The Rangers are being very careful with their most prized asset. But are they being too careful?
It's been a rough start to the season for Chris Kreider. After the lockout forced him to enter the Connecticut Whale training camp with tremendous expectations thanks to his playoff performance the year before. Kreider, who took steps to learn the team's various systems, didn't put up expected numbers with the Whale (12 points in 33 games).
There are a couple of reasons for this, in my mind, and I'll go over them quickly here. First of all, when Kreider played for the New York Rangers in the playoffs John Tortorella didn't require Kreider to play under the team's defensive system. Tortorella knew that adjustment would be too hard, so he allowed Kreider to play a more free game. That ideology changed when he started playing for the Whale, so he needed to take the proper time adjusting his defensive game. I also think the lack of talent surrounding him (not that the Whale don't have talent, they just don't have a lot of NHL-level talent) hurt his early production. Roll that together and you have some mental fatigue as well, which is sort of where Kreider was when he came into training camp.
After three games -- including a bad one against the Boston Bruins (ironically the Rangers' only win so far this year) -- Kreider sat during the Rangers' loss to the Philadelphia Flyers so that he could get a better acclimation with the team's defensive system. Tortorella cited that he did the same with Carl Hagelin last year, and it worked out very well for both parties involved.
Tortorella admitted that the team has taken Kreider's situations out of his hands. Actually, that's not fair to Tortorella, the team has made Kreider's development an internal decision. Tortorella will have say, and I'm assuming he'll have a lot of it.
Remember, Kreider has been through more than most players ever have to go through. He jumped from the NCAA to the NHL playoffs to the AHL and now back to the NHL. It's no surprise that his adjustment has taken time, and I would be shocked if the Rangers made the decision to send him down anytime soon.
Look, Kreider is a special player with special talents. But those players can be ruined if you make the wrong decisions with their development. I happen to believe that Kreider can figure things out at the NHL-level. It will be interesting to see if the coaching staff agrees. But the kid has talent, special talent, you can't deny that.
Kreider might be in the Rangers' lineup tonight. If he is, then hopefully he learned a thing or two while in the press box and keeps things simple. Over thinking can hurt a player, too.
Let's hope he doesn't do that.