Analysis

It’s time to get realistic about Brett Howden’s role with the Rangers

Early in Brett Howden’s career, it seemed like the young center’s role had the potential to be a solid bottom six addition for the Rangers. Howden joined the team in 2018, at the age just 20, and made an immediate impact. He recorded three points (one goal, two assists) in his first five games with the Rangers. Things quieted down after this, and Howden finished his rookie season with 23 points (6 goals, 17 assists) in 66 games.

Howden’s production dropped slightly as he solidified his positioning as a bottom six center who played big minutes on the penalty kill. In his sophomore season with the Rangers, Howden recorded 19 points (9 goals, 10 assists) in 70 games.

Most significantly over the last two years, he won the heart of David Quinn whose reliance on Howden has not dwindled, despite his atrocious performance in the condensed 2020-21 season. Quinn continuing to give Howden minutes is dangerous, especially when there are other options available on the roster.

With more talent coming in the form of a highly anticipated prospect to land in New York and other players in Hartford performing well, it’s time for management to make a decision on Howden’s future with the Rangers.

Some stats

It’s not so much Howden’s lack of offense that is troubling, it is the fact that he is completely invisible on a nightly basis.

Over the last 25 games, Howden has no goals, one primary assist, one secondary assist, and a measly 19 shots on goal in 25 games. He also has averaged 1.4 hits per game, has just 16 blocked shots, and a Corsi For percentage of 41.33.

The one highlight is face offs. Howden has the best face off percentage on the roster (46.65%), just edging out Mika Zibanejad (46.32%).

Chart courtesy of Evolving Hockey

Brett Howden has the fifth most ice time of all players on the Rangers roster on the penalty kill, which has been extremely successful recently. It is true that he contributes as a part of this success.

However, this cannot be the defining reason for why Howden remains in the lineup and gets ice time over other players.

No one expects Brett Howden to be 40 goal scorer; he is what he is — a bottom six player. However, the sheer mediocrity of Howden’s play has been starkly more noticeable this season.

With numbers like the ones he has been putting up it is a mystery as to how a player who is so invisible from night-to-night is getting such significant minutes.

There are other pieces on the Rangers roster who do more and see less ice time than Howden.

What this all means for the future

Sometimes talent you thought was going to turn into something good just don’t work out and that’s okay! Brett Howden is 22-years-old and by no means is done developing, but perhaps it should be time for him to take a break from trying to develop on NHL ice so he can rebuild any value in his current role with the Rangers.

It’s not okay to ignore the fact that the asset isn’t what you thought it might be.

Howden should not be filling a roster spot when he does not really to anything to contribute at any strength other than occasionally in man-down situations.

With the potential for Vitali Kravtsov to join the roster in the coming weeks, trying to keep Brett Howden in the lineup means that he might not get the opportunity he deserves.

It is true that the Rangers do not have a plethora of options at center. However, Kevin Rooney has experience centering and has taken a decent number of faceoffs this season and could fill the fourth line center position.

While Rooney has had some penalty kill time, it hasn’t been great. However, maybe a player like Colin Blackwell who has displayed prowess on the forecheck could be molded into an effective replacement.

The bottom line is, Quinn has to finally be taking a look at sitting Howden. If not, it should be time for upper management to step in and facilitate a move.

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  • No offense Karly, but this is what people here have been saying for well over a year … there’s no discussion to be had here, everyone will agree with the assessment that Howden has been totally underwhelming the last 2 seasons and that DQ loves him nonetheless. It’s mystifying.

      • Dave, even those that defend Howden pretty much admit that he’s offensively challenged and, although better this season, defensively “meh”. Even his defenders don’t see him as anything more than a FUTURE very marginal 3C at this point.

        Any discussion of Howden should be more of blurb than a full-fledged post — just my humble opinion. 😉

    • If they’re so intent on keeping Howden in the organization, send him to Hartford where he can see the game at a slower pace. Maybe the things the coaches have said to him will finally click in his head.
      I’d rather him become a viable 4th line pivot than be dumped off for nothing.

  • It will get worse. When 74 does get here his first stop will be L4 …..where he will languish while this lump gets TOI to do what he does well: Nothing.

    • If the lines from today mean anything, I think Kravtsov gets his first shot with Panarin and Strome. Two vets who are producing this year gives him a chance to succeed and build NHL confidence.

  • Another example of basic hockey analysis. There is a problem. here is why the solution is what I’ve been saying all along. This post is both irrelevant and unfactual. make no mistake. I don’t like Brett howden and likely would not play him, but here are some facts.

    Howden’s icetime is declining. He is close to last in even strength ice time. It is simply not true that DQ is giving him as much responsibility as he did before. Second, the Rangers are struggling and it is not because of some guy playing less than 10 minutes ES on the fourth line who -4 while playing with not very good linemates. Third, there is not a huge surplus of players who are better than Howden in the organization. By and large, the Hartford forwards are weak and I think, with the unlikely but possible exception of Barron (who poses cap issues), noe is as good as Howden. As for Kravtsov, well, do we really view him as a fourth line competitor for Howden? If he did replace Howden on the fourth line, people would complain he is not getting a chance to succeed.

    • Thing is Ray we don’t have to play Howden as a 4C, we have Mika, Strome, Chytil … and Rooney (or even Blackwell in a pinch), so aside from Barron (who is actually playing on the wing down in Hartford) there are plenty of guys (both with the club or on the taxi squad or in Hartford — like Brodzinski) who can replace Howden in the lineup … with more on the way. I’m not here to suggest any of them would be a huge upgrade, but Howden should take a seat every now and then — it can’t hurt.

      • There aren’t plenty of them. You pretty much named them all.

        Look I don’t like Howden. But he is a very small part of this team. He has not helped this year, but ON BALANCE this year he has done less damage than Alexis Lafreniere. Last year the Rangers were undone by Kakko far more than Howden. But kids are exempt from criticism. Sure, they have a future and Howden doesn’t. But it is not fair to blame Howden for the damage that others do.

        Also, it can’t hurt is so much crap. Howden, hajek, Johnson are really really good hockey players. Maybe they don’t belong in the NHL, but they are vastly better than the man on the street. And most of these guys in Hartford are just that.

  • When he arrives Kravstov must play and Howden must be the one who sits. Hopefully he will be a part of our core going forward, at the very least we need to see his true value for potential trades. But we all know quinn will bench him in favor of his boy

  • It is of course not always about points. The great (and I do mean great) Jan Erixon was a center who didn’t score much, but drove Mario Lemieux and others like Brett Hull and Savard nuts with his defensive prowess. But Howden doesn’t have anywhere near those kinds of defensive skills. Erixon also put up about 215 points in a little over 550 games. So Howden isn’t going to approach even Jan’s numbers at his current pace.

    If Kravtsov is ready when his KHL playoff run is over, use Rooney or Blackwll at center and bring Kravtsov in, and send Howden to the AHL to work on his game. He seems to have enough physical tools to be a better player than he is presently. Maybe the work will help? He is still young so there is some time.

    • Jan Erixon was a left wing. Agree with your take on Rooney or Blackwell replacing Howden though. Howden is a waste of size if I’ve ever seen one, he is weak on his skates and on the puck.

      • You are of course right. I was thinking of his covering the great centers so much that my memory got confused!

  • Howden is most likely a mainstay as long as we have Coach Quinn. I was more than willing to give DQ the benefit of 1/2 the season to see if he could at least have the team coming out ready to play and showing real progress.

    The defense is definitely better but being hampered by piss poor goaltending and injuries to Igor, but that is not an excuse in the NHL, the team has to come on the ice ready to compete for every puck and that is not happening.

    Either DQ will turn things around and build a couple of 5-6 game win streaks (we will still miss the playoffs in all likelihood) or next season we will be looking at a new coach.

    • Not sure that type of win streak is even possible given the schedule and the teams we would most likely have to beat for a 5-6 game win streak.

  • Howden is one of those players who will do everything and anything the coach asks. He gets the time on the ice for willing to kill penalties and lead the paltry 4th line. The problem is that he is not great at doing anything. He is a true 4th line player, but on a team where guys like Rooney and Blackwell have came out of the blue and are contributing, Howden should drop to the taxi squad.

  • Howden is another Ranger along with Georgie that could use some playing time down on the farm. They will both have to go through waivers but it’s doubtful either one would be picked up.

  • People have been unfairly bashing him from the beginning. Truth is this is the first year he has embraced his role and got used to it. He’s played well on the pk and you want to take our best face off guy out, on a team that is so bad at the dot? Not smart. Every successful team in the nhl has a grinding 4th line that does little things right. He’s developing like every other young player and truth is, putting kratsov, Barron, or Rooney on the 4th line won’t be good for any one of them. Players that rely on skill and rely on other skill players making plays cannot play with Brendan lemuiex on the 4th, it just won’t work. You need a grinder, high energy guy that wins faceoffs and kills penalties (dom moore). He’s no way as valuable as dom was in 2014 but he’s 22, he will develop and embrace his role even more in years to come.

    Sorry to break it to you guys but the team doesn’t get any better replacing howden on the 4th line. There are way more pressing issues than Brett Howden’s 4th line and pk ice times. How about we tackle those points instead of focusing on a 22 year old that hasn’t scored enough for you.

    • All they have to do is put Rooney at 4C, definitely an upgrade. Howden can take a seat in the press box for a few games and observe … he might learn something.

  • You can make a case for Gauthier being a AAAA (quad A) hockey player, one who excels in the minors and doesn’t hack it up here. But the jury is still out.

    Howden, OTOH, never got a minute in the minors. We don’t know if he would be successful even at that level. He was, obviously, a very good junior player… so what? I would assume he would be somewhat successful but maybe not, we’ll never know at this point. Either way not starting him out in Hartford was wrong on so many levels … might’ve hurt him the most.

  • Pretty clear that Howden doesn’t have the hands to be a scorer. That said the Rangers see him as having potential to be a good 4C. He already is the best face-off center on the team and he can skate and has added some physicality. Also – this constant theme that he is Quinn’s pet misses a bigger point. Upper management, specifically JD, likes him and wants him developed. The other alternatives like Rooney, Blackwell, etc. are stopgaps on the roster, who likely won’t be here in a few years when the Rangers should actually be good.

    A few other points:
    *Howden in particular, like a number of their prospects, would have benefited from playing and developing at Hartford. Still wouldn’t be a bad idea.
    *He very well may be taken by Seattle in the expansion draft, which would probably be his highest value to the Rangers. Some scoff of that but with the forwards we don’t have to protect there really will not be an obvious choice who is clearly more appealing with his age and “potential” it might happen. He might be another Oscar Lindberg

    • “He might be another Oscar Lindberg”—you mean a scrub center who couldn’t make it past the 4th line for 3 different teams in the NHL?

  • Howden is 22, the die is cast, as he shows zero potential to be anything that is more than he is now.

    He’s terrible and the epitome of how bad a coach Quinn is. As bad as Howden is at his job, Quinn is just as bad at his.

  • Howden has exactly 0 goals in 25 games this season. He is a liability and has contributed little so why is he playing? This is sub par performance for even a 4th line player. Quinn should be let go for making decisions that hurt the team.

    • Howden’s last goal was Feb 28, 2020.

      He has 2 assists this year. That seems almost impossible playing over 10 minutes per game.

      • Howden has somehow gotten worse as his career has progressed. And he’s always been bad. Being the coach’s pet has kept Howden in the NHL.

        • Brett actually started out ok, and even showed some flashes that he could be a competent bottom 6 player.

          But as time went on, he can’t accept a pass properly, he cannot possess the puck, he has no instincts to score goals, he provides no impact on the offensive end (he only gets in the way), and he takes ridiculously bad penalties at bad times. Other than this, he’s great.

          If Gaut did the (bad) things that Howden does, Quinn would have had him taken out back and executed, lol. This from a coach who preaches accountability. That mantra only applies to whomever he chooses.

          I won’t forget the home loss against the Devs. The Rangers were awful and Gaut was one of the few who did anything in that game. But Quinn decided that Gaut was the issue and benched him for the next game. Brutal.

      • Not entirely his fault though. He made a beautiful pass this week to diGuiseppe in front of the net and PDG missed the net completely. He doesn’t get to play with guys who can score.

  • What’s the alternative? The Rangers are super thin at center. Who else is there that can replace Howden? He’s a young guy, isn’t the goal this year to give the core of young players a chance to learn and develop?

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