We are just under a quarter of the way through the season and the New York Rangers have already made their fans feel like it’s been a full 82 game season. It has been a wild ride thus far and I am sure the roller coaster ride isn’t finished as we face the Boston Bruins tonight for game number 13 of 56. I am going to touch on a few points that have stuck out to me so far this season.
David Quinn and the New York Rangers are both in the same position. They are young, hopeful, loaded with potential, but not yet ready to be NHL seasoned. I have criticized Quinn all season long on my podcast, BROADWAY BOYS PODCAST. The truth is, Quinn is finding his identity as a coach in this league. His systems are bit elementary, his decisions are too reactionary, and his control over this team is non-existent. All signs of a younger coach gripping his stick too tight while he struggles in the spot light of NYC.
Do I think the Rangers fire Quinn this season? No. Why? Because it is a pandemic and they will give these coaches the benefit of the doubt, especially with a younger team that isn’t going to win a Stanley Cup regardless of who is behind the bench. Should the Rangers fire Quinn? Yes. Why? Because Gerard Gallant is available. He is a better coach and fit for what this team needs right now. Quinn is also coaching a college system where he wants constant pressure on the puck. That’s great for regular season play, but the chess match you will see in the playoffs leads to what you saw in the bubble. Lastly, his decision making is inconsistent and reactionary. He is quick to bench players and quick to forgive players who clearly are a liability (Jack Johnson). A young team needs more structure, consistency, and they need to learn to play different styles of hockey. The Rangers have one game plan and if that isn’t working then you will never see an adjustment. This team should be developing, just like a change of the defensive coach from Ruff to Martin, has led to better play defensively; a change with the head coach will lead to a more complete team over the next few seasons.
This will be very brief because this subject has been defined by political alignment and not reality. But I will give it to you straight. TonyD was never a part of this organizations long term plan. The Rangers kept bridging him to get where they will be in a couple years. Tony is a very emotional player and quick to run his mouth. Add a young team without any leadership and you get a gong show locker room. For that type of distraction with your future trying to develop, it’s not worth keeping your bridge players.
Now the question needs to be asked, who is the leader of the New York Rangers? This season will define our veteran group. Mika, Kreider, Trouba, and Panarin all have a lot to prove in the leadership column. I don’t think any of them are captain material, but the TonyD situation was a turning point for this team. Who controls the locker room? Who will be willing to take the blame? Who wants to be the next captain of the New York Rangers? Only time will tell.
Right now there are two aspects of our game that have been killing us. If we can improve on these two things, I think we will be getting a few more points out of every game.
First, the power play needs to get much better. Sitting at 14% isn’t going to cut it. The Rangers need more movement, more traffic in front, and a personnel change that I think will help the team overall. Move Mika to Kreiders spot in front. Add Laf to the right side and Artemi to the left. Fox quarterbacks the pp. Kreider needs to be a rover and win every puck battle along the boards. Let’s get Mika some flukey net front goals. Lets get Laf some time with the puck and in a position to shoot and get more comfortable. Things can’t get much worse right now so zip it if you think my changes are stupid.
Second, our face-off percentage is garbage. I know center depth isn’t our strong suite, but we need to be better. I don’t really know how else to address this problem other than practice or trade for a top 2 center. Top to bottom, from Mika to Howden. We need to win or least create 50-50 chances with our face-offs. Too many times (especially on PPs) we get clean beat which leads to a clear or a shooting opportunity from the other team. Face-offs are a little thing that can turn into a big thing very quickly in this league.
I will be back around the half way point of this season, hopefully with a more optimistic view on this team. Right now we are treading water. Waiting for Panarin to bail us out of every close game. I am still waiting for out youth to step up and take this team on their back and carry us. Kakko has been a bright spot. What a difference from last year. Miller looks like he can not only be one of our best dman, but one of the leagues best defensemen. Fox is blossoming into an elite hockey player in the NHL. Laffy is looking solid, but just needs to find a groove in order to start putting up the numbers.