Why Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko don’t fit in the Rangers top 6

NY Rangers (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NY Rangers (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /
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NEW YORK, NEW YORK – APRIL 27: Alexis Lafreniere #13 of the New York Rangers takes a slapshot against the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden on April 27, 2021 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Sabres 3-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Lafreniere’s deployment issues are two fold. First, as David Quinn noted, Lafreniere’s ascent to top six left wing is blocked. With Panarin leading the team in scoring and Kreider scoring goals at a career best pace, this is unlikely to change for the next few seasons. The second issue is that neither Quinn, nor the current coach, Gerard Gallant are particularly comfortable deploying Lafrenière on the right wing.

Its the Dynamic Duo, not trio

While on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Kreider, Lafrenière ‘s offense appeared to blossom, however, the line itself was made less effective. At even strength the top line with Lafreniere deployed on it scored 3.17 goals per sixty minutes (p/60) and surrendered 2.49 goals against p/60. With any other winger the Zibanejad, Kreider duo has scored 3.49 goals p/60 while surrendering only 2.26 goals against p/60.

The second issue facing Lafreniere is that the defensive play, when switching to ones off wing is not always a simple thing. Almost immediately the player is at a defensive disadvantage. The play comes at a defending player in reverse, generally to the players weak side, making every pivot, turn and reaction that more difficult. A scenario coach Gallant recognized.

There are also more technical aspects of the game a switch to the off wing creates. Ken Dryden in his book The Game explained one such technicality. In trying to gain even the smallest advantage over the Soviets, the Czechoslovakians invented the Left Wing Lock. This system is designed to force the puck carrier to always face two defenders while funneling the play to the right wing. Most of the Soviets were left handed shooters, leaving their right wing on his backhand along the boards, giving the advantage to the left handed, left side defenseman on his forehand.

Another was noted by Steve Valiquette, during a recent Rangers telecast. Off wing players often cause problems for their goaltender when keeping their sticks in the passing and shooting lanes. While deflecting the puck off the backhand of the blade can help deaden a puck, the curve of the blade creates a ramp and will elevate the puck instead.