What a wild season. The Rangers managed to fit a decade’s worth of drama into about three months. It seems like the dust has settled, but that’s only until the offseason begins. New President and General Manager Chris Drury will be conducting the exit interviews, which likely means something else is coming. That’s just one of a few major questions left unanswered since the Rangers front office changes.
1. What did Jim Dolan mean by “changing the culture of the organization?”
This is the question on the forefront of everyone’s minds. What is meant by changing the culture? How will the Rangers go about implementing those changes? Will there be wholesale roster changes?
The fear of the unknown is very real for Ranger fans right now. We’ve seen what happens when Dolan gets involved in the Knicks. That’s a team that is finally relevant after about 20 years, save for that 2-3 year stretch in the mid-2010’s. Given how important this offseason is for the Rangers, one bad move can derail everything that has been built.
The good news is that face punchers aren’t really in the NHL anymore. Glen Sather, who is advising Drury, has an affinity for them, but they are few and far between now. If by grit, they mean a Blake Coleman at the right contract, or leveraging Tampa’s cap situation into Anthony Cirelli, then by all means go for it.
The fear, I think, is grit and will over guys that can actually play the game. I don’t think that’s a realistic fear nowadays.
2. What is David Quinn’s status?
Chris Drury was instrumental in bringing in David Quinn in 2018. He was also very non-committal when asked about his future. Drury running the exit interviews is significant, as it has been noted there is a disconnect between the players and the coach. That disconnect is apparent on the ice as well.
Being tough to play against hasn’t been a trait the Rangers have this year. While some equate that to grit, which is a needed element, I take that to mean actual defensive hockey. The Rangers have made huge improvements defensively, but Quinn’s forecheck, neutral zone, and defensive zone entry defense systems are all atrocious. Combining the three makes the Rangers easy to play against. They back off and let you walk right into the zone.
Being tougher to play against is a combination players and coaching. Jacques Martin has stabilized the defensive play within Quinn’s system, and he’s a good candidate to take over if Quinn goes. But being tougher to play against is also the message getting through to the players. Jesper Fast was difficult to play against. As was Mats Zuccarello. They aren’t your “grit” guys that you think of, though.
For Quinn, how the players rate him in their exit interviews will determine his fate. Remember, the Rangers absolutely torched John Tortorella after the 2013 playoffs, and that led to his dismissal. Same concept applies here.
3. How will Drury leave his mark?
A new General Manager usually inserts his people immediately. But Drury has been with the club for five years, so a lot of the people there have been at least vetted partially by him. Gordie Clark and the scouting department have done a great job in this rebuild now that they actually have draft picks. So what else is there for Drury to do?
Well, that answer is the analytics department. Currently the Rangers have a small group, but on the broadcast the other night, Steve Valiquette noted that Drury is into the numbers and understands how those play into balancing skill and grit. If that kind of statement came from the team, I’d be skeptical. However it came from Vally, and he seemed genuinely excited. I could be drinking the Kool-Aid, but I am cautiously optimistic.
If Drury is looking to make his mark following the Rangers front office changes, then this is the area that needs the most work. The Knicks are finally relevant because they just implemented an analytics team within the front office. That stuff matters when done right. It seems Drury has an idea of where he wants to go here.