Kris Knoblauch makes the most sense for next Rangers head coach
The New York Rangers are at a crossroads in the search for their next head coach. This is clearly a team that’s built to win and contend right now. There are a few options out there that fit that bill, but Chris Drury can and should opt to go off the beaten path and go with the unexpected. Kris Knoblauch isn’t a retread and would be a perfect fit for a Rangers team that needs to take a risk in its coaching search.
Peter Laviolette, Bruce Boudreau, and Mike Babcock are all head coaches available that have a bunch of NHL coaching experience, but they would all be the easy way to go for Drury and company. The retreads are a common theme in the NHL, and one that has never delivered a Stanley Cup, at least among coaches that have won one before. Scotty Bowman aside, of course.
Laviolette might be the most likely candidate for Drury out of all the possible retreads. While he wouldn’t be the worst option, he still wouldn’t be the best. Laviolette has a really good resume, but it still feels like his time has come and he’s out of touch with where the league is right now.
Laviolette is best suited for a veteran heavy roster, which doesn’t bode well for the increased ice time players like Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil, and Alexis Lafreniere are poised to see next season. There would need to be a very transparent conversation about how Laviolette would use the kids and what the plan for the roster would be.
Babcock should be a non-starter for the Rangers regardless of his pedigree as Red Wings head coach. With everything that came to light during his exit in Toronto it’s very clear the type of person Babcock is and that he would be an unmitigated disaster in New York.
Boudreau is an interesting one because you know his teams will score and score at a high clip. However his teams have been tire fires defensively, but one thing to remember is that he’s never had a goalie like Igor Shesterkin. But do you really want Igor to carry the weight of the franchise? Absolutely not. If you paired Boudreau with a defensive coach like a Jacques Martin then it might be something to consider, if not then it’s a no brainer that this shouldn’t be an option.
Mike Sullivan and Andrew Brunette are not realistic options yet. Both are under contract, even if Sully is Drury’s preference.
Kris Knoblauch is my personal favorite of the realistic options left standing. He has experience coaching superstar players, albeit at the juniors level, but it was Connor McDavid, and that speaks volumes. He has done a tremendous job this season in Hartford with a less than stellar roster.
Drury also handpicked Knoblauch to guide the Wolf Pack which means that they must have the same kind of vision and see the game the same way. Knoblauch could also be the breathe of fresh air that Artemi Panarin needs in order to get his game back on track in the playoffs.
This could arguably Drury’s last coaching hire as GM of the New York Rangers. Doing his due diligence on every available candidate will be his best bet, and going with someone he knows who has already shown some reward on investment could be his saving grace. Nobody’s saying Knoblauch is going to be the next Jon Cooper but you have to start somewhere. Bringing in a guy like Kris Knoblauch and giving him the room to grow could be just what the Rangers need.