There is an issue at the top of the Rangers lineup that needs to be resolved before the hierarchy can move into a summer of rebuilding to convert that collection of homogeneous ingredients into a more diverse mix that will be the next step in its evolution can undertake.
And that’s a fix for what certainly appears to be a disconnect between the team’s marquee striker and head coach David Quinn. I’m not saying there was a riot that undermined the season. I’m not saying this is tantamount to Mark Messier-Roger Neilson’s 1992-93 schism that led to the coach’s sacking, which ultimately paved the way for Mike Keenan’s hiring, but it’s been clear for months that the High-end players and Quinn don’t see the game that way.
But more consistently than that, it was also clear that the high-end players had little or no interest in changing their approach to suit the coach meet. It’s her path, her increasingly stubborn path where neither side of either side has given a quarter.
As frustrating as it may be for Quinn to see the top two lines taking a risky approach with high Reward, which has led to falling returns this season despite constant agreements, it must be so annoying for Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome and Pavel Buchnevich, for example, to hear how the coach feels after almost every game, including the Victories, publicly complained about it.
This year there were points where Strome, who sometimes gets caught in a stream of consciousness in Zoom interviews and should be applauded for adding openness to the mix, spoke about the The shoot-last mentality of the talented players should not be questioned.
In the meantime, the coach has repeatedly referred to the lack of a shooting mentality as a problem and in his zoom Conferences often use the abbreviation « East-West » as a code. After a game earlier last month, Quinn said not shooting the puck has been a problem « since I’ve been here. » The Rangers have been east to west since Alain Vigneault removed the metaphorical shackles that were John Tortorella had attached to the clubs’ high-end skaters. So for eight years. The blueshirts were pretty for most of their existence. The time of the black and blues shirts was a deviation. Pretty is in the bloodline.
Here’s the thing though. The Rangers were a lot east-west last year, but it wasn’t. There was no taffy pull after the game, at least not like that. And the skill guys – and honestly we’re mostly talking about Panarin, Zibanejad and Strome – weren’t like that against the top teams. They weren’t so against the islanders.
In fact, perhaps the team’s two most notable games last season took place at the Coliseum. Within five weeks there were 3-2 and 4-3 wins against the islanders, the first to be won by a Kreider power play in the last half-minute of regulation and the second to win in overtime on Zibanejad’s arrow from an impossible feed of Panarin surrounded by three opponents.
Here’s what I don’t understand: Panarin, Zibanejad and Strome had career times playing for Quinn last year. So there was no way they were suppressed. Something has changed. Perhaps last season’s experience under the bubble of choking Carolina’s top players changed the dynamic. Maybe Quinn got more persistent, maybe he got less patient with them. Maybe there is just too much literal glimpse over the players’ shoulders.
I can’t say for sure, but I’m also not sure if it is just a coincidence that Zibanejad’s six-point double blasts against the Flyers took place eight days apart in March when Quinn was not on the COVID log list while a more reluctant Kris Knoblauch sat behind the bench as acting coach.
The Rangers cut their goals by half a goal per game last season . Her GAA fell from 3.14 to 2.63, and her rank in the league improved from 23rd to ninth. Nor is this a reflection of their work, which has been distorted by exceptional goalkeepers. For per naturalstattrick.com, the club’s xGA per 60:00 has risen from a worst value in the league from 3.23 to 15th place in 2.5.
These numbers show noticeable progress on both the blue Line as well as when approaching the club away from the puck. There is no doubt that Jacques Martin’s work as senior defensive assistant was vital, but it also falls under the aegis of the head coach who – collectively now – oversaw the league’s youngest team! The young strikers are infinitely responsible two-way players.
But the team needs to be redefined. Grit doesn’t have to completely replace the glitter, it has to reinforce it. Before doing this, however, there are issues that need to be addressed and resolved.
It’s important that Quinn’s relationship with his marquee is high on the list.
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