Hockey Tactics

Tactical adjustments David Quinn needs to make to compete next season

The Rangers may have been officially eliminated from the playoffs this weekend, but only the hopelessly optimistic thought they had a chance this season. In this division, with this drama, with COVID, and with the youth, everything needed to go right. Naturally it didn’t. But next year, as I’ve been saying, is the year they get back. The talent should get them to the playoffs, but to truly compete, David Quinn will need to make some tactical adjustments.

Balanced Powerplay Units

This is a big one, as the Rangers should have a lethal powerplay. They were, instead, 13th in the league this season. Given the skill, they should be better. 


Yet they seemed to be generating high quality chances at a much higher margin. So what gives?

The first thing is they became predictable. The first look in 2021 was always the left circle. This checks out, as it’s their only off-wing setup on PP1. While they did generate more chances this year from the right circle, the lack of a one-timer option means those cross ice passes require that extra split second before a shot gets off. In the NHL, with NHL goalies, that matters. 

The second is that they focused almost entirely on the top powerplay unit, Again this checks out, as look at that top unit. However the team went as they went. When they went cold, and that does happen in hockey, the team went cold. The top unit received at least 150 minutes at 5v4, with it varying slightly outside of Panarin/Zibanejad. Only Pavel Buchnevich received over 100 minutes and wasn’t on the top unit. After that, it’s about 50 minutes each. That simply isn’t enough PP time. That second unit didn’t generate much, to be fair, but getting one-third the time has that effect.

The Rangers will need a lethal powerplay. Given the skill they have, they should be able to put together a pair of powerplay units that can be close to automatic. Getting a second one-timer option on both units is a must. That’s a gimme.

Neutral Zone and Defensive Zone Tactics

This is something I’ve been harping on for a few years now. The Rangers give up too much space in the neutral zone. This leads to the opposition gaining speed into the offensive zone, and the Rangers are already on their heels. Steve Valiquette addressed this on a broadcast, and showed the second layer here, which is the back check forming defensive triangles. 

The counter point here is that since the Rangers give up the space in the neutral zone, the back checkers simply can’t catch up. It’s not the lack of a back check, it’s that there is too much speed and space given. That’s on gap control and the message. Gap control will come as the kids grow and the third pair gets upgraded. But the message and the system has to be upgraded as well.

It’s time that the Rangers, at the very least step up before the top of the circle. The best teams in the league will walk all over the Blueshirts if they allow this kind of transition speed. It doesn’t matter how aggressive the back check is if they can’t catch up to the play. And don’t be fooled, the good coaches know the Rangers back off and they change up their game plan accordingly.

In Game Adjustments

In game adjustments are something that we mention here, but haven’t gone into much detail yet. It’s difficult to explain away some of Quinn’s adjustments, or lack thereof. The common complaint is that no matter what, Quinn runs his systems and doesn’t adjust for teams or coaches he is facing.

The lack of adjustments was put on display this season, as the schedule called for many two-game sets against the same team. When checking the game logs, there are very few –if any– instances where the Rangers played well in the first game without a significant drop off in the second. This is admittedly an archaic way of looking at things, but it gets the point across. Other teams adjust, meanwhile the Rangers seemingly do not.

Now this isn’t all on the coaching staff. The players also play a role here. There is clearly something missing. Is it the message? Is it just a lack of adjustments? Either way, it does eventually fall on the coaches. The message, the system, or the lack of motivation, all three eventually fall on the coaching staff.

In the end, all three are tactical adjustments that David Quinn and his staff will need to make for the Rangers to reach their true potential next season. The Rangers are going to be very good, very quickly. But a team is only as good as its coach. To truly compete, and to truly make noise, the Rangers need to be firing on all cylinders.

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  • # one shoot the damn puck !!!***** # two finish your damn checks !!! ***** #3 use the body take the body ***** when the rangers forwards chase pucks along the boards and it’s 50/50 as to who gets to the puck 1st, many many times our rangers back off and the opponents wind up with the puck, gotta change. ***** HIRE SOMEONE that is able teach the centers how to win face-offs.***** don’t stop the pressure with a lead at any time during a game, learn how to win not just hang on.***** no what any one thinks, they should have made the playoffs !!!!

    • It’s simple, when the guys are “on” they do win those 50-50 battles … the issue, as always, is consistency and being able to do that against the best teams in the league.

      • Yeah they can win those battles. I’ve seen them do it. Kakko has been a lot better in puck battles, that has been the most improved aspect of his game.

        The young players they have are pretty big fellas. They need to play like big guys and do it consistently. That might be a bit of a learning curve, but it is one aspect of their play that if they work on it will help bring the team to the next level. They don’t need one tough guy, they need to be a tough team, one that wins the battles along the boards, isn’t afraid to crash the net and who stand up for one another.

        • Yeah … and I’m sure Kravs and Laffy will be winning a lot of battles into the future as well.

  • In a recent post game interview Quinn said that we need to learn from the Islanders. The next game the “system” was exactly the same. It seems like there is no system. The Islanders went man on man and smothered the scoring. Will the Rangers be harder to play against next season. If so how? I agree that next year will be better. They will be playing more bottom end teams and may make the playoffs, but this team as it is now constructed is far from Stanley cup ready. If you disagree, show me where the tough players are.

  • One thing that has been bugging me about this team, aside from their slow starts in many games, is their play late in 3rd periods. I think their strength and conditioning isn’t up to snuff — or it certainly isn’t up to the standards I saw when Torts coached this team. I think the coaching staff needs to demand more from the players in that regard.

    • I noticed that too—could be a consequence of how regularly over-used some players were: Fox, Panarin, and Zibby in particular. Plus no training camp hurt a lot of players across the league.

      • I agree about the overreliance on those 3 players specifically (that’s on the coach), but in general all the teams had ridiculously short training camps so in that regard S&C should be relatively equal. I also noticed this issue against Carolina in the playoffs when they came back from the break, but not prior to that when they were fighting for a playoff spot.

        It may be nothing, but I think they should explore it as a possible factor.

  • You cannot teach DQ to change in his first coaching assignment. He needs the reality of losing his job to allow him to understand that change is required. If he stays on as coach, expect the same.

    We will need a new Offense and PP coach.

  • JFTR, the Rangers have a W-L record of 26-26. Ignoring the four game sweep of the Devils, the Rangers have played 19 back to back series. Their record in the second game is 10-9. So the idea that they do poorly in game 2 because they can’t adjust is alas not borne out by the actual results. Their records in first games was 7-12.

  • The first tactical adjustment Quinn needs to make involves looking for housing in Boston. Then he’ll need to schedule some interviews at schools in the area. Lastly, he’ll need to adjust his swagger upwards, from the NYC level of 6.3 to the Boston level of 8.6.

    • Hey Perkele I wonder who the Rangers would replace Quinn with if they decided to do it (though I have the gut feeling that JD and Gorton are not going to do that–at least not yet.) I don’t hate Quinn but I don’t love him either. I’d be open to them finding a replacement who might mold the team to be more disciplined.

      Gallant is mentioned a lot, and he did a great job in Las Vegas their first year. But he was dumped rather unceremoniously when they struggled in his 3rd season and were giving up a lot of goals in a bad streak. That at least suggests that he doesn’t walk on water either. I rather like Torts, because he doesn’t put up with lazy play. Obviously he isn’t perfect either, but his pressers are must sees!

      I wondering who else might be out there if people have ideas?

        • You people have the answers for everything, don’t you?

          First- Quinn isn’t going anywhere. He might be coaching for his job next season, but he’s not going anywhere over the summer. He’s coaching a team of 20-year-olds in the toughest division in the league. And in case you hadn’t noticed, in any other division he would have clinched a playoff spot a month ago. Pay attention just a little bit, can we?

          Second- I just love coming on here and reading about how much more you guys know about hockey than JD, who’s been in NHL management for what, 30 years, and Jeff, almost as long. But keep up the good work; I enjoy the comic relief every couple of days.

          Third- the comment about bringing Tortorella back here is laughable. Every single person on this “bozo-board” wanted him gone in the worst way the last time he coached here. Funny.

          Fourth- if you think Carolina management is stupid enough to let Brindamour get away, I need some of what you’re smoking. It must be good stuff.

          But again, keep up the good work. I need the laughs. Win face-offs! Take the body! Shoot the puck! Brilliant.

          Regards- orange

          • 1) If you read my post Orange, you’d see that I said that I doubted that JD and Gorton would be replacing Quinn at this time. 2) I just said that I like Torts and that I figure that he would have the team play more disciplined hockey but the words “bring back Torts” didn’t happen. Yeah, I doubt that they would rehire him. But, I rather like the guy. So sue me. 🙂

      • Here’s looking at you Carolina coaching staff … although I have to wonder if he would like to leave that situation. If he hits the open market though, he would be in huge demand and make some real $$$ — I would think Seattle would be VERY interested as well.

      • I’d be ok with Knoblauch if the Rangers stay in-house. I wouldn’t mind Gallant. Not a fan of Torts for this group, I think Torts’ inability to get along with Dubois and his strained relationship with Laine wouldn’t bode well for NYR. Nobody likes him around here anymore, but I think Claude Julien is a good coach too.

        Poaching Brind’Amour seems unlikely. The Canes have a good team going. If the Rangers were gonna steal another team’s coach, how about Mike Sullivan from Pittsburgh?

  • Who next year do you think the Rangers will beat out to make the playoffs. Don’t think they will best out the Caps, Pens, Isles , Cains in their own division. Let alone Tampa , Fla. Boston , Toronto in the other division in the conference. Gap is wider than everyone thinks. Major changes are needed from GM to coach to players. To think otherwise is kidding yourself. Otherwise same non playoff season.

    • I agree that the teams you mentioned above may still have a better team than the Rangers next year.
      I do believe the Rangers must make several personnel changes next year to get better … it’s critical that they re sign key 2021 free agents Shesterkin , Lindgren , Buchnevich & Gauthier . The team must become more difficult to play against , if they want to get into the playoffs next year . Free agents such as Montreal’s C Danault and Vegas’ LD Martinez should be signed and physical prospects like Barron, Gauthier and Edstrom , Lundkvist, Schneider and Robertson need to be given playing time opportunities. Worst case , if the they are not nhl ready , resigning Smith and/ or Howden won’t hurt to deepen their bench . I believe players like Chytil , Hajek,and Reunanen will be traded after the season . I don’t think the Rangers will keep any of their 2022 signed players being made available for the Seattle Kracken draft , including Kincaid , DeAngelo , Bitetto, Blackwell or Rooney , though I thought the two forwards played well for the Rangers this year .

      • Of course they will end up keeping Rooney …. and Blackwell if Seattle doesn’t take him. They both have 2 year contracts.

    • Those teams aren’t on the rise, I think they’re doing their best to hold on to their positions — the same way we did 4-5 years ago — and you know what happened to us.

  • Blah! Blah! Blah! it mentions ‘talent’ but, not GRIT?? ME, thinks it takes Talent + Grit! NO??

  • In my rant yesterday, I spoke about a disconnect from the top to the players, being the coach, and right on cue, Brooks writes about how it has to be rectified this summer. Between Quinn and the vets, or high end players.

    So, we’re not imagining it.

    • I expect Quinn to be back, but I really can’t see how to justify it. Quinn seems to be demanding total control of the team. Guys like Mike Keenan, with a history of success, can get buy-in for this, but I don’t see how the unproven coach gets buy-in.

      One factor we may be overlooking though is the exit interviews. IIRC (and I may not), Tortorella looked like he was coming back before the exit interviews. But that is the one time that guys like Gorton and Davidson really listen to the players. Discord is not something that gets fixed by the improving play of the younger players. And with Panarin, Kreider, Zib and Trouba on NMCs, you can’t just change the players.

      • It would be shocking to see the Rangers fire him after this season, unless we are totally misreading the FO’s love for this coach.

        Agreed, this is the group of players going forward, in general. So maybe there is discontent within the ranks. They did look much better under Knob, but it was a very small sample size.

        Maybe the players throw Quinn under the bus during their exit interviews. We can only hope.

    • Brooks probably reads all the blogs out there and then regurgitates it as if he figured this stuff out himself.

  • There should not be another season for Quinn…He’s got to go….I am for the Assistant Coach from Pittsburg….He will teach this team to attack the net in a try pod style with D men in on the O fensive attack with forwards covering on the back end if the D is pinching…We also need to shoot the F ING puck!!!! When there is no one between you and the Goaltender SHOOT IT TOP CORNERS!!!!!…. AND….We need an enforcer and another mean Defensmen…..No one scares me… Keep standing in front of the net. The Goalie can’t stop what he can’t see…I know………..We have a great young team and a drag of a coach…GOTTA GO!! NYR!

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