Has The Brett Howden Experiment Gone Too Far?

The Rangers’ 4-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils yesterday revealed a concerning trend in the deployment of their young stars. It’s no secret that David Quinn took Brett Howden on as a “project” when he took the helm in 2018, giving him more ice time than his production warranted. Clearly, he sees promise in the young center and plays him in a variety of situations.

However, when is it time to say The Brett Howden Experiment has gone too far? Let’s specifically look at Brett Howden’s deployment in comparison to Kaapo Kakko.

Brett Howden vs. Kaapo Kakko

First, let’s clarify that there are inherent differences in how each player is deployed. Howden is a center and through Quinn’s system is more of a penalty killer. Kakko is a winger and his special teams talent is the powerplay.

Howden’s ceiling is likely a bottom-six center at best, while Kakko is gunning for top-six wing minutes. Despite those differences, to start the season, Howden averages more ice time and gets more advantageous zone starts.

Last season, Kakko averaged nearly a minute more of ice time than Howden. He also earned more points than Howden in four fewer games. However, he had a team-worst rating of -26. But young players are going to make mistakes in their rookie seasons. The only way to learn and grow into a better player is to play more NHL minutes.

So far in this condensed season, that has not been the case in Quinn’s deployment strategy. Grett Howden averages nearly three minutes more of ice time than Kaapo Kakko. Howden receives more offensive zone starts than Kakko as well. 

By the Numbers

In last night’s game against the Devils, there was a point where Howden played nearly 10 minutes before Kakko and Filip Chytil had each played five. The Rangers had a significant advantage in powerplays in this game, so realistically Kakko should have earned much more ice time in comparison to Howden.

Ultimately, Kakko ended up only playing around a minute and a half more than Howden in the game. But his line with Chytil and Phil Di Guiseppe greatly outperformed Howden’s. Kakko’s line ended the game with a CF% of 85% and Howden’s had a 31%. Yet 75% of Howden’s starts were in the offensive zone.

Yes, it is quite early on in the season. But it’s worth noting that Howden’s leash seems incredibly long compared to many other players on the Rangers. 

After a strong first period, it took Kakko a significant amount of time to see the ice again. He and Chytil fight tooth and nail for ice time but Howden receives multiple chances to make mistakes young players are bound to make. 

Quinn’s Contradictions

What makes the attachment to Howden even more perplexing is other roster changes made to start the year. Quinn was quick to break up the established defense pairings after a disaster of a home opener. Fox and Lindgren were separated and Tony DeAngelo was replaced with Brendan Smith.

Quinn seems to push a mindset that not all roster spots are guaranteed. He also seems to entrusts Brett Howden with so much night in and night out. 

After a tough rookie season, now is the time to let Kaapo Kakko play more minutes and allow him to work his way into a permanent top-six lineup spot. Messing around with his ice time and not deploying him in the proper situations will only stunt his growth. Just compare his night vs. the Devils with Jack Hughes’ performance. 

I think it’s about time Quinn focuses on helping Kakko, Chytil, and even Lafreniere grow into the NHL players they’re capable of becoming instead of experimenting with Brett Howden. 

Stats per Natural Stat Trick.

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  • couldn’t agree more…last night Kakko and Chytil played 7 1/2 minutes through 2 periods. They about doubled the time in the 3rd, but their absence was noticeable…also, maybe PP2 can get a series or 2 in the game? Or at a minimum Strome can be dropped on PP1 and maybe Kakko or Lafreniere can play there? And I’ll say it again. Seeing Lindy Ruff giving Hughes a long leash and Quinn barely giving Kakko a short leash is a very troubling optic.

    • Is DQ actually AV 2.0?
      Let the kids with talent play and forget about the players we acquired through bad trades.

      • If we miss the play offs, But Kakko, Chytil, Lafreniere play and develop; no problem. We miss the play offs because we keep playing Johnson, Strome and Howden, not ok. I am seeing this morning it looks like Smith is out and ADA is in and JOHNSON is in too. Did Quinn see those shots Johnson put into right field in the first period? How about how steady Smith and Miller were. Two themes I see developing this season ” it’s just one game”…”and is Johnson ever going to be scratched”?

      • very much so, kappo and chytil should be giving more time on the ice in general and the pp.
        starting to think about changing my name if this continues.

    • “Seeing Lindy Ruff giving Hughes a long leash and Quinn barely giving Kakko a short leash is a very troubling optico.”

      You have no legs to stand on for such a statement. Nico was hurt and the rest of the center depth is poo poo outside of Hughes. Ruff had no choice but to lean on their center depth starting with their usual 2c as a 1c. Chytil wouldn’t be in that spot because as you can see, Hughes is a superior talent to him. Speed kills, Kakko needs to work on his cardio which will in return help fuel his motor. He for sure will get the short end of the stick on this roster with center’s like Strome and Chytil as 2c/3c. He still needs to contain his lane/wing and work smarter on the rushes and cycles.

  • Howden is a valuable swing player. You can move him around, but he is not very good anywhere, just adequate.

    DQ is supposed to develop guys who have more potential that Howden into great players. That include Chytil, Kakko and yes, even Gauthier. DQ cannot see that. Time to replace DQ.

  • Hey Coach! Play your best players. Not you favorite. Don’t forget Toni D.
    I am holding back some expletive’s!

  • Gee, DQ takes the worst player in the NHL last year and coaxes decent performances for two consecutive games and gets criticized because the guy isn’t playing enough minutes.

    I don’t live in NY and don’t get to see the Rangers play much, but what has struck me in the past about Chityl is that he has flashes, but he did not show up for every shift.

    Limited successful playing time for Kakko and Chityl is coach of the year stuff. Unfortunately, the rest of the picture does not look so good. Incidentally, Georgiev was 4-6 in games he started last year as the next game after a win. He isn’t streaky and should not have played last night.

    • The coach that you are praising and at the end questioning limited the success for Kakko and Chityl and others on the team. The coach is also limiting the success for the team. We don’t need an other 1st or 2nd pick.

  • I think it’s about time Quinn focuses on helping Kakko, Chytil, and even Lafreniere grow into the NHL players they’re capable of becoming instead of experimenting with Brett Howden.


    • You would think that a college coach had the right mentality to groom young players. Apparently not. No harm in Gorton and JD mentioning to DQ that his job is to develop players first and try to win every game second. The early periods is where young players SHOULD be seeing more ice time.

      The only solution is to move guys like Howden so DQ has to play the kids he needs to develop. Hughes is a perfect example of letting a player develop on the ice.

  • Seems like a trade will be coming since we have forwards and D playing on their unnatural side. Don’t see Howden on this team next year and DeAngelo could be trade bait for an improved center. Why Johnson plays over Smith i will never understand

    • Don’t get me wrong but getting rid of a talent the likes of DeAngelo is a kin to getting rid of Zubov. Don’t get rid of him because a coach with proven record of failure in this league. Just like Colin Campbell who ruined the team.

      • Tony D is a 5/4 at best on a team with a great stay at home partner for him. I like his game with the puck in all 3 zones but what you see is what you get out of him. He gases out so quickly on D because he’s so out of his element at defending or containing the boards in the dz. He is a poor man’s Torey Krug without the resume. Relax…

  • In this game coach Quinn single handedly cost us the win with his decisions on who to play and when to play them. Starting Giorgiev at goal was his first mistake shesterkin is our number one goalie and he needs to play multiple games to get ready. Secondly Quinn seems to have some type of a relationship with howden that gets him more ice time than he has ever deserved. This has been multiple years of this. If Quinn can’t separate effort versus talent when it comes to playing regular season games he needs to go as a coach. In my opinion it has been too long and too many years of him coaching his team like there are college team and if you give great effort in practice you earn more ice time than talent does. You can get away with that in college where the talent level is pretty even across the board. In the NHL you have to play your talent, especially young talent so they have the opportunity to grow and become what you want them to become the rangers have multiple stars on this team that are really young and need to play more to get better even if it hurts you in the short term. However giving howden less ice time will not hurt you in the short term because although he works hard he doesn’t have the talent. Also unlike the new he’s not very physical on the ice either. Howden has to go or this coach needs to be fired.

  • I meant to say also unlike lemieux he doesn’t play a physical game that might justify more ice time.

  • I totally agree with you Kakko needs more ice time. He will start producing given that time. If Quinn does not change Kakko won’t show his true skills. This kid is dying to show what he’s got .

  • Experiment? How about obsession?

    On for 5 goals against out of 9 so far this year. All on approx 12/13 minutes per game.

    Enough said, no? Because he’s certainly not going to outscore that kind of defense, or lack thereof, lol.

    Czech would let him play 20 minutes per game if he were the Rangers’ coach. 🙂

  • I couldn’t agree more. Quinn is turning into AV 2.0. If hes such a development minded coach why not let these young guys play and get used to their linemates. You need more than a two week training camp to learn peoples tendencies and build chemistry. Shuffling the lines every time someone makes a mistake is ridiculous. We arent winning the cup this year, so let them grow together.

  • Forwards – Even strength TOI per game: Lafreniere is 3rd, Chityl 4th, Kakko 6th, Zibanejad 7th, Howden 9th.

    The reason Howden has more TOI is that he is filling an essential role, penalty killer – while the kids are second team power play, a unit you would just as soon not use.

    However, however,

    looking at last year’s numbers. — Ranger centers average number of minutes on ice per power play goal yielded

    Zibanejad 9.50, Rooney 9.35, Strome 8.69, Howden 6.42.

    Howden was ineffective on the PK last year and so far this year he has been on the ice for all three opposing PP goals. Yes, Rooney had a bad first game but he has shown in the past that he is a capable fourth line center and a solid PK center while Howden has shown that he is neither. Howden is getting playing time commensurate with his role, but he should not be in the lineup at all.

    Amusing note about coaching strategy — number last year for Brendan Lemieux was 18.68. He was actually on the ice for two opposing PP goals last year (and two shorties, so he broke even). DQ has seen fit to give Lemieux 69 seconds of PK time so far this year.

  • I agree that Howden should go down to Hartford and play full time. Maybe Quinn got some management feedback about his handling of Lias Anderson (really their mistake). But, regardless, Kakko and Chytle need time now. Howden gets in better position than before, but doesn’t cash in.

  • So many true points in this article. When is JD and Gorton going to step in and stop this insanity. DQ is a clown- talks the talk but can’t coach the coaching that needs to be done at the NHL level. Go back to college and let’s get someone else in here…before he ruins, KK Chytl Gauthier Lafrieniere Kratsov Miller etc…these kids are arguably the best collection of young talent the Rangers ever had.

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