Buchnevich hasn’t been good enough
We all know that he’s better than McLeod, but that doesn’t change the fact that Buch is off to a rocky start
Let’s just get this out of the way at the start — Pavel Buchnevich has not been good enough thus far. The young Russian winger set the bar high for his third NHL season by scoring seven points — including three power play goals — in four preseason games. Buchnevich scored two goals in his first three games of the season, but shortly thereafter the wheels came off.
Buchnevich’s production dried up and Quinn began slashing his ice time after asking him to play left wing for the first time in his career on October 13 against the Sharks. After that game, in which Buchnevich set up the game-tying goal scored by Brendan Smith, Quinn decreased his ice time to 11:22 against the Oilers before making him a scratch for the first time on October 16 against the Colorado Avalanche.
When he next drew back into the lineup, Buchnevich skated just 10:30 against the Washington Capitals on October 17. Since that game, he’s averaged 11:43 TOI/GP at 5-on-5 and 2:08 TOI/GP on the power play. That is a lot of time spent outside of the top-six forward group for someone that Quinn has repeatedly called a “talented player.”
Buchnevich was shelved for the second time on October 30 against the Sharks in the third game of the Rangers’ Western Conference road trip. It was peculiar to see Quinn scratch Buchnevich after the winger put up points in back-to-back games for the second time this season, but the coach had his reasons.
It’s clear that Quinn wants his forwards to play with some grit, go hard to the net, and to have a shooter’s mentality. Quinn also made it clear to Larry Brooks that he wants more from his forwards, including Buchnevich, in their play away from the puck.
“Being physical means something different for every player, depending on your size. I’m not asking guys to run around and kill people, but you’ve got to take ice away from people, you’ve got to get in people’s way and you’ve got to make life harder for the other team.”
Buchnevich’s most frequent linemates this year have been rookie center Brett Howden and fellow winger Jimmy Vesey. That trio has been the second-most frequent trio the Rangers have played through the last 10 games, which paints a clear picture of Buchnevich’s place outside of the Rangers’ top-six forward group.
It’s worth mentioning that Vesey has yet to be a healthy scratch this season, and that he’s averaging 16:04 TOI/GP compared to Buchnevich’s 14:38 TOI/GP. Vesey has also failed to register a point in his last five games despite seeing the fifth-highest TOI/GP among Rangers forwards. Yes, Vesey has also been underwhelming in his own right and Cody McLeod’s presence in the lineup is questionable at best, but that doesn’t change the fact that Buchnevich has simply not been good enough.
New York Rangers Forwards 5v5
|Player||GP||TOI||G||A||P||CF%||Rel CF%||GF%||Rel GF%||xGF%||Rel xGF%||PDO|
Through 10 games this season Buchnevich has a -5.16 Rel CF% and a 41.92 CF% — the latter number being the second-worst among Rangers forwards. The only New York forward with a worse shot share than Buchnevich this season is Ryan Spooner. The 23 year-old’s 40.85 xGF% is a particularly damning number, even when we consider his excommunication from the Rangers’ top-six forward group.
The bottom line here is that Quinn’s usage of Buchnevich may be frustrating, but that doesn’t mean that it’s been unfair. And while it may be true that Quinn hasn’t done his young forward any favors, it’s still up to Buchnevich to find a way to pass his new coach’s eye test. He needs to earn his ice time and he needs to do that by playing a more physical game with and without the puck, even if that style of play is somewhat outside of his comfort zone.
We all know that Buchnevich is an important piece of the puzzle moving forward, which is why his struggles this season have been so frustrating, but there is still a lot of hockey to be played. It’s hard to say how long it will take Buchnevich back on the right track, but we can safely say that Quinn is clearly not shy about experimenting. Hopefully, his next experiment will place Buchnevich back in the top-six forward group. One has to think that Buchnevich’s best chance to flip the switch will come when he’s on the ice with players he is more familiar with.
Data courtesy of Corsica.hockey, leftwinglock.com, and naturalstattrick.com.