Chris Kreider has been in hibernation for the New York Rangers since last season. It’s time somebody woke him up.Chris Kreider had the breakout year that the Rangers were hoping for last season, scoring a career-high 28 goals. This season, he’s nowhere to be found.
The Rangers are having all sorts of problems scoring goals and Kreider’s lack of production is a major reason why.
At this time last season, Kreider already had nine points (three goals, six assists). He’s playing on the Rangers top line along with Mika Zibanejad, and Pavel Buchnevich. The line has accounted for five goals and six assists, but all of six goals have been scored by Zibanejad.
Last season, it looked like he had finally figured out the type of game he needed to play in order to be successful in the NHL. This season, it looks like he’s forgotten everything he learned.
When Kreider is at his best, he is using his speed which defensemen have a hard time keeping up with. He is also using the body and trying to get in front of the net.
Kreider has yet to show that throughout the early part of the season. There have been nights where you ask yourself did Kreider even step on the ice? That’s a major problem—and a sign that Kreider isn’t close to the top of his game.
Kreider is getting his shots, with 15 in six games. But they haven’t been quality shots. He’s making it easy for opposing goalies to stop what he’s firing at the net and needs to focus on taking better shots.
It’s also incredibly apparent that he’s stopped being aggressive. There have been numerous times that Kreider has carried the puck into the offensive zone only to pull up instead of attacking the net. This is something that is very concerning because his aggressiveness is a major part of his game. The goals aren’t going to start coming until Kreider decides to start getting aggressive again.
Other teams are certainly focusing on Kreider after his breakout season, but he needs to figure out how to generate the space that he needs. This is all part of the learning process for players, and Kreider isn’t a young player anymore. If he can’t figure this part of the game out, then he and the Rangers will continue to be in big trouble.
Head coach Alain Vigneault is hesitant to move Kreider because of the success his line has had this year. Should Kreider continue to struggle though, Vigneault shouldn’t be afraid to pull the plug on that line to try and fix Kreider elsewhere. The only issue here is that the player Vigneault would put struggling wingers with—Derek Stepan—is no longer with the organization. The only real option that Vigneault has is moving Kreider to a line with Kevin Hayes. Hayes and Kreider haven’t played much together over the last three years, but Hayes’ creativity could help the struggling winger find his goal-scoring touch.
Kreider is a streaky goal-scorer on a team that is full of streaky goal-scorers. But he’s showing the Rangers that they can’t rely on him to be a consistent threat. He’s making everyone think that maybe last year was just a fluke.
That might be a bit of an overstatement, but the system that Alain Vigneault preaches fits the type of game that Kreider plays. If Kreider can’t figure it out and the team continues to lose, the longterm contract Kreider signed in the summer of 2016 will become a horrible one.
Kreider needs to wake up—and the Rangers need to figure out how to make that happen—fast.