Maybe we all gave David Quinn too much credit for being a youth-progressing authority based on a five-year stint coaching the likes of Clayton Keller, Jack Eichel and Charlie McAvoy at Boston University.
Perhaps, this trio of former Terriers would have been destined for NHL stardom regardless of which coach was fortunate enough to work with them at the collegiate level.
Right now – at this very moment – Quinn’s No. 1 responsibility is accelerating the development of Kaapo Kakko, Lias Andersson, Pavel Buchnevich and other youngsters currently on the Rangers’ roster, as well as the prospects who make the jump to the NHL.
Do teams require intensity, competitiveness and hard-skating efforts to win on a nightly basis? Of course they do. But in 2019, the NHL is a league where skill triumphs out over grit, battle level and toughness.
The Rangers must prioritize skill by putting their young players in positions to succeed and by allowing their creativity to naturally flow.
A young center with upside in Lias Andersson isn’t going to improve with Micheal Haley and Brendan Smith as his most frequent linemates. Andersson has zero goals and one assist through nine games. It’s hard to imagine any young center shining without skilled players to feed the puck.
Kakko isn’t going to be consistent if his linemates are constantly changing. He’s not going to play the natural game that made him the No. 2 overall pick if the messaging is often about altering his playing style and approach.
There may come a point where Quinn’s messaging becomes repetitive, tiresome and begins to get tuned out. You can’t just go through an 82-game season kicking professionals in their rears and telling them their efforts aren’t good enough. That approach might work in a dressing room full of college kids of a certain skill level. Quinn may need to adjust his messaging to appeal to NHL pros and internationals.
The Rangers drafted Kakko because of his talent, not because of how well he fits Quinn’s mold. I’ve said this before – but coaches are replaceable. There are plenty of coaches with deeper resumés than Quinn’s and proven track records of developing first-round picks into superstars. These coaches surely have different ideas on how to best accelerate the development of Kakko and other highly-touted youngsters.
Because let’s face it… at this point in his coaching career, Quinn has just as much to prove as the young players he’s coaching. Sooner or later, the Rangers and their fans are going to demand real, tangible results that are more than coach-speak and clichés about effort and compete level.