State of the Rangers

After last night’s rock bottom, should the Rangers shift focus to development?

A Coach's Tug-of-War

This article comes courtesy of an absolute no show by the Rangers in game 39 of 56 in their “playoff push”. The offense shriveled up, the top six could not score five on five, and bad reads by defensemen cost goals against. It’s no secret that the Rangers–despite exploding once in the previous 7 games–have a 5 on 5 offense problem. While it is awesome the power play numbers are regressing to more accurately depict the level of talent, there’s no question this is rock bottom at a time when the Rangers need to be essentially winning every game. Their division opponents are doing them no favors as teams like the Bruins, Islanders, and Flyers all gained points in the standings.

So the question remains: Do you make a push for the playoffs? You will most likely play Washington or the Islanders in the first round. Or do you take the remaining 17 games and make it all about putting the young talent on this team in positions to succeed?

When David Quinn was hired, the roster was in complete disarray. The team had just fired Alain Vigneault, sold off Ryan McDonagh and Rick Nash, and the turnover was beginning. Fast forward 3 years later, and there is clearly a better roster to work with now; particularly at forward with Artemi Panarin, Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafrenière, and Vitali Kravtsov. However, despite being 6th in the division at the writing of this article, David Quinn has decided that the best way to go about games is to load up his top six with his veteran players. This relegates kids into bottom 6 roles.

The ice times for this checks out as in particular. Kakko averages about 15 minutes a night, while 1st overall pick Lafrenière has averaged around 11 minutes a night. So what is going on here? How are two players; clearly the two most valuable draft picks in the history of the franchise, not being given the scoring assignments like Chris Kreider or Mika Zibanejad? Or even Colin Blackwell?

Quinn is not coaching to develop right now. He is coaching to win and make it to the playoffs. I understand the sentiment: It’s great experience for the players to make it into the playoffs no matter how far you go. This draft is not necessarily a heavy hitting one, so your first round pick isn’t a huge factor. Plus the kids can learn about playoff hockey and play on a big stage.

The problem is the Rangers, in this last little stretch, do not look anything like a playoff team. They are complacent, they are passing up high danger scoring chances for that one extra pass–which usually end up becoming turnovers–, and maybe the most damning, the Rangers are not deployed properly with their depth to sustain a playoff run. The Rangers, after last night, look like they’ve hit rock bottom.

So Quinn is not using the last little stretch to develop, but to win. The Rangers are beginning to look like they are running out of runway for a proper playoff push while the teams above them feast on each other and the Buffalo Sabres. What now? The time has come to focus on the development of the young players for the remainder of the year. It’s what this whole year should have been about to begin with, especially at forward with so many different players. There was a real possibility to not only develop, but win in the process. For example, the lines could have achieved both:

Lafreniere-Zibanejad-Buchnevich
Panarin-Strome-Kakko
Kreider-Chytil-Kravtsov
Blackwell-Rooney-Gauthier

With the above, there is a chance we are not discussing development. There’s a chance we aren’t discussing rock bottom for the Rangers this season. Perhaps the Rangers are sniffing a playoff spot. Naturally this takes many things into account, such as production from Lafreniere and Kakko throughout the season. But if Quinn doesn’t do this sort of thing now to see where players like Lafrenière and Kravtsov fit on this team going forward, then he has failed in the department and goal of developing his young talent. Make of that what you will.

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  • Agree 100% with this article. Not normally a Brooks fan, but he wrote the other day that Lafreniére has received the least amount of power play time for any first overall pick in 22 years.

    Now THAT’S swaggerlicious coaching by David Quinn. Seriously, how is his continued employment even possible?

      • The hiring seemed OK to me, but I’d go in another direction, for sure. I wonder if he’s managing to show he can win, figuring he’d surely be let go when the rebuild truly turns the last corner otherwise.

  • I like your lines, with the exception that it is time to move Rooney, Howden or PDG and bring up Barron to get some reps with the big club.

    Slim to none chance of being a playoff team, so use these games to let the kids play 15 minutes a game till the end of the year.

  • When one of the top two lines falls dormant, its time to play the young players more but Quinns system or lack of it thereof is not going to allow this team to go very far. He is out-coached nearly every game but lets go easy on him. Quinn is a good College Coach that is just clearly out of his league. Without a bit of AHL or NHL experience, he was given a head coaching job? Why? .

  • With no disrespect meant to the players and the coaches, I haven’t believed for quite some time that the Rangers were going to make the playoffs this season. While winning games can be beneficial psychologically for a developing team’s players, I believe that playing a lot in all situations is the best way to learn, whether in the AHL or in the NHL.

    I don’t agree with those who claim Quinn has not developed players. This season, Quinn has played Miller a lot, to his credit. Kakko is getting more playing time now. He played Fox and Lindgren a lot last season too. Quinn would say that they earned it, and that is true. But at this juncture, I’d make sure that Lafreniere, Kravtsov and The Goat get decent minutes too, and that they play even at crunch time. I have no problem with the coach sitting down the kids for a few shifts during the game if they blow assignments in order to reinforce what he wants them to do. But, it is apparent that the present plan is for some of them to play limited minutes as a matter of course. I think that should change.

      • Peter, I think Miller was played because options were few, and he seemed to solve a problem if things worked out. I don’t think his development played a whit into that decision. Or the others, to be honest.

        • So true … the defense has limited options right now … but just wait for the cluster f that is going to come when they have Scneider, Lundkvist, Robertson and Zac Jones to work with.

          • that’s why we need to get rid of Trouba contract. Cost will likely be one of these D as well.

          • He has an NMC through 2023-24, we aren’t moving that contract until then and until we have a physical presence on the right side (Schneider I imagine).

    • Hey Peter. I thought, going into this season that they “could” make the playoffs.

      And to my preseason thinking, the Rangers are where I thought they would be: In as a possibility, but just outside of the playoff bubble.

      But, again, if the coach is not the right guy to stir the drink, they we are doomed for a long time.

  • In all fairness they hit a bunch of posts and missed a bunch of open nets last night. Yeah, the process didn’t look good, but we’re talking the Pens here — you can certainly hope to sweep them, but like the Islanders and the Caps, it probably won’t happen.

    Those lines reflect the principle of putting 1 of your prized prospects with 2 vets on each line (aside from the 3rd) — it makes too much sense for DQ.

    • Just wondering..what is more important, talent or effort. You can’t say that the Pens(as comprised the last few games) are nearly as talented as the Rangers,yet they skated rings around them. They skate hard to the puck while most Rangers glide. Is that laziness or coaching?

      • We’re inconsistent … we constantly come out and have bad 1st periods time and time again … I think some of that falls on the coaches, they need to prepare the players better.

  • Make a commitment to the kids. Move Buch and Strome at the deadline. Acquire young NHL-ready centers. This team needs to be ready to compete next year. Move D. Smith so you can get another stud defenseman into the lineup. It is the 2021-22 season already.

    • Moving Buch is a step backward, his next contract (whether it’s reasonable or unreasonable) determines if he should be moved or not.

      • I think that you try to keep Buchenvich unless you are offered what you absolutely need in return. He is onky 25 and has become a damn good winger who plays a 200 ft. game.

  • Attitude reflects leadership.

    If they come out playing inconsistent it’s because the coach is inconsistent.

    • A team where more than half the team is under 25 years old will be, by nature, inconsistent. Let’s not blame the coach for everything.

  • The Rangers had no shot of making the playoffs this year…I said it at the beginning of the year and I maintained that position throughout the year…they are too young and are not currently constructed to win playoff wars…I know Perk thinks Pepe is useless, but last year, when he was out of the playoff games…the Canes were having a grand ole time….he came back and it was their best performance…now, he is gone and the team is even softer…

  • Quinn moves Kravtsov on a line with Panarin and Strome, then later plays him with Zibanajad and we just sweep that under the rug because it doesn’t jive with your ‘Quinn bad’ mantra? Tyler you are a clown.

    I don’t even like Quinn, he’s as average a coach as you can be, but so many people take this lazy stance of pinning all this teams ills squarely upon his shoulders. The fact is that everybody who wants Quinn fired focus’s solely on the negative (and there are definitely things to pick from). You’re holding him responsible for the development of these players, so by that logic on his watch a 23 yr old Adam Fox is a Norris caliber defenseman, Ryan Lindgren is a legit top par Dman, Pavel Buchnevich is a point per game penalty killing stalwart. But I guess he had nothing to do with that right? It’s only players underachieve then he had a hand in it.

    Also, rock bottom??? They didn’t play well and lost a hockey game, BOOHOO. Honestly dude, grow up or at least throw your temper tantrum somewhere I don’t have to see it.

    • I know it seems like the focus is on that, but it’s just reflecting the general feeling (that’s rapidly becoming a consensus) that DQ isn’t the coach to take this team much farther than it’s current state of highs and lows. Like any coach he has his good and his bad characteristics — but the focus is on the bad for the most part because he isn’t getting either job done well enough (development versus winning), so he isn’t making anyone happy while he straddles the middle ground.

        • I think analyzing 22 years’ worth of power play time for 1st overall picks is not lazy, it shows a fair amount of effort. But that’s just me.

      • Tanto, “Like any coach he has his good and his bad characteristics ” Can you please name me his good characteristics? Be specific. Would it be fare to compare him Sullivan? They both came from the same background, even played together if my memory serves me correctly. Without Malkin his team played good discipline game. Honestly, I believe this team would have a better record playing without any coach than having this one. Just my opinion.

    • I have said many times here that DQ is not just a terrible NHL coach but he was not a good college coach either.

      However, I did give him a credit for moving Kravtsov to the second line and IMO Kravtsov was their best forward in the first period. So the credit was given when it was due. But even that was an obvious move to me and he should have kept him there instead of bringing Kreider to the right.

      Since you were generously giving DQ credits for Fox, Lindgren and Butch(not sure how he got on your list) you might consider pointing his failures in developing Anderson, Graves, ADA (yes him, strong coaches know hos to set up team environment), Hajek, Howden (yes,both of them were key players in Mac deal and were quite promising according to GM), Pionk ( has twice as many points than Trouba. Do you think Jets would trade him straight up even without first rounder back for Trouba back?), Grigoryev, Kravtsov( was number one prospect in TSN last year and declined but all blame was put on him as with Lias), Trouba ($8 million guy whose playing much worse than he did with the Jets). And I am not even mentioning Laf and Kaako

      I am sure a lot of blame should go to GM who is also good for taking credits and does not like sharing blame. Read yesterday interview with Lamoriello after his trade with the Devils. He said his main concern was how these players would impact team chemistry and fit into the Trotz system. Refreshing to hear GM and coach working together. They should both be blamed. These stats and records speak for themselves

      • Lias isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire in LA. He isn’t nearly as good as a hockey player that he thinks he is.

        • Bloomer, who is to blame when you chose this guy number seven, sell him as a future captain and ready to step right in and then you cannot develop him? But most alarming was how he left and his attitude towards the organization. As far as I remember nobody took any accountability for any of that.

          Lias is not putting any numbers for LA but he is starting all over there. He had good stretch in SHL. Not our issue to worry about him anymore

      • Agree with all…A team always starts from the head (top) down, your last paragraph is what’s hurting the players now. If JG is all in on DQ IMO its chaos….just look at the ice and you’ll see it. It isn’t all player development issues…..its the system…the process. Forgive me for saying it, what team would let an opposing player skate into the crease, shoulder its goalie to the ice and be allowed to skate to the box without fear of retribution? This team, with the exception of B Smith, isn’t soft its scared. Its the line up, traditionally the coachs’ call. No names from me….thats a conversation in the coachs office. If you want to win, there are some players who should play before others, play your best players. The stats are available. Its ice time……especially for a team and coach focused on development. Very hard to believe when you “lose” players on your bench. Its game management. In this game it was how best to slow them down…there was way to much room available between the blue lines…..the forecheck, at least on TV, did not seem to be consistent. For those here who remember the Big Whistle “Shoot the puck Barry”. What happened to getting the puck on net? All those passes….I can’t find the Suits brick otherwise I would’ve been down a 55 incher. This stuff just repeats and repeats, like me after watching this team for 50 years.
        My bottom line is the players deserve better, and this team does have a lot of really good talented players.

        • Jeff, agree with you too. Not sure what with me today but feeling nostalgic. In 1980’s teams also known as “smurfs” Rangers had Reijo Ruotsalainen, one of my all time favorite players. He was probably the best skating player I have ever seen. But he was very small along with other smurfs. So the Rangers paired him with Barry Beck. Nobody wanted to fight Barry and then they had Nick Fotiu. He was probably the best fighter then. So you could see the formula of having smaller players with skills being protected with lesser skill players with the role they had to play.

          In the Cup winning year and around we had Beukeboom and Kocur. Both knew their roles. And nobody would run into Leetch, Richter, Zubov and others

          I do not think there are any roles in thos team. Trouba surely could be a good back end defensman. But they gave him $8 million and he has been trying hard to match his Jets numbers. Schneider might be that next guy we need there. Nobody is up front. So they need to find some role players who can not only play forth line but play in top 9.

          But it all starts with the vision and the system. Unfortunately, we all still complaining about DQ is because GM job has not been threatened. Hope Davidson is not just a figure head. After all he was a goalie and should have seen the same plays against Schesterkin lately

          • Agree with all again. JD if he is watching any of the ice product has to be aware. He was an NHL goalie for goodness sakes. Just really crazy times for fans. I really wonder what the room is like.

  • This is what happens when you don’t do a FULL REBUILD. When we signed Panarin and kept Kreider people started saying we have to not waste his prime years and so on. When a team is in a FULL rebuild they gut the team and the top picks play all the big minutes because there is no one else there to play them! As long as there is a chance to make the playoffs any coach is playing their veterans over the kids because all coaches WANT TO WIN! Now we have to live in MIDDLE WORLD, and that’s going to make it tough on the kids. Even if you fire the coach the next one in will do the same thing because that’s what coaches do, TRY AND WIN. I’m not sure what the answer is myself but the development of these kids is going to suffer. Blackwell and Roonie were signed for one reason and that was to be exposed for the expansion draft. No one expected him to play so well and now because he is he’s taking away minutes from the kids. Let’s hope by Monday some team will make an offer the Rangers can’t refuse for him. So my fellow fans because we didn’t do the rebuild the RIGHT WAY, this is the result.

    • I don’t think playing just kids and having a few mediocre vets around is a proper rebuild — the landscape is littered with teams that tried to do that. We’re only in the 3rd year of the rebuild, we don’t want to end up like some of these other perpetually rebuilding mediocre or bad teams. The good teams have a strong vet core and they work the kids into the fabric of the team, they don’t make kid lines (with all due deference to the Oilers’ kid line from 30 some odd years ago).

      • I think your comment contains the key phrase – the fabric of the team. The paragraph given in the original post

        “So the question remains: Do you make a push for the playoffs? You will most likely play Washington or the Islanders in the first round. Or do you take the remaining 17 games and make it all about putting the young talent on this team in positions to succeed?”

        is the apotheosis of ignorance.

        You do neither of course. You try to build a team. A team plays hard every night because you don’t want to let your teammates down. How do you build a team? You start with the idea that every player should feel that they are important. Every player is just as important as every other. This isn’t true of course. Everyone knows Panarin is more important than Rooney, certainly both Panarin and Rooney. On good teams, the elite players go out of their way to spread the glory around – to try to make the lesser players feel like they matter.

        Well, players like Rooney, Blackwell, Lemieux just have to make their piece with the superiority of panarin – and it is easy enough if Panarin obliges. But it is much tougher when everyone beats them over the head with the fact that they are not as important as players like Lafreniere who are simply not as good as they are.

        Tyler and the prevailing sentiment here would have the Rangers be summer camp for children, not a hockey team.

  • Good piece! I think it’s a tough call. Do we still try to make the playoffs,or let the kids play.
    Quinn has had his moments,but he is too head strung,or it could be just tough love.IDK!!!
    I think next 2 against will give us the answer,if we lose 2 play the kids,we win 2 try for the playoffs,we split were in no mans land.
    If it were me I would decide by Sunday night after the game next course of action to take.
    With the deadline on Monday pls jettison Howden,he comes back in we play like crap!

  • Team should always play to win. That said, it’s not a winning team right now. I’d rather see them lose with the future stars getting more ice time than lose with the current starts getting more ice time.

    Said another way, I don’t believe in tanking. It’s not tanking just because you play your trio of future/potential stars more frequently and in more important positions. It’s tanking if you play them less than your howdens and your marginal 4th liners.

  • I prefer something like the following (love the 4th line proposed):

    Panarin-Chytil-Kratsov
    Lafreniere-Strome-Buchnovich
    Kreider-Zibanejad-Kakko

    1) I want to see Chytil and Kratsov in space with Panarin on their line
    2) Lafreniere with our next two best distributors of the puck, and
    3) Kakko with 2 legit 1st liners

    While providing the right balance these combinations will provide me the answers I am looking for.

    I would definitely change up PP. Can Gauthier and/or Kakko recreate Kreider net front presence? Kakko and Lafreniere to 1st PP and Chytil and Kratsov to 2nd PP. Need to see how they handle those opportunities. I think Panarin (D2) and Buch (D2) would need to anchor PP1 nd PP2 with kids in there. Fox stays D1 for PP1. Feel free to fill in the remaining blanks (F3) for each PP and D1 for PP2.

    • Your center-left wing combos are exactly the same as mine. I would slot the right wings slightly different than you do, but either way your approach makes good sense. The question is whether Quinn will ever mix and match his way into it?

  • More than anything I would like to see Quinn set a lineup and stick with it. If Gauthier is part of the team’s future then leave him in and stop pulling him out in favor of PDG. He needs to put these kids on the ice and instill the idea of shoot first, pass second mentality in them. Why in the world was Smith and Hajek on the ice with the kid line all game, on more than one occassion they made the decision to pass to Smith to take the shot. That should never happen. Goalies in the shoot-out are so accustomed to what Zibby is going to do at this point they should lead off with Kakko, Zibby, Laf then Panarin.

  • rangers obviously have the skill/talent to explode on offense in any given game or period even.

    however they dont have the structure to win consistently enough to stay in the top half of the standings. this is likely an offseason fix tho.

    so i say they need to focus more on development at this point. should have for weeks already.

  • The second PP unit has no problem shooting and it gives the kids a chance to play if we don’t have a realistic shot anymore then yes it is time to start giving that unit more time with the kids on it start playing the third line more we need to let the kids play I’m so tired of watching the overpass and going on passing up wide-open shots it’s frustrating

  • Actually Laffy is a fabulous distributor. Would love to see him with Flip, who is more of a finisher.

    However, I do like the lines proposed in the article. Another radical proposal might be Rooney of Blackwell (probably) centering Flip and Kravtsov

  • It should have never shifted at all.

    .500 team, especially with this coach. Get a real coach, with this talent, then we can talk playoffs. But, until then, this is what you’re going to have.

    And developing young players under the wrong coach’s direction makes this era irrelevant. In the long run.

    87-80-24 is the coach’s record. Or, in reality, 87 wins and 104 losses.

    • You are right. Except he has not developed anyone. He coaches not to lose and not to develop. Perfect match for GM who chose him.

      Both have to go.

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