Reviewing the probable head coach options for the Rangers

It’s been a rollercoaster the last week and a half. There’s been so much going on that some of our planned posts have been pushed back, as the Rangers continue to overhaul the entire structure of the front office and coaching staff. In all this came a rumor that Gerard Gallant may be a front runner for the Rangers head coaching position. The search will take some time, but there are other options for the Rangers at head coach.

Gerard Gallant

Starting with the supposed front runner, Gallant is a coach that has seen some rough luck. He had the Florida Panthers performing well, but a front office coup that dismantled a successful team led to Gallant being kicked to the curb, literally. He then took an expansion Vegas team to the Cup Finals, only to be terminated a few years later as things apparently got personal with the GM. Remember, Gallant was less than two years removed from a Jack Adams Award.

Gallant has a career .600 winning percentage as a head coach. He has a track record with two teams of taking them to unexpected results. Neither Florida nor Vegas were expected to be good, yet Gallant guided them and got buy-in. There’s an alternate reality somewhere that has Gallant still with Florida or Vegas, as his on-ice results did not warrant dismissal from either team.

Still, Gallant managed to let his star scorers do their thing while also buying into the defensive aspect of the game. He didn’t run overly complicated systems either, which makes it easier for young kids to get accustomed. Less is more. Less micromanagement and less complication leads to better results.

Bruce Boudreau

The offense whisperer, he was last employed by the Minnesota Wild and was replaced mid year last season. Boudreau excels in puck possession and driving offense, specifically team offense. Some of those Wild teams had no business competing based on roster construction, but he got the buy-in and helped drive the offense with aggressive systems that were heavy on the forecheck with defense looking to break up plays at the blue line to join the rush.

Boudreau’s teams weren’t bad defensively, just more passive than you might expect even with one man always pressuring the puck. Generally his teams would limit high priced real estate while looking to force a turnover. That might actually work with the group of players assembled.

Boudreau would be an interesting option for Rangers head coach, if only because he seems like a legitimately relaxed guy who won’t let the media really get to him. That means something in a big market. Boudreau would be my personal #2 after Gallant.

John Tortorella

Could the Rangers go with round 3 of John Tortorella? It seems like he’s at least one of the options for Rangers head coach, albeit an unlikely option. His contract was not renewed in Columbus, and he managed to make both Pierre-Luc Dubois and Patrik Laine lose all desire to play the game. There’s something to be said for making stars unhappy. Remember Torts did the same to Marian Gaborik.

But what Torts does have going for him is a willingness to change his systems and structure for his teams. He let Seth Jones and Zach Werenski run wild as “rovers,” a tactic that could work wonders for K’Andre Miller and possibly Adam Fox. His Columbus teams weren’t necessarily bad either. They always had decent metrics but had some awful luck with injuries. There was also a roster composition concern, as many lacked true finishing skill.

What Torts has going against him is the recency bias with Laine/PLD. He also has some media in New York that are still out to get him. But he does promote more of a North/South game, which is what Drury, who played for Torts as a Ranger, has said the Rangers need. Artemiy Panarin also played for Torts.

In the end, it’s a matter of whether the Rangers want to have Torts for another go-round. It may work, it may not. I don’t think it would be the unmitigated disaster that folks are making it out to be, though.

Claude Julien

Claude Julien is best known for winning a Cup with the Bruins in 2011, a team that Jeff Gorton mostly built before getting let go. Most recently with Montreal, his teams were subpar, but he did manage to get a second round appearance last season before being let go. His firing was a complete surprise, since the Habs did have unexpected success prior.

Julien is a defensive minded coach, so the fit is a question. Given the comments from some players, the Rangers might be looking for a more offensive minded guy, or at least one that won’t micromanage his star players. Julien gets more out of the sum of the parts, which is good, but if the stars can’t run free, within reason, then is it a good fit?

Kirk Muller

Muller’s name is mentioned a lot, and he was part of the Habs’ overhaul when letting Julien go. He hasn’t been a head coach since his Carolina days. Those teams were bad, but it wasn’t really Muller’s fault. I don’t know much about Muller, but his name is popping up as one of the head coach options for the Rangers.

Bob Hartley

For some reason, Hartley’s name won’t go away. He’s been coaching in the KHL since being dismissed by Calgary after missing the playoffs three of four years. Hartley’s fame is winning the Stanley Cup with Ray Bourque in 2001. But he’s also seen success in the KHL. I don’t know much about him, other than his Calgary teams were not good. But how much of that was poor goaltending? There’s only so much a coach can do with Karri Ramo as their goalie.

Rod Brind’Amour

Only if Carolina doesn’t re-sign him. They will.

Mike Babcock / Mark Messier

One got run out of town in Toronto for being a true jerk. The other has absolutely no coaching experience. Neither are a fit.