What does Anderson have to do to move up lines?
During the recent game against the Boston Bruins, the Rangers were also down Fast (for personal reasons) and Zibanejad, who was taken out of the game shortly after a shoulder-to-chest hit from Patrice Bergeron. Even with Zibanejad gone, Quin refused to move Andersson up the depth chart. Instead, he relied more on Strome and Howden while also shifting Greg McKegg to center.
If Andersson can’t move up a line when the Rangers are short a center, what will he have to do to convince Quinn he’s ready for a bigger role?
So far, when asked about Andersson’s ice time, Quinn has stated that: “Lias has to play faster, from play-to-play. He has a tendency to kind of stand up after he does something. He doesn’t have a lot of continuation within his play. He knows that. We’ve talked about it. Those are the things that he’s going to have to do if he’s going to get more minutes and more responsibility.”
Quinn has outlined a set of clear expectations here, but do Andersson’s underlying numbers actually reflect the issues Quinn sees?
Andersson has had a total of 91.1 minutes of ice time this season, with an average of 10:07 per game. He’s had one point in nine games—an assist this last game against Boston. Though Andersson’s play hasn’t visibly looked worse than Ryan Strome’s or Brett Howden’s, his underlying metrics are a bit poorer. In the dot, Howden and Strome have faceoff win percentages of 51% and 52.9% respectively. In contrast, Andersson only has a faceoff win percentage of 39.5% so far. Anderson also only has 6 total shots attempted this season compared to Strome’s 21 and Howden’s 15. And though it’s not the end-all-be-all of stats, Andersson’s 5v5 Corsi for % is a bit concerning when compared to Strome and Howden’s.
Andersson’s CF% of 34.0 is noticeably less than Howden’s 41.2 and Strome’s 43.4, meaning that the Rangers were controlling the puck more often with Strome or Howden on the ice than with Andersson. It is worth noting though, that Andersson does somewhat make up for his poor Corsi with an xGF of 50%.
Andersson’s metrics may reflect some of the issues Quinn referenced in his quote, but it still might be worth giving him a shot to move up the depth chart anyway. His numbers aren’t on par with Strome’s or Howden’s, but it’s possible that Andersson’s play is being dragged down a bit by rotating linemates. Andersson has also been paired with Haley for approximately half his games which hasn’t given Andersson much help in improving his play either.
Still, there comes a point where stubbornly leaving Andersson on the fourth line is likely to hurt his development. While Andersson should attempt to earn his ice time, right now he isn’t getting a chance to step up his game by playing with better linemates. Given how bad the Rangers have been, and how much the lineup has been in flux it doesn’t feel like Quinn has a lot to lose by moving Andersson up a line or two. If it doesn’t work out, Quinn can shift him back to the fourth line. The Rangers are still rebuilding, so if there was a time to sacrifice games in the name of prospect development, this would be it.
With Mika Zibanejad day-to-day, this feels like the perfect opportunity to give Andersson a game to move up. If it doesn’t work out, Quinn can always move him back to the fourth line.
Featured Image: Jim McIsaac