With last night’s loss, the Rangers are, for all intents and purposes, eliminated from playoff contention. They were out before it, but the loss to the Isles solidified it. The Rangers need a miracle, basically one of Boston or the Isles losing out. Since that won’t happen, it’s time for some changes. It’s time for the Rangers to make their call ups.
This is the time for a Morgan Barron call up. He’s dominating Hartford and the AHL, albeit in a very odd season, and has deserved his call up for some time. Quite frankly, they should have used his call up before last night’s game when they knew Chris Kreider was a no-go.
Since Barron can play wing or center, he can be inserted into the lineup anywhere. Given how the fourth line has been targeted by many teams lately, he can help shore that up. Granted, it’s been targeted because Brett Howden is awful, so there’s that to deal with. It’s highly unlikely Howden is coming out of the lineup. Maybe they put in Barron for Kevin Rooney? Or even Colin Blackwell, who has been struggling of late.
What we do know is that Barron is likely already better than Howden. He’s also likely to be better than most of the fourth line options the Rangers have today. What we don’t know is why David Quinn and company insist that the fourth line have zero skill. Two-way guys who can put the puck in the net are more valuable on the fourth line than a bunch of net-negative players because they contribute nothing with the puck.
The more ice time Libor Hajek gets, the more we all cringe. Before Jacob Trouba’s injury, Hajek was getting too much ice time. Even Adam Fox, who he’s been paired with the last two games, couldn’t drag him around the ice. That’s how bad he’s been. I’m not pulling punches anymore. Hajek, who was the 9th defenseman on the depth chart, should not be in the lineup anymore.
Given the lack of options with Trouba’s injury, it’s time for Tarmo Reunanen to get a second call up. It’s also time that he gets more than 8 minutes. In his one game, Reunanen was a 50% CF defenseman, but had a 34.7% xGF game. That’s not overly good. But given his skill set and how he’s looked in Hartford, he deserves a longer look. He’s already better than both Hajek and Anthony Bitetto, who is also not good. Highlight reel goal aside, of course.
Reunanen may not be an answer long term. Given who the Rangers have in the pipeline, it’s unlikely he’s even with the organization in the next two years. Why not make an educated decision on him? The only reason I can think of to keep him in the AHL is that the Rangers don’t want to tarnish value with NHL games. Far fetched, but it’s at least somewhat logical, no?
It can’t get worse
Here’s the thing, the Rangers can’t get worse than Hajek and Howden in the lineup. We know this. I’m pretty sure they know it. So what’s the point of keeping Barron and Reunanen in the AHL? The Rangers keep talking about games that matter. But it seems backwards to be talking about that, then not dressing your best lineup.
It’s time for the Rangers to make the proper call ups to end the season. Even if, by some chance, that miracle happens, the Rangers will be a better team with Barron and Reunanen in the lineup. Even if it’s short term. Take the ‘L’ on the McDonagh trade already.