Eight minutes and eleven seconds, you know what that is? That’s Alexis Lafreniere’s ice time in the Rangers 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night. For what its worth at least Lafreniere was able to register an assist in his limited ice time but he didn’t even see the ice during the overtime before Mika Zibanejad ended it.
There has been a lot of support for David Quinn because the Blueshirts have showed a lot of fight to crawl back into the playoff chase. A big problem though is Quinn is continuing to show that he doesn’t know how to manage a bench in game and that’s something we saw a vast improvement with under Kris Knoblauch. Last night seemed to be the turning of the tide as it was all anyone talked about after the game with very few rebuttals. On the latest 30 on Broadway podcast we talked about the differences with the bench and noted it would be foolish to think that Knoblauch came in and grabbed the bull by the horns solely, but the clear difference was the in game management and decisions that appeared vastly smoother than from under Quinn.
Lafreniere’s lack of ice time is extremely more frustrating when you consider the fact that David Quinn was heralded as a developmental coach. It’s getting tiring hearing Quinn after games when asked say that he lost a guy on the bench, or the new manta that he is turning his focus towards winning which is seeming to leave the core youngsters behind. While it is correct that the NHL is not a developmental league, this team is also nowhere near ready to compete for a Stanley Cup or even make a serious dent in the playoffs. There is just about no reasoning that players like Filip Chytil or Lafreniere have less time on the ice than Colin Blackwell or Kevin Rooney under any circumstance outside of penalty kill time which was not a factor last night against Buffalo.
Possibly the most maddening thing about Quinn right now is his questionable lineup decisions overall. Vitali Kravtsov is finally eligible to play for the Blueshirts and after skating in a couple of practices most fans logically thought he’d make his debut Thursday night. As we all know that didn’t happen because Quinn has shown a penchant for “riding the hot hand” which is something I can usually get behind but in this case I want to see the Rangers ice the best lineup possible. There’s no excuse that against the worst team in the league Kravtsov shouldn’t be making his NHL debut. It’s an easy way to get him some minutes and ice time to see what he can bring to the table. Why Kravtsov is sitting upstairs over players like Julien Gauthier makes no sense especially with where the schedule has been favorable to “easing” him into the lineup even before this. The Philadelphia Flyers can’t get out of their own way and with the Washington Capitals, we’ve played some of our best hockey outside of this past Sunday.
If you’re going to be heralded as a developmental coach then you need to show that you will be capable of developing the young assets that you have. While Pavel Buchnevich has developed into a top liner, we still have yet to see Quinn unlock the potential that got Kaapo Kakko drafted second overall, and if things stay on track with Alexis Lafreniere then we will not likely see Quinn unlock his game as well.
While yes, the playoffs are on the horizon and technically within reach one has to ask at what expense does it make sense to pin your key youth players moving forward to the bench in a quest to reach the postseason? The lack of trust or willingness to allow these players to grow on the fly is nonsense at this point. IF and it is a big if that the Rangers reach the postseason and unseat Boston, can this team make a dent and break out of the first round? With not having many good showings against the other teams outside of the Capitals that task may end up in more disappointment following last years embarrassment in the bubble.
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