During yesterday’s breakup day, news broke of an apparent feud and argument between Gerard Gallant and Chris Drury after Game 4. Arthur Staple confirmed the rumors, that both were involved in a heated exchange behind closed doors that players could hear. Details of the argument are unknown, but it doesn’t feel like it’s the first time the pair had a disagreement. The Gallant/Drury feud seems to have grown legs that neither can control at the moment.
1. It’s hard to hear about the Gallant/Drury feud and not think it leads to Gallant being fired at some point this offseason. The Rangers certainly overachieved last season, but we knew something was off this season. There had been rumblings of a disconnect between coach and GM for some time, and we’ve also heard and seen Gallant send not-so-subtle messages to Drury with his lineup decisions and comments after games. That’s why this appears to be a Gallant/Drury feud, and not just one argument.
2. On Live From the Blue Seats, Rob and Nick brought up good points about how the Rangers were humming along in terms of offensive zone time, shot share, and scoring chances. Then one bad period against Detroit in November changed everything. Gallant changed up lines that were working, but had poor shooting luck. The lines that were removed –notably Kaapo Kakko on the top line and Alexis Lafreniere on the second line– were working, they just couldn’t buy a goal.
Shooting luck always changes. Especially for a team that was shooting 6% in November. Right after those unnecessary changes, Igor Shesterkin started rounding into form. Gallant was fooled into thinking the lines were the issue, when it was puck luck and average goaltending.
We all know how that turned out.
3. It’s fairly obvious Drury had some issues there, as right after that game in November we saw Barclay Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey, bottom six players in Drury’s eyes, in the top six on a regular basis. The Gallant/Drury feud didn’t start there, as we heard these rumblings last season too. We ignored those rumblings at that time because the roster was clearly flawed, but this time around we couldn’t ignore them. These issues were Gallant’s doing, not Drury’s.
4. Also remember that Gallant was almost fired in November after the Rangers were barely above hockey-.500 in early December. Then the Jacob Trouba helmet throw happened. The Rangers won seven straight and went on a ridiculous run fueled by, you guessed it, Igor Shesterkin and the powerplay. We were mostly ignoring the subpar underlying numbers –indicative of too much time in the defensive zone– because they were winning.
Pre-December, there was process but no results. After that, it was results with no process. The former leads to long term success in the playoffs. The latter leads to a first round exit and a blown 2-0 series lead because the team spent 60% of the time in the defensive zone.
5. On the surface, it’s hard to see how things like this would fuel the Gallant/Drury feud, but it all layers on top of each other. It starts with blowing a 2-0 lead against Tampa where Gallant didn’t make in-game or even in-series adjustments, a known weakness. Then we see a clear issue with the bottom defense pair with barely-NHL players getting the nod over a kid or two.
Then the November/December drama, where Gallant was nearly fired.
And it all ended with a first round exit, missing expectations by a wide margin.
6. The conclusion from all these points is there is a very clear disconnect between Gallant and Drury, and it’s boiling over. Will this Gallant/Drury feud lead to Gallant being fired?
That part we don’t know yet. What we do know is Drury is methodical and doesn’t make rash decisions, so it’s not expected –although possible– that Gallant will be fired immediately. Drury likely wants to see how the coaching market pans out, as his rumored original preference in Mike Sullivan is still under contract in Pittsburgh for now. Maybe Joel Quenneville changes his mind.
Guys like Bruce Boudreau and Peter Laviolette likely aren’t the answer for Drury.
Maybe Daryl Sutter, as Rob has pointed out a few times. But there are rumors of him alienating players in Calgary, mostly coming from Jonathan Huberdeau’s side of things. Sutter may not be liked, but he gets results. All of his teams have positive xG and shot share ratios, which is missing from the Rangers right now. His flaw, like Gallant, is that he doesn’t want to give big ice time to kids.
7. Drury likely only gets one more coach before he’s on the hot seat for not delivering with this roster. He will make sure he gets his man. It’s still possible Gallant is here in October, but gets fired midseason should this rift continue. Drury could also go full Billy Beane and trade all of Gallant’s favorites, forcing him to play the guys Drury thinks should be in the roster. That’s scorched Earth though.
Had to end with a Moneyball reference.