We are 11 games into the 2021 season, which is actually about 20% of the season. While nothing is set in stone yet, there have been some complaints about average ice time among the Rangers young guns. The complaints are largely directed at David Quinn. He certainly deserves fault given some of his roster decisions the past three years. But let’s focus on the one thing we know he controls, and that is ice time.
Forwards Ice Time
Most of the complaints are about Kaapo Kakko’s ice time. However those complaints are largely unfounded. Per Natural Stat Trick, Kakko’s ice time sits at 12:10 per game at 5v5. That’s 5th among forwards behind (in order) Artemi Panarin, Ryan Strome, Pavel Buchnevich, and Mika Zibanejad. Strome and Zibanejad are centers. Is there really justification in playing him more than Panarin or Buchnevich?
Worth noting that Alexis Lafreniere sits at 12:09 TOI/GP, so let’s call him even with Kakko. Lafreniere (and Kakko) gets more average 5v5 TOI than Chris Kreider. To end all arguments here, Brett Howdne averages 10: 38 TOI at 5v5.
If there is a complaint, it is when you add in special teams minutes. Kreider jumps over both Kakko and Lafreniere, which again is expected. Kreider is on PP1 and kills penalties. Neither Kakko nor Lafreniere kill penalties. Neither started the year on PP1 either.
The only valid option here is moving Ryan Strome off PP1 and replacing with a lefty, thus balancing the handedness. That has been an issue, but it’s an issue that will resolve itself over time.
Defense Ice Time
There haven’t been many complaints about defense TOI, but let’s do a complete analysis. The concern at the start of the season was where Jack Johnson would slide into the lineup. It was mostly fear-mongering though. Personally, I never had a true concern about Johnson getting top pair ice time once we saw K’Andre Miller break camp.
Speaking of Miller, he leads all defensemen in 5v5 TOI. He’s 16:55 5v5 TOI/GP, a little ahead of Adam Fox (16:49), Jacob Trouba (16:35), and Ryan Lindgren (16:22). There is a clear divide between the top four and the bottom pair. Johnson averaged 13:08 TOI, behind Tony DeAngelo (13:37). Everyone else is under 12 mins TOI/GP.
When factoring in special teams, Fox jumps to the top of the list with a whopping 24:31 TOI/GP, more than two minutes ahead of Trouba. But the top four still remain the same in TOI. Again – Jack Johnson remains sixth here, behind Tony DeAngelo.
Complaints around the Rangers average ice time are largely overblown, at least for now. David Quinn is leaning largely on his top players, and there are some pretty big difference in ice time there. A lot can change between now and the end of the season, and it will be interesting to see how much time Filip Chytil gets when he returns.
David Quinn isn’t free of justified criticism, but the ice time argument seems a tad unfair. At least for now.