Business of HockeyState of the Rangers

Where do the Rangers go from here?

The other night the Rangers had one of their worst outings in the last couple of seasons. A 6-1 loss, to the Islanders no less, likely put the Rangers down for the count. Last night’s loss to the Flyers didn’t help either. Like clockwork, fans came out in droves evaluating the Rangers and assaulting coaching decisions, namely rookie ice-times.

To be fair, David Quinn nor Jeff Gorton shouldn’t be immune from criticism. There’s plenty to chew on this season, both good and bad. With that said, I feel a lot of the narrative being spun in media circles and online is missing a framework with which to evaluate this team. Hence, let me introduce to you a basic concept that is used in organizations to define business strategies, which can be, and often is, used in a sporting context.

This is a bell curve of the life stage of a business. Some sports organizations can move from development to growth to maturity rather quickly. Shrewd moves and lucky draft selections usually rocket teams through this process. Think Chicago, Pittsburgh, etc.

Other organizations seem to sit in one of these stages for years. The Edmonton Oilers come to mind as one of those teams who always seem to be in growth mode. On the other end, the Coyotes have been declining since the advent of cactuses (cacti?).

The key to moving up this hill, and staying on top of it, is having different strategies for each stage that you are in.

Growth Mode

When you’re building, or rebuilding, the plan is usually to hire a coach with a history of developing players. Young, up-and-coming players are getting top 9 minutes and sprinklings of situational responsibilities (e.g., powerplay, PK).

Veterans, who have been to the dance, are usually brought in to take the hard matchups and show young twenty somethings how to go about their business like a professional. Hossa & Chicago, Thornton in the 6ix, & Maroon in Tampa are notable references.

Obviously, the goal here isn’t to get routed 5-0 every night for the sake of getting kids minutes (lol Devils), but to be competitive enough so that everyone is getting the experience they need. Balancing all that while being in tight hockey games is critical.

The Rangers have navigated that growth process reasonably well the past couple of seasons, despite crazy outside factors. When evaluating the Rangers, these crazy outside factors do play a role.

Maturity (aka window to win)

Things start to get interesting once that window to win opens. The margins for error get insanely smaller. Rarely do teams win championships with the same rosters and coaches that they had during growth mode.

Coaches are typically swapped during losing streaks or during the offseason when progress feels stunted (Bruce Cassidy has entered the chat). Some of those young players you thought were going to be part of the future are traded for critical depth pieces or utility players (e.g., PP quarterback, PK specialist, agitators).

This is the time when GMs earn their money. One bad move or mistimed coaching swap for a retread can derail any well laid plan. When evaluating the Rangers this offseason, Jeff Gorton’s moves will be front and center.

Decline

The curse of this stage is that many teams do not recognize they are in it. They think they can get back over the hump. However, botched moves leave them being the bridesmaid, never the bride. The Wild, Stars, Canadiens, Sharks, Flyers, and yes, even our beloved Rangers, usually fall in this category.

Eventually, teams need to be dismantled. You hope that those moves are done strategically.

Where do the Rangers go from here?

We’re halfway up the hill. Many have said next year is our year to compete. I disagree. Next year is our chance to get into the playoffs and hopefully win a round, maybe two if we’re lucky.

I don’t think Quinn is the guy to lead us to Lord Stanley, but I’m fine with him staying on another year, max. Jeff should not be making foundational changes to this roster this summer. A piece here and there is fine. Emptying the cupboard for Jack Eichel has Glen Sather strategy written all over it. And that’s how we end up always being the bridesmaid.

Long story short. Before you lament the trading of Lemieux, the TDA fiasco, or comb through ice-time charts with steam coming out of your ears, sit back and look at the bell curve. Re-evaluate and think like a suit. Maybe even dress like one too.

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  • All fair points, but next year the window starts to open and Gorton has choices:

    A: Do a deal to jump through the window like Kool Aid Man
    B: Trust the process and use assets to accumulate better assets while maintaining flexibility
    C: See the roster as is, count on aging curves goosing the team forward more than dragging them down and use surplus assets for futures to keep the window open longer even when some don’t even think it’s open.

    I bet on B with a transition to C by next trade deadline.

  • It will be curious to see if the Rangers draft a goalie early on in the draft. I’m not sure Shesterkin is the guy to lead the team to the next level.
    He seems really small in net, tends to give up a softie way too often , and has a propensity for getting injured.
    I guess I’m most concerned that he isn’t consistent and doesn’t steal enough games.
    Any thoughts guys?

    • They did that 2 years ago with Lindbom, a total disaster. Considering goalie development curves, better off grabbing a Russian or NCAA bound goalie in the 4th and coach him up.

        • Really?!?
          Guess you should look at the stats.
          He sits 16th , which is an average starting goalie in the NHL.
          The thoughts about Shesterkin are my opinion. I just stated some facts.
          You guys don’t have to agree. That’s fine

          • I have been feeling it too. Shesty is good but I dont get that “lights out” feeling. Injuries, some softies, hard to put one’s finger on it. I find myself feeling that when Georgy is “on” he is moreso that way then Shesty. Eye tesr oy, I acknoqledge….

    • Are you bloody kidding me? Have you ever seen a hockey game before this last few? My goodness——-you are clueless.

  • No way we move Kravstov, Kakko, Laffy or Buch. Gorton needs to have a talk with Kreider and let him know that his future with this club is at best 3rd line possible 4th. They need to agreed to move him to a team of Krieders choice. Thats the move we need. Let our kids grow up and find a natural leader among them and grow together. Quinn has done a horrible job of letting these kids grow, He tries to control every aspects of their ice time. latest case in point is Zac Jones with only 9+ minutes total of ice time and 1:30 was on PP2. This has hindered their development to learn from their mistakes.

    • I am no Quinn lover. But on the overall record people ARE developing. And…your point about Zac Jones. Last night was his cherry. What did you expect, 22 minutes?

      • We are a team with high talent not Howdens or Brendan Smith’s. Laffy is only ahead of Joe Thornton in LEAST PP minutes asa # 1 draftee. Explain that? Quinn is too much of a control freak and in game tactics are abysmal.

        • Honestly, I have a hard time seeing the Rangers winning a cup without Kreider. Hes one of the best net front presences in the league. He’s streaky, but so are most of those types of players who rely on others getting shots through.

          • If he’s my 4th line winger in 4 years, sure. The complete inability to score off breakaways/odd man rushes has always been a limiting aspect of his game. Always looking to snipe a corner rather than getting the goalie into a position where he’s screwed either way.

          • For the life of me I don’t know why Kreider isn’t being tried on the RW with Strome and Panarin. Blackwell? Okay but there’s no long term answer there.

            Can he play on the right? I think yes.

          • For what Kreider does, he can be on either wing and it wouldn’t limit his play.

  • Thinking a bit differently. Still on the outside looking to make the playoffs does make us a growth team, but with players already in the fold like Panarin, Trouba and Zibanejad, we have the veteran leadership already in place. We lack some depth and that can be addressed over the summer.

    While I do not advocate for moving Kakko, LaFren, Fox or Kravtsov, the rest of our “kids” need to be included if the return is valuable. I personally think that JE would transform our team, but at what cost? Another piece we lost was being mobile on D. The Tony D fiasco hurt much more than anticipated. We need a mobile, PP right D.

    DQ coaches to win (who doesn’t) but needs to understand that nurturing and grooming is also as important. He loses sight of that. I would cut my losses and move on from DQ immediately after the season and hire someone like Claude Julien. An experienced coach who understands in-game changes. He also has had some experience with building a young team (Montreal). I feel that next year NEEDS to be a Playoff year.

    Last Point – the bell curve is a difficult premise to apply to team sports because 1 or 2 players have great impact in moving the needle. I truly think we are an experienced 2C and 1RD away.

    • I agree with most of your points with exception of Claude Julien. The game has passed him by. We need some toughness brought in. Howden needs to go! We need to see what Minnesota would want for Jordan Greenway and maybe bring in a guy like Brett Ritchie for 4th line duties. Also forget Eichel, how about seeing if we could pry Mark Scheifele away from Winnipeg. He’s signed until the 2023 season on a 6 mil deal. A perfect #2 has size and grit and playoff pedigree.

  • nice, thought provoking article…and although i am usually an optimist i believe we at least partially missed the boat on development this year by chasing a red herring – “we can make the playoffs” – and for that quinn & gorton have to take a hit. quinn always fell back to the vets & his favorites at crunch time, stapling the kids to the bench. you can’t develop a team if you don’t put the players (the kids) in pressured, meaningful situations. for the team to grow, the kids needed to be out there when the game was on the line (and the perceived “we can make the playoffs” was on the line). that’s where they would have matured. whether they succeeded or not, they would have learned what it takes to succeed in those situations and that’s what we needed going forward. and now, even if quinn plays the kids more, they’re not going to gain that valuable experience, now that the playoffs are out of sight.

    • I agree. Part of me thinks Quinn is coaching for his job, which is why he’s shortening his bench a little bit. I can’t fault him if that’s the message he’s getting from the brass. Hard to know.

      • But you can blame him for playiong Howden who hasnt scored in 150 games. What he does to otehres, he doesnt do his favorites. If all of us are true, everyone knows this to be true.

      • Before the season JD came right out and said the playoffs weren’t a mandate this year. That was the organization’s stance from the get go.

        Re: Quinn, I generally believe he gets more flack than he deserves. From a quality of play standpoint this team was more often good than bad and was leaps and bounds better than last season. And that’s the point right, yearly improvement?

        He has had his flaws, but generally speaking he’s got the young players on upward trajectories. Similar to Kakko this year, I anticipate a huge jump in Laf’s game next season.

        I too am ok with one more season from DQ (which he’ll get anyway), but I don’t anticipate he’ll be the coach through the Cup chase years.

        • I think that you are probably right on all counts Beantown Ranger. I think that Quinn might not be the head man once the Cup seems obtainable unless the team goes on a great roll with him at the helm.

          Fascinating discussion that might be had: Who would the Rangers replace Quinn with once they have a real Cup run before them?

  • I basically agree.

    As well, what is ignored is the development of a winning culture, which I think was also a driver of results possibly even more than getting into the playoffs.

    More than Quinn, it is the Front Office that is on the spot: who to extend, what kind of deal(s), how to best leverage the impressive D pipeline (there are only so many slots) etc.

  • Thanks Suit for yet another well dressed article!

    I tend to think along the same lines. I do not expect Gorton and JD to make big moves this off season. I do not expect an attempt to get Jack Eichel unless he comes very cheap, and I cannot see that taking place.

    I think they are going to trust the process as much as possible. I think that the team will be in the playoff hunt next season and might even make some significant noise if things go right.

    One thing that is going ‘write’ is your being with us again. Thanks.

  • It is becoming increasingly obvious that we are in serious trouble with teams that take liberties with our skill players. PLEASE get us a sheriff or two!

      • How about making a trade with Minnesota for Jordan Greenway. A solid 3rd liner who only drops them when necessary. Also sign Brett Ritchie (Calgary) quality 4th liner and tough also doesn’t go out of his way taking stupid penalties. Bring up Barron and we could have a solid group adding toughness and size but not sacrificing playmaking abilities. Keep Blackwell and Rooney as extra forwards. Howden needs to go period!

    • Looking back from at least the 2016 Stanley Cup winners (Pitt, Wash,St. l, Tampa) and probably earlier,they all had similar builds.Two very skilled lines and two grit lines that wore down the opposition. Only TB 3rd could really drive offensive zone%. The last two got Patrick Maroon as a policeman. Until we get some grit players that can protect also,we aren’t a team built for the playoffs. No shade on Rooney or Blackwell,who have that drive, but they are not the policeman who could play and intimidate. Maybe we will have to give up some talent to get that missing piece.

  • Nice job, Suit! Refreshing to see a patient, common sense approach to the rebuild the Rangers are currently under going. I always said patience was the key.

  • Also thinking that they didn’t make a deal at the deadline because they are holding on to most of their assets for more of a blockbuster. Gorton knew he could have moved Smith, Blackwell and Howden, but choose not to. He had the opportunity to add some life to this team, but didn’t, that is on Gorton.

  • Everybody needs to take a deep breath, now is NOT the time to think things through. We have no idea about who might be available come the summer, both before and after the expansion draft. That’s the time to look at the landscape and think about what this team needs and what this team can afford to lose.

    I mean what did some of you think, we were going to win every game the rest of the way? Remember about 20 games into the season when this team was 3 games under .500, well they’re 5 over now despite these 2 losses. We suffered two incidents this year that no other team had to deal with, ADA and Panarin’s absence. That’s got to have something of a negative effect.

    We’re young and we’re inconsistent, surprise. You look at the best players on any team … they will play through small droughts, they all do. We’re unfortunately experiencing one … the good teams though keep those dips in the season as short as possible, let’s see how they respond.

    Also, the loss of Trouba whom many of you malign, is a bigger loss than some of you think. If we had Lundkvist and Schneider in the fold, maybe it isn’t that big of a deal … but instead we’re forced to play Smith 22-23 minutes (in both losses), that isn’t a recipe for success. Smith is gutsy, he tries, but he’s a 3rd pairing d’man any way you slice it. Add to that a 1st timer in Jones, no ADA, no Trouba, a tired Fox (yes, DQ has overplayed him … 28 minutes last night) … what should we realistically expect?

    All this isn’t to absolve DQ either, he overplays his top 2 lines, he gets enamored with “vets” (like so many coaches) and keeps Blackwell on the 2nd line when Kravs has looked great even if he’s playing with that offensive blackhole called Howden. So what does he do with a few minutes left, puts Kravs out for a shift with the 2nd line — a little too little, a little too late.

    BUT let’s stay positive. The kids have looked good of late, the kids didn’t lose us these games. Until Panarin scored last night late in the 3rd, it was the kids that produced what meager offense we could muster in the last 2 games — and defensively out of the last 9 goals scored they’ve been on the ice for a grand total of 0 goals … and yet getting 13 minutes on the ice is the most Quinn can give them, I think that’s some kind of record for DQ.

  • I feel the Rangers pipeline has more to give.

    I’m expecting smith gone , and Kreider maybe even strome dangled for bait. We have 10 picks in the draft and 12 million coming off the books.

    Just move kreider and strome and smith off the depth chart and slide everyone up.

    What I envision for next year

    Laf-Zbad-buch
    Bread man – chytil – kakko
    Diguissuipe – ufa signing or kid – gauthier
    Howden – Rooney – Blackwell

    Fox – trouba – Miller – lingren – lundquist – Jones – hajek rotation.

    Igor – georgie

    That’s a really good lineup. Not to mention more kids trying to bust their way in.

    Ditch the coach and call up knoblauch

    • Um, Knoblauch has no real track record in the NHL of any kind … if you’re going by his 4 game stint a few weeks ago, don’t. It isn’t really indicative — at least not fully indicative of how he would be as a head coach in the NHL. Let him season, maybe as an assistant coach.

  • Side note, Suit. I love that you take the time to respond to the comments, and let the commenters know what you think of what they say. I know it’s easier for you because you don’t post every day 3 times a day. Dave provides top line content, but I just appreciate your comments on comments. So, thanks’

  • Yeah, Quinn finally admited that #1 Nhl Draft pick can play hockey.. That’s surprise. Applause for this gentleman

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