Gerard Gallant refused to explain to player why he was being scratched

Matt Garland
June 13, 2022  (4:00 PM)

New York Rangers' Head Coach, Gerard Gallant decided to make a line up change for his team's must win Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He scratched pending restricted free agent, Kaapo Kakko in favor of Dryden Hunt. Hunt had not played since Game 3 of the first round.

This was a puzzling decision by Gallant. Gallant was questioned on his decision to scratch Kakko at the Rangers year end press conference. Gallant said it was just about dressing the best lineup at that time.
"When we sit down and talk about our lineup that's what we do. We love the kid, he's a good young player but we thought that was the best lineup to win that game.»

He also added he didn't feel the need to have a conversation with Kakko about it. This part makes sense to me. Gallant was worried about beating the Lightning on Saturday not putting energy into catering to Kakko's feelings.
Gallant never truly bought into the concept of the Alexis Lafreniere-Filip Chytil-Kakko unit nicknamed the "Kid Line". He never trusted the line despite their incontrovertible contributions. The coach sheltered their time even though their line was the one that made it its consistent mission to get the puck in deep and go to work on the forecheck and cycle game.
The eye test and publicly available analytics align here. The Kids were intact for 140:19 through the playoffs, posting positive numbers in every category, on for 10 goals for and five against for a plus-five. They were even better in the final two rounds, per Natural Stat Trick, recording a 56.83 Corsi rating, a 64.62 shot share, a 58.02 share of scoring chances while on for seven goals for and none — none — against.
The domino effects of the decisions to sit Kakko, play Hunt and dress an obviously laboring Ryan Strome all contributed to the lack of offense that the Rangers weren't able to generate in the 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay.
Hunt was a -1 with no points, two shots, and five hits in 10:58 of ice time. Strome wasn't even able to complete the game due to injury.
Kakko had scored just one goal since Game 3 of the first round, but he had the ability to work the puck down low and on the walls while his line created at least some offensive-zone possession time.
The former 2nd overall pick in the 2019 draft posted 18 points in 43 games but was on injured list three separate times. For his three-year career, he's managed just 58 points in 157 matches. Without salary arbitration rights, the Rangers have all the leverage.
With the season on the line I am in the belief that you have to play your best players and see what happens. It will be interesting to see if Kakko brings any hurt feelings from being scratched into the negotiations.
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Gerard Gallant refused to explain to player why he was being scratched

What are the Rangers biggest roster decisions offseason?

Handling pending UFAs Strome, Copp and Vatrano5030.9 %
Dealing Georgiev and finding a capable replacement2414.8 %
Upgrading the bottom pair on their defence4829.6 %
Finding More Offense4024.7 %
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