Yesterday news hit about the New York Rangers firing Gerard Gallant. It was an expected move, but perhaps not as soon as early May. The Rangers firing Gerard Gallant seemed inevitable, given the news of the feud with him and Chris Drury, how the Rangers performed in this year’s playoffs, and how some of the players seemed to tune him out. Add that to his known struggles with structure and in-game adjustments, the writing was on the wall.
1. Again, the Rangers firing Gerard Gallant was inevitable. We had theorized that it wouldn’t be immediate because the coaching landscape was unknown at the time. It is still unknown, with only the usual retreads available. What appeared to change was during exit interviews, where Mollie Walker noted that the feedback from the players likely had a role in the Rangers firing Gerard Gallant earlier than expected.
Sounds like feedback from #NYR exit interviews with players played a role in the club’s decision to part ways with Gerard Gallant
— Mollie Walker (@MollieeWalkerr) May 6, 2023
This would be the second time that exit interviews played a role in a coach’s dismissal, with John Tortorella being the first. Sometimes, you need to listen to the players and alter your strategy, and this was the case here.
2. Despite the Rangers firing Gerard Gallant, the players deserve a ton of blame here too. They simply didn’t show up for the playoffs. So don’t mistake this as a purely coaching issue. There were big, big issues on the ice, but the players did not show up for Games 5 and 7 in the playoffs against the Devils. Nothing will change that.
3. As mentioned on the most recent Blue Seats Live, the Rangers lacked structure on breakouts and with zone exits. Personnel matters here, as only Adam Fox is an adept puck mover, but they were severely exploited by the Devils for their inability to get out of the defensive zone. When only one defenseman can move the puck, and the others simply chip the puck off the glass (which is a turnover, by the way), then you spend 60% of the game in your defensive zone. That’s what happened against New Jersey. Structure was lacking.
4. People will mention the Rangers lacked speed, but that’s a very open ended statement. The Rangers players themselves were fast enough to skate with the Devils. But speed isn’t just physical tools. There’s a mental aspect to the speed of the game. When players are unsure where their teammates will be and don’t have any on-ice chemistry, then their decision making slows. Anticipation is nonexistent. Muscle memory and habit are lacking. A half second to make a decision means all the difference sometimes.
This is where lack of structure killed the Rangers. They didn’t know where their teammates would be. Almost 99% of NHL players need some level of structure. The ones that don’t –Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, etc– transcend the game itself. The Rangers don’t have that.
5. Stubbornness and a disconnect with Drury also led to the Rangers firing Gerard Gallant sooner than expected. Lineup decisions are the main culprits here, as Gallant panicked in November after that one period against Detroit. The Rangers up til then were playing fine, just getting unlucky with shooting and had subpar goaltending.
The Kreider-Zibanejad-Kakko line was one of the best lines in driving offensive play, as Kakko was the perfect complement to do the dirty work like we saw him do in the playoffs. Alexis Lafreniere was fine alongside Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck, again driving play as a perfect complement. Those lines were never revisited despite the very obvious ice tilt in the Rangers’ favor.
To make matters worse, after the trade deadline, Gallant refused to admit to himself and to his team that Patrick Kane was a complementary player. Instead forcing the issue by inserting him on a PP1 that didn’t need a shakeup. We saw how that turned out. That’s Gallant shooting himself in the foot.
The Kid Line, which was reunited despite some pretty poor results until around March, was a crutch for Gallant. Refusal to separate the trio tanked the potential the Rangers had.
6. Now with the Rangers firing Gerard Gallant much sooner than expected, Drury has the added stress of finding a coach while also managing the cap strain and finding a way to get this team over the hump. The guys we know are available: Peter Laviolette, Bruce Boudreau, and Daryl Sutter, are all retreads and bring different positives and negatives. Joel Quenneville’s name has been floated, but he’s a PR nightmare waiting to happen, plus he’s not even reinstated to the NHL yet.
Kris Knoblauch has been mentioned given Hartford’s run. Mark Messier still lingers even if it doesn’t make sense for him to be the coach (remember how great Wayne Gretzky was as a coach?). Mike Sullivan has always been the hope for Drury, but he’s under contract in Pittsburgh. Trades for coaches don’t really happen anymore, so Drury would be hoping the new GM lets Sullivan go to start fresh.
7. Believe it or not, Drury might also be on a short leash. Most GMs get 2-3 head coaches before they are fired, and this is now Drury’s second coach, whomever it may be. He needs to hit a homerun there. This is why it seems unlikely he will bank his second, and possibly last, coaching decision on a new coach with no experience.
The Rangers need a coach that will bring structure to a team that desperately craves it. But it also needs to be a coach that can manage the players and their egos/personalities.