Some of David Quinn’s early season moves are being called into question
When the Rangers first hired David Quinn in 2018, it made sense for them as a rebuilding team. Coaching at Boston University prior to the Rangers seemed to be positive for a team beginning a youth movement. He would understand the struggles faced by young players, and theoretically, would be an ideal coach for player development.
David Quinn, a high level review
Quinn’s first season behind the bench in 2018-19 was not fantastic with the Rangers going 32-36-14 on the season. No one really thought anything of it as no one expects a team in the early stages of their rebuild to be good. Further, it was only his first season with an unfamiliar group of players both veteran and new. There were likely to be some problems. The continued clean out of veteran players was necessary, but didn’t help in the short term. The Rangers very quickly became a much younger and less experienced team.
As expected, this led to many mistakes being made during games. These include taking poor penalties and hardly playing defense. But still, no one was quick to blame Quinn because the team was in a state of flux.
In his second season in 2019-20, the roster stabilized a bit and the rebuild appeared to have been accelerated by the additions of Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox, and Kaapo Kakko.
David Quinn was handed a group of players who had mostly never played together. As Head Coach, it was his job to turn this conglomerate into a cohesive group. The first biggest sign that this was not happening was the high amount of too many men on the ice penalties they were taking.
The issue got to a point where Quinn decided that linemates would have to sit next to each other on the bench as if this were youth hockey. That obviously could not be a permanent policy, but it didn’t quite fix the issue temporarily either.
Secondly, the Rangers defensive woes really showed no signs of improving. There were generally holes in the defense and too many players out of position. The Head Coach deserves as much blame for this as did Lindy Ruff.
Calling into question some of Quinn’s lineup decisions
Now that Quinn is no longer new to Broadway, we should be feeling comfortable with him behind the bench. However, many question his recent lineup decisions.
Last night, when the Rangers faced off against the Penguins, Tony DeAngelo returned to the lineup, replacing Brendan Smith. This was strange to me as Smith showed why he deserves to be in the lineup through the previous two games. He brought a physical presence that the Rangers so often lack, and his defensive play was notable. He currently leads the Rangers in +/- at +4.
So why have DeAngelo replace Smith instead of Jack Johnson? Johnson has been caught out of position far too often on defense, has no offensive upside, and doesn’t bring a physical element. This is only the first of Quinn’s puzzling choices. When the game was over, the Rangers blew a 3-1 lead and the pairing of DeAngelo and Johnson were a -2 each.
The second change that seemed questionable was the shift of Alexis Lafreniere to the top line. While playing with veterans Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider may be helpful to a rookie, Lafreniere is clearly not ready for top-line duties after just three games. He is too hesitant, and the game just seems to be passing him by at times. It would be better for him to spend some more time on the second or third line to adjust to the NHL pace.
Thirdly, Kaapo Kakko needs to be getting more ice time if he is to develop into the star many think he can be. He has shown that when he shoots, he makes it count. Using Kakko on the second line with Artemi Panarin was an experiment that didn’t last very long. If Quinn were put Kakko back on that line for a few games, it’s possible that line would have notable success. Panarin’s playmaking ability and Kakko’s shot could be dangerous if given a chance.
Kakko scored his second goal of the season last night and does appear to be growing chemistry with Filip Chytil.
Is Quinn Still the Right Fit?
At a certain point, the level of the team’s play becomes a question of coaching. While the Rangers are the youngest team in the NHL on average, they have some degree of skill in all areas. It’s the coach’s job to make sure those skills get used properly. With these lineup changes, it seems David Quinn is not doing this.
Yes, it’s still early in the season but President John Davidson said during training camp that making the playoffs would be a “barometer” of the team’s success this year. If the Rangers don’t make the playoffs, Quinn could be put on the hot seat. If the Rangers have a horrendous season, say under .500, Quinn could be replaced by a more experienced coach heading into the final stages of the rebuild.