not worked out in New York, for a number of reasons and it is time for both player and organization to move on.  Dave provided a detailed analysis of the moving parts of the situation yesterday, so I’m not going to rehash those here.  I do want to discuss the lens that these development issues are examined through and the allocation of responsibility in certain contexts.  This was also very present in the Vitali Kravtsov situation.

The most important thing to remember is that for the vast majority, if not all of us here, hockey is a game, a pastime and a passion.  For these guys, it’s a profession.  An organization is an employer, like any other.  The circumstances by which that employee finds themselves on the payroll varies, but the organization is a workplace, just like yours and mine.

Our ties to the organization come from a very different place.  They come from childhood memories, families, spouses and children.  They are a sense of community and self-identity.  They come from a place of mystical allegiance, a sense of destiny and membership to the passion that drives its fanbase.  This is the biggest disconnect in the world of modern professional sports; we feel that the players have to be as devoted to the franchise as the fans are.

For the player, the calculus is different.   You have a finite amount of time to play this game and make a meaningful living, especially for players who chose to forgo education to pursue a professional path in hockey.  I know no one is lamenting the earning capacity of professional athletes, but younger players need to establish themselves as earners to cram 40+ years of professional wages into maybe a 10-year career.  That is always going to be their priority, and rightfully so.

The expectations for development and player growth also diverge along these lines.  When you are a young amateur player learning the game, you are instilled with certain expectations of your development.  Humility, coachability, hard work, earning your spot, etc.   There are dues to be paid and you have to outwork everyone around you to take your game to the next level.  These are virtuous lessons for young people to learn, and if I was trying out for my local high school team, you would be absolutely right.  However, by the time these players make it into the professional realm, the equation changes. Motivations change, economics change and most importantly, the relationship between the player and the power structure changes.

In the amateur environment, the expectation is that all things are viewed equally.  The best players play, the cream rises to the top and you are rewarded accordingly.  The worst-case scenario you tend to run into is a coach or athletic director-type who doesn’t like your game or doesn’t give you a fair shot.  This happens all the time in amateur hockey, and most of the time, parents move the child into a move favorable environment for their development and continue to look for the best opportunities.

In the pro’s, you confront these same perceived worst-case scenarios, compounded with the fact that the organization is actively trying to limit your earning potential (within reason) and you don’t have the ability to seek out a better opportunity if you find yourself in a difficult situation. The other important thing to remember is these players, at least at the beginning of their careers are still kids in most relevant ways.

This is why they have professional teams backing them up.  Agents, managers, trainers, etc., who are all looking out for the well-being and professional development of that player. They advocate for the best opportunity on the player’s behalf and they understand the game within the game.  This also creates perceptions of player behavior or positions on disagreements that may cloud where the player is actually coming from.

Back to Lias, as an example.  There has been a chorus of voices talking about his entitlement and refusing to accept his limitations as a player and quitting when the going gets tough instead of picking himself up, making the best of the situation and trying to improve.  Let me reiterate, that would be an appropriate response for a 14-year old who was just cut from the high school team.  It’s just different at this level.

Let me be clear, the Rangers don’t owe Andersson anything, just as Andersson doesn’t owe the Rangers anything.  However, the Rangers owe themselves. They used competitive capital to acquire this player that they cannot get back.  They may have been uninspired by the options out there, but when you use the number seven overall pick on a player, you damn sure better find out what you have in him.

There are certainly things that you need to look for in a player’s development to feel confident in green-lighting more responsibility, a call up or more ice-time.  However, there comes a point where you need to just take the training wheels off, especially in a rebuilding year, and let that player sink or swim.  If he sinks, you are going to take heat for taking the player in that spot, but at least you can feel like you exhausted all possibilities.

I guess that’s why this situation with Andersson feels so frustrating.  You have an organization that pissed away a high pick without seeing what they had.  They were so focused on making him “earn it” within the framework of their expectations that they abandoned the organizational need to realize value from their asset. If you can’t break away from trying to force “maturity” on teenagers, especially from different countries, cultures and experiences, the organization will undoubtedly suffer for it, even if portions of the fanbase and hockey community think it is the right thing to do.

There is no question that developing good habits and a professional attitude go a long way in helping facilitate future success; and those traits should absolutely be prioritized and encouraged by the organization.  At the end of the day, though, this is a business and you have to manage your assets responsibly.

So, while Lias Andersson has not developed as we had all hoped, he is well within his rights to seek a better opportunity to earn a living and maximize his career trajectory. It has become abundantly clear that the Rangers organization is not going to let him sink or swim in a meaningful role, which is undeniably poor asset management in a rebuilding cycle.  Vilify Andersson for not being good enough if you must, but enough with the farce that he owes his employer any more devotion than you owe yours.

The Rangers organization has displayed a pattern of this type of youth development for years now and it has wasted enough assets.  A philosophical overhaul to the development model for young players is long overdue, and Lias Andersson is just the latest wasted opportunity.

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  • Good write up, the bottom line on Lias is this, no matter what hockey organization he winds up playing for, he will have to prove himself. Case in point, whenever JT Miller (also a first round pick) was sent to the minors, he would light it up, make the most of it and show that he belonged in the NHL.

    Andersson needs to do the same thing, maybe he will succeed. Or maybe he simply doesn’t have what it takes to be in the NHL.

    • Except JT was given opportunities to prove he belonged in the NHL — he wasn’t stuck playing 8 minutes a night with a journeyman forward, a fighter or a converted d’man ALL THE TIME. When no one player proved themselves capable of being the 2nd line center, Lias didn’t even get a whiff … he didn’t even get a whiff at the 3rd line with two productive players. To me that’s the difference.

      • I don’t think he got a whiff because it was obvious to the coaching staff that he wasn’t good enough. He wasn’t even playing well in Hartford. Bottom line is the kid isn’t a viable player yet.

        • I’m talking about prior to Hartford this year … he played well in the pre-season and his metrics were pretty good at the start of the year and still he was never given a chance to play more than 10 minutes a night with marginal wingers in a 4th line role even though no other center was distinguishing himself — that’s all I’m saying. JT on the other hand got lots of chances to produce.

          • Brian Boyle scored 21 goals as a 4th liner with gritty, grinder linemates. Point is, if the talent’s there, it will show. I don’t even really like Quinn, but I think Lias hasn’t show anything. He’s been outplayed by Greg McKegg. Move on, stop blaming the coaches.

          • … and how old was Boyle at that point and how much ice time did he get and do you really want to compare guys like Haley, Mckegg and Smith to what Boyle played with? Talk about a flawed comparison. Sheesh.

      • JT was jerked around too. He showed that he could play and then they sent him down, proclaiming victory that he succeeded because he went to Hartford.

        When in reality, he would have played the same way anyway if he did not go down.

        The org has a very serious development problem here. How many players have “not cut it here” but went onto other teams to succeed? Is the “model” for being a Ranger, being a “Boy Scout?” Someone who is polite, well intentioned, and hard working? Is that the goal for this team?

        The FO praising and sticking up for Ruff is very troubling. Then Krav, then Lias, the Howden love, the Buch hate, the Smith love, the Haley love, etc. All, very, very troubling.

        My “faith” is diminishing by the day.

        • I am in the can Ruff camp as well. The Rangers are a club that continues to look very disorganized when defending in their own zone. My fear is the young blueliners are learning bad habits that will be hard to unlearn.

          The Ranger young forwards also look lost when they come back to defend. Not knowing who to pick up or how to take away passing or shooting lanes.

          • “My fear is the young blueliners are learning bad habits that will be hard to unlearn.”

            That is exactly right. And that’s why something needs to be changed after this season.

            The Hockey Rodent wrote an article in July saying that getting Trouba would do nothing to improve the Rangers’ D because the system sucks.

            There seems to be plenty of people outside the org that acknowledges the issues with the system. Too bad the people inside the org don’t see it.

          • That’s what they call good coaching from the teacher they hired. What a farce!!!!!!!
            It’s there for anyone with objectivity to see!!!!!!

          • Duclair, Ryan Graves, Pionk, off the top of my head.

            Even Names is doing better in Ottawa than he did here. And he did not seem too unhappy to leave.

    • I hate jt Miller comparisons. Like lemme know when lias posts multiple 20 goal and 50 point seasons

  • I think fans are partially losing sight of the 2017 situation. The letter wasnt sent out yet, they lost 2 centers .. I bet the thinking was if they couldnt move up let’s get a player who can contribute this season.(I hate this logic). It didn’t work out. And once the letter was out the focus shifted to the best possible future players. So he is kind of a victim of the situation to a degree. Its best they move on.

  • The stark reality is that Lias Anderson isn’t a viable NHL player. The blame goes squarely on the shoulders of Gordie Clark and Anders Kallur who pushed hard to draft him and Clark allowed it. The scouts who touted him in addition to Kallur should be fired immediately. Kallur thought that Lias would become a similar player to himself which is why he pushed for him. Lias never would be similar to Kallur because he doesn’t skater like he did nor does he have his physical game.

    • You want to fire the scouts that drafted Chytil, Kravtsov, Miller, Lundkvist, Barron, Reunanen and Robertson? The scouts that gave the Rangers the top rated prospect pool in the NHL?

      Seems like a really stupid suggestion, pal.

      • I want to fire the scouts who drafted Lias, DM, Jessiman, LaFluer, Lindlom , Gropp , Tambellini.

        That’s 3 top 10 picks and 4 high 2nd round picks and Kravtsov is still a major question mark.
        Yes I do

        • Jessiman? Want to stretch even further back to prove your point? Besides, this group wasn’t in charge when Jessiman got picked … and blaming them for a 3rd rounder not panning out like Tambellini makes you Gumby …. damnit. 😉

    • People blame Gorton, but Clark is to blame..agree Czech……Clark is useless and a very very very and I mean very good friend of Cigarman, who still has clout…

  • The Rangers had 6 selections in the crappy 2017 draft class. As it now stands they apparently have two top 9 forwards in Chytil and Barron, with Chytil trending as top 6 with top line potential. So I’m not upset with the drafting. However, and I will beat a dead horse here, their development is worrisome. We keep imploring JD to do something and he probably will, as all of the personnel that are in place are not his people. So it’s going to take time… and, unfortunately, I ain’t getting any younger.

  • Lias Andersson was drafted by a team who doesn’t know how to develop talent. The team then hired a coach who hates European players. This coach decided that playing Haley and Smith was more important than finding out if Lias could develop. As a result, Lias was never given a chance and never developed. He’s still young enough to turn into an NHL player, and when all is said and done, he will probably turn out to be better than Brett Howden. The Rangers totally screwed themselves here.

    If JD doesn’t fire Gorton and DQ over this sorry episode (and the similar treatment of Kravtsov, Chytil and Buchnevic), then he is part of the problem.

  • Absolutely agree, Rangers FO and Coaching staff are just absolutely incompetent… IMHO, get rid of this circus ASAP

  • Last year, Lias played 40+ games and scored fewer than ten points. He isn’t the only Ranger forward to do that this century. Guys like Ryan Hollweg and Colton Orr were similar scorers, Blair Betts IIRC had a year or two at that level. Brian Boyle did it once. he was the ONLY such player to ever score a meaningful number of points at the NHL level. Put Connor mcDavid with Brendan Smith and Michael Haley and he’ll score a bunch. Pavel Buchnevich will score some. A good offensive player will show something.

    There is a major point being overlooked. Some players have a bad attitude and they are a cancer on the team. [ IMO Carmelo Anthony absolutely destroyed the Knicks.] Not carrying such players is way more important than not wasting talent. The medal-tossing incident was unacceptable behavior in a ten year old. Teams win the Cup by having players that embrace their roles. Players needn’t be undyingly loyal to their teams, but they should act like they are.

    • I don’t. Think Buch would score with those dudes, McDi is the one kind of player….also playing around 2 min a game on PK and only. 6 minutes 5 on 5 kind of supporting situation, how many points Howden scored with those dudes? 0, he didn’t score a single point when he was moved to 4th line…. But when he got on a wing to Chytil immediately things changed….

  • It is intersting that there is this obsession with Lias Andersson while no one cares about Sean Day. Day is almost certainly more talented than Andersson and also appears to be a bust. Still, since being demoted to Maine, his team has won six out of seven (after winning 8 of its first 18). He is +6 with four assists and 15 shots in 7 games.

    Meanwhile, Hartford has seven defensemen – only four being Ranger signees and two of those (Raddysh, Ebert) not really prospects. I agree that the top two prospects are Keane and Rykov and it was important to get Rykov into the lineup when he got healthy. But, with so much dreck, why was Day the player pushed aside?

    • I wouldn’t say nobody cares about Sean Day, but there’s a lot of difference between a top 10 draft pick and a 3rd round pick in terms of visibility in an organization. Additionally, Lias was the captain of his international junior team and was touted by the Rangers as “NHL-ready”. These factors have made Andersson’s tenure as Ranger property more newsworthy than Day’s.

    • He’s playing in what amounts to Single A ball. I don’t think his hockey talent was ever in dispute. It’s what is between his ears that was the question. IMO, he probably lacks the IQ, heart and focus that he needs to be great… and with that size and god-given ability he could have been phenomenal.

  • I knew this kid was doomed when they introduced him, he raised his stick, tripped over a wire, and fell flat on his face. Who knew how much of an omen that really was at the time. But it’s one thing to ask for a trade, and quite another to quit.

    I don’t put much blame on the coaching staff for this, but they’re not blameless. The consensus is he didn’t do enough to play more. Not much anyone can argue about that. I think he’s going to have a hard time staying in the NHL elsewhere too. But this is now 2 top prospects that have walked away in 4 months. Kakko was depressed too at some earlier points in the season. I don’t know if it’s the communication or what, but these young players from Europe are missing something when they’re coming here and things are not going as planned. I think the NYR need to re-evaluate they way they’re talking with these players and the support systems they have for them.

  • I will comment from a small business owner’s perspective, because business, whether big or small still has one common thread that applies to both: Infrastructure.

    Right now, IMO, the Rangers’ infrastructure is in shambles. There appears to be no “plan” at all. They appear to be going from day to day, whichever way the wind blows them that particular day.

    “Rebuild?” Ok, so why put Brendan Smith, a career long D man on the 4th line? Taking a spot away from your #7 overall pick? Even if that 7th overall player is terrible? And why have a mutt like Haley in the lineup or even on the roster? Why have Staal, a player who looks ancient, and has not been able to play in the current NHL for the past 3 years, in the line up at all?

    Why continue to put so called core players like Buch on the 4th line Rendering them basically useless, based on their skillsets? Why put Fast, who already had a limited offensive game and is now totally useless on the offensive end, any where near the top 6?

    The coach makes out the lineup and deploys the players during the games, but the FO runs the ship. So I ask them, “what are you watching?” WHY, has there not been so much as one word said as to the horrendous amount of shot attempts given up, game in and game out? How not one Ranger beat writer has asked the coach why is this happening and how are you going to fix it? Or, where is the FO on Lias with the coach? A player that the FO said was “Captain material” who had no attitude issues until now? Where is the FO on this?

    I mean, because the Rangers are over .500, everything is cool? The talent on this team has gotten them this far. So when the goalies can’t bail them out anymore and the Rangers’ shooting % goes down, the losses will mount, and the actual play on the ice will result in the losses they deserve.

    Ryan Graves, had no spot here. But yet, he’s tearing it up in Colorado. Pionk, who was a defensive disaster last year, is playing very well in Winnipeg. Our 2017 7th overall pick is a waste. Is our 2018 9th overall pick a waste? I hope not.

    JD needs to get off his butt and take control. If this continues to be the “good ole boys” network in Rangertown, then we are screwed, for years. They already wasted Hank’s career, I would hate to see that happen to Panarin and Kakko.

    Get on the same effing page guys and fix this mess.

    • Beat writers? I subscribe to the Athletic and freakin Carpeniello (who I used to respect as a beat writer) will defend Staal like he was his kid brother, defends Ruff and his deployment system of defense and says it’s the forwards fault and there is nothing wrong with Coach Ruff and it’s all a tired narrative. He seems to take zero umbrage with the fact that Haley and Smith are playing regularly. And Howden gets no ink on his inferior performance at both ends of the ice.

      It’s blatant boot licking and these obsequious writers apparently don’t want to piss off the guys in the front office and look good in their eyes. There will never be another Dick Young again.

      • Larry Brooks, in his prime, used to ask those questions. Not anymore, he’s on the back 9 and does not want to rock the boat.

        Even the MSG between period “analysis” comes from MSG shills. Sam loves to praise Staal and Howden whenever he can. Like tonight’s game against the Flyers, Howden cleared the puck out of the zone on a PK and Sam says “heads up play by Howden!!” I mean the puck was at Howden’s feet and he smacked it down the ice, lol.

    • TM , actually Staal hasn’t played well since his brother ( another guy who slipped past and could be a perfect #2 center ) knocked him into next Tuesday. How Ruff is still around is beyond me. Everyone else’s system seems to be far superior to what we have in place. This team is way better then its showing. That’s for sure !


      • I do feel bad for Staal because injuries are a major reason for his decline in play, but that does not mean that the Rangers have to play him.

        But not only do the Rangers play Staal, but they praise him for his play. Scary stuff, and it is another bad example of the org’s mindset as a whole.

        Which is why, as of now, I have no faith. And all the excitement from this past offseason is basically gone for me as a fan. They have the ingredients, now they have to implement properly.

    • Tony

      My friend that was a great wrap up on what this team, and front office is all about. This so called BS teacher is in the drivers seat, calls the shots, and everyone blames the kid Andersson, or Buch, or the rest of the kids DQ has jerked off. The guy is a disaster, and man alive, I can’t believe what I’m about to say, even AV coached better, at least he had a system. It’s on JD to do the rough stuff, fire all the dead wood, get some real coaches, and stay the hell away from the college ranks. The crap DQ pulls works with college kids, it fails with pro, of which he isn’t!!!!

      Someone called him a chowder head, he may have been onto something there….

      • Walt, my good friend and fellow staunch Ranger fan, explain this to me, how a team could have 3 PPs in a period, one for over a minute with a 5 on 3, and still give up 25 attempted shots in that same period?

        And NO ONE at MSG talks about it, explains it, questions it, etc.?

        JD, you’re on the clock bro. No changes after this year = perennial losing, not winning.

        This team has good talent, not great, but good. No reason why they could not make the playoffs. If Trotz is our coach then we make the playoffs. I would bet a lot of money on that.

        • Tony

          Correct, as a matter of fact didn’t Trouba even make mention that he doesn’t quite know this system. This is an indirect way of calling out the coaching staff for their BS so called system…

  • I don’t Lias was mishandled, I think Kravtsov was mishandled. These 18 year old’s come out of junior and it i9s a mystery if they will have the speed to play in the NHL. Lias’s problem was speed pure and simple. He never developed NHL speed. Kravtsov did so as good as he was at the KHl or world Junior level, until we see him playing NHL games we will never know. That’s why Kravtsov should have played the first 10 games in the show so we could see if he could develop the speed to play at the next level, just like Canadian juniors. Lias was not a product of a bad development system but rather a bad selection system. why are we picking 18 year old players, when 3 from the last draft are NHL ready, none of whom are tearing up the league?

  • If this was the o my time a player was t happy with how mgmt has dealt with them then I would say grow up Lias.

    But from two prospects not happy with what’s going on then you need to start thinking about the org and what it’s doing.

    Are people going to tell me both Kravs and Lias we’re both bad eggs?

    • You failed to mention Kakko, who was also depressed, and Buch who is never smiling, and placed on the 4th line, while the Howden kid plays. As Tony stated, Howden plays with good intentions, what the f*ck is that? It’s due time to rid ourselves of DQ, what a sorry excuse of a human being, but he has good intentions, LOL!!!!!!!!

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