Rangers must avoid Alexis Lafrenière becoming a failure
SUNRISE, Fla. — Regarding the Rangers, who open 2023 here Sunday night against the Panthers.
In other words, concerning Alexis Lafrenière.
1. The latest The Lafrenière Affair does not please anyone: neither the Rangers organization, nor the coaching staff, nor the player. This is not an easy task.
It behooves President and GM Chris Drury to put the full weight of the organization into working with Lafrenière and his camp to determine why it got to the point Thursday in Tampa Bay, the 2020 No. 1 pick was to be rocked by be made a healthy scratch.
The burden of proof is on everyone, but the Rangers go back to administration after administration, guilty of mismanagement or misidentification of prospects. The organization is notorious for eating its youngsters, so it’s not particularly hard to wonder how much of the dance one step forward and two steps back from Lafreniere this season is on the team.
Progress in realizing the potential of Lafrenière, Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov and, fairly early on, Brennan Othmann – all early rounders – is paramount to the success of the franchise.
Lafrenière, who is a pending restricted free agent in need of a second contract, is represented by Olivier Fortier of Momentum Hockey, who replaced Emilie Castonguay when she left the agency last season to become assistant general manager of the Canucks. . He doesn’t have a particular public profile — Lafrenière is his most well-known client — but it’s certainly in everyone’s interest that the Rangers have a good working relationship with Lafrenière’s camp.
2. If Rangers could have somehow known that they would not only be in the 2020 lottery, but would also win it and thus claim left-winger Lafrenière, yes, it’s possible they wouldn’t. didn’t extend Chris Kreider just before the deadline and, in fact, traded him over Brady Skjei. It is possible that the tandem of Chairman John Davidson and General Manager Jeff Gorton did this. But that’s debatable.
The whole offseason after the lottery, the question was whether the Rangers would stack their left wings at Kreider, Lafrenière and Panarin. It seemed changing the 18-year-old would make more sense than asking NHL veterans to switch to their offsides, but perhaps that assumption didn’t take into account that the pandemic kept Lafrenière out. to play competitive hockey for almost a year. and that the No.13’s rookie season was not preceded by a traditional training camp which he would surely have taken advantage of.
It’s still something of a mystery if Lafrenière can comfortably make the switch to the right after the half measures to move him haven’t quite taken hold. I don’t know why this has been such a mysterious process. He insists he’s comfortable, but then it’s suggested that he’s really more comfortable on the left side of the Kid Line.
Oh, by the way: what do Rangers plan to do when Othmann – a left winger – is ready for Broadway?
3. Yes, that’s right: a 36-33 career in 171 games that includes 36-30 at even strength and 0-3 on the power play.
And here is what I don’t understand, and it has a direct dramatic impact on Lafrenière:
When the lines struggle at five against five, coach Gérard Gallant will not hesitate to change them. A few bad periods are often enough to create an upheaval.
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But when the first power-play unit fights for games at a time, the coach will not only not change personnel, but also consider it blasphemy to break the straight-four unit even in the current quagmire of 1 for 16 in which they are stuck. I know – I missed open nets and posts.
This is where the team and Lafrenière could benefit if Gallant made that kind of gesture and raised an athlete who is supposed to possess great vision and creativity to a place where he might be able to show off his talent. Lafrenière should also be an effective puck retriever.
4. I can’t imagine what equal value would look like in a trade for Lafrenière. Dealing with Lafrenière and making him thrive elsewhere would be the ultimate organizational nightmare.
Who could they get, a first-round player who might or might not play? Another project that plays a different role? Where is the general manager who will look after a known, young and controllable center or defender for Lafrenière…if, again, Rangers would even consider making that move?
If you bring a center, you have decided to leave Chytil, right? Unless you ask Vincent Trocheck to waive his one-season no-move clause in a seven-year deal?
Do you think Drury wants to risk a trade that becomes Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi?
5. It’s time to bring Lafrenière back on Sunday.
The redone lines worked against the Lightning on Thursday as the Rangers produced 46 shots and glorious double-digit chances but still only scored once in the 2-1 shootout loss.
There’s no reason to break third line Kravtsov-Chytil-Julien Gauthier, who played dynamic hockey against the Lightning. Kreider, Zibanejad and Kakko remain intact.
Lafrenière should slip on the right (is he comfortable on the right?) with Panarin and Trocheck reforming the unit that was together for 12 games in the first few weeks while Barclay Goodrow passes in the middle of the fourth line between Sammy Blais and Jimmy Vesey while Jonny Brodzinski is seated.
Brodzinski performed well in his role, and Gallant had him late in the third period in place of Kravtsov on Thursday. But overall, and this is surely as important a part as the narrower one, playing Brodzinksi ahead of Lafrenière is a bit crazy.