Quinn’s puzzling lineup decisions a head scratcher

There is always panic in the land of NYR Twitter. Unlike recent criticism, frustrated fans have a point regarding tonight’s lineup against the Red Wings.

To say it’s puzzling would be one way to describe it. Simply put, it’s hard to comprehend what went into David Quinn’s decisions. Before trying to answer that question, here is what he decided to do.

Of course, beat writer Vince Mercogliano got some predictable responses from perplexed fans. Even another former beat writer questioned what the rationale is for healthy scratching Lias Andersson for Greg McKegg and sitting Ryan Lindgren for Marc Staal.

There is a considerable lack of trust from the fan base when it comes to how the organization evaluates young talent. Whether you put an emphasis on analytics like other blogs, or are more conventional like I am here, one thing we can all agree on is that there’s a reason to be less than trustworthy when it comes to how the Rangers operate. They make promises they can’t keep.

Vitali Kravtsov thought he was coming over to make the roster. Instead, he went down to Hartford and probably was confused after a promising camp. Not to say I agree with the 19-year old bailing after five games to return home to the KHL. They didn’t have a top six spot available. He was blocked by Pavel Buchnevich, Kaapo Kakko, Chris Kreider and Artemiy Panarin. Two of those forwards haven’t been consistent.

While Kravtsov continues to develop with Chelyabinsk Traktor in Russia, there are other young players the organization must do a better job with. Since his recall, Lindgren had been solid defensively and wasn’t a main culprit in Monday’s 6-2 humiliation to Ottawa. So, why is he the odd man out for Staal? Quinn indicated he didn’t feel good about it, but based on the personnel, that’s the decision he made.

Rather than make an example of Brady Skjei, who I’m at my wits end with following another mind boggling performance that makes fans question why GM Jeff Gorton gave him that contract, Quinn chooses to bench Lindgren. Oy. I could at least see the logic if he gave Libor Hajek a night off. Hajek had his worst game of the season. That’ll happen with young players.

Why not have Skjei watch from the press box? It’s not the worst thing in the world to have the 25-year old sit out a game. I don’t care that he makes an average cap hit of $5.3 million. Quinn wasn’t afraid to do it in his first season. Ditto for Buchnevich, whose play has dipped. If he doesn’t pick it up, he could use a wake-up call.

Now, let’s get to Andersson. Since preseason, he’s outplayed Brett Howden. But the organization seems to prefer Howden over Andersson in a third line center role. Perhaps this is due to last year. He obviously has more NHL experience, which might explain why Quinn trusts him more. Both players are used on the penalty kill. However, one is clearly getting more ice time and remains the favorite.

Not to say Howden has some anything wrong. This is a clear preference by the coach, who’s been unwilling to see what Andersson can do in a different role. Why did they take Lias with the seventh overall pick in the Derek Stepan/Antti Raanta trade if they were going to treat him this way. He’s the same age as Howden. Something has to give.

Quinn explained that after a couple of good games, Andersson wasn’t as effective last game. That’s true. However, if that’s the criteria for scratching him, then it should also be applied to Howden and other Quinn favorites. There’s nothing wrong with having him sit out a game with another tomorrow. But by inserting McKegg, it makes it sound like the team is prioritizing winning over what’s best long-term. It’s a rebuild.

If they can’t play Andersson when Mika Zibanejad is missing a third straight game, what exactly does that say about the organization? If they’re gonna jerk him around, trade him. Other organizations aren’t as confusing as the Rangers when it comes to developing young talent. Is this a Manny Malhotra situation? Where they don’t think he’s anything more than a third liner. That’s probably true. I just am not crazy about how they’re going about it.

At this point, all you can do is throw your hands up in the air. It is only for one game. If for some reason both Andersson and Lindgren aren’t back in the lineup tomorrow for Carolina, I’m going to lose faith in the team.

It’ll likely be Henrik Lundqvist against Jimmy Howard like always for the special 8 PM start on NBCSN. Let’s see if they can play better in front of Lundqvist after giving Alexandar Georgiev the Lundqvist Experience.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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