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Alain Vigneault Searches For Answers In Strange Places

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Detroit Red Wings v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Few players bring more controversy with them than Chris Kreider. Not because of what he does off the ice, but because of what’s he capable of doing on it.

Kreider shot out of the gate like a cannon, averaged two points a game the first three he played and currently has 10 points in 10 games. After a red-hot start he injured his neck (neck spasms) and then Alain Vigneault broke up the very successful Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Pavel Buchnevich line in favor of moving Mats Zuccarello up.

The result? Well, we’re not sure. Kreider hasn’t been that Kreider since returning from his neck injury, but it remains to be seen if it’s just him getting back into the groove of things or if shaking up the lines impacting his flow.

With that said, Kreider and Jimmy Vesey have been the subject of some interesting in-game adjustments -- with both seeing third period benchings in two of the past four games.

Vesey is a rookie, and smart enough to know that opening his mouth on the subject might not be the smartest thing in the world. And if we’re being honest, while his benchings have been illogical at best (for example: against Vancouver Vesey had the team’s highest possession metrics when he was sat) watching from the bench isn’t the worst thing for him to soak in.

Kreider is a different story, and he voiced his opinion to Larry Brooks of the New York Post on it:

“I think a couple of games I’ve been fine and a couple of games I haven’t been, and that’s just not good enough,” Kreider told The Post on Thursday before the Blueshirts departed for Calgary for the first of a four-game trip on Saturday that also features matches in Edmonton, Vancouver and Columbus.

“But I think that when you’re working hard and doing the correct things in the defensive zone, but maybe the flow isn’t quite there offensively, it would be nice to be able to get the opportunity to work through that.”

The latter half of that quote is the big part. If I need to make it more clear: “it would be nice to be able to get the opportunity to work through that” is telling.

On the podcast this week we talked about how nice it has been to be able to split hairs about this team. At 10-4 the Rangers certainly aren’t perfect, and they’re still riding high with a mostly red-hot offense, but there are some concerns about the sustainability of all of this. As Hockey Stat Miner said Wednesday on the show: The Rangers underlying metrics are far more favorable to keeping this going.

One of the things we’ve been able to debate a lot has been Vigneault’s usage of this lineup. Adam Clendening has become a pure spare part with no opportunity to grow despite being an NHL leader in possession. During key moments where the Rangers’ offense isn’t fully clicking, Vigneault has benched two of his better scorers. The offensive adjustments aren’t the worst thing in the world because there’s skill up and down the lineup, but it’s still strange to see.

According to reports, Vigneault might be reuniting the Kreider - Zibanejad - Buchnevich line. That would be a big step forward to getting both Zibanejad and Kreider back to their regular pace.

Vigneault pushes a lot of buttons. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, but I do think Henrik Lundqvist is a fantastic eraser when some things don’t pan out big the team is still successful.

Vigneault is hitting the right buttons with Buchnevich, Brady Skjei, Brandon Pirri, Michael Grabner, J.T. Miller, (for the most part) Vesey and (finally) Kevin Hayes.

Which is why it’s so strange to see little things like Kreider and Vesey getting benched when the Rangers need a goal.

Maybe this is us just splitting hairs. But at least the team is good enough that we can do that.