As the New York Rangers have found their level as a hockey team, signs for concern have emerged. Naturally, the critics have begun to question David Quinn’s lineup decisions.
Anytime a team struggles, its fans will look for a scapegoat to put the blame on. For many years, it was Alain Vigneault and Dan Girardi in a tag team affair that lasted several years. The former New York Rangers’ head coach insistence on playing the aging Girardi on the top defensive pair seemingly hamstrung the team for years.
However, since those teams were expected to be legitimate contenders this made sense to complain about. A majority of the team were established veterans that were known quantities that did not need refinement. It was up to those players to play up to their ability and on most nights, that would be enough to win.
Now, with a patchwork roster which has a mix of both young and old players, Quinn is starting to draw the ire of some. Why isn’t Lias Andersson getting a bigger role? Why does Neal Pionk get so many minutes? Why does the team keep blowing multi-goal leads?
First things first, all of those are perfectly legitimate questions. Some of these are befuddling in the sense that if the team is going to lose, wouldn’t it make sense to do so with the best possible formula for the future? Quinn is working to win two or three years from now while still being a competitive team at the moment.
There is a method to Quinn’s madness and it’s imperative to keep that in mind. From the very beginning of his tenure with the Rangers’ organization, the former Boston University coach has preached the importance of accountability and effort. Anytime a new coach joins a franchise, they will look to imprint their own culture and attitude into the foundation of the roster.
In Quinn’s limited time as Rangers’ coach, the team has experienced the typical growing pains of a young group. For every flashy Filip Chytil play, it took an equal amount of time middling along on the fourth line or watching from the press box. Though frustrating at the time, it’s clear that Chytil learned from the experience and is a better player because of it.
This meritocracy based system will frustrate those hungry for more of Andersson and other young players to get called up. However, it is important for the coaching staff to project a system of fairness and not arbitrarily favoring young players because of their potential. Potential is nice to have in theory, but it’s practically as valuable as a bag of pucks.
Andersson has not moved up the lineup because he’s failed to distinguish himself in the limited role. While it may be difficult to do so, Chytil managed to do it, so there is a precedent for it working. The front office has not yet sent Andersson down, so that leads me to believe that they’re complacent with him in his current role.
The Rangers chose to move on from Vigneault and hire Quinn because of the latter’s skill for talent development. Boston University is one of the premier college hockey programs in the United States. While not as dominant as either Boston College or the University of Michigan, the Terriers have managed to produce many quality NHL players this decade.
The entire point of giving Quinn the keys to the franchise was to bring along the team’s young talent. First time NHL head coaches are not offered five-year contracts if the organization is not prepared to grow along with them. That contract length in conjunction with the collection of talent Quinn was given means that he has time to work things out.
There’s a reason NHL franchises hire college coaches and front office executives as opposed to Twitter experts. There’s a learning curve at the highest levels of hockey that watching the game on T.V. does not present.
It’s always frustrating to watch the Rangers lose, however, Quinn deserves the benefit of the doubt considering he’s just 31 games into his NHL tenure.