On keeping Vitali Kravtsov out of the lineup, for now

If yesterday’s news is legitimate, then it seems like Vitali Kravtsov will be held out of the lineup again again tonight, despite apparently making the trip to Buffalo. Naturally, this has a bunch of folks up in arms. Kravtsov has been practicing with the team for a week, or at least skating with the team for a week. It makes you wonder when he is going to get into the lineup.

Vince Mercogliano spoke to coach David Quinn about it, and the answer was rather candid.

There’s a lot here. The first is the important piece – that Kravtsov has earned the opportunity to get into a game. That is a significant difference from last season, where Kravtsov was passed over for far significant players. That does include the forward of Brendan Smith.

The other piece is that DQ specifically called out that Kravtsov needs to be in the top-nine. This is less about roster construction and more about ice time and linemates. There are a bunch of logical reasons for this, and to be frank, these all jive with what many have complained about over the years.

A common complaint over the last decade –yes decade, that’s how long we’ve been doing this– was getting skill prospects with skill players to put them in a position to succeed. This is what DQ wants to do, but I completely understand if you are skeptical of Quinn at the moment. There’s a case for that.

Position to succeed

Much like with any prospect, it’s important to put Kravtsov in a position to succeed. Will he be fine with Brett Howdeon or Kevin Rooney as his center? Or will he be better off with any of the other three centers on the Rangers? Clearly the answer is the latter.

Therein lies the rub. If you think Julien Gauthier’s flashes of brilliance have earned him a longer look in the top nine, then there is no one else to take out of the lineup. On the flip side, how can you justify keeping a top-ten pick out of the lineup for Julien Gauthier? That is a very tough sell.

To get the most out of Kravtsov, the Rangers might need to shake things up. Tom Urtz had a stats based lineup thought, and it was pretty interesting.

Given the recent struggles to generate sustained offense, shaking things up might not be a bad idea. Any combination of the top nine Tom lists results in three legitimate scoring lines. It also results in a fourth line that, while lacking top-end skill, can put the puck in the net and play 200 foot hockey.

If the question is who to take out of the lineup, none of the four players in question (Rooney, Howden, Blackwell, PDG) should keep Kravtsov from being in the lineup. There is also no reason that Gauthier should keep Kravtsov out of the top nine. There is also no reason why a journeyman should keep Gauthier out of the lineup. See where this is headed?

There is a quality lineup that can be made here, with Vitali Kravtsov in the lineup. It’s only a matter of time before he’s in the lineup. Realistically, it’s only been two games that he’s been held out. There’s no need to panic yet. But there is always a need to question.

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  • So is Quinn not so subtly complaining about the front office with all these wingers on the team? Or is he pissed that he can’t play Howden anymore? Seriously though, it’s good to see his thoughts on how he builds a game lineup, and that he knows he’s gotta get Kravtsov some time.

    Off-topic, but…..hahahaha the Flyers. Not only losing to the Sabres, but losing 6-1. this is so enjoyable. Vigneault’s destruction of this team is way more thorough than what he did to the Rangers.

    • The Rangers went to the cup final in year 1 and the ECF in year 2. The Rangers were good then. They had speed to burn and used it well. The Flyers are not well built. Up front They are an aging core. Even Couturier is 28. Girioux and Voracek are 33 and 31 respectively.
      They are going to have to start over and begin a rebuild. That’ll mean the front office believe they can build a team for AV and his man to man strategy. Or they can dump AV for a coach better suited for this current roster.
      That team don’t have enough speed for AV right now.

      • Agree—and in addition to team speed, Vigneault needs goaltending to prosper as a coach. When he’s not getting top 10 goalie play, his teams are garbage. No matter where he’s been.

        A counterattacking style of play is really hard to pull off in the NHL. It wears a team down in terms of how much hitting they absorb.

        • Vigneault is such a jerk to his struggling youngsters. He’s literally ruined Carter Hart inside of a year and a half. Flyers fans now sound like we did in AV’s last two years, in terms of all the complaints about playing favorites, treatment of certain kids, aloofness, and unwillingness to take responsibility when things go south for the team.

  • Gorton and JD need to tell DQ that LaFren and Kraftsov need to get all the minutes they can in 2021. Let them both play on a line with Strome, and let Chytil center Panarin and Kakko. Just because this is a “no-playoff” season, doesn’t mean it is a “no-learning” season.

    This is also why Morgan Barron needs to come up and get some reps along with best young defenseman in Hartford.

    • I just get the feeling that Gorton has his line in the water for a trade at the deadline. If he doesn’t make one to get the top 9 sorted and aren’t making the playoffs; then why not roll 4 skill lines for 15 games.

      4th line of Goat-Barron-Howden

  • Agree with all the thoughts on Kravtsov. As for “Given the recent struggles to generate sustained offense” the advance stats may say one thing, but the goals per game say something else.

    In the last 10 games we have scored 44 goals, good for 4.4 per game. If you kick out the highest and the lowest games out of the 10 (9 and 1) we scored 34 goals in 8 games good for 4.25 per game. If we take out the top and bottom 2 games (9 and 8) and the bottom 2 games (1 and 1) we scored 25 goals in 6 games good for 4.17 goals per game. We have been averaging just over 4 goals per game in the last 10 games.

    • As a statistics major, I really enjoyed your excellent breakdown and analysis! Nice work, Andy!

    • 1. Replacing Kravtsov for Gauthier can produce even better results.

      2. In the last 10 games, Quinn wasn’t on the bench or in the locker room for a lot of that generated offense during those games you’re doing the math on. Coach lack of presence played a factor then, I truly believe that.

      3. In that stretch, Gauthier took two unnecessary careless penalties with one being a double minor. The Flyers scored on the first penalty to tie it 3-3 and then once on the double minor to make it 4-4. They beat us in overtime that game all because of those penalties. Look at the standings today. Gauthier has flashes where he goes to the net and uses his size, but he kills the offensive flow in many areas of the ice for that line. Specifically, both the neutral and offensive zones. You have to eyeball that and factor everything in when it comes to lineup decisions.

      My point is that stats can be used as a tool for consideration, but ultimately isn’t the final factor in decision making. Especially in our game.

      • Excellent point re Gauthier’s effect on the flow of offense for the Chytil line. By way of comparison, there was one shift Tuesday where Kakko was with Chytil and Laf, and the difference was noticeable. Of course that’s only 1 shift, but I think the line would benefit from a wing who drives play more than Gauthier does.

        • I noticed a big difference when Kakko went out there with them too Clerks. It’s funny you mentioned that. That’s one of the things that was in your face that shift.

      • Agreed on point 1. (In theory, since Kravtsov has yet to play an NHL game) As for point #2. Quinn coached the last 2 games we scored 9 goals. He coached the 4-0 Boston game. So the numbers don’t support that point. Also in the 8-3 win, philly out shot us 44-22. We shelled which is fine. That game explains in a big way the mismatch between advance stats and goals per game. I don’t have causation for everything that happened. Stats do need to be looked at closely, which is way I eliminated the high and low and second high and low to normalize the goals per game. Curious how close the numbers are when you adjust for anomalies. Causation is a different issue. Stats should be only one component of decision making, regardless of their purpose

        • You are a stat person, I get it and I do respect the numbers.

          I watch the games. There is a human factor to players and life situations that stats won’t ever explain. You have to watch and assess in hockey.

          As for your point #2, we were down 4-0 for the first 40 minutes of one of those games. The capitals tend to let up with a big lead and we happened to score those goals. Overall, the team didn’t play good, but your stats showed that we scored 4 goals and you just tried to justify Quinn not being a negative factor on the bench for those games because “the numbers don’t support that point”.. You just agreed with me you can’t base decisions solely on stats, but you’re still basing your debate solely on stats again lol.

          Dude, forget your stats for a second and let’s look at the big picture:

          1. How many times can you honestly say that the Rangers played a full 60 minute hockey game under Quinn?

          2. How effective has our defensive zone coverage been in the last 3 seasons? I saw active sticks and more life in the players when he wasn’t around.

          3. How about our goaltending rotation? Has our number 1 goalie been given a chance to get into a groove? Remember Hank? Hank didn’t like playing a few games and sitting. He liked to play games and got better as he went along. All goalies are like that, Shesty plays a few games and sits. Quinn doesn’t manage the goalies right.

          4. How about the kids? Has Lafreniere even ONCE gotten a chance on the first powerplay line this season? What would happen if he did? Would he have scored? How many points would he have by now? Would it have ignited some life and confidence into his game and development? But that’s ok because Quinn says he doesn’t want to change the powerplay line since “we were 7th in the league on the powerplay last year”. Last year’s STAT.

          I can keep going, but I won’t because I have to go back to work. I rest my case.

          • I am not supporting Quinn. I think he’s at best a marginal coach and I would replace him as head coach at the end of the season if it was my choice. That being said not every problem the team has is Quinn’s fault. The biggest factor for improvement in Offense has more to do with Zibnejad recovering from Covid than anything else. But it’s improved. If you’re paying attention you’ll see that. I don’t like Quinn’s for lots of reasons; deployment of the younger players; including the goalies, being tops on that list of reasons. But using the point you did to condemn Quinn(regarding the offense over the last 10 games) vs Knoblauch isn’t warranted and the numbers don’t support the point either. In the 8-3 win from the 2 minute mark in the second period we took our foot off the gas. That’s 38 minutes of the game. Philly out played us and outscored us 3-2 over that span and we still won 8-3. Does that suddenly make Knoblauch a bad coach? No. A W is a W. As for your point 2. on defense. How about the 2 seasons prior vs this season. Again if you are watching you’d see our D is dramatically better this year. That’s easily explained Martin vs Ruff. So yes that numbers and the reasoning are in sync.I think you miss the point of my original post. If you can’t acknowledge the good and the bad of the players and coaches how will the team every get better?

          • I am paying attention. I’m paying very close attention.

            I commented on your original post to make a point about stats vs watching and assessing. Too many people are hung up on stats and they fall too deep into the stats hole. When people do that, they miss what’s really happening out there.

            Martin is an upgrade over Ruff, yes.
            The defense has improved this season, yes.
            Is it where it needs to be for us to contend, no not yet but much better.

            I never said every problem the team has is Quinn’s fault.

            I also never said Quinn vs Knoblauch.

            This is very difficult to explain in blog posts, have we had an actual conversation I’d think we’d both understand each other better and maybe even agree on all things.

            Allow me to explain myself in a different way:
            Players are people and have emotions. Their performance matters a lot on how they’re feeling and how they feel their coaching staff perceives them. Actions from the coaching staff speak louder than words to players.

            Let’s take Lafreniere, if you watched his first few shifts you would have seen a jump in his step, a hunger to get the puck and create plays to set up Panarin… He didn’t last on that line for very long. He was removed and placed on the third line with frickin DiGiusseppe. He’s gotten flashes with other lines, but mostly third line with Chytil and Gauthier now. The last time he played with Panarin, he scored from Panarin. That line was broken up because of the bread man’s leave of absence after that game.
            Look at Lafreniere now, he doesn’t have the same jump in his step, he’s not moving like he was in the beginning because the events of the season have taken a toll on him and have made it much more difficult for him to overcome that.

            That’s entirely Quinn’s fault.

            All these actions from the coach have an effect on how the players perceive the coach and if it’s doubt or negative, it starts to naturally weigh down on players and impact their performance on the ice.

            My point is that Quinn’s simple absence from the room resulted in a breath of fresh air for the players. Just him simply not being there.
            You can’t prove how they feel with stats or game results or what have you. It didn’t matter that Knoblauch was there, it’s the fact that it just wasn’t Quinn which allowed the boys to reset away from his BS.

            You can retort here saying the numbers or results don’t support what I’m saying and I’m telling you that the numbers/results won’t and don’t need to support what I’m conveying because they simply can’t.

            It’s just the way things are.

            They’re going to lose games and win games under any coach, it’s the overall affect on the players that he negatively impacts with his presence at this point.

          • The point of the original post is this…the advance stats say one thing…the goals per game, which is a stat, but it’s also an eye test, says something different. I think we are making a similar point. I was actually criticizing the advance stats. To me they matter far less than the actual goals scored in a game. You win games 3-2 not xGF/60 10 vs xGF/60 15. And if over 4 goals per game is considered struggling, well ok. I can struggle with that reality.

            As for the emotions in the locker room and player/coach relationships I don’t know about that beyond what I read. And even then I am not sure it’s accurate. Yeah I see players moods appear different during the games but I don’t know why. I can’t say what changes Lafreniere’s motivation during the game. I can only draw conclusions. Also Lafreniere controls his mood not Quinn. Maybe he doesn’t like Quinn? Maybe that’s a factor? Maybe not? It’s possible, but I have no real proof of that. Does Quinn get 100% credit for Fox’s success since he’s the head coach and Fox is turning into a superstar right before our eyes? NO. And that cuts both ways. I can quantify 4 goals per game, I can only speculate on mood and player/ coach relationships. Which is why I pointed out the disparity.

            Player like Zibnejad, Strome, Buchnevich, Lindgren, Fox and Miller have thrived under Quinn. Is it Quinn? Is it the player? Yes I guess.

            I’ll say again. I am all for replacing Quinn. But he’s not at fault for everything wrong with the team and in fairness there plenty of positive examples as listed above of his player development successes. Maybe the team played better with him, maybe without him. But as far as the goals per game go. There isn’t much difference between the 2 coaches.

          • “Let’s take Lafreniere, if you watched his first few shifts you would have seen a jump in his step, a hunger to get the puck and create plays to set up Panarin… ”

            And you can really notice a jump in his step when it happens because he dogs it most of the time.

            And that is so much the problem with kids. They don’t have the stamina to play many minutes at a high level. Lafreniere should not play more than 6-8 minutes a game. Ad minutes when the intensity is there, but not until.

          • True. Regardless of the state, the numbers are still included in the stats and that skew the numbers. They are one of the reasons that explain the gap between the goals per game vs advanced statistics.

  • I’m not an AV fan either, thought he should have been gone after the Ottawa series….But wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to spend so much time talking about the friggin coach? This should be such a fun team to watch this season, and instead we get idiotic lineup decisions, terrible ice distribution, and now we have to go through this mumbo jumbo explanation for keeping Kravtsov out of the lineup. The Urtz lineup is fine, I would probably make one small adjustment to it, but the main thing is just get the correct top 9 into the lineup and give them ice time. It doesn’t have to be this complicated. Where the heck is JD?

    • All this is very interesting, and of course all of the brilliant coaching geniuses on this board know everything there is to know about ice distribution, power play strategy, and which 22-year-old should be playing instead of Gauthier. Nothing ever changes here; every two years the coach is a bozo, an idiot, a fool, a moron, take your pick or make up your own; it’s all so much fun it’s hard to describe. I just want to throw a couple of things out here. One- is it all of your opinions that the coach never talks to Jeff or to JD? Do you think on their off days, they just sort of sleep late, putter around the yard, pull some weeds in the garden, walk the dog, watch Fox News for a while, listen to sports radio, and maybe show up at the rink a half hour or so before puck drop and straighten their ties? I’m quite confident that the three of them might actually talk every so often about who should be in the line-up, and the GM and the POHO might have some input. You know, it’s just a funny feeling I have that the team is growing and moving in the right direction. OK- second, could any of these moves have anything to do with the expansion draft? I haven’t seen anywhere, least of all here (surprise!) the details of which players can be protected, how many players each team can lose before no more can be picked, and so on. If I’ve missed it, I apologize, and if someone can point me in the right direction I would appreciate it. Is it possible that there is a player that management would rather lose to Seattle, so they are showing him at the top level so that Seattle sees him? If that’s the case, do we think that JD would be stupid enough to make that public? How does a player qualify to be protected? How many games at the NHL level do players have to play to get on the protected list? I’m sure there are a hundred details of how expansion works of which we are not aware, and I’m confident that JD and the group have a pretty good handle on it. But then again, what do I know? I’ve only been watching hockey games for 60 years. Have a sparkling day, everyone.

      Regards- orange

      • Of course you certainly have the right to put your trust and faith in the team’s coach and management. But is it also fair to then ask how has that worked out for you the past 60 years? As Dave said in his post, there is always a need to question, especially where so many of us pour our hearts and souls into rooting for this team.

        • Well said, in both comments. This team doesn’t dig their coach and it’s blatant now. And it’s quite true that Ranger management throughout this team’s long history has mostly been bad, and worthy of being picked apart by the fans who pay to support this franchise.

          • First off, EXCELLENT commentary contained in this thread –really enjoyed the well-thought-out insights by, in particular, McDangle, Andy, and Orangemike. “Wonderful” reads! 🙂

            Second…I have a question: Why is Kris Knoblauch still on the bench, when the Rangers’ coaching staff has returned from COVID-19 protocol? Is it that the FO wants to give him more experience behind the parent team’s bench? Could it be an indication that Coach Quinn is being closely “observed” by the FO? Are some of us, here, correct in saying that perhaps the players aren’t happy with DQ (could there be some “inner rumblings” taking place that have yet to be made public by someone? Hmmm…

      • Jeff Gorton and David Quinn are both deserving of each other.

        JD lets them run their route and guides them, but at a high level as far as who they protect, what direction the team is going in, he doesn’t control everything. Just like a CEO let’s the VP of North American sales run North American sales. It’s not apples to apples and JD talks to them sure, but the Rangers have a concept of “trust the people who work for you.”

        That’s why we suck at drafting because Jeff Gorton trusts Gordie Clark as the head of North American drafting…. See my point?

      • Also, if you Google the rules that were in place for the year the Golden Knight’s were drafting, the rules are the same for this one.

        There’s two options and I only vaguely remember one of them which is –
        a team can protect 7 forwards, 3 defenseman and 2 goalies.. maybe 1 goalie I can’t recall exactly.
        Also, players that haven’t played more than 2 seasons are untouchable and dont need to be protected. So Lafreniere, Kakko, Miller are automatically protected.

        Hope this helps.

      • In general, good comments. I don’t think Quinn has the reputation and standing to completely fly in the face of his bosses. So yes, this decisions are a group effort.

        I don’t think the expansion draft has anything to do with playing time, at least I hope not. I don’t think playing Howden for example is going to induce Seattle to pick Howden in the draft. Getting to see him play is hardly going to excite them.

  • I would agree you can take the “Urtz” top nine and move them around. His example gets the youngsters involved with skilled vets across the board and that is a good thing.

    I don’t buy into Chytil displacing Zib as 1C and theoretically getting 5% more ice time though.

    That said, it’s a good problem to have unless your name is Gauthier or Howden.

  • I love Buch and Strome but both need to be moved… Sell high…Slot Kravtsov as top 6 forward… Trade draft capital to get a proper pivot who can win a freaking faceoff…
    End of story…

    • I think we need to listen to all offers, but for most of the year, Strome was 1C, even though he was playing 2C. Buch is leading or near the team lead in points. I do not want another first round pick. We need a NHL ready strong centers. Would be surprised if anyone is moving them at the deadline.

    • The way Buchnevich has improved…in all areas of his game, and has become one of our 3 top point producers (and is still relatively young and has an exciting future ahead in the NHL)… I would NOT move him at all. He’s now and a part of an exciting future with us. We don’t want to start all over with his replacement, and hoping that he becomes “Buchnevich II”.

  • I like flipping Buch and Kravtsov for now.

    A missing ingredient in all of us who are critical/impatient is that none of us has seen Kravtsov in practice.

    I trust the coaches.

    • I’ve seen him play in the world juniors and he was easy better than Gauthier. He can add skill and could play nicely with Lafreniere and even Chytil.

  • Quinn had no problem putting Gauthier on the 4th line and even benching him multiple games before. All of a sudden, with the arrival of Kravtsov, he’s a player that can’t be scratched or moved now. 4th line is that exactly that a 4th line. You can scratch one of those guys and put Gauthier on the 4th line and insert Kravtsov. Quinn’s need to stop saying people need to earn their ice time because Howden/Johnson never really earned it. Injury and Covid held them out.

  • shift gauthier to 4th line and slot in kravtsov on the 3rd RW. gauthier can play his game on the 4th for now and see if it elevates his effectiveness as long as they see more than token minutes. just one man’s opinion but i don’t see much of a difference in his effectiveness skating with lafren & chytil vs anywhere else in the lineup, and he may actually be a better fit with the way blackwell & rooney play it.

    • and btw i still like gauthier and great to see him starting to put it all together just think he can be part of an effective 4th line for now. i suspect there will still be opportunities for him to move back up the lineup post-trade DL

  • I have no problem with Gauthier on the 4th line and Kravtsov somewhere like the 3rd line or on the other top lines if that is where the coaches put him. Gauthier may turn out to be a good winger, but his ceiling would appear to be a couple of notches below that of Kravstov’s potential.

    I also don’t have alarm bells going off over his lack of playing time thus far. I don’t think it is a negative for the young man to be reintroduced to the system and the other players in practice. He is sure to play eventually.

    • Gauthier is #10 on our forwards list if we insert Kravs Top 9. He’ll never fully develop … BUT, injuries happen and I like the idea of keeping him around even if he himself would probably appreciate a greener pasture.

      • Yeah it is a far better plan than they had last season when Brendan Smith played forward most of the time.

  • I disagree with the prevailing sentiment that Kravtsov must be limited. I believe Kravtsov can play on the fourth line. In fact, I think playing Kravtsov with Rooney and Blackwell might turn out very well.

    Sure, he won’t score nearly as much as he would playing with Panarin or Zibanejad, but so what. Success is not about scoring; it is about helping the team win. A fourth line that scores a little more than it gives up is a boon. And good players can play fourth line. In fact, sometimes one sees a player like Crosby double shifting – playing on both the first and fourth lines.

    And it puts less pressure on the kid. As a fourth liner, he would not be expected to score.

    I am not saying that the Rangers should not entertain the notion of playing him top nine. However, consider

    1. The insistence of playing him top nine currently means he is not playing at all.

    2. He will learn a lot more playing with Rooney and Blackwell than playing with Lafreniere. Veteran line mates is more important than which line he is on.

    3. A fourth line where some of the players actually are capable of putting the puck in the net when the opportunity arises can be quite useful.

    • I would like that idea better if Quinn would give the 4th line some more shifts. While winning helps in development, the Rangers are not going to make the playoffs. So, since they have a bunch of young players who need experience and who are not playing in Hartford getting heavy minutes, I think that they should get them all some more shifts. 10 minutes a night is rather light for Kravstov or the Goat.

      • First I point out that we are not playing a guy to avoid giving him only ten minutes.

        Second, a player will develop at a phenomenal pace if he actually learns one thing from every game – just one. And I contend that a player is perhaps more likely to learn one thing playing ten intense minutes, thinking about every one, than playing fifteen minutes – taking it easy some shifts and spending the time between shifts resting up for the next one rather than thinking about the last shift and how he can be better.

        A lot of what I see in Lafreniere is what I saw in Chityl as a rookie. A talented kid who looks good when he seems to be trying, but mostly is not really there.

        • I have no clue what your first point was about. I said nothing to you about not playing Kravtsov.

          The rest, I simply disagree with. I learned to play the game as a kid by playing a lot. I was obviously not close to a NHL player, but there is a reason that players often start in the AHL. To play a lot and learn by doing. Learning is doing, as my wife, a psychologist, drilled into my head. But it is true. A few more shifts a game makes a lot of sense to me. There is no good reason not to do that.

  • This is the most absurd notion. Stop making excuses and over thinking it. Show this kid some confidence. If he pots a couple of early goals he, and the team could soar. Don’t waste this season!

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