Depending on who you ask, Chris Kreider getting sent down to the AHL to begin the year is either the right thing to do or a terrible setback for both player and organisation. Everyone has an opinion on Kreider, indicating just how important his development is still deemed to be. Yes, the Rangers would prefer to have one of their prized assets ready for the regular season but if he’s not there it isn’t a disaster.
Given the way Kreider has been mismanaged in the recent past and given the relative depth the Rangers have with NHL veterans – for the short term – Kreider would be best served playing big minutes in an offensive role in the AHL rather than scrapping it out for unproductive ice time with the likes of Powe and Asham at the NHL level.
If Kreider starts the year in Hartford, he would surely be playing with the likes of Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast or Marek Hrivik, all offensive players at that level and all likely to produce offense for the Wolf pack. Confidence and momentum are key considerations for a prospect and Kreider would be far better served being placed in a position to succeed and built up slowly.
The Wolf Pack promise to have a lot of young talent this season and, with some luck and line-up consistency, they could be in store for a strong year of their own. Kreider should be part of it. So far this preseason Kreider has looked a little out of sorts. He has taken bad penalties, has played inconsistently and has failed to assert himself in games where the quality of opposition hasn’t always been NHL calibre top to bottom.
To suggest Kreider is a bust at this stage would be an admission of impatience and journalistic sensationalism. Has his development been smooth? Absolutely not, but at 22 he is far from a bust. Daniel Briere took parts of four minor league seasons before he stuck at the NHL level and he didn’t have the natural tools that Kreider has. More recently, an apparent journeyman like Teddy Purcell took five full pro-seasons before he broke out with a fifty point season for the Lightning. Now, after two more productive seasons back to back, Purcell is an essential part of the Lightning.
The Rangers are fortunate that they have a lot of forward prospects close to or ready to play at the NHL level. It might be the reason that Kreider is sent down but it is also the reason he won’t be rushed. As the old saying goes; no player’s development has been ruined by being brought along slowly.