David Quinn And Developing Youth

On Friday morning Larry Brooks dropped a fantastic QA piece featuring the one and only David Quinn. There’s a bunch of really interesting nuggets in the entire article, more than I will feature here, so give it a read at some point if you haven’t already.

The main thing I wanted to touch on was a series of questions that focused around the kids on the roster, Quinn’s approach with them, and their developmental track. Brooks asks about Quinn’s responsibility to develop young talent and he replied with the below. (Note: I’m intentionally not going to quote the article any further, so read everything else at the above link.)

Development is funny. Some people think that development is to throw a guy out there and let him play and let him play. But development getting experience and ice time, but it’s also learning what we’re going to need big picture, too. Filip Chytil went through a stretch where he was playing 10 minutes a night because that’s what he deserved. You don’t just give somebody something. There’s also a checklist in my mind when I’m handling these guys of, ‘OK, what are your intentions?’ I’m big on intentions.

Are you making a mistake yet you had the right intentions and it just didn’t work, or is your mistake one because you had the wrong intentions? Is your work ethic what it needs to be? Is your preparation what it needs to be? It’s our responsibility as a staff of sending the message of what is acceptable and what’s not. That’s part of development. Letting them know they have to earn what they get is part of development. That’s one of my most basic principles.

We’ve spilled a slew of virtual ink and filled up hours of podcasts over the good and the bad when it comes to Quinn’s developmental decisions with the team. Most recently on the podcast (Ep. 124), Mike and I discussed the long leash Quinn is giving Brett Howden despite his recent struggles, and compared it to other players like Neal Pionk, Pavel Buchnevich, and even Tony DeAngelo. Long story short: There are young players who have, rightfully, gotten very long leashes to work through their mistakes, and other young players who have not. Howden and Pionk are easy examples of the former, DeAngelo an example of the latter.

Quinn’s answer to the question however, illuminates some of the things we’ve been wondering about. When Buchnevich was sitting/getting a fourth line role consistently at the start of the year it drew a lot of attention here and elsewhere — including a few MSMs gleefully pointing that Buchnevich’s scratch meant he truly was a bust and it wasn’t Alain Vigneault’s fault.

The truth came out shortly after, when Buchnevich revealed that him and Quinn had sat down and had lunch while he was in the press box and talked about what he wanted. He showed that it was much different than the treatment with the previous regime, and was soon back in the lineup. While everyone still wanted to burn things to the ground, even with all the information, I tried to explain that I was fine with the Quinn Wheel of Accountability hitting everyone so long as there were clear goals and expectations. Quinn made a comment to the media about how guys who think they’re giving 100% might not be giving 100%. He wanted Buchnevich to assert himself into the game more, and things got way better until Buchnevich hurt his finger.

That Quinn mentioned the Chytil situation above directly is interesting, since that was another topic of importance as short as a few months ago. Quinn is clearly a big work ethic guy, and if you need proof of that look no further than Howden and Jimmy Vesey getting very, very long leashes through their respective struggles since they always have their motors running. Guys like Chytil and Buchnevich, who can ply their trade along the perimeter at times and are often not looking to run through someone, are examples of where this line of thinking fails.

The important part, at least to me, is this part of his above answer. Specifically the bold emphasis below:

Are you making a mistake yet you had the right intentions and it just didn’t work, or is your mistake one because you had the wrong intentions? Is your work ethic what it needs to be? Is your preparation what it needs to be?”

This was an enormous gripe that I had with Vigneault and his Subjective Wheel of Justice. Any turnover, made for any reason, by any kid who “didn’t have money in the bank,” often resulted in a benching swiftly followed by a series of healthy scratches. Veterans weren’t held to any type of such a standard, despite lacking in other parts of the game.

Turnovers are the result of having the puck on your stick a lot, and more often than not they’re a symptom of possession and the creation of offense. I use this example often and it never fails to validate this argument. Johnny Gaudreau, Dylan Larkin, Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak, Ryan Getzlaf, Matthew Barzal, and Evgeni Malkin have the top-seven most giveaways in the NHL for forwards. Why? Because they’re architects of their team’s offensive building, and turnovers are a part of the game.

Much like why plus—minus is the worst stat in hockey because it doesn’t identify a player’s specific role in the event, turnovers are not equal. An unforced turnover in the corner of your own zone that turns into a goal against is not the same as trying to make a breakout pass through the neutral zone that gets tipped and goes the other way to end up in the back of the net. They’re both turnovers, they’re both goals again, but one is with the intent of doing the right thing. The other is the result of bad hockey. There must be a differentiation between these two, and Quinn has admitted that’s the case.

Work ethic and preparation are standard for all coaches, although I would be willing to bet Quinn’s definition of the former is a little harder than most.

On our QA podcast Off The Post this week (Ep. 1/23/19) friend of the site and the podcast Michael Silvers asked Mike and I what five questions we’d ask Quinn. I thought it was a fantastic question, especially since we have seen the media take a more aggressive approach with questioning Quinn than they ever did his predecessor.

Mike and I collaborated to come up with the below five question:

1) What if Lindy Ruff’s role with the team and do you foresee it changing anytime soon? (Joe)
2) Would Quinn consider the development of the team’s youth to be a success so far? (Mike)
3) Why isn’t DeAngelo playing every night if the goal is to develop youth? (Joe)
4) How do you define accountability, and how do you measure what an adequate wake up call is? (Mike)
5)  What statistics do you use internally that we’d consider advanced statistics? (Joe)

Of those five questions we came up with, four can be directly tied to the development of youth on the team, and if you think Ruff is playing a role on which defensemen are and aren’t in the lineup every night then it’s all five of them. That’s not a surprise, since Quinn’s resume jumped off the page to the brass because of his developmental skills for a rebuilding team, and with the playoffs not a reality it’s going to be the main test of which we get a final grade from this year.

Quinn sheds some light on a few of them, mainly the way he holds everyone accountable, and what his expectations are, but we’ve oft agreed that developing players isn’t a perfect science. That said, well, you have to water seeds if you want to grow plants. Chytil has responded to a real role and bigger minutes, as has Buchnevich, and even DeAngelo — regardless of whether or not the brass wants to admit that. Howden has hit a wall (which is fine), and Pionk’s lack of offense has illuminated his defensive issues on a bigger scale. How they’re handled post All-Star break will be very interesting.

We’ll see more of this as well once the selloff happens. If rumors can be believed, we’re nearing the start of the selloff season, maybe starting with Colorado. Blueshirt Banter has learned through two sources that Vlad Namestnikov’s name has come up in conservation with Colorado, and Shane Bowers has been mentioned as a potential target as well. Once guys like Kevin Hayes, Mats Zuccarello, and Adam McQuaid have been traded it will answer even more questions about the way Quinn is going about things.

There’s been a lot more transparency with Quinn, and while answers like the one above aren’t incredibly illuminating they do provide a few of the ingredients in the secret sauce. We’ve gotten a look at Quinn’s development to this point, and while there have been pretty clear failings at times, there is a lot of good here, too. We also don’t know what input is being forced from above — Quinn does mention there’s a lot more opinions in the room when it comes to NHL decisions than NCAA ones.

We’ll get the real answers soon enough, but this is a good start.