David Quinn: Face of the Rangers’ Rebuild

Something needed to change for the New York Rangers this offseason. It wasn’t debatable. The team was teetering on Wild Card contention for a while, thanks in large part to the performance of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. With that being said, the struggles became too great to overcome. Ultimately, the team missed the playoffs for the first time in seven years.

Fans and critics knew that change was coming. The same core had carried the team to the playoffs multiple times, but could never get the job done. Simply put, the window of opportunity had closed for the aging crop of New York mainstays. Management was open about what was coming even before the end of last season, releasing a statement prior to the trade deadline that let fans know that in an effort to improve the team’s chances of bringing a Cup back to the Big Apple for the first time since 1994, some favourites were likely on their way out. The rebuild was officially underway.

Out with the Old, in with the New

Management wasted little time letting the hockey world know they were open for business, shipping out then-captain Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, Derek Stepan and Rick Nash. In their place, prospects and draft picks, eager to earn their spot on the main roster.

The Rangers’ new look wasn’t just limited to the ice. After five years behind the bench, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014, head coach Alain Vigneault was relieved of his duties the day before the end of the regular season. He was replaced by first-time NHL Head Coach David Quinn, who spent the previous five years with Boston University, following a lockout-shortened season with the Colorado Avalanche as an assistant coach.

At Quinn’s introductory press conference, Rangers general manager, Jeff Gorton, explained that given the changes the team was going through they were looking for somebody with fresh ideas to bring to the organization. Quinn stressed the importance of forging personal relationships with all of his players.

One look at Quinn’s resume and it seems as though he fits the team’s new vision like a glove. The club didn’t have the success it had hoped for in recent years using the combination of an experienced coaching staff and veteran players, so to usher in the new regime of young talent, a coach accustomed to working with developing players was the final piece to the rebuilding puzzle.

Through his collegiate career, Quinn worked with numerous NHL athletes including current Rangers Kevin Hayes and Kevin Shattenkirk, as well as the Boston Bruins’ Charlie McAvoy and the Buffalo Sabres’ Jack Eichel. Given the younger vibe in the Rangers’ dressing room moving forward, Quinn may be the kind of mentor they need to succeed. 

Related: Can the Rangers Win With Quinn?

From the NCAA to the Big Leagues

While Quinn may be new to the NHL fold, he is certainly familiar with much of its talent. Over the course of his nearly 25-year coaching career, Quinn has enjoyed a high-level of success. Before his time as a head coach, Quinn served as an assistant coach to the Terriers from 2004-2009, where he helped the club capture the National Championship in his final season. From there, he coached the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL for three seasons, working closely with Shattenkirk, before the Avalanche came calling.

Following a year-long post as an assistant in Colorado, Quinn was called back home, being named the head coach of the Terriers in 2013.

Over his five-year stint at the helm of Boston University, he led the team to a 105-68-21 record, which includes the 2014-15 season, when the Terriers notched the largest turnaround in school history, amassing a 28-8-5 record, an 18-win improvement from the previous season. For his efforts, Quinn was named both the Hockey East Coach of the Year, as well as the New England Coach of the Year. In addition, he was the runner-up for the Spencer Penrose award, presented to the top Division 1 Men’s Hockey Coach in the NCAA. Under Quinn, the Terriers made four postseason appearances, including the NCAA Championship game in 2014-15.

Boston University forward Brady Tkachuk
Ottawa Senators prospect Brady Tkachuk is one of many young stars to have played under new Rangers Head Coach David Quinn at Boston University. (Rich Gagnon/Boston University)

The coach’s success hasn’t been limited to college hockey, either.

On the international stage, Quinn has done his fair-share of winning. As an instrumental part of the United States National Team Development Program, Quinn was named USA Hockey Development Coach of the Year in 2002-03, when he served as Head Coach of the U-17 Team. Most recently, he was named the head coach of the 2019 U.S. National Junior Team.

What’s the biggest takeaway from all of these accomplishments? The man knows how to mold young talent.

Related: Rangers Right in Recruiting Quinn

Coach Quinn: Ready for Bright Lights of Broadway?

A few NHL markets are notoriously difficult to play in; Toronto, Montreal and of course, New York top that list. The demands of the media and fans can get to even the most seasoned coaches. It will undoubtedly take Quinn some time to adjust to his new position. While the league has shifted to a more college-friendly game in recent years, Quinn will now have to deal with the spotlight at every turn.

That isn’t to say his first year behind the bench is sure to be a bust. Look at Dave Hakstol and the job he has done with the Philadelphia Flyers over the last three seasons. The team has made the playoffs in two of his three years with the club. Like Quinn, Hakstol has a history with the NCAA, coaching the North Dakota Fighting Hawks for 11 seasons prior to making the jump to the NHL.

Another saving grace for Quinn as he prepares for his first foray behind the Blueshirts bench is that coming on the heels of a rebuilding phase, the majority of the hockey world is expecting little from the early portions of the season. Given all the changes the to the organization since the trade deadline, there will be some leeway given to the rookie coach. The media should be less critical and the fans should give Quinn a probation period before waving the white flag on his NHL career.

There has been one constant message in New York since the trade deadline: management is taking this rebuild very seriously. They have trimmed the fat, saying goodbye to beloved players, as well as a coach with a proven track record. They have faith in this new, young core and perhaps, more importantly, faith in their new head coach.

For now, Quinn’s tenure in Rangerstown should be looked at as a new chapter and a new approach to a new team. From opening puck drop at the Garden to start the 2018-19 season, all eyes will be on the Broadway bench boss. Regardless of how the season plays out, one must applaud his willingness to jump in at such an uncertain time in Rangers hockey.

The Rangers preached the importance of youth in the beginning stages of the rebuild process. They’ve found themselves a coach who embodies it whole-heartedly.