Analysis

Colin Blackwell as a scratch doesn’t make much sense

With Kaapo Kakko set to return to the lineup today, it looks like Colin Blackwell will be the healthy scratch. Having Kappo back is certainly great, and the Ranger sorely need him back. However scratching Colin Blackwell is certainly a puzzling move. Blackwell has been widely regarded as one of the more consistent Rangers forwards. Plus, there are other forwards who have been far worse.

Most of the focus has been on Brett Howden. Listen, we know he’s not good. But I certainly understand David Quinn’s logic. Howden is a center, and Filip Chytil isn’t taking faceoffs just yet. On paper, I get it. Fine. Blackwell can play center, but is better on the wing.

But what about Phil Di Giuseppe? Is there a reason why Blackwell was scratched over him? And this isn’t a slight against Di Giuseppe. It’s a compliment to Blackwell, who has been excellent.

Blackwell vs. Howden

Aside from faceoffs, one of the prominent discussion points has been that Howden kills penalties. The Rangers have one of the top penalty kills in the league, so why mess with a good thing? Also Howden has been primarily used in a defensive manner. That’s fine. So let’s dive deeper.

The last bit is a bit of sarcasm on my part, but the numbers don’t lie. Blackwell has the better defensive numbers across the board. Some of this is to be taken with a grain of salt, as Blackwell doesn’t have penalty kill time and has only taken nine faceoffs. Regardless, the numbers are better.

There’s a reason why the Rangers keep playing Howden. It’s very reminiscent of when the Rangers kept touting Neal Pionk. Is there something else coming with Howden? We don’t know. But given the incredibly long leash, it’s safe to assume Howden isn’t getting scratched any time soon.

Blackwell vs. Di Giuseppe

This is where it gets interesting. Both are wingers, so there’s reason to compare the two. Blackwell is mostly a middle-six forward on the Rangers, while Di Giuseppe has been more a bottom-six winger.

On paper, Blackwell is certainly better, and he’s been much more visible on the ice. There are some differences though, which need to be taken into account. PDG has played mostly with Howden and Kakko. While Blackwell has spent most of his time with Howden and Kevin Rooney. PDG certainly has the benefit of playing with Kakko, but Blackwell has had decent minutes with Ryan Strome and Alexis Lafreniere. PDG doesn’t have that.

The “role” factor is a bit of a misnomer, as Blackwell can play up and down the lineup. Given he’s already had significant minutes with Howden, keeping him on the fourth line with Howden and Brendan Lemieux isn’t that far fetched. No matter which way you slice it, Blackwell has been better.

Of course, PDG has been better than Howden. So there’s that as well.

So What’s Next?

Signs are pointing to Blackwell as the healthy scratch. He certainly does not deserve it. And on that note, neither does Di Giuseppe. But as long as Brett Howden is getting the long leash, it will be one or the other. Soon it may be both, as Artemi Panarin is going to be due back at some point soon.

Perhaps the best idea is a rotation between Howden, PDG, Blackwell, and perhaps Kevin Rooney as well. Or, given the Rangers luck lately, someone else will get hurt. Quite frankly, of that quartet, the best has been Blackwell, with Rooney right behind him. Unfortunately, the worst of the bunch is the one who is far behind the rest.

Update: And Phil Di Giuseppe is the healthy scratch. This post is relatively outdated now, but hey the point still stands. Thanks for listening to me, DQ.

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  • As mentioned a million times….nice guys and friends of friends in this franchise play over better players…..mind-boggling.

  • I’ve really tried hard to like Quinn, and there certainly are some things to like. But NOT his personnel decisions, both with line up and in-game decisions.
    It’s nice to think about alternate reasons for favoring Howden despite how consistently bad he’s been, but this has been for years, not just this year. I also don’t believe it’s management pride about the Mac trade, this is on Quinn, just my belief.
    As for Quinn’s so called “Meritocraty”, it just doesn’t fit his actions over and over. What’s the message to the locker room here, where a player who’s not only been one of your most productive and visible, but also hardest working is scratched?!
    In season coaching changes are rough, and young players I’m sure benefit from consistency in system and approach, but Gallant is still out there….

  • I tell you….Quinn and his decision making ….not actual coaching will be his demise. And when it happens the Rangers will say we “parted ways”. We will say he got Howdened.

    • Blackwell’s game is better than that. He scores, hustles, hits, is defensively aware (back checks very well), has a history of being good at face-offs, plays center and did I mention he scores? Does Howden?

      IMO, his game has matured and evolved to where he is now better than the sum of his parts. But obviously Quinn doesn’t agree with me but what do I know? So I guess Howden is better.

  • At least we’ll have someone who can play once Quinn’s new buddy Eichel comes here & breaks Howden’s heart.

  • Brett Howden is 6 months older than Morgan Barron. PDG is exiting his prime, Blackwell in the middle of it. They’re not winning squat this year, so why run with the wrong horses?

    • It’s really all about Quinn’s BS where the hell is his so-called “meritocracy”? He should practice what he preaches especially with Howden.

      • That’s fair enough, but the front office should’ve figured out how to get him conditioning stints in Hartford while they burned years of service time for below replacement player production.

  • So he had Blackwell playing on the top powerplay unit while 5on5, he was skating on the right with Kreider on the left and Strome at center.
    With Kakko being back, he scratches Blackwell and is likely going to put Kakko on the right wing with Kreider and Strome.

    Ok good, but why then SCRATCH Blackwell?

    Why not just move him down to the 3rd line to play with Chytil, who is skating in between two frickin 4th liners?

    Even if you keep Howden in to play on the 4th line, why scratch Blackwell who scores goals and works hard?

    The answer is simple and I will tell you all why, because David Quinn is an idiot. That is the answer. We are all here upset and discussing all the reasons why Blackwell should be in the lineup this afternoon and Quinn simply did not do that. He just said Kakko is back, I want him on the second line, Blackwell was playing there so I am going to scratch him.

    Think about this, Blackwell is a guy who did not stick with his previous team last year and was a UFA, he signs here not expected to crack the lineup and surprisingly does. He has some good games and David Quinn puts him on the first powerplay unit, instead of Buchnevich and Lafreniere….. then he goes from putting him on the top powerplay unit to scratching him……

    I react just regularly now, I just shake my head and deep in my heart I hope the Rangers do not extent his contract. I will blow up if they keep Quinn.

    • Atleast youre just a couch-coach who has no input.
      This franchise, its coach, front office, scouting department, medical staff, equipment staff, locker room staff, plane/bus driver and laundry attendants
      ALL KNOW MORE than this blogger and every single post on this board.
      Bunch of idiotic know it alls.

  • Has Howden EVER been scratched? No, seriously … I’m trying to remember. Maybe a game or 2 in his 1st season? I don’t think so and that’s appalling. I mean I get it, I acknowledge that Howden is giving 100% 99% of the time, but his 100% rates a C- at best. Effort isn’t the issue here, talent is. If Mika can be benched for half a period, then Howden can be scratched. One wonders if this has ever crossed DQ’s and/or Oliver’s minds.

    • Such a player is a conundrum for coaches. For some coaches, a Tortorella for example, sitting him is easy. For others it is not. The truth is that, because of his character and effort, he does not deserve to be benched. Because of his talent, he does not deserve to play when the team is healthy.

      He is somewhere from the 14th to the 16th best forward in the organization by present ability and unlikely to really improve. Such a player is useful because of injuries, but he should mostly be a healthy scratch.

  • I believe Howden is playing for two reasons, in no particularly order. One is that he is totally committed to the game plan. He does what the coach wants him to do, he plays hard, and doesn’t mess up very much. You get Howden at the top of his game all the time. (Sadly, this top is not really high enough to justify playing him.)

    The second is that DQ trusts him on the PK and you really want six forwards you can trust. The current six includes neither Lemieux (who has PKed nearly 40 minutes over the last two years with an xGA/60 abide 4) and Chityl, who looked decent when tried earlier this year.

    **********

    On one note, Dave, you are being overly optimistic. You are ignoring the possibility of scratching Gauthier.

  • Howden has become Rangers best penalty killer. Rangers PK has been excellent this season. So Howden is in the lineup every game. It’s not that complicated.

  • I can’t wait till Jake gets back and Johnson comes out of the lineup our defense is going to be that much stronger it looks like Libor is getting back into form Kids playing well it’s great to see him get a goal

  • why is Lemieux given a pass. his hand are slow & horrible, his shots always get deflected, he misses passes, does not make good passes and gets knocked off the puck easily. He is only effective when he is hitting and disruptive which he has not been lately. 21gp =1g 3a

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