The NY Rangers already had a few star players before the trade deadline in Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox, and Artemi Panarin. They now added Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane to the mix, giving off super team vibes to the rest of the NHL. As the Rangers gear up for the playoffs, Gallant’s main job now is managing Rangers egos and his stars for the betterment of the team.
To no one’s surprise, Kane and Panarin are going to be given a long leash to try to recreate the magic they had six years ago. Six years is a long time though, and neither Panarin nor Kane are in their twenties anymore. We can point to stats to say Panarin might have even improved, but we can use those same stats to say Kane is no longer the superstar he once was. He’s 34 years old, so this isn’t an insult.
The fear many have is, given his stubbornness and history of deferring to veterans, that Gallant will try to force Panarin and Kane to work. We’ve seen Panarin shoot more, which is good, but we’ve also seen that line get caved in, which is also expected given what both players are on the ice. They are scorers, not play drivers, and certainly not to be relied upon in the defensive zone. As they say, them’s the facts.
The desire to keep them together has led to changing the powerplay units, which does feel like a bit of a galaxy brain reach at the moment. The current iterations keep the even strength line combos together, so perhaps this is simply a ploy to help build chemistry, as noted on Live From The Blue Seats today.
To play Devil’s Advocate, we may have already seen enough from Tarasenko with Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. The line is a black hole of play driving and riding abnormally hot shooting and goaltending while on the ice. If we know this trio isn’t optimal, and we know Panarin and Kane have similar skill sets and become redundant on the same line, then how long does this experiment last?
At what point does Gallant need to take his two superstars aside and tell them they need to be split up for the betterment of the team? It may not come to that, but all signs are pointing to it being a necessary step. Most viewers can see this already –albeit with a shorthanded roster and no practices until yesterday– so one would assume Gallant sees this as well.
This is where managing Rangers egos and stars comes into focus. Will Panarin, who has been the subject of rumors regarding his linemate preference, accept that his buddy may not be on his line? Will one of the six big names be ok with being on PP2?
Let’s take this a step further: Will Kane be ok with potentially playing sheltered third line minutes at even strength, should the need arise? There’s a strong case to break up the Kid Line, thus potentially having Kane with Alexis Lafreniere and Filip Chytil as an all offense third line. Will Kane be ok with that?
If these seem like silly questions, well to be frank, they are. They are professionals and will more than likely adjust to whatever is best for the team. But they are also human and we know there are some preferences. They also know they are stars, and come with egos.
This is where Gallant is supposed to excel, managing Rangers egos and stars. Few teams have had this much star power on one roster, and perhaps none since the hard salary cap was implemented. Managing these Rangers egos and stars is an important input into this club’s success in the playoffs. If they aren’t playing as a team, they won’t get very far. This part is on Gallant.