The winding road that has been the New York Rangers’ 2020-21 season might have reached a high-note after a dominant 4-1 victory of the Washington Capitals. There has been a lot of turbulence so far regarding on, and off-ice drama and some of you have questions that you want to be answered. Without further ado, let’s get this mailbag started!
Who Has Been Your Biggest Surprise This Season?
Asked by @Muychael on Twitter
My biggest surprise has been K’Andre Miller, not because I did not expect him to be this good, but I did not expect him to develop this quickly. The way he utilizes his size to close gaps and keep forwards to the outside is instinctual, and it makes him so adept at shutting down the opposition. His transition ability is phenomenal, making plays and starting a rush seamlessly.
His skating ability makes him a dual-threat, keeping him in plays even after getting beaten or out of position. The scary thing about him is that he is only 21-years-old, meaning he hasn’t even touched the surface of what he can become. He is a legitimate shut-down defenseman, someone I can see turning into a Victor Hedman type of blueliner who can eat minutes and contribute to both sides of the puck.
Miller has a goal and three assists this season, but his defensive ability is why he is my biggest surprise thus far. I’ve said for a while that the Rangers need that shut-down defenseman, and he is that. Lindgren is the perfect compliment for Fox, but Miller has elite size, skating ability, and instincts, making him a special defender.
How Much of a Difference Would a Different Head Coach Make for the Rangers?
Asked by Stacey on Facebook
A new head coach will always have an impact; whether that is positive or negative remains to be seen. I have been very critical of some decisions that head coach David Quinn has made, but ultimately he has made the Rangers competitive every night. The coach cannot score goals, and with players such as Zibanejad and Lafreniere struggling, the offense has lost more games than the coach has.
With that being said, I do think the Rangers should take a hard look at the head coach if they finish in the last place in the East, especially if they deem the development of the younger players is subpar. Quinn is a rookie head coach forced into a massive spotlight and given the reigns to an inexperienced and rebuilding team. At times, he manipulates the roster as if it is a college squad, but he is also learning on the fly the same way his young roster is.
There is a fraternity of elite NHL coaches, all of whom could do wonders for the Rangers. The problem is, they are all employed. I have no problem with them re-evaluating at the season’s end and seeing what he can get from this group for the remaining 40 games.
What’s Going on With Julien Gauthier? Do You See a Future With Him in the Rangers Organization?
Asked by @NaftaliClinton on Twitter
Gauthier is a mystery. There are games where he shows glimpses of the speed and shot that made him such a valued prospect in the Hurricanes organization. But there is no consistency with his game and he continuously makes questionable decisions with the puck when he is on the ice.
He undoubtedly has a skill-set that could translate to the NHL-level, but his drive and hockey-IQ level seem to be lagging behind his raw talent. With Colin Blackwell’s emergence and the Rangers’ admiration for Brett Howden, it appears as though Gauthier will be made available to the Seattle Kraken this summer. Based on the rest of the Rangers’ roster, he may be the Kraken’s selection, in which case no, he does not have a future with the Rangers.
I do not think the Rangers have seen what they have wanted from Gauthier to pencil him in nightly and to count on him as being a piece of the future. There is currently a glut of wingers on this roster, with more coming in Vitali Kravtsov and Lauri Pajuniemi, leaving little room for the underperforming Gauthier.
The Injuries to Chytil and Trouba Seem Like the Perfect Opportunity to Call Up Barron and Reunanen. Why Haven’t They Gotten the Call?
Asked by @Jackl220 on Twitter
I know there are complex reasons for salary, service time retention, and current roster players’ games required for the upcoming expansion draft. All of those have definitely played a role in who the Rangers have carried on their roster and played this season.
But despite all that, I seriously believe that Morgan Barron and Tarmo Reunanen are in Hartford for development purposes. There is no need to rush the two of them up to the big club and pin them on the fourth-line or bottom pairing. Let the two get purposeful minutes in Hartford and adapt their games to North American hockey’s professional level.
In Hartford’s first three games, Barron has two points, and Reunanen has four points, with both showing glimpses of their potential. I think Reunanen is closer than Barron, and he likely can increase the Rangers’ offensive production from the backend. But I agree with how they’ve handled the situation and let the two familiarize themselves with Hartford before getting a crack at the Rangers’ roster next season.
Have Rangers questions you want to see answered in an article? Make sure to follow me on Twitter and look for our bi-weekly mailbags!
Brendan Azoff is a THW contributor and podcast host dedicated to covering the New York Rangers. His passion for hockey started when he first laced up the skates at three, growing into his love for writing and talking about the greatest sport in the world. His podcast, The Backcheck, breaks down the Rangers, Islanders, and NHL news and can be found on The Hockey Writers Podcast Network and Belly Up Sports. Brendan has been writing about the Rangers and the NHL for over two years, with his content also found on Puck Prose, Blue Line Station, and E2G Sports. If you want to connect with Brendan and stay up-to-date on his posts, follow him on Twitter. He is always available for content ideas and interviews, don’t be afraid to ask!