New York Rangers’ winger Pavel Buchnevich ended last season on a poor note, but with a new coach in place next year, it’s his turn to break out in a big way.
In 2018-19, that has to change for the Rangers to find any kind of success.
The narrative surrounding Buchnevich over the last two years had to do with his usage by former head coach Alain Vigneault. How many times did the 23-year-old winger find himself scratched or buried on the fourth line at the hands of Vigneault? Too many.
But the narrative has changed when it comes to who will be behind the bench. With David Quinn officially being announced as head coach Thursday, and the lack of talent on this roster, the time has come for Buchnevich to up his game.
In the 2017-18 season, Buchnevich had the best year of his career with increased playing time. The second-year player scored 43 points, 14 goals and 29 assists. He spent the majority of the season on the Rangers top line with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, a line that has clicked for two years now.
As the season progressed that line started to wear down and would be broken up. Buchnevich would see himself playing minutes on the third and fourth line. Lines where a player of Buchnevich’s skill and ability is wasted for a team desperate for wins.
All of those excuses now disappear. Now the blame for Buchnevich’s game falls solely on him. 2018-19 presents Buchnevich with a unique opportunity to assert himself as the type of player he wants to be.
The skill is obvious for Buchnevich. He has the ability to make special plays that no other player on this Ranger roster can make. But where things get complicated with Buchnevich’s game is his defense.
Defense is the one aspect of a young players game that takes so long to develop. We’ve seen it with guys like J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, and Chris Kreider. It just doesn’t happen overnight and requires a significant amount of work.
If Buchnevich has shown us anything over his first two years, he’ll make the adjustments. He made the necessary offensive adjustments a year ago, and now he has to make them defensively. Once he does that, he’ll make that next step the Rangers are waiting for him to get to.
Without a doubt, Buchnevich’s usage will change next year. With the Rangers and new head coach David Quinn embracing the term rebuild, Buhcnveich will be given his time to shine.
The hope is that he can become a 50-65 point player, anything better would be stretching it too much. How he gets those points (goals, assists, power play points) doesn’t matter. What does matter, is him becoming more of a force for this team.
Should he fail to produce and disappear offensively again, that has to fall on him. It cannot fall on a rookie head coach, a coach who is known to connect with young players. Why? Because that’s the coach that we all have been calling for. That’s the coach the Rangers have now.
Now all the responsibility belongs to Buchnevich.