2019 Rangers Report Card: David Quinn

Since the start of this rebuild, which is now rapidly shifting in its trajectory, there have been a few surprises. What started as an “on the fly” endeavor got a bit contentious when the Rangers went for Lias Andersson instead of Casey Mittelstadt at 7th overall (which seems to be fine) after making that particular draft location the centerpiece of the Derek Stepan trade. Things got a little more interesting when the Rangers passed on Oliver Wahlstrom to select Vitali Kravtsov, another controversial move, at least initially (it’s looking better and better each day though). The most important rebuild maneuver however, at least until Kaapo Kakko or Jack Hughes is a Ranger, was the hiring of David Quinn.

That might seem bold, but I think when we look at where the Rangers came from and are attempting to go it really comes into clearer focus. The Rangers started the Henrik Lundqvist epoch with John Tortorella as coach (more on him later, and no, Tom Renney doesn’t really count, at least not for purposes of our present framework) and moved to Alain Vigneault when it appeared things had grown a bit rough with Torts at the helm. AV was an attempt to unlock the offensive potential of a team that had spent so much time blocking shots in the name of defense and it worked for a little while until it all fell apart. By this point the brain trust was shifting somewhat both in its composition and outlook, and push eventually came to shove, with the Big Question becoming who would lead the Blueshirts into their next contending era. It was a brief, weird time, what with all the rumors and conflicting reports circulating, but it happened. The question became whether he’d be the right fit.

The short answer is yes, and I’m going to lay out the case, but just on the odd chance that you’re only here to read two short paragraphs there you have it. The long answer is yes too, because of the team’s needs this season and their evolving needs; the way Quinn came out of the gate and the way Quinn has shown his ability to adapt and evolve. He’s the perfect mix of acknowledgement of where we’ve been and the hard work required by where we’re hopefully going, taking the best of what we had, changing with the times, and pushing us into the future with something synthesized effectively from years of almost-there-hockey. With the addition of Kakko, Kravtsov, and the rest of the blue chippers coming into the mix it’s only going to get better.

What did Torts do well? A lot actually, and although he certainly wore out his welcome, he brought the Rangers out of a stale and unprofitable state at precisely the right time and turned guys who could’ve just as easily been busts into bona fide NHLers. John Tortorella got a bad rap for being all about shot blocking and a defense-first mentality, but let’s remember him at his best. He taught this team how to work hard and never give up – his apocryphal training camp skating exercises and workout regiment would cause a shrimp like me to collapse – and it showed in the results. The Rangers in 2012 for example seemed to be something special, something unrelenting and forceful on a visceral level that showed how talent that works hard can beat elite opposition if there’s that extra little push. His ability to bring out that X-factor in guys who we now know to be fairly mediocre players, suggesting that they maybe always were just average, was what set him apart. He proved the difference between toughness and roughness, and if you need evidence of what a John Tortorella win looks like just rewatch that Columbus/Tampa Bay elimination game.

He was also abrasive, and working guys into the ground only works for so long. It’s also true that his system, which did privilege certain habits over others, wasn’t particularly well suited to the kind of players the Rangers were looking to pursue to push them up the mountain. He certainly had, in Rick Nash and Marian Gaborik but also in others to a lesser extent, as he put it “flash and dash”, but he didn’t seem to know how to use it. His firing after a disappointing out against the Boston Bruins in the playoffs beckoned for that extra special sauce, an X-factor behind the bench itself, and so the Rangers turned to Alain Vigneualt.

AV was also someone who did things well, and although his failings probably sink lower than Torts’s he certainly hit some high notes, not just in the season that he brought the Rangers the closest they’d come to a Stanley Cup since 1994. His play style was exciting, bringing that offensive mojo we all felt we needed, but unfortunately he too became a thin and one-dimensional coach that couldn’t close it out. I won’t spend too much time dissecting AV’s tenure because it’s been done before and you can all (hopefully) remember the time between 2013 and the present day. What I’ll say is this though: AV was good at helping guys hit their ceilings, while Torts was very much about preventing guys from hitting their floors.

So now we’ve got Quinn. We’ve seen that in the past, a step too cautious and a step too bold can be problematic. We’ve seen that brashness and a firing-on-all-cylinders approach can be depleting, but we’ve also seen that coy complacency is equally as wasteful. Indeed, it may seem like the Rangers wasted an all-timer’s best years, but now things might not be so dreadful. That in some ways has to do with the second overall pick and other solid rebuilding moves undertaken by Jeff Gorton, but one of those rebuilding moves was hiring Quinn as its own action, and it’s already paying dividends.

Quinn is a toughness guy, that’s for sure. Sometimes he coaches with his heart, another basic fact that you can figure out if you watch maybe ten seconds of one of his press conferences. But he’s not pure Id, in that he has a certain sense of control and serenity about his demeanor. He might go with his gut from time to time, but he also knows to examine that gut feeling and look to its rationale and justification regardless. Not to play inside baseball, but last year after the season ended the Rangers held a town hall Q&A for season ticket holders, and a guy who looked suspiciously like my dad was selected to ask Quinn, Gorton, and Sather a question. He asked about analytics’s role in the coming years, and although they all had different answers and were especially diplomatic in how they responded both individually and as a unit, Quinn mentioned that no stone would go unturned in actualizing a successful future for the Rangers.

That stuck out to me – the knowledge that our new coach was at least willing to implicitly concede his limited perspective and inherent biases by saying he might have to look to something beyond just his own two eyes was a breath of fresh air. He didn’t stop there though, and although he certainly yielded a bit to Gorton to reassure the oldschoolers that we weren’t going soft, he took time to explain himself and his style.

He’d continue to do this, talking about work ethic, buy-in, and what analytics mean to him in interviews throughout the offseason. Once October rolled around he didn’t stop, with similar, common themes popping up in his pressers. He’s a show-and-not-tell kind of coach, demonstrating (mostly) consistently that he acts with purpose and thoughtfulness in his coaching style. He’s the sort of coach who’s aware of players’ perceptions of him, aware that everybody comes from a different place and the functional prudence of meeting people where they’re at, and on an essential level aware that what guys need to know to be successful in hockey comes from more than just X’s and O’s.

In doing so, David Quinn has shown us what he isn’t: opaque, stubborn, or uncritical of himself. He’s firm but not unyielding in the way he handles players who are struggling, and keeps his focus on playing root-level-strong hockey first, with ethos and sound process being the necessary ingredients.

This is long, so I’ll leave you with two encapsulations of what I like so much about David Quinn. The first is the Rangers’s win against the Sabres shortly before the trade deadline (that much I know because Kevin Hayes was exceptional in it, and therefore definitely still on the team). The Rangers won every puck battle, and it led to them having the time and space to make plays, generate high quality scoring chances, and stymie Buffalo’s few players who actually bothered to try against a team that had been evidently revving up their engines well before the puck dropped and floored it as soon as the rubber hit the ice for the first time. It was Rob who said it to me, I wrote about it at the time, and I stand by it: it was the platonic form of a David Quinn victory, and it was pure, excellent hockey. That’s what Quinn brings to the table, on the ice. This next bit has to do with what he does off the ice.

Pavel Buchnevich has been a small controversy for some time, and as I’ve already covered in my report card (I’m sure you read it, right?), he had a great season and is well on his way as a direct result of Quinn’s coaching. He did well more than he didn’t, but for some reason after things were seemingly sailing along just fine he was benched. This perhaps inexplicable move caused a minor stir, but Quinn calmly explained that he and Pavel had talked about what more he needed to do, the proper steps to take in his execution, and that it wasn’t a big deal. David Quinn served up the ball right there and then in honesty and good faith – what would Buch’s response look like?

It was the same thing we saw from Quinn as it happens. Buch was sincere and forthcoming in his own words after the scratch, saying that he hadn’t been quite where he should be, that he’d be pushing to to get to the right place, and that there were no hard feelings. He was self-critical but not self-loathing, and it was evident that this was a different kind of coaching than we’d seen in earlier years during the golden era. The dynamic there was simple to grasp, tidy in its lack of drama, and wound up being practically effective on the ice. Buch hit 20 goals, and solidified himself as a top-six forward who’ll blossom over the years and be a part of this team (ideally, and I think probably) for years to come. Not bad, Coach Quinn.

This was an incredibly long-winded way of saying that David Quinn did a good job, but that’s pretty reductive and unhelpful. The David Quinn era will be about learning from the past, tireless work ethic in the present, and steady, maybe even rapid, progress back to being among the league’s best teams. There’s plenty of other factors – I don’t mean to suggest that this rebuild hasn’t shown a blended model of improvement or problems in the particular permutation the front office has chosen – but it’s a relief to know that things are under control with David Quinn as coach. Nothing in this league is given, but just the hope of true growth and forward movement, the knowledge that the Rangers are at least conscious and awake in their efforts to change their ways instead of doing the same things over and over while expecting a different result, is more than enough for me to give Quinn his proper marks.

Final grade: A+.

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  • Look at the circumstances:

    #1. You knew this was going to be a sh-tshow of a season, with more vet players going to be shipped out at the trade deadline. Everyone in the org knew it, from top to bottom, especially the players.
    #2. You knew the lineups on a daily basis were going to be a mish-mosh of tinkering, nothing stable about it at all.
    #3. You knew the team was not going to win or compete for anything this year, other than for a good drafting spot.
    #4. It’s not even Henrik’s team anymore, it’s Quinn’s team, a radical change from the last 12-13 years.

    With all of this, DQ had them playing hard until the end. See that reaction when they beat Pittsburgh the last game of the year? These games mattered to the players, and the coach kept them focused on the tasks at hand.

    Trust me, I had issues with DQ on his deployment of players, but again, it was a year that was all about development and rebuilding, so let him tinker.

    The players that benefited the most were: DeAngelo, Buch, Strome, and Zib. IMO, it’s Zib’s team now, though there is a case to be make for Kreider as well.

    Given the circumstances and how the team played hard almost every night, I give DQ a B+, I think an “A” is too high, IMO, because he was far from perfect in his approach. This year coming up will tells us a lot more about the coach.

    Leaning on Pionk was an obvious flaw, it was like Pionk was Quinn’s version of AV’s Glass. I didn’t get it.

    • I agree that DQ did very well with Zib, ADA, and Strome, but I would not include Buch in the group. What we saw before this year was a talented under-achiever who had flashes where he looked good – and frankly this year was much the same. He looked better at the end with Hayes and Zuccarello gone because there was there was really not much to look at elsewhere.

      But he also had player development minuses. Chityl, Howden, Pionk did not progress. On balance, I don’t know whether the success percentage was good or not.

      Honestly, I think that DQ was a college coach not ready to coach a real NHL team. Of course, the Rangers were not a competitive team anyway and people learn on the job.

      Oh, and an A+ coach (few and far between) makes the playoffs with this team. I’d go with C or C+, with hope that he will grow into the job.

      • DQ’s message to Buch was to be around the net instead of playing that lazy peripheral game he had been playing since he came into the league.

        Peripheral game: Buch good.
        Near the net game: Buch great.

        DQ gets credit for that, for hammering it home to Buch. 60 pts for Buch this year if he plays the same way, guaranteed.

      • To call DG a college coach is lazy. He has a little NHL experience as an assistant, plus AHL experience. Yes his last few years have been in the college ranks, but that doesn’t make him a college coach. He is a “teaching” coach, when all the youngsters need whether in college, Jrs., AHL, or the NHL. I think DQ did a great job with what he had – pressures still to an extent put a product on the ice that us crazy Rangers fans will still want to watch, plus I think he managed the whole Hank scenario great. Next year will even be more interesting, especially if Hank through actual play doesn’t deserve to be the starter. He did have some puzzling moves and deployments, but like stated, he could have been tinkering, and don’t think for one moment he wasn’t required to showcase players.

  • A+? You’re a generous grader. I agree for the most part with what you’re saying but you’re grading on a serious curve here.

  • Tony

    Don’t be surprised if Pionk isn’t traded at the draft, especially if a deal is reached for someone like Trumba!!!

    • From your lips to God’s ears, but it will take a ton to get Trouba.

      I have been on this 3 year crusade to want Jacob here but I do not think that the Rangers trade the assets that it would take to get him. So instead how about:

      Then Claesson (I know, he’s gone but shouldn’t be), Rykov, and Lindgren. Notice who I did not list, lol.

    • Serious question. Is Pionk worth anything? We often talk about trading players we are dissatisfied with, but there is always the danger that if you don’t want someone, neither does anyone else. Pionk is a strange case – far and away the Rangers’ best PP performer, trusted by his coach, but seemingly atrocious on defense. Will that excite some other team or not? He is an RFA with arbitration rights, a slight downside. I really have no idea.

      And how badly do the Rangers want keep him? Having Shattenkirk, Pionk, DeAngelo all on the team is somewhat redundant. Of course, Shatty’s days on the team may be numbered and recurring issues with DeAngelo may be a problem even though they are not played up.

  • Zero idea why Quinn gets an A+. It took him nearly a full season to re-unite KZB (and also scratching Buch in the process). He literally tanked the season by rolling out Staal-Pionk at 5v5 and PK. He permanently polluted the waters with MZA in teh off-season by not reaching out to him when he met with all the other Scandis. He ran Hank into the ground in the first half of the year ensuring a weak second half (although he didn’t resort to the usual AV mode of throwing hank under the bus). His hyping of useless defenders like McQuaid and Staal. His early season insertion of McLeod into the lineup (literally one of the worst forwards in the league). And the worst part? We literally have no clue if Chytil can play in the hole because he was running Hayes out there all year and then pushed Strome up.

    Maybe he learns from this season? But he showed a lot of the same tendencies as AV, and probably reflects the antiquated mindset of the FO.

  • A- not perfect but he IS the right coach for this team long term. If he gets the right talent to work with, DQ will be behind the bench iof the next Rangers Stanley Cup team.

  • I know I quarrelled with some of his deployments and leaning on Pionk especially through the first half of the year, but overall I’d give Quinn a B+

    Tony DeAngelo would have been out of town if AV was still the coach and thought to have been a major mistake by Gorton. Instead the kid is starting to demonstrate the skills that made him a first round draft pick in addition to having the personality of a small but determined attack dog when team mates are pushed around by opponents. I think that is a huge plus for Quinn.

    Buchnevich took a while, but something clicked and suddenly the young man is asserting himself like never before and palying much more like the player the Rangers bargained for when they obtained him. Another major plus for Quinn.

    Zibanejad had the kind of season we all hoped he was capable of last season. He has thrived with Quinn and there is no reason to think that won’t contineu. Major plus for Quinn and for Gorton on a tremendous trade.

    Strome has been a revelation. He might never be top six but he is a solid middle six these days and is Quinn’s type of guy with some leadership qualities that are important for the youngsters.

    I was unhappy with his over dependence on Pionk. I thought that although McLeod was used to inspire the troops he played too much. I thought that he didn’t use Georgiev enough. But, overall, the team played hard and enthusiastically all year. There were very few times when one could say effort was lacking. For a new coach fresh from the college ranks, Quinn did quite well. B+

  • i think he did a great job, look at what we had at the begining of the season. He had them playing hard and in the end
    thats what you want your team to do.

  • I also think A+ is too generous. If coaching a bad team to a non-playoff spot gets you an A+, what does coaching the same team and getting them IN the playoffs get you?

    I think DQ is a nurturing, teaching coach, and the one they need for a few years. Whether he is the coach that takes a good team through the playoffs is a question yet to be answered.

  • Though A+ seems a little high, I agree he did a great job this year. He seems as if certain players reacted well to his style. What impressed me the most was his use of healthy scratches. Having the higher ceiling players have to work their way not only into the lineup and into bigger roles benefited certain players. Benching or scratching Staal wasn’t going to make him play better, however ask Tony DeAngelo, Pavel Buchnievich, and Filip Chytil if it made them better players. This is also why Pionk played so much without time in the bin. Let’s keep this in mind with Kaapa Kakko and Kravtsov next season. Nothing will be handed to either of them

  • What would you give him as a grade if he got them into the playoffs? An F? What is good is bad what is bad is good. Sure he got the team to play hard but he put them in a position to lose. The coach consistently put Buch with players who could not help but hinder his play. For many games the puss on Buches face said it all.
    His usage of Fast was a disgrace. For 3 out of the 4 months he did not get a point. Then you have to look at who does the coach hate and see who he puts on his line.
    Most of us learn through the years that each coach has good and bad traits. My favorites was Keenan and John Tortorella and Tom Renney. I hated Cambell who was so stupid and got rid of Zubov and AV who only wanted to win his way and was willing to lose and would not adjust.
    We did not just start watching hockey and we should be loaded with knowledge and experience through out the years. Who here don’t have friends that you talk to and analyze each games we watched.
    Why do we have to check our opinions on the door before we enter the discussions. We could not have had a more disastrous year and yet the most successful because of it. We can all see that when you put a good coach in you may get a decent out come like the Islandgirls or we can get a high lottery pick if you suck. If you think we did well, you must be smoking something better than me. The truth is, we sucked and no “A” should be in sight. All the warm fuzzy feelings is a lie. Playing 7 D was a joke or even worse. We don’t work for MSG and have to tow the line and praise the unremarkable coaching that we witnessed. Even if 1 or 2 good things come from it. On the whole we sucked.

  • Henrik Lundqvist epoch. — Tom Renney doesn’t count? Come on. Renney coached Hank for four years, Torts for four, AV for 5, DQ for one. Looking at GSAA, roughly. Renney (+73), Tortorella (+85), AV (+32), DQ(-5). Hank’s best season was under Renney as was his best two year run.

    You write like you are too young to remember when Renney was coach, but it was in those days that Hank became the King, those days in which the legend was born. And in those first two years he probably had less defense in front of him than he has now. It is true that the Ranger glory years of late were under Torts and AV, but the Hank elite years were under Renney and Tortorella.

    • Gimme some facts to back that up, Raymond.

      Also, quick note: being an ~oLdEr~ fan doesn’t, in fact, make you a better or more valid fan.

      • I don’t understand. The first paragraph is purely factual, except for the last sentence which is equating GSAA with total performance. It is true that Hank won his only Vezina when Tortorella was coach, but most Ranger fans thought that Vezina was long overdue and it is well known that Vezinas are to some extent a team prize which the 2005-2006 Lundqvist could not win because the Rangers were not very good.

        As to the second paragraph, again I can see no issue with all but the first and last clauses. As for the final clause, the GSAA numbers which I quote support the statement nicely. And finally the phrase “You write like” is almost the exact opposite of a personal attack.

        Of course, being older does not make one a better fan any more than being younger does. I watched the Rangers play when they had Gilbert, Ratelle, Park et al BUT I’ll bet there is a sixteen year old kid somewhere who knows more about the Rangers of fifty years ago than I do because he/she has spent many hours pouring over stories and stats. My objection is when someone uses historical information which is simply wrong to justify some point.

        • It’s kind of interesting you couldn’t respond to me, but can handle responding to Becky – you want to explain why you continually post personal attacks on my posts despite vowing to avoid them? You write like a lonely old man who can’t accept his rapidly declining station in life – I assure you that’s not a personal attack though, because “you write like” is almost the exact opposite of a personal attack.

          I can also assure you that if you want to keep up this passive aggressive feud where you use hockey pseudo-analysis as a fig leaf for just trying to … I don’t even know, assert your dominance over me because of your total lack of elf-esteem, then we can keep going, but I will break you down much faster than you will me. On the other hand, if you want to be an adult about it, feel free to email me and we can discuss our differences in a reasonable manner and maybe you can find a different way to achieve satisfaction in your life. Your choice though.

    • Thought you were avoiding my posts since that last time you said something out of line about me? If I recall it was that the world would be better off without people like me, no? All good though man, I’ve got to say it’s nice not having to pay rent living in your head.

      I’m fine with people who disagree with my opinions and analysis – you might notice that yours is the only comment I’m replying to, and that’s deliberate – but if you have such a problem with me as a person feel free to shoot me an email. I promise I’ll be more civil than you.

  • Tony

    I could go with the listed d-men, but to be candid I’d love to see Shatty go as well, he can’t play defense if his life depended on it!!!!!!1

    • Shatty can be useful under the right circumstances. He was never a top D man or else he would be making $10M per, not $6.5M per.

      You have to have some vet presence in the D corps.

  • No more “old man” refernces around here unless referring to over-the-hill hockey players, OK?

    I’m 65 and don’t need reminding that my past is longer than my future. I’m very aware of that! 🙂

    • LOL, I will be 60 this year my friend, but I do not feel it, meaning I feel younger.

      God knows how many more years until the next Ranger Cup, lol.

  • To help the rebuild:

    Sign Dzingel for 4 years, at $4M per.
    Trade Georgiev to the Canes for Adam Fox.




  • Fair enough grade but the bar goes up next year with the infusion of assets we are getting this year and kohl guys coming over.

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