New York Rangers head coach David Quinn’s decision to play injured Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast raise questions in a playoff-less season.
The New York Rangers have known since the trade deadline last month that making the playoffs was not a probability. Subsequently, head coach David Quinn continued to play alternate captains Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast.
With the Rangers officially eliminated from playoff competition last Saturday night, it was announced Fast would be shut down for the remainder of this season. Kreider also has a lingering injury, different from the lower body injury suffered at the end of February. Kreids also toughed it out.
The question that has yet to be answered is, “Why were these guys still playing?”
For the most part of his first season in New York, Quinn has put forth a successful effort. The team played near .500 hockey up to the trade deadline in late February. His communication process kept his players in the loop with regards to how he wanted his team to play in games throughout this season.
When he scratched players, it was done not as a punishment (in most cases), but rather as a learning tool. When he felt a player lacked effort or understanding of what was needed to get the job done on the ice, Quinn would explain it to the player and then have him watch a few games to make sure they understood.
The results proved beneficial especially to Pavel Buchnevich and 19-year-old Filip Chytil. Both appear to be ending the season on high notes for the Blueshirts.
In order to properly evaluate the head coach, the bad moves need to be looked at and diagnosed as much as the good. Here lies the problem with Quinn’s first year at the helm of the Rangers; he has erred in the handling of Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast.
Kreider suffered a lower-body injury (a hamstring injury) in the first game after the trade deadline. His play suffered on the ice in games that had no meaning to the team. Kreider did his team proud by not telling the media of his condition as he took criticism of his poor play over that period.
Kreider has since suffered a different lower-body injury and was scratched from the lineup missing the last two games.
Fast has been playing with a very nasty upper-body injury. It is a shoulder injury he suffered in a game on Dec. 14 that sidelined him for only five games when the original timeline had been two-to-four weeks. Fast has missed most practices since then but until Tuesday, played in all but one game following his Dec. 29 return.
For now, the team doesn’t think he will need offseason surgery, but only time will tell.
No one can question the heart of these two players. Fast has become has always had the respect of everyone in the locker room, which is why he has won the Players Player Award for the last three years consecutively, which is voted by the Ranger players.
Kreider has stepped up his play this season and has been talked about as a possible captain for next season should his contract be extended.
Players playing hurt are nothing new; it’s done in all major sports. The decision in these situations is one that has not been addressed by the organization. It has to be more than just the players desire to finish the season on the ice.
Maybe the poor development of players at the AHL level was a concern. The Hartford Wolf Pack had a bad season along with the Blueshirts. Eventually, the team did recall Vinni Lettieri for Monday’s game, but that was a little too late for Fast or Kreider.
Quinn has been using defenseman Brendan Smith at the forward position more than his regular defense position for the past five weeks. Hard to believe the coach was more resolved to this fourth-line setup as opposed to recalling other players from Hartford, but that’s another questionable decision for a later conversation.
The continuing manner of putting a player in a game especially a one where the result wouldn’t really have an effect on the standings is troubling, to say the least. This decision is one that has tarnished what has been considered a very promising rebuilding season.
Should Fast need surgery, which would put his availability in doubt for the start of next season, the coaching staff would have to accept the responsibility for the injury.
The organization has more responsibility than just how to rebuild the team. It must answer to how they have handled their veteran players. Winning is important, but to what degree?