Being a Ranger fan is exhausting. Nine days ago, we were discussing how Tom Wilson should be suspended. A week ago, we were shocked by the firings of Jeff Gorton and John Davidson. Yesterday, we were mildly surprised by the firings of the entire Rangers coaching staff. It’s been a wild ten days, and it’s probably nowhere near done. Focusing on the coaching staff moves, I have some thoughts.
1. Dismissing Quinn wasn’t a surprise, but it wasn’t a guarantee either. Usually a new General Manager wants to put his own coach in there to make his mark. In this case, Drury was the one who was instrumental in bringing Quinn into the mix. However the product on the ice wasn’t good or consistent, and the Rangers had too much skill to be that inconsistent. The other comments, that the players didn’t know their roles, were the true indication that Quinn was going to be let go.
2. I’ve had my qualms with Quinn. While many focused on developing and playing kids, mine were focused on his systems and matchup decisions. Much ink had been spilled here about giving the blue line up by design, a byproduct of allowing too much speed through the neutral zone. That comes from a lack of a consistent forecheck, which was supposed to be a 2-1-2 but looked more like a 1-1-3. Passive hockey leads to speed against. It was all downhill from there. I do appreciate Steve Valiquette explaining the overall triangles goal, but the message and execution were poor, as was the overall system itself.
3. That said, I wasn’t really rooting one way or the other for Quinn’s future. I had assumed he was going to get one more year, or at least start the season, to see if he could transition this team into their next phase of the rebuild. Clearly the lack of a team identity, coupled with the lack of clear and discernable roles, led to his dismissal. The surprise here wasn’t firing Quinn. It wasn’t even the firings of David Oliver and Greg Brown. It was the firing of Jacques Martin.
4. Martin did wonders with the Rangers defense and penalty kill this year. There was solid structure, and the Rangers went from historically bad to a middle of the league team defensively. That’s a major turnaround and the only thing that really changed was adding Martin. He’s a defensive wizard. But in the end, any new head coach is going to want his guys there, and having a holdover from the old regime was going to make finding a new head coach more challenging.
5. As per usual, Benoit Allaire survived the entire Rangers coaching staff being fired. Allaire has been eternal. His impact everlasting. He has survived five head coaches: Glen Sather, Tom Renney, John Tortorella, Alain Vigneault, and now Quinn. It is a testament to his effectiveness and his legacy. He truly is a fantastic goalie coach.
6. The next step is finding a head coach, who will then have his own guys as assistants. I know I had wanted the “dream team” of a game manager (Gerard Gallant) with a pair of coordinators (Bruce Boudreau, Martin). It’s the NFL model, and I think it can be utilized properly in the NHL. Naturally that won’t happen. However Gallant is a solid option as a head coach. He’s a guy who got great offensive success out of his past teams. The Rangers need a good offensive mind to get the most out of their skill players. They also need a solid defensive mind to ensure they don’t fall into the same traps they did with Quinn.
7. Despite Gallant being the front runner, this search will take a while. We will hear other names come up, and we will likely hear about Tortorella, maybe Bob Hartley, and a few others. Drury probably wants the coach set before free agency. In fact, he might want the new coach in place before the Rangers make any significant roster moves. Gallant has been around the block, he knows what kind of players he will need. His systems in Vegas weren’t anything unique, but he got buy in. He’s not hired yet, so this may be premature.
8. Is there anything else that can happen this month? Or can we have a normal day or two now?