Looking at some potential coaching options for the Rangers

It’s been a short while since Alain Vigneault was fired as the Rangers’ head coach – hopefully the feeling of relief (or whatever you may be feeling) has settled in a little bit and you’re ready to look toward the future. Along those lines I thought it’d be fun to take a look at a few coaching options for our beloved Blueshirts, but to make things interesting let’s stick to Rob’s rule of “never coached an NHL game”.

I’m following this dictum for a couple of reasons. The first is that I genuinely believe that the Rangers would be better off trying somebody new, provided they do their homework thoroughly and have a good idea what they’re in for with a strong candidate. The other reason is convenience: you probably have heard enough about Darryl Sutter, he of two Stanley Cups with the Kings, or even Bill Peters, rumored to have an out clause with the transitioning Carolina Hurricanes. So let’s make some new friends, shall we?

Rand Pecknold

My personal fave of the college guys, Pecknold has been the Quinnipiac coach since 1994 and helped the team transition from Division II to Division I hockey starting in the 1998-1999 season. He has led the team to 17 consecutive winning seasons since, including two NCAA Final appearances in 2013 and 2016, but they lost both unfortunately.

The reason why I’m so high on Pecknold is twofold – the first is that, full disclosure, I saw him speak at a hockey analytics seminar that Steve Valiquette gave a couple of years back, and he seemed like a real straight shooter. He talked about his own team’s analytically-inclined posture and the way in which they take a nuanced look at scoring chances in order to determine whether a win or a loss was deserved, how they can improve, and whether or not they should change course or stick to the plan. This openminded attitude is exactly what the Rangers need in a head coach, especially after years of coaching that was simply unwilling to adjust.

The other reason I’m partial to him is his track record with development and his ability to make something out of seemingly nothing. Quinnipiac is not a giant in college hockey – they don’t have the overall prestige of a team like Harvard or Yale, and they’re not a major athletic powerhouse like Michigan, and yet he’s managed to recruit and use his talent effectively. This is another positive quality that the Rangers could use, given that they’re unlikely to land a generational talent like Rasmus Dahlin or Jack Hughes.

Pecknold could likely get a lot out of a guy like Lias Andersson, who despite popular opinion that he was a reach at 7th overall seems to have a great fundamental toolkit. Pecknold also went to Connecticut College, so as a fellow NESCACer I’ve got to give him some props.

Scott Sandelin

Sandelin started his NCAA coaching career as an assistant to Dean Blais at the University of North Dakota, where he won two NCAA Championships in 1997 and 2000, before becoming the head coach of the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs in March of 2000. At UMD he’s coached the Bulldogs to two Frozen Four championships, including the most recent one, and has produced two Hobey Baker award winners in Junior Lessard and Jack Connolly, in 2004 and 2012 respectively.

He was selected as USCHO coach of the year, and despite his team being picked to finish fourth in the NCHC by coaches and media, as well as losing six of his top eight scorers and his starting goalie to graduation and early departures, still made the most of it. This is a guy, who, like Pecknold, has made the most of what he’s given, which again, is going to be essential for an NHL team that likely will not bottom out.

Another solid aspect of Sandelin’s NCAA pedigree is that he will likely help the Rangers in their quest to gobble up every college free agent under the sun as they plug holes that can’t be filled via trades or drafting, as well as actually, you know, helping them succeed as they grow and develop. Prying him away from a winning program where he’s likely pretty happy in the NCAA won’t be easy, but we are talking about coaching the New York Rangers here (which feels nice to say, I’ve got to admit).

Filip Pesan

I wrote about Pesan back in January, but in case you don’t want to go back through an old post of mine I’ll save you a click. The story with Pesan is that he was invited to the Rangers training camp this past offseason, which is a little bit unusual and speaks to the idea that the Rangers see something in the young Czech coach, although exactly what is hard to say.

Pesan coaches Liberec in the Czech professional league, where he’s built up a reputation for being able to handle youth well – both giving kids room to grow while also taking a firm hand when they make mistakes. He coached his team well at the World Juniors this past December/January, where he led the Czech Republic to a major upset over Finland. At the WJC his team played a disciplined, structured game despite lacking superstar talent outside of Filip Zadina, and his top defenseman was our very own newly acquired Libor Hajek.

Pesan would certainly be an unorthodox choice, and there’s definitely the concern about bringing over a European coach to the North American game, but he’d certainly be a breath of fresh air and is the only one of my three coaches to watch with any professional experience behind the bench.

There are of course plenty of other coaches worth watching out for as the Rangers seek to fill their HC vacancy; these are just three particularly high-profile guys who the Rangers may be looking at because of their pedigree or connections to the organization.

I’d also keep an eye on Sheldon Keefe of the Toronto Marlies of course, but given that his team is still in it as far as the AHL goes, there likely won’t be any news on him for a little while – we’ll be sure to keep covering the coaching situation as it develops. It’s an exciting yet anxiety-inducing moment for the fanbase, and at this point we’re all just dudes in the Blue Seats spittin’ ideas so to speak, but there’s going to come a time sooner rather than later when the Rangers have a new head coach. Let’s hope he’s the right person for the job.

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33 thoughts on “Looking at some potential coaching options for the Rangers

  • Apr 16, 2018 at 7:51 am

    Of the people mentioned, and trying to think out of the box, I tend to lean towards Filip Pesan due to the fact that we will be very young, and he relates well with kids. If he helped develop both Zadina, and Hajek, he seems to be on the ball. He would be my unconventional choice.

    My second choice is Keefe, who has been doing a bang up job for the Marlies. Again, reason I choose him is his ability to work, and develop kids. He is a proven North American coach, which would give him a heads up shot over someone who never coached here.

    As for the others, I know nothing about, so I won’t comment on them. This is a very important decision being made, and JG has to think long, and hard on his choice…….

    • Apr 16, 2018 at 8:05 am

      From Brooks article today in the Post!

      “It just makes sense,” said former B.U. standout defenseman Colby Cohen, hero of the 2009 national championship game the Terriers won when Quinn was an assistant under the legendary Jack Parker and Kevin Shattenkirk, another Ranger and Cohen’s best friend, patrolled their blue line.

      “I think [Quinn] would be a great fit,” said the admittedly biased Cohen. “He’s such a smart guy that he’ll understand how to deal with players making millions of dollars. But players will respect him and buy into his ways.

      “What that means is that Quinn is a disciplinarian and every player is held accountable.”

      The man they are talking about is the current head coach of BU David Quinn, who could also make a decent NHL coach. He works well with kids, is a teacher, can teach defensive play, but also makes demands and will hold you accountable for your mistakes. Bottom line, he should also be considered for the job if we are thinking out of the box here!!!!!

      • Apr 16, 2018 at 11:50 am

        It won’t work with Hayes and Kreider being BC kind of guys.

        • Apr 16, 2018 at 12:16 pm

          They’re not prison gangs, BC and BU are schools that have hockey programs. Of course they’d be able to function with each other on the professional level.

          • Apr 16, 2018 at 1:19 pm

            What are you talking about? You have two players that who would be chucking up different gang signs across the room to the HC.

            • Apr 16, 2018 at 2:35 pm

              If that’s so, how has Shatty worked out with Hayes, and Kreider. There is no friction between them at all!!!!!!!!!

        • Apr 16, 2018 at 2:33 pm

          Sorry that sounds silly, they are pros!!!!!!!!!!

          • Apr 16, 2018 at 4:38 pm


            I was joking around in my original post but Mr Candidate wanted to give me a serious reply so I went along with his prison metaphor.

            On a serious note, if Quinn get’s hired than hopefully he doesn’t get shanked in a blind spot at the practice facility.

            • Apr 16, 2018 at 5:11 pm

              Nice to see a sense of humor!!!!!!

    • Apr 16, 2018 at 8:38 am

      Pat, thanks. Great to read about coaches that could get a great job.

    • Apr 16, 2018 at 11:05 am

      How does Pesan’s teams go to winning the double his 1st season after nearly being relegated the year before, follow it up with a regular season title, only to finish 7th this season?

      The year prior to Pesan’s 1st season, they fired the GM half way through, promoted the team manager. That guy left after last season.

      With too much on his plate, it was tough for Pesan as his recruitment went sideways.

      If he’s coming here, it better be as an assistant, whether in Hartford or New York.

    • Apr 16, 2018 at 12:48 pm

      Well Walt the other two coaches mentioned also coach young kids and have long had success turning them into young men. I lean towards Pesan since the Rangers already have him in their sights.
      I just hope whoever they choose is able to handle the white hot lights of NY City. Things can get hot after a 3 game loosing streak. I doubt he’s used to all that being from Czech Republic. Pesan was a decent player himself so he has an idea what the young kids are going thru. Let’s hope Gorton chooses the right guy.

      • Apr 16, 2018 at 2:37 pm


      • Apr 16, 2018 at 3:30 pm

        Lace, we need a coach that can communicate with the players — hiring a foreigner like Pesan gives me pause unless it’s in a supplementary role (assistant).

  • Apr 16, 2018 at 8:47 am

    Quinn who leads BU is an intriguing pick; I still like Shel Keefe who is 96-45-11 ..so he is a winner.

  • Apr 16, 2018 at 10:40 am

    1) Keefe
    2) Pesan
    3) Quinn/Sandelin
    4) AV
    5) Pecknold


    I want someone who has has proven themselves with developing kids (when its not their only option as per College coaches). Keefe and in some regard Pesan tick those boxes. I am not a huge fan of College coaches jumping straight to the NHL and I guess Quinn ha some as Asst..

    The NHL players don’t have the egos like some other pro sports but they are there and it can be a harsh reality in getting use to or dealing with. We can’t have the antithesis of AV either. I want an objective (player accountability), flexible, and analytical coach that develops kids and knows how to mesh veterans in the mix.

    Would Pesan take an Asst position under Keefe?!?!!? That combination and the 3rd pick would be a great May/June for Rangers fans!

    • Apr 16, 2018 at 3:28 pm

      Does Pesan really speak English fluently enough to coach an NHL team? Seriously … I think half the battle with players is communication. I agree though, he might make for an interesting Assistant Coach.

  • Apr 16, 2018 at 10:57 am

    Whoa, according to ESPN, Sheldon Keefe had a long-standing connection in the past to notorious hockey ghoul David Frost. Keefe played for Frost as a young player in Canada. I’ll post a link to the article about it all after this post, as posts with links always get delayed. Suffice to say the stuff involving Keefe and his younger brother is weird & creepy. Not on the level of Mike Danton/Jefferson creepy, but pretty far up on the creep meter nonetheless.

    Let’s stay away from Keefe maybe. And definitely stay well away from Bill Peters of Carolina—that team has underachieved for years with him, and in particular their younger players haven’t taken the necessary steps towards becoming winning NHL players

    • Apr 16, 2018 at 4:31 pm

      Considering the David Frost story was big news in Canada, I’m pretty sure if he was hired as a coach for Maple Leafs farm team there was a lot of scrutiny in the choice. I haven’t dug too deep, but not many in the media seemed to have made an issue of it. Also I recall reading the Keefe was a teenager when a lot of this occurred and has no connections to Frost currently, and has said that publicly. If Toronto can get comfortable with this guy, I’m sure the NY hockey media would be fine.

  • Apr 16, 2018 at 10:59 am

    Frost article with several mentions of Sheldon Keefe as a young player:


  • Apr 16, 2018 at 11:56 am

    just wanted to throw a quick comment up here to say that I love all of your ideas and the kind of discussions we have on a regular basis on this website – not sure why but I’m really feeling the love for our community this morning, hope you’re all doing well

  • Apr 16, 2018 at 12:02 pm

    heldon Keefe builds second career out of second chance: Cox


    • Apr 16, 2018 at 12:04 pm

      “The biggest change for the Greyhounds was in the style of player which was appealing to Kyle. The way it worked out, it’s become the same type of player I’m attracted to and see value in. So our visions aligned,” says Keefe.

      “For us, the value of speed and skill and hockey sense would far outweigh any physical attributes. We wanted people who have the ability to make plays and have speed.

      “The foundation is the understanding that when we carried the puck over the blue line offensively, we created more offence,” he says. “Within that, we understood there was a correlation between carrying puck over our own blue line and how it influenced what we could do at the other team’s blue line, so we worked on different schemes and mechanisms to do that.

      “After that, it just made sense we had to try and prevent the opposition from doing the same. I’ve enjoyed watching it a lot. It’s been fun to see the whole thing develop.”

  • Apr 16, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    Leaning towards Keefe. I’m slightly leery of college coaches who ONLY work with kids and a circa 35 game schedule. I prefer someone who has worked with both developing kids and veterans over the course of a long grinding season. That said Quinn intrigues me …

  • Apr 16, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    I would be shocked if he goes with a coach without NHL experience, unless this is why Lindy Ruff is around, to handle the vets from a locker room perspective. Don’t want him coaching Offense or Defense.

    • Apr 16, 2018 at 2:29 pm

      My biggest fear is that Washington loses to Columbus and Trotz is hired by the Rangers as Washington declines to re-sign him.

      • Apr 16, 2018 at 2:47 pm

        That is a scary thought!

        In a similar vein, I’m worried that the Rangers consider Boudreau after the Wild are eliminated.

    • Apr 16, 2018 at 3:24 pm

      A legitimate fear Sal … but I really get the impression they will go slightly out of the box and not retread a good coach like they did with AV.

    • Apr 16, 2018 at 4:34 pm

      NY City, Madison Square Garden, The Big Apple….

      I can see the decision to hire a big name for a big market coming into play here….


    • Apr 16, 2018 at 6:47 pm

      Barry Melrose had no prior NHL coaching experience, but won a Memorial Cup and the Calder Cup before he got to LA.

      I’m not saying they should get Melrose, but winners at lower levels can easily transfer with the right support staff.

  • Apr 17, 2018 at 4:38 am

    Simple. Sheldon Keefe as head coach, Pecknold and Pesan as Ast. Coach. Voila!

  • Apr 17, 2018 at 9:08 am

    just at face value I’d like the duo of Adam/Oates /Scott stevens skill based style with nhl experiance grated lackluster results

  • Apr 17, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    I would not be shocked if the NYR go after a offensive coordinator with a current NHL team as a head coach. Someone from Babcocks staff in Toronto or Mike Sullivan’s staff in Pitt would not be horrible..

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