When we first heard over the course of the past few years that Glen Sather absolutely refused to include coveted Rangers prospect at the time, Chris Kreider, in any kind of deal, Rangers fans exploded with elation thinking that Kreider was part of New York’s future – and rightly so. Kreider fit the mold
of the Rangers’ youth movement, was the kind of player this city craved, and fit well with the current coaching system.
Now, about a year after Kreider’s solid rookie campaign in the playoffs against the Senators, Capitals, and Devils, in which the forward opened some eyes and displayed spurts of his style of play, many Rangers fans are full of disgust with coach John Tortorella for not giving him the amount of ice time THEY feel Kreider deserves. Because, you know, the fans know best.
Now before you serenade me with expletives and tomatoes, or any other kind of explode-able fruit or vegetable, let’s relax for a second.
Last year’s 18-game playoff performance, while impressive, is not a fair assessment on Kreider’s talent. We cannot automatically assume that it was luck that caused that performance, just like we cannot automatically assume that because of that performance, he will be an all-world player or that he deserves to be on the first line. Simply going to either extreme is ridiculous.
But here is where I will level with a majority of the fan base. Tortorella’s handling of Kreider has been somewhat poor, in my opinion. Do I feel that he should have gotten more ice time this year? Sure. It was only fair that after the display he put on in last year’s playoffs, he probably deserved a bit more ice time.
But that’s really as far as I’ll go.Kreider averaged a little over ten minutes per game in the 23 games he played during the regular season. Not great, but not terrible, and clearly not good enough for the fans who see him as a future all-star. According to some, he was not given ample amount of time to show what he could do. According to others, he was not given the appropriate line mates to play alongside. According to even more, the coach treated him poorly. How many excuses are we going to manifest before we begin to think and reason that, maybe in the time he had, he didn’t prove enough – regardless of any external factors?
The fact is, none of us know what happens behind the scenes. We have no clue as to why Tortorella chooses to limit his or anyone else’s ice time while giving others who don’t produce, more ice time. And while I may not agree with some of the decisions that are made, and as I will openly admit to being guilty about emotions sometimes, I can’t sit here and say that the coach is wrong for doing so. Tortorella’s experience with handling youngsters has been commended and proven to be successful. I don’t see why his handling of Kreider should be any different. Please don’t take my comments as a sign that I will always defend the coach. As I mentioned before, I didn’t necessarily agree with the limited ice time. And to this day, will never understand the amount of ice time that was always given to Brian Boyle. But that story is for another day.
But the hype surrounding Kreider has taken on Sean Avery-like obsession and anger. If Kreider doesn’t play, the general consensus is that the coach is clearly in the wrong or he doesn’t have a clue as to what he is doing and is why the Rangers were doing so poorly at certain points in the season. I’ve seen time and time again when the Rangers are losing, that fans don’t understand why Kreider isn’t up on the first or second line. But when the Rangers are winning, you’d think there was never even a guy named Chris Kreider.
Kreider’s performance last year reminded me of Petr Prucha’s rookie session. While I don’t think Kreider will end up like Prucha, first impressions can sometimes lead a fan base to be very misguided about a player. So let’s give it some time and let’s give the coach some credit for trying to assess exactly what Kreider’s strengths and weaknesses are before putting the pressure of the world on his shoulders.
I’m not saying Kreider is a bad player by any stretch of the imagination. I have high hopes for him to be a solid power forward in this organization for years to come. He fits the mold of what I love with New York Rangers hockey and I can see him developing very nicely. After all, he is only 22. I just don’t think he is, or will ever be, as great as some members of the fan base think he will be. Remember, folks, his scouting report had his talent level equivalent to that of Brian Boyle. Now, I’m not saying he will be exactly like Brian Boyle, but it is something you can’t just ignore.
I wish nothing more than to be wrong about my opinion of Kreider. I hope he bursts out and becomes a first line player. But the reality of the situation is that I don’t see that happening. I think Kreider will be a solid power forward on the third line with occasional shifts on the second line. The worst thing we can do right now is over-hype Chris Kreider as some kind of super hero.
Prove me wrong, Chris.