Scouting the head coach replacements

Alain Vigneault is a front-runner to be the new coach (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press).
Alain Vigneault is a front-runner to be the new coach (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press).

Whether you were a Torts fan or not, the Rangers are now without a head coach. The hunt is on for Glen Sather to find a suitable replacement, and there are a number of strong (or not so strong) candidates for him to choose from. If you are to believe the reports, then Torts lost the locker room, and that may have been the primary reason for his dismissal.

When a coaching change is made, it isn’t to just get a new style, but to get a new and different voice in the locker room. With Torts, the Rangers had a brash and outspoken coach who had an aggressive personality. His relationship with the media aside, Torts was known for using tough love to get the most out of his players. While it can be expected that the Rangers would go after a marquee name, they will likely go for a different type of person in the locker room, someone who is more of a player’s coach.

There are really four key names that stand out as front-runners for the position, and a few others that will at least have their names thrown out there:

Lindey Ruff (fired by Buffalo this season)

Ruff was always the first name brought up whenever firing Torts was discussed, and it actually confused me a bit. As mentioned above, the point of making a coaching change is to get a new style into that locker room, and Ruff is the same kind of style as Torts. He is brash, out spoken, and a tough love kind of coach. What Ruff does have going for him is his pedigree and his success in Buffalo. Still, hiring Ruff would appear to be a step sideways in the personality department, so I’d venture a guess to say they will interview him, but it would surprise me if he landed the position.

Alain Vigneault (fired by Vancouver after this season)

Vigneault is the second of the high-pedigree names that gets brought up, and this one is a lot more appealing than Ruff. Vigneault is a softer personality, and more of a player’s coach than Ruff or Torts, which is a step in the right direction for a new personality. Vigneault also had a Vancouver team play a more creative style of hockey, which is less north-south and more finesse, but he had The Brothers Sedin to make that style work. The Rangers don’t have nearly the same skill that the Canucks, but they have significantly more depth. Vigneault, though, has only made it past the first round once, and that was in 2011 when the Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Ken Gernander (Hartford Wolfpack Head Coach)

The Rangers saw a lot of success under Tom Renney, who coached the Wolfpack before the lockout and took over the head coaching job full-time post-lockout. The current Rangers roster has a eight players that played under Gernander, and they are all core members of this organization. Gernander knows them better than any outside option, and that could play into his favor. That said, Gernander has zero NHL experience, although he is more of a player’s coach.

Dave Tippet (Current Phoenix coach)

Tippet is interesting. He’s a step in the right direction personality-wise, but he’s also the exact opposite of an offensive-first coach. The Yotes are actually worse at G/G and PP% than the Rangers, although they have signicantly less skill. Plus, he’s also under contract until July 1, and the Rangers want a coach before the draft. He’d be a nice change, but I don’t think he’s the best option.

Mike Sullivan (current Assistant Coach)

Laugh all you want, but the current assistant coach is always a candidate to take over for a team that has just fired its head coach. Sully is likely the least popular candidate on this list because of his work on the powerplay. That said, Sully is a more passive voice than Torts, but he still comes from the Torts regime. It’s highly unlikely he gets the job.

Jeff Beukeboom (current assistant at Hartford) / Dallas Eakins (current Toronto Marlies coach)

Both names have been tossed around, and both have their pros and cons. Beuke is familiar with most of the Rangers/Wolfpack defensemen, but doesn’t have any NHL coaching experience. Eakins is a former player as well, and has had great success in Toronto with the Marlies in the AHL. He is also rumored to be the front runner for some of the other coaching vacancies.

Mark Messier / Brian Leetch / Any ex-Ranger player who isn’t currently coaching

These names have been tossed around, but right now it doesn’t make sense. None are really qualified to take over a team that is supposed to be a Stanley Cup contender.

Personally, I think Vigneault eventually gets the job. He’s got the right mix of personality contrast and previous success. Of course, the Rangers have a habit of throwing curveballs at us, so it wouldn’t shock me if they go in a completely different direction.

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      1. I don’t think so, he has been on the NHL network, as a commentator, but the season in the KHL might have been over.

        My choice would be Beuke, AV, or Gernander, in that order. They can keep Sullivan as an asst., but bring in a PP coach first.

        1. I like where your heads at, Walt. I’d go AV before Beuke or KG, but those would be my three finalists as well. Until Mess is willing to put a couple seasons in as an assistant, I don’t see him as a realistic option behind the bench. I’d get rid of Sully, though. If you want a new voice, bring in a whole new staff.

          1. Agree on the Mess issue. What makes anyone think that he would be a good coach? Look at the best player ever Gretz, who turned out to be terrible as a coach.

        1. from recent interview with Maurice:

          Q: What led to your decision to return home from coaching in Russia?
          A: It was an incredible experience, and certainly not always easy, but it was exactly what I hoped for, which was a challenge professionally and a life experience. But because of the age of my kids, it wasn’t something I could keep doing for more than the year I had there. They offered me a two-year contract extension, but I made my decision: Family first.

          1. Maurice is from Canada, so family first might mean just that. I haven’t heard of anything legitimate linking him to the Rangers yet.

          2. True but I think North America would suit family better than Russia. Should be considered if doing due diligence

          3. Oh absolutely. I didn’t include him because I thought he was still in Russia. Don’t know much about his style/personality though.

  1. I agree. I think it has got to Vigneault… He won the presidents trophy last year so has to be doing something right. Coming to NY gives him great players.

    I think the fall of the torts regime can be attributed a great deal to the loss of the likes of prust, rupp, dubby, Mitchell (and a lack luster clowe). Those guys played torts hockey to a tee. If you look at the 4s this year I don’t think Asham and “insert name” could play that style. (Ferreiro, Kreider, clowe, mashinter

    1. Vigneault has proven that he can only muster good regular seasons and fail tremendously in critical moments.

      Probably still going to get the gig. If not, then Gernander.

        1. wait, what?

          what real success has AV had? president’s trophies dont really mean anything if you dont have the cup to go along with it. the caps, sharks, and canucks combined for 4 of the last 5 and none won the cup. where are those teams and coaches now? about where we are. we dont need someone who is going to get us as far as we already are.

          AV has proven he can only coach a team to have regular season success and to then choke when it really matters. yeah, i know they got to game 7 in the finals. but if you remember they could’ve won in game 6, failed to do so, and got skunked in game 7.

          so how is my assessment lazy when all i said is what happens with this guy every time?

          1. then again, AV’s record could be blamed on Luongo, but isn’t that on the coach too?

  2. I’m curious, Dave (okay, ignorant, too). Who do you put in the “player’s coach” category and what are their success records like (Cup wins) vs. the tough love coaches? (Of course, the only coach in my lifetime that took the Rangers to the Promised Land make Torts look like a pussycat, so we know that style works — for awhile).

    1. Oh, and I don’t mean among the list of potentials you have. I mean examples from the history books — recent and legendary.

    2. I don’t know much about specific coaches not on this list, but Torts/Keenan/Ruff are all tough love guys. There’s 2 Cups there, but Keenan has more burned bridges than Cups.

      Renney was a player’s coach, same with Bruce Boudreau.

      Mike Babcock is a bit of both in Detroit, same with Joel Quenneville in Chicago.

      1. Dave

        What about Dan Bylsma, players coach right?? One cup already, and a GOOD chance for a second!!

        1. He has the pleasure of having the two best players in the league and a soon-to-be-perennial Norris candidate on his team.

  3. Vigneault? Absolutely not!!! Guy is overrated & too vanilla. A coach has to be a good leader & motivator. Messier is my choice with Tippett also a good choice. Vigneault is the worst choice, I’d rather Ruff than he.

    1. Ruff is a less humorous Torts. Tippett is a guy that doesn’t care for offense which will not help us. AV is the anti-Torts and best selection from the current pool. He would have a Cup/have not been fired if Luongo didn’t choke so horribly. Messier is not ready, otherwise he’d be a no-brainer. If Hank were younger, they could get away with Mess learning on the job….but the window is closing. I’d settle for anyone out of Detroit’s organization that has worked under Babcock.

      1. “I’d settle for anyone out of Detroit’s organization that has worked under Babcock” – bring back Renney!

    2. What makes you think Messier will be a good coach? He has no experience behind a bench at all. Not all great players become great coaches (see: Gretzky, Wayne).

      1. That is true. Part of being “ready” should include a succesful stint as an assistant coach in the NHL or as a head coach in the minors (like Dale Hunter did). It does seem that the best coaches that were former NHL players were never the superstars. Oates however looks like the real deal, and I bet Roy will be pretty good…but both had coaching experience. That’s why AV gets my vote out of this group. Get Graves there to assist, too.

        1. Oates is going to be a stellar coach. His styles are perfect, but he complains about officiating too much.

          I’d like to see Vigneault (HC), Leetch, and Gernander. Keep Schoenfeld as the Assistant GM.

      1. He never really did get a fair shake in the NHL. When he did get the chance his teams produced. I always liked him.

  4. I like Alain Vigneault as a coach. He coaches a system that very much involves the defense jumping up in the play. Also, he was throw under the bus the same way as Torts was by a GM trying to save his own ass. Alain is the best fit for a Ranger coach, that I have seen so far.

    1. Not one mention that is was AV that was probably the biggest proponent of zone start stratagy that Torts and others started to copy.

      He is also big on adv stats from what I know.

      AV is about as new school as you can get with a coach that has NHL experience.

  5. Well after two days of thinking about who we (Mgm’t) should hire for the job to no avail, I’ve come to the conclusion that the question that has more priority over the “who should be coach?” is the question of what system should the team play? We all know how important the character of a man can be as coach, but it’s only half the battle, as the other half is the type of system that, that coach implies. So I’m just curious to know what you guys think the type of hockey our boys can and need to play every night, because once I think we’ve got that part figured out then choosing a coach should be a little bit easier. Me personally, I have know clue what style of hockey is best for what we’ve got top to bottom now into the next 3-4 years lol.

    1. Because they are not really great an any one thing. Decent in a lot of areas but still some weaknesses.

      For example, for a dump and chase we are not big and strong enough overall. Or fast enough.

      For a run and gun we are not fast enough and dont have good passing skills. Nor defensemen that can join the rush.

      For transition type of offense we dont have the goal scorer to convert enough of those to be effective.

      BUT if you want to look at it from a positive side is that they could be versatile. Meaning, if the new coach wants to play all of them depending on the opponents weakness, we could be effective enough in all areas. I think Eakins does a lot of adjustments per opponent.

      One the is for certain no matter which direction they go, the defense needs to be remodeled. And I am talking Girardi, Staal, MDZ all should be made available.

      1. This is the perfect reply to my question BiP. Although I can disagree on a couple of things, I’m in agreement with you on the general assessment on the team, especially regarding us being a middle of the road, BUT versatile group at the moment.

        My heart tells me KG, and Beuk from the Pack, but as much as I like the system, will they be able to coach the way, that has these guys playing certain ways on certain nights? I’m not so sure about Eakins, meaning I just don’t know much about the guy,but if what you’re saying is true of him then he may be just the type of coach this team needs based on the way we’re set up.

  6. I agree that Ruff is the same as Torts and thats why he wont probably wont get the job. I think Mess is being groomed to replace Slats as president.

    Im interested in Eakins, although I dont know what style of play he coaches. I do know his name gets thrown around alot when head coach positions open up.

    I also like Gernander because he knows his players. Im not sure what his style is but correct me if Im wrong, didnt he have them playing Torts system, so if they were called up they were ready? The other thing I dont know is he more of a developer or a coach (this question goes to Beukeboom). That is not a knock on them, just saying some are better at developing then running the show, in the spot light. They do know what they can get out of the core, what works with them and what needs to be tweaked. Its a familiar face that doesnt have to go through learning bumps that a new coach and system can bring.

  7. Here we go again … let’s just recycle coaches that have already been fired at least once. don’t you think that the teams they were with felt that there was a reason they had to go? If we’re going to do that, why not just keep Tortorella. At least he has a Stanley Cup on his resume. Look beyond the same old names that keep circling around like turds in a toilet bowl. Try and find a good young coach who can actually bring a new viewpoint and a new attitude.

  8. Schoenfeld with Mess and Beukeboom as assistants.

    One year. What do we have to lose?

    Every other coach on the list is meh.

    1. just another chance at a cup. And then probably another one when we switch them out again.

  9. Just my 2 cents.

    Give me Beuke, with 2 long-time assistants (not named Sullivan). I sometimes feel that the ex-players who make the best coaches are the guys who were not stars, but the working class of each team. Defensemen, 3rd line guys, etc. Give me Beuke, and get him the capable assistants, and we have a winner.

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