David Quinn has more adjustments to make

Usually when you’re about a quarter of the way through the season (20-25 games in a normal year) you start to have a sense of what a team’s identity is. Or at least what a coach is trying to implement and what adjustments David Quinn would need to make. You’ll also have enough sample size to start culling through data and analyzing the team at a granular level.

Obviously this year that number of games is like 40% the season. That’s way too late to start talking about tactical shifts. Ultimately, we need to start drawing some conclusions on what’s working, what isn’t, and hope that Quinn makes the necessary adjustments.

So here we are, almost a quarter of the way through and sitting outside of a playoff spot with a sub .500 record. For parts of this season, we’ve seen some good hockey, mostly coming from our youth. We’ve certainly seen some bad hockey from some of our more seasoned players, and we’ve seen some downright ugly hockey, particularly early on from our defense.

The Good – The Kids Are Alright

Prior to the start of the season, I discussed three key areas that Quinn had to focus on for the Rangers to take the next step. They were in no particular order:

Of these three areas, I thought #3 was going to be the most difficult. Breaking in Lafreniere, Julian Gauthier, K’Andre Miller and getting more out of Kakko, Chytil, and Howden was a TALL order. And yet, 5 of the 6 players (sorry Howden) have contributed to our wins and none look destined for Hartford.

To be clear, none of these players have been perfect. All have made mistakes with and without the puck that have led to chances and goals against. However, what I like about Quinn’s approach is he’s not scratching these guys for said mistakes. He’s giving them some rope.

Player development is often about inspiring confidence and Kakko, Lafreniere, and Miller especially aren’t playing with their tails between their legs. Even when they’re not getting on the scoresheet, they look like they belong.

The Bad – Matchup Issues

With the exception of opening night, we haven’t been getting smoked. This is a far cry from the stumbles we’ve taken out of the gate in recent seasons. We’ve been in every game, which is a positive, but I think with better coaching we could turn some of these L’s into W’s.

For me, this starts and ends with deployment. Once the clock gets into single digits in the third period, you have to shorten your bench. Night after night I’m seeing guys like Bitetto, or Hajek, or Di Giuseppe out there late in the third. These are fringe NHLers. The games can’t be on their sticks.

Matchups have also been an issue. Guys like Brendan Smith are lining up against Sidney Crosby. Jack Johnson is out there vs. Jack Eichel. As of this writing (2/11), Kreider is dead last on the team in being out on the ice for offensive zone face-offs. I mean…read that sentence again. That’s not how you get a top line going offensively.

If you’re trying to win a hockey game, you have to get the right guys on the ice at the right time, and I’m not always seeing that from coach Q.

The Ugly – Defensive Zone Coverage

If you read Dave’s goal breakdowns after every game (and if you don’t, you should), there’s a common theme in many of the goals scored against this team. The opposition’s F3 (or third forward in) gets open A LOT. Whether it’s trailers off the rush, corner board cycles, those east/west passes across the yellow brick road, or whatever the hell Vally calls it, the third forward in is getting looks from the high slot.

The Rangers have enough film guys and assistant coaches to recognize the issue and I’m sure they are working on it, but to me it seems our defensemen and defending forwards are getting confused with their assignments.

My hope is that with more repetition and playing within this system, those chances will start to lessen. However, if they don’t, and I mentioned this in pre-season, David Quinn has to make adjustments and simplify their d-zone coverage. And by that, I mean collapsing four skaters in the low slot, leaving a high forward up near the offensive blueline (basically a LW lock), getting our D between opposition forwards and our crease, etc.

Honestly, none of this is rocket science. Most of these guys have probably played under these different schematics at some point in major juniors or college. The question ultimately ends up being, will Quinn stick to his guns in hopes that how he wants them to go out and execute will just click, or will he make more adjustments? There really isn’t a right or wrong approach here. Sometimes it’s just about getting the decision correct at the right time.

At this point in the season, I’m giving David Quinn a letter grade C for process, and his adjustments will impact his future grades. How would you rate Quinn thus far?