Hartnett: David Quinn Deserves Blame For Lias Andersson Situation

75756A5E-120A-4932-810C-2FD980DB785E

Lias Andersson and the Rangers had a doomed marriage from the start. As fans will remember, the Blueshirts shocked many around the hockey world when they selected Andersson seventh overall at the 2017 NHL Draft.

The consensus among draft analysts immediately following the pick was that the Rangers went off the board and reached. It was described as a character over talent selection. Leadership, tenacity and work ethic were described as Andersson’s best qualities. No one was raving about his skill set or physical gifts.

To date, Andersson has collected three goals and six assists in 66 career NHL games. Though his production has been underwhelming, it’s important to keep in mind that his NHL minutes have been sporadic and largely limited to the fourth line.

The situation reached a boiling point when Andersson formally requested a trade this past weekend. The team has suspended the 21-year-old center while general manager Jeff Gorton combs the market for an acceptable return. Any deal would take place after the holiday roster freeze is lifted on Dec. 27.

It’s too early to say whether Andersson will succeed in the NHL or not, but that opportunity will have to come with a different organization. The 5-foot-11 forward never quite got the chance to impress under David Quinn. Even at times when the Rangers’ roster was hampered by injuries, Quinn refused to elevate Andersson and thus, denied him an opportunity to showcase his ability with higher skilled linemates.

The Rangers' Lias AnderssonDanny Wild/USA TODAY Images

Quinn always preferred Brett Howden ahead of Andersson – and the latter was relegated to fourth line duty alongside an AHL-level, aging enforcer in Micheal Haley and a defenseman masquerading as a wing in Brendan Smith. It’s hard to understand why Quinn didn’t promote Andersson when Howden was struggling. Maybe Quinn will be vindicated in the long term if Howden cements his place in the Blueshirts’ plans and Andersson’s career fizzles elsewhere.

Again, it’s too early to say because both players are in the infancy of their respective careers. Howden has barely played over 100 career NHL games and Andersson has played less than a full season’s worth of games across parts of three seasons. Lately, Howden has benefitted from a switch to the wing. He scored the second goal of the Rangers’ 5-1 victory over the Ducks on Sunday.

Back to Andersson – whether he establishes a long NHL career or not, the Rangers and Quinn must learn from this debacle. The next young center that comes through the pipeline should not be placed in a no-win situation where their development is stuck on pause.

Follow Sean on Twitter -- @HartnettHockey