David Quinn is failing Filip Chytil.
It’s a blunt, short, and ultimately true statement. Quinn, for all his talk of development and coaching, has, to this point, failed one of the organization’s brightest prospects. Couple that with the (still correct) decision from his general manager to keep Chytil at the NHL level and lost the ability to slide his ELC one more year, it’s a situation slowly turning into an enormous headache.
Chytil has played in 13 games so far this year, half of which on the fourth line, and a handful of those partnered with Cody McLeod. After a three-game stretch of 11 minutes or left to start the year, Quinn reflected on his own usage of Chytil and admitted he needed to do better. The night after against Colorado, Chytil got moved to the wing and got 20 minutes. Then he got 12:34, two games in a row of over 15 minutes, and now has seen 11:03, 10:09, and a season low 8:53 in the win over San Jose. In that game, McLeod saw more 5v5 minutes than Chytil did, then did so again in the win over Anaheim. That, plain and simple, is unacceptable under any circumstances. If Quinn is here to develop, the top prospect in the system can’t be getting less 5v5 time than an 34-year-old enforcer who is here for reasons that have nothing to do with his play on the ice.
While the points haven’t been there for Chytil — just three assists in the 13 games — he’s been one of the team’s better forwards. His corsi REL is one of the highest on the team, as his his expected goals percentage. He’s just not getting the breaks. They will come eventually, but for now he’s working through it; something else that Quinn admitted. He still does good things with the puck when it’s on his stick, and he’s creating offense that isn’t resulting in offense. It’s important to note that he is engineering chances one way or another.
The bigger problem right now is how Quinn is using him. Putting aside the lack of ice time and the fourth line roles for a moment, Chytil has seen all of 18 minutes on the power play through these 13 games. His 1:24 of PP TOI is notably less than Jimmy Vesey, and Ryan Spooner. One of those three players is going to be on the team in three years. One of those three players is going to be a critical part of the rebuild. One of those three players is actually playing well. Spooner, at the very least, isn’t the answer to any of those.
Back to the fourth line issue, I’m struggling to find a logical backing of any kind to explain how McLeod’s presence is supposed to help Chytil develop in any way. Or how playing less or around 10 minutes a night does anything for his development. The entire reason Lias Andersson went to Hartford was to avoid this very situation for him, a situation Quinn can’t seem to avoid with Chytil because he’s feeding minutes to Spooner, Vladislav Namestnikov, and dare I say Jimmy Vesey in the top nine on the wing while Chytil toils away on the fourth at center. There’s something to be said, I supposed, for giving Spooner and Namestnikov showcase minutes (and to be fair both are the only forwards getting less TOI per game than Chytil) but Chytil’s development has to be priority number one.
Right now it’s not.
If this was a case of Chytil being overwhelmed it would be a different conversation. That couldn’t be further than the truth, though. After a standout preseason, Chytil has had moments where he has clearly been the best player on the ice; Lady Luck just hasn’t smiled on him to this point. Eventually the goals will come for him, but maybe not if he’s stapled with McLeod on the fourth line.
Here’s the other issue, which is now a growing concern: The Rangers can’t send Chytil down anymore. I mean they literally can, but they’ve lost the ELC slide on this year the moment he played his 10th game, so it would be an enormous waste of an asset and a huge egg on Jeff Gorton’s face if that came to be a reality. The Rangers made their bed on this one: Chytil has to be here all year. That’s not a bad thing — again, he’s been one of the Rangers better forwards — but there’s no reason for him to be stuck on the fourth line with no minutes coming his way. And if the team’s only solution is “well we’ll figure this out later” then they should have made it a week ago when it could have had financial benefits.
It’s worth noting that Brett Howden’s emergence (eight points in 13 games so far) has complicated things at center, but Quinn seemed fine with Chytil being on the wing for a few games to mitigate the loss in minutes. Why that’s changed now is beyond me, and I can’t escape this creeping feeling that they’re going to consider giving Chytil minutes in Hartford to simply give him minutes — which would be a failing on everyone from the top down.
Quinn would be absolved here if Chytil was struggling, but he isn’t. Instead Quinn has relied on giving very heavy minutes to other veterans who have under preformed. Even if you want to give Chytil 10 minutes a night at center, you can shuffle him up to the wing for a few shifts, replacing Namestnikov or Spooner who would take his place as the 4C, to get him more of those reps.
I get that it’s a juggling act, and I do feel obligated to note that Quinn has, for the most part, run with the kids where he sees fit. Howden has become a major player at center, Neal Pionk is leading all defenseman in minutes (whether or not that’s deserved is another conversation), he is really hoping Vesey is going to turn into something he’s probably not, and he’s been fair to Tony DeAngelo now that he’s back in the lineup. The Pavel Buchnevich stuff continues to baffle, and this Chytil stuff is frustrating, but it’s not all veterans all the time. Part of me thinks that some of this is due to showcasing the players know they’re going to move on from — there seems to be interest in guys like Namestnikov and Hayes right now — but if that’s the case then it needs to be fixed far before the trade deadline.
One way or another, it’s a problem Quinn needs to figure out. Chytil deserves more minutes, he deserves a top-nine role, or at the very least he deserves very heavy power play time. He can’t lose all of it for the sake of trying to win hockey games for a group that’s going to miss the playoffs.
That’s on Quinn, and Quinn alone.