Coaching

Evaluating David Quinn This Season

While often an overlooked statistic, the average duration of an NHL coach is two and half seasons. When the puck drops on January 14th, David Quinn will be entering that pivotal 3rd season with the club. The Rangers will be evaluating David Quinn to check his viability as a long-term coach.

To be clear, Quinn is far from being on the hot seat when the season kicks off in a few weeks. Neither John Davidson, nor Jeff Gorton seem like the type to keep guys on short leashes. Neither have a history of churning through coaches. With that said, nothing is etched in stone in this business.

As Dave pointed out the other day, this is going to be an incredibly difficult season for the Rangers given their roster construction (where’s the depth?) and the strength of this re-jiggered division (Boston). With that said, there’s still a myriad of different ways beyond win/loss record to check Quinn on his progress of developing this young roster.

Finding the right system

If you’ve been reading this blog long enough to remember my regular contributions here, you might recall my extensive work covering the x’s and o’s of hockey. It is one of the most important and overlooked aspects of the game and still does not get enough mainstream coverage. Systems and tactics can help mediocre rosters be competitive and carefully constructed rosters become elite. The Rangers are the former. The problem here is that after two years, the Rangers identify is still not easily distinguishable.

Tom Renney teams cycled you to death. Torts’ teams made the opposition eat boards and turnover the puck down low. They stacked the crease both offensively and defensively. AV’s teams were all about counter attacks. Pressure the defensive blueline and fly the zone. For better or worse, Hank was left on an island. Quinn? It’s hard to pinpoint.

My concern is that he’s trying to take a page out of AV’s book by trying to have different tactics for different situations, oppositions, etc. This works when you have a veteran roster with players that have played under different coaches and systems at the pro level. This roster is still too green.

In 2021, I’d like to see things get paired down, especially in the d-zone. Man coverage is very difficult to execute. You have to think fast and be fast. With a roster of players with under 2 years of experience, the Rangers should play zone coverage more exclusively. You defend your patch of ice regardless of who is out there, time on the clock, etc. It’s simpler to execute and this team needs to play simple hockey to get more cohesion.

Ice Time Distribution

If you look at the Rangers time-on-ice chart from last season, it’s pretty well distributed. You don’t have defenders playing over 23+ minutes a night, nor many bottom 6ers tracking below 10 minutes per game. For a team with limited roster depth, that is pretty remarkable. Most coaches wouldn’t trust guys and distribute ice-time so linearly.

With that said, I think Quinn probably gave a little too much ice-time to guys who weren’t really deserving of it. A lot of ink has been spilled on Brett Howden and I won’t rehash old arguments. However, I hope Quinn gives him a shorter leash this year and time on the wing instead of center, so he’ll have less defensive responsibilities.

Kakko did not play well for long stretches of the season last year and should have spent more time in Hartford. I’m hoping he starts playing more like a #2 pick this year, but if not, sending guys down to the AHL shouldn’t be viewed like kids are getting mafia dropped from the Verrazano Bridge. It’s development, not a career ender.

Tony DeAngelo, while he has a D next to his name, should almost be thought of as a third winger. As such, he should not sniff time on the PK and maybe even OT.

Player Development

Finally, the last and probably the hardest aspect of coaching is player development. If you think Kakko, Chytil, Howden, will all take major steps forward, and some combination of Lafreniere, Julian Gauthier, Tarmo Reunanen, K’Andre Miller, or a Morgan Barron will walk into this lineup and contribute right away, please send me whatever it is you’re smoking.

Evaluating David Quinn in this area relies almost solely on Kakko and Chytil progressing offensively. Lafreniere would also have to meet or exceed the outputs of other first overall picks. Over the past decade, that has been about a 60 point pace for offensive players in their rookie years.

As for others, Quinn has to get productive minutes for Gauthier on the wing. He also needs a breakeven player out on LD for 15-17 mins a night. Between Hajek, Reunanen, Bitetto and Miller, one of those guys must spell Jack Johnson/Brendan Smith…or this division will run riot on that last pair.

Easier said than done of course, but if Torts can get a team with zero 60+ point players and Stu Bickel into the postseason, Quinn should at least have us sniffing at them this spring. Those are my expectations in evaluating David Quinn. What are yours?

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  • First of all, welcome back Suit!! Great to see you writing again!!

    Let’s get this out of the way, IMO, Quinn will get a “pass” this year, no matter what the Rangers do this season. It’s an unusual year and coaches will not necessarily be totally evaluated on this year, to determine job status going forward.

    I will say that DQ’s initial line up sounds great. Putting your top 4 D in the top 2 pairings is like “hooray!!” Putting Miller with Smith on the 3rd pairing is like “hooray!!” Not having Johnson in the top 6 is like “hooray!!” (We will see how long that lasts, lol). Putting Rooney at 4C and Howden on the wing is like “hooray!!”

    So, maybe we have progress. Now, the fun part is actually having a sound defensive system on the ice. That is to be determined. But good signs, for sure.

  • This is the year that we can really judge DQ. He is no longer a rookie coach, he has a veteran Defensive coach who brings in a better (hopefully) strategy and has 2 top lines he can lean heavily on.

    He needs to groom and grow the 3rd and 4th line players so that they can be productive. This is where he should be judged. Also his in game reactions. He needs to be more proactive than reactive this year. I would think we will be in many 1 goal games. In these games, one or two shifts determine the final score. DQ needs to start making the right moves or we could be buried in this difficult division.

  • “Tony DeAngelo, while he has a D next to his name, should almost be thought of as a third winger. As such, he should not sniff time on the PK and maybe even OT.”

    Think of Tony as Colonel Jessup, you want Tony out there in OT!

      • His lack of a defensive game is overblown. He’s not optimal defensively by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s competitive. He’ll make the occasional mistake, but he’s come a long way in the last 2 years.

        • We don’t give Staal enough credit for covering for DeAngelo last year. Hopefully this year Trouba will be even better. But the PK and OT don’t lend themselves to this.

  • Considering that the Rangers mostly punted on maximizing winning this season (ex. letting Fast go and leaving LHD spots for prospects down the road) I think Quinn will be evaluated almost exclusively on player development. I don’t believe it’s solely on Kakko and Chytil however. The Rangers opened up a spot for Gauthier by passing on Quickie @ a bargain price. Gauthier has all the tools but has never been able to put it together in the big league. If Quinn can help Gauthier realize his potential it will be an important step forward in finalizing the rebuild.

  • “mafia dropped from the Verrazano Bridge” ha

    There’s been a consistent cry about how much ice time Howden gets, it’s time this player really deserves the time. Lias Anderson also comes to mind, but IMO he was and still is going to be a head case out west so IMO this wasn’t DQ’s fault. As for Kakko, he showed glimpses at times and was young at times too, but this fan base has always wanted the kids to get their shots, so how can you blame DQ when he lets the #2 pick have his?

    I am 100% fine with ADA on OT, just make sure we have another defensive minded player out there during his shift.

    I can’t wait to see Igor more this season. 8 more days and counting.

    Drop the Puck
    LGR LGR

    cheers, Happy New Year All

    • ADA at the point on a 3 on 3 has me on the GWB staring down at the Hudson River….not sure why I’m rolling out bridge analogies today. Must be the traffic this am.

    • “this fan base has always wanted the kids to get their shots,”

      A good coach is one who doesn’t cater to the whims of fandom. A good coach wins.

      • … which sometimes means sitting a vet down and playing the younger kid. Sometimes the devil you know is worse than the unknown, a good coach knows that. lol

        • Actually, the problem is not this. Hypothetically (and making no judgments here, the individual players are not important anyway), suppose one has to choose among Johnson, Miller, and Raddysh to pair with Smith on the third pair. Yes, the coach may lean towards the devil he knows (Johnson), but at least there is some pressure to play Miller. Raddysh gets no consideration at all.

          In truth, neither Johnson nor Raddysh is terrible. Miller might actually be awful. We hope he has a bright future, but realism should be in place. Hockey players are on the far right end of the bell curve of skill and the difference between a third pair guy and a top notch AHL player is miniscule compared to the difference between a first pair and a second pair defenseman. And those AHL guys who are underestimated are actually better than some NHL guys.

          I don’t know how good Raddysh is. I do fear the Rangers don’t care.

          • Pretty sure they don’t care … and regarding Miller, I think most are just saying he needs to be equally considered regardless of his age/experience. Personally I see no reason to push him into the lineup just yet, but let him earn his spot on an equal footing with marginal vets.

  • Suit, I think that Quinn will be fine this year and I believe there will be some young guys that make the next step and produce. What everyone seems to forget when writing about this years Rangers is that we are still in a rebuild. This team this year is not constructed to win the Cup, although I say, “who knows, it’s why they play and why we watch”. I think the most important question you asked in your article is “Where is the Depth?” That’s a simple answer. It is in the NCAA, Canadian junior leagues, AHL, ECHL, and overseas. The depth is coming, but patience is required during the rebuild. We are still in a rebuild. Next year we should start to see the depth coming up to the big team and start to compete year in and year out. This year will be tougher, but I don’t suggest everyone give up and say “Wait till next year” because you never know, this team has potential. We have superstar forwards as well as a #2 and a brand new #1. We have the envy of the league regarding goaltending, I mean, who’s close? The fact that we will play in the realigned division is something I think is advantageous. Why? because we are in a rebuild and the lessons learned playing against these teams over and over again will make all these players better, not only now, but well into the future. I believe the Rangers will make the playoffs and with their goaltending, maybe a cinderella season is ours for the taking. I guess I’m just an optimist and would rather see the good in the Rangers than the bad.
    Happy New Year!!

    • Fair points Joe. Definitely recognize we’re still rebuilding. Just hoping to see some progress in the key aspects of Quinn’s responsibilities.

      I didn’t even mention the goaltending! Massively important Shersky delivers between the pipes. I’m putting that on Allaire over Quinn tho.

  • DQ had a college mentality when he came in. He gradually changed his philosophy to an NHL head coach philosophy. This is still a work in progress.

    He needs to develop our young players while working with veterans – not an easy task. To me, this will be a very telling year. He has top tier talent at the top of the lineup and unproven kids sprinkled in the bottom 6. Getting the under-22 crowd to succeed is crucial.

    There are no easy games on the schedule, so buckle up and lets judge DQ in 10 game segments.

  • Totally agree with you, great written. We can see how important Hawden is for DQ, landing him in the first line now.
    And pairing JJ with Smith is a joke.
    DQ wants to win NOW, that means not to much TOI for kids.
    If they want JJ playing PK, he has to be in the lineup. And Smith is so useful for DQ, so the answer is… No room for youth on D exept Fox n Lindgren

    • The wild card here is Martin. He’s broken in plenty of young players on D over the course of his career, so I’m hoping that continues. Though the Jack Johnson referral is surprising.

      • Exactly the point Suit.

        I liked the Martin hiring a lot, until he pushed for JJ. Honestly, there were so many other FA cheap vet Ds out there, who were much better options.

        If the Rangers even needed to go that route, with so many young D men in the org.

        I mean, honestly, is Tarmo a worse option then JJ? Same with Bitetto, who is another stiff, IMO.

  • The importance of the goalie change cannot be overstated. The systems you build for Shesty are totally different from those you build for Hank. The trapezoid changes things of course, but you did not dump and chase against the Devils in their heyday because Brodeur would burn you, so the Devils could stand up at the blue line more. Opponents will be afraid of Shesty with the puck. Plus, the Hank systems were what Hank mostly wanted – a rookie won’t have that clout.

    I don’t see lack of depth as a big issue. With the right system, guys like Rooney, Blackwell, diGuiseppe can be effective players. They are really only thin on defense. Incidentally, I’d try to keep the third pair to 12-15 minutes a game.

    My biggest worry actually is replacing Fast as 2RW.

    • As much as I appreciate the way Fast plays the game, someone had to go to make room for both Kakko and Lafreniere, and he got the short straw. Now our lines are Panarin, Strome, Kakko; Kreider, Zibanejad, Buchnevich; Lafreniere, Chytil, Gauthier; LeMieux, Barron, Blackwell(?) The first three lines are more than acceptable, the fourth is, well, a fourth line. Now, there can be movement among them, as in Lafreniere moving up, Barron replacing Chytil, etc., but it’s not all bad.

      • If Kakko plays the way he did last year, your first line is weak. Kakko showed in the playoffs that he can neutralize Panarin. If he takes a big leap forward, that could be a very good line of course.

        The fourth line center will be Rooney. And that line should be of less concern than the Panarin line.

      • Don’t think the Fast decision had much to do with Lafreniere, it had more to do with Kakko and Gauthier … and wingers that might actually play on the right side. Although you never know, perhaps they try Lafreniere (if he performs as expected) on the right side with Panarin and Strome if both Kakko and Gauthier underperform.

        • I think it had more to do with money. It is foolish to get rid of someone because they are blocking someone else. If Kakko and Gauthier can’t surpass Fast, why force them into the lineup (and it is very unlikely Gauthier will match Fast ever).

          • Money? He got $2M per, not even a paltry 10% increase. People here were talking about paying him $2.5-3M per … it wasn’t money.

    • Ruff’s responsibilities were exactly that, so I’m assuming Martin will take on those duties, but I haven’t read that anywhere officially.

  • Great article Suit. It is wonderful to read you again.

    Only nitpick, slight disagreement is Tony D in OT; I believe, has pretty much been a weapon there. I understand the concerns about his defense, but, on the wide open ice of OT he’s looked darn good.

        • We shall see. It’s but one of many points made in the post, so I’m not married to it. Just an idea given the plethora of options.

          • No, going by the eye test … of course it still isn’t a great measure statistically, whether it’s a regular or OT game. That said his +/- has improved over the course of the last few years so it’s at least a somewhat positive sign that he’s moving forward.

          • OT +/- is based on very little data. But it measures something critical. +1 means you won the game and -1 means you lost it. And with three guys on the ice, there is a pretty good chance you played a major role in he outcome. With 5 on 5, it is easier to be a bystander.

            The eye test is tricky as you perhaps need to create three good opportunities to offset one major lapse, as the lapse far more frequently leads to a goal.

          • There are 5 other players plus 2 goalies that can lapse as well … and someone usually does.

          • ADA was a net negative player when it came to advanced stats like Corsi, shots, Scoring chances, etc., despite putting up the points he did & was starting the majority of his faceoffs in the offensive zone.

          • … and a +12 in less than 70 games. Up to the coach to utilize the player correctly — and he was. Re: negative “advanced stats”, what were his partners stats?!

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