Rangers’ Gallant Primed To Build Upon 1st-Year Success

The New York Rangers organization knew that the addition of Gerard Gallant as the new head coach would allow the team to take a massive stride in their quest for another Stanley Cup. Gallant, who has often been referred to as a “favorite coach” by several players, put together quite the track record over his career and concluded a successful first season with the Rangers.

As unpredictable as this league can be, it is always helpful to reference the past – the same goes for predicting coaching success. Of course, no two teams are the same, but with a coaching style as distinct as Gallant’s, his feats follow him from team to team. Many hockey followers know the unbelievable story of the Vegas Golden Knights’ inaugural season, and at the end of it all, Gallant was even named the Jack Adams Award winner for the league’s top coach.

Gerard Gallant, New York Rangers
Gerard Gallant, head coach of the New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Gallant, of course, had a historical first season, and although that Knights team was an anomaly, there is still a benefit to looking at his second season with the team. That insight can be applied to the current situation in New York. This second season under Gallant will be a telling one as the entire organization feels the pressure to exceed expectations once again this upcoming 2022-23 campaign.

A Look at Gallant’s Record in Vegas

Just like in Vegas, his team had the goaltending, the talent, and the drive to prove something. Though the composition of the two teams differs greatly in age and experience – this Rangers squad does have youth on their side. Many were concerned about how Gallant would manage a developing team, especially when he put in three seasons’ worth of time with an older hockey club. Barring a questionable move to scratch young forward Kaapo Kakko in Round 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Gallant embraced his blooming players for the most part.

He spent three seasons with each of his teams – before Vegas, it was the Florida Panthers, and before that, the Columbus Blue Jackets. The majority of his experience came from Vegas where he coached 213 games. From behind the bench, he compiled a 118-75-20 record in those three seasons. Ironically enough, the Knights’ record their first season with Gallant ended 51-24-7, meanwhile the 2021-22 Rangers concluded 52-24-6.

Related: Metropolitan Division Predictions for the 2022-23 Season

The next season the Knights’ dipped and they ended 43-32-7, which was the third-best record in the division. The newborn franchise was in a similar position as the current-day Rangers in the sense both felt immense pressure to string together another successful season immediately. Though the next year, he saw a little over half of the season. In 49 games, the Knights went 24-19-6 and took back the first place spot in the division which they had also claimed their inaugural season.

Recurring Trends in Gallant’s Coaching Career

In his career, Gallant has a 322-240-57 record as a coach. Though he comes with ample experience, a lot of praise is directed toward the player-coach relationships he builds. Time and time again, he addresses the media and often defends his young players and consistently takes the time to express his happiness for his players. While intangibles are important for the players, his numbers portray helpful insight for the organization and fans.

Oddly enough there are repeated and distinct patterns in his coaching history. With all three prior teams, not one has maintained their place in the division in back-to-back seasons. Of course, the Rangers do not want to stay in second place again this season, they want to finish first in the Metropolitan Division. With the Blue Jackets and the Panthers, he helped his team advance one place higher in the second season.

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A look back at the beginning of Gallant’s tenure as coach of the Vegas Golden Knights

With Vegas as the exception, there is an improvement in his second season with his teams. Yet in the third, and final season with the clubs, the team reverts to the same ranking they started at. Take Florida for example, in the coach’s first season they finished in 6th place in their division, the next they ended first best, and in the season, right back to the sixth spot. While this was a massive and concerning jump, there is comfort in Vegas’s performance going from first place to third, back to first place.

What is clear with the Knights and the Rangers is that Gallant had an immediate impact. So much so that living up to the feats of the first year is already difficult in his second term. This Rangers team made it clear they possess more talent than what they receive credit for, and it still appears Vegas’s decision to fire the coach was more of a knee-jerk reaction.

Regardless, it is never too late in his coaching career to rewrite some trends. This could be the first time a Gallant team steadily improves or matches the previous’s season pace. Of course, the ultimate goal is to make it to the Stanley Cup Final and not end first in the division. Though his coaching trends provide insight the fact that he has experience in the final round is what matters.

What to Anticipate From Gallant’s Second Season in New York

Gallant is no stranger to the pressure that comes with the title. On the biggest stage, in New York, he has been met with extensive expectations before. With the tease of being so close to hoisting the Stanley Cup, he is certainly motivated to watch his team be the ones to do so.

Gallant is known for “getting the most of his team” and “maximizing his roster” but what exactly does that entail? Well, it can be as noticeable as winger Chris Kreider’s stellar season. Of course, Kreider spent seasons refining his skill, but it did click at an interesting time. It is no secret Gallant meshes well with veteran players, and since Kreider’s line consisted of himself and fellow veteran Mika Zibanejad, it made for a top line that Gallant was comfortable using in various matchups.

The coaching style works well with the veteran core and the strong leadership presence of the club, so you can expect another veteran, perhaps even Kreider again, to have a career performance this upcoming season. It will be interesting to see how Gallant interacts with new captain, defender Jacob Trouba. The Rangers finally have a distinguished leader, one could expect Trouba to have a very solid season this 2022-23 campaign, with Gallant being one of many reasons for that.

Kaapo Kakko New York Rangers
Kaapo Kakko, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As well as Gallant works with veterans, there is the hope a younger star takes center stage as well. Though the season left off on a weird note with Kaapo and the coaching staff, it is a hope that either he or Alexis Lafrenière see a promotion. With Gallant’s help this could result in a confidence boost that primes a younger player to break out.

In a broader view, you can expect Gallant to stick to his ways. The Rangers will play with a hard-nosed game, which is part of why Vincent Trocheck will likely have a solid first season with his new team under his former coach. Certain aspects of his coaching style will remain the same – he will not micromanage, he will leave Igor Shesterkin and the rest of the goaltending department be, and focus on his role.

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