The New York Rangers’ offseason to-do list expanded hours after the conclusion of the 2017-18 season after management parted ways with head coach Alain Vigneault. The coaching search was done in relative silence but the Rangers recruited the perfect man for the job, David Quinn.
Vigneault’s firing came as no surprise because he wasn’t the ideal candidate to develop a young, inexperienced team into a playoff contender. General manager Jeff Gorton wanted to change the culture in New York and the first step was recruiting the right coach for the challenge.
“We’re looking for somebody with fresh ideas, a fresh approach,” Gorton said. “As we went through this process, we met with a number of people and talked to a lot of good hockey people, and it just kept coming back to David as the guy we wanted.”
Vigneault’s five seasons with the Rangers were very successful as the franchise had a 226-147-37 record during his tenure, including two Eastern Conference Final appearances and one trip to the Stanley Cup Final. But, it was time for a change after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
For Rangers fans, Quinn’s hiring is the first signal of a new era but the organization has some work to do before they become contenders again. Still, Quinn’s coaching style should generate some excitement inside Madison Square Garden next season.
Providing an Opportunity for Young Players
Vigneault’s downfall was his reluctance to integrate young players into the lineup. He relied on proven veterans who were past their prime to lead the team out of rough patches during the season. Team management chose to sign players like Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Derek Stepan, whose skills were declining, to big money contracts in order to keep the core together for one last Stanley Cup run. This meant adding complementary pieces at the trade deadline at the expense of prospects and high draft picks.
Now, the Rangers are committed to a rebuild and hopefully, the front office’s mindset is changing as well. It would be wise for Quinn to learn from his predecessor’s mistakes by offering some stability and patience to the youngsters on the roster. It’s a refreshing new approach that should be embraced by players like Pavel Buchnevich and Tony DeAngelo, who were buried deep on Vigneault’s bench for turning the puck over, which often led to easy scoring opportunities near the Rangers’ crease. Now, they can relax and develop at their own pace without the threat of losing valuable ice time because of a miscue.
Gorton is confident that Quinn can build a lasting relationship with today’s players, but more importantly, his direct style of coaching could have a lasting effect on the organization for many years to come. He expects a solid line of communication between the coaching staff and the players, which should cut down the number of mistakes, and the process begins in training camp. It’s an important first step in changing the culture of the organization.
Communication Is Key to Success
In any profession today, communication is key to success. If a coach is unable to deliver his message clearly, then mistakes will be made on the ice. In addition to hiring a coach who could build a rapport with his players, Gorton wanted to hire a candidate that was a strong communicator as well.
This past season was the first in Vigneault’s tenure that you felt the players were beginning to tune his voice out. The Rangers hired the perfect candidate as Quinn has been praised for his interaction with players at the collegiate level. It played an integral role in maintaining the high standards that best describes Boston University hockey, which was first set by legendary coach Jack Parker.
Quinn’s former players lauded his ability to connect and communicate with them as he’s a great tactician and teacher of the game. Having these coaching characteristics should help to develop the young players on the roster, but it will help recruit possible free agents to come to New York. If a coach has a good relationship with his players, then newcomers to the organization will have a smooth transition into the lineup.
The NHL has transformed into a faster, more skilled league dominated by young stars, whose interests away from the rink are much different from the players of yesteryear. It’s important for the coaching staff and players to be on the same page if the organization is going to have success on the ice. It will come down to communicating with one another, and if it doesn’t transpire, then the failing results will show in the standings.
Quinn’s success at the collegiate level gives him an opportunity in New York, but the question that remains if his coaching style will succeed in the NHL.
The Challenge of Coaching in New York
Coaching the New York Rangers isn’t an easy job. The fans are passionate, and the media will dissect your every move. It takes an unique personality to handle all the pressures that comes with coaching in New York. No, at first, Quinn expressed no desire to interview for the opening. But, after extensive conversations with Gorton and Drury, Quinn immediately knew he wanted to join them in bringing the Rangers back to prominence in the Metropolitan Division.
I’ve been fortunate enough to get approached by some NHL teams over the past few years, but when it’s the New York Rangers it’s a little bit different. It’s the pinnacle of the coaching profession. If you ask coaches in hockey what job they would want to have, this would be at the top. This is really the only situation I would’ve left Boston University for.
It seems like a perfect marriage as no other candidate was made public by the organization. By all media reports, Quinn was Gorton’s first choice to replace Vigneault. Time will tell if his recruitment was the right choice for the coaching position.
Thomas Conroy covers the Vegas Golden Knights for The Hockey Writers Network He has been writing about sports since 2007, first as a contributor for Bleacher Report and Football Nation. Recently, Conroy was a co-editor for the Bolts Beat website on Fansided. To read more his work, please him on Twitter @tsconroy