Hartnett: Rangers Shouldn't Trade Pavel Buchnevich

24 Year-Old Has Strong Potential

Sean Hartnett
February 04, 2020 - 1:05 pm
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Lately, rumors have been swirling around the future of Rangers wing Pavel Buchnevich. Allow me to express my opinion on the matter unmistakably – don’t do it.

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There are several important reasons why the Rangers should avoid dealing away the 24-year-old. First off, Buchnevich possesses tremendous natural skill and significant growth potential. The player we’re seeing right now is talented – but not quite the finished product. There’s room for no. 89 to sharpen his decision-making, improve his play without the puck and better utilize his 6-foot-3 frame.

I think it’s only a matter of time before Buchnevich rounds out his game and becomes a dominant forward. A future of 70-point seasons should be within his reach. The Rangers just need to keep the faith and not overreact when the ugly side of his game shows up.

New York Rangers right wing Pavel Buchnevich (89) with Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (53) in front of goaltender Carter Hart (79) during the first period on Dec 23, 2019 at Wells Fargo Center.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Buchnevich’s shortcomings irked head coach David Quinn during Monday’s 5-3 home loss to the Dallas Stars. He only saw the ice for 4:21 in the second period and was used for just 1:39 in the third period.

Following the defeat, Quinn was blunt when he assessed Buchnevich’s performance.

“I didn’t like his game at all,” Quinn stated. “I didn’t like a lot of his game.”

Like John Tortorella who presided over the Rangers’ bench before him, Quinn is a straight shooter and a firm believer of the merits of tough love. He doesn’t sugarcoat it when players make mistakes and pins them to the bench to ensure the message is heard loudly and clearly.

Here’s the problem with Quinn’s go-to tactic. The Rangers entered the third period chasing a 4-2 deficit that swelled to a 5-2 disadvantage before the six-minute mark. You need your best players on the ice when attempting to spur a late comeback. The game was calling for Buchnevich’s skillset.

He had already notched a power play goal and recorded three shots on goal in limited ice time. Quinn is unflinching in his belief of using benchings as a teaching method – but there have been several games where his decision to bench an offensive player while trailing has backfired.

Quinn and the Rangers must accept the good and the bad that comes with Buchnevich – and his positive qualities far outweigh his shortcomings. There is a risk that Quinn’s tough-love treatment of Buchnevich and other youngsters can have a negative impact. It’s not about stripping down a player’s natural instincts and building them back up or pushing square pegs through rounds holes until the player is reprogrammed to think the game differently. Sometimes, that approach can erode a player’s confidence.

The onus isn’t solely on Buchnevich to realize his full potential. It takes a village.

Quinn needs to be careful with his messaging. After constantly being on the receiving end of bad cop routines, a previous generation of Rangers tuned out Tortorella – and he was a veteran coach who had a Stanley Cup ring and division titles on his résumé. Quinn doesn’t have a proven track record of success at the NHL level to justify his methods. If tough love doesn’t yield tangible results, I’m not sure how much longer he can resort to force-feeding players to fit the “Quinn mold.”

Most of all, it’s up to the front office not to panic and trust that Buchnevich will find his way. The Blueshirts owe him another $3.25 million next season. Given his current production, he’s living up to his current wage. It’s a low-risk proposition to see if he can put it all together next season in a contract year.

The worst thing possible would be a scenario where the Rangers give up on him too early and he goes on to do great things in another uniform in a different city. Unless the Rangers get something truly game-changing in return, there shouldn’t be any rush to trade Buchnevich.

Follow Sean on Twitter -- @HartnettHockey

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