The Rangers are going to be good. Let’s not have the fanbase overreact over two disheartening losses to the Islanders. But before I go into a couple of points I wanted to make let’s be clear: The Islanders are the most organised, well coached and well-built team in the entire league. Every player plays their role to perfection, Management brings in players to fit the system (they don’t go and buy a shiny new toy just because its shiny…), and the Islanders are well ahead of the Rangers in their roster life cycle. But the Rangers have a bright future. With all that said here’s a few points I wanted to discuss.
Thank you Islanders
The Islanders did the Rangers a huge favour this week. If Jeff Gorton or John Davidson were still in any doubt at all at what this team needed before these two games, they shouldn’t be now. The Rangers decision-makers should now have a VERY clear picture at what this team needs to take a step forward. It’s never been more blatant.
The Rangers remain too finesse-orientated and they are too maverick. More often than not, the Rangers are too easy to defend. Aside from one or two players (i.e. Barzal) show me a player on the Isles that ventures too far from his personal brief. The biggest compliment I can give the Isles is that every single bounce always seems to go their way. That’s not an accident. They create most of their luck. Although the future is bright for the Rangers, they need something to complement the skill.
Expect the Rangers to change their identity somewhat this offseason. Some of the decisions, at least to begin with, will not be popular among the fanbase. Which brings me to my unpopular suggestion.
I absolutely love Filip Chytil as a prospect and as a Ranger, but I think he’s a player the Rangers can (maybe even should) use to change the spine/DNA of their team. Chytil symbolizes both the tantalising talent and the frustrating aspects of the Rangers all in one player. He almost refuses to get the puck deep and hangs on to the puck too long. Sometimes he looks All-Star calibre and I believe he’ll become a legitimate 2nd line center – in time. He has size, skill, skating, he has it all. So why move him?
Chytil’s appeal and potential to other teams will help the Rangers make a significant upgrade at center. There will be a team that can give him the 17-18 minutes at 2C that he needs to take the next step. You can argue he’s the right player in the wrong situation for the Rangers right now. If the Rangers can package Chytil, a solid prospect (outside of the untouchables) and a pick, to get the right type of guy at center, then they should pull the trigger. Sadly you really have to give, to get.
I like David Quinn, and a few minor frustrations aside, I think he’s delivered what was expected from him. The Rangers, without question, have progressed under Quinn. For me however, the biggest question about Quinn moving forward is not whether he can lead this group of players, but whether he can he adapt his own approach and style to take that next step. Look at the other bench boss this weekend…
Barry Trotz is not a direct comparable, their careers much like their respective teams, are at different stages. However, you can’t help but notice how every single player on the Islanders, fills their role. Rarely does an Islander step out of the game-plan. I always get the impression that if an Islander went too solo too often, or didn’t crash the net, or didn’t finish his check, he’d be riding pine.
Use Chytil as the Ranger example. Countless times he refuses to get the puck past the blueline. Then look at the Rangers as a whole. The Rangers could not (or would not) adapt to the Islanders style. I assume we all know the definition of madness….
Quinn needs to – in concert with any roster changes made over the summer – be willing to throw out one or two lines who can play that different style. No one is asking (or wanting) Quinn to turn Panarin or Fox into Clutterbuck and co. but Quinn needs to be a lot more fluid in his approach. It’s not just on the players at his disposal, its also on the coach.
Knee Jerk, I think not
This post isn’t a knee jerk response to the two ghastly games against Ken Dryden Semyon Varlamov and the Islanders this past week. I’ve watched the Islanders with fascination all season because of how they’ve built the roster, from the coach all the way down, to how they play their system so well. I’m in love with Chytil as a player too but am a firm believer in asset management and I think he’s the roster player who can best help bring back what this club needs without subtracting too much to do so.
But make no mistake, Rangers’ fans still have a TON to be thrilled about, and the future is bright. There is a boatload of talent in place, the spine of this team is set for the foreseeable future (Panarin, Fox, Shesterkin et al.) and there’s more on the way – but there are unpopular decisions coming. The Rangers are now at the stage of the rebuild where tweaks are needed. That doesn’t need to mean the future isn’t bright.