As NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently revealed, the start date for the upcoming 2020-21 season could be within the late December or early January time frame. With a fresh start on the horizon, the New York Rangers will dive into their 94th season with their newly hired assistant coach, Jacques Martin.
The news broke in August when the previous assistant coach, Lindy Ruff, was hired as the New Jersey Devils’ newest head coach. Ruff has prior head coaching experience as he was with the Buffalo Sabres and the Dallas Stars before joining New York. The former head coach was initially hired by the Rangers in 2017.
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Martin’s most recent position was with the Pittsburgh Penguins since he was hired in the summer of 2013 as an assistant coach. At the beginning of his tenure in Pittsburgh, then-general manager, Ray Shero cited that “he brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our organization…” particularly due to his experience as a head coach, an assistant but also as a general manager.
Current head coach David Quinn, who was new to the NHL at the time of hire in 2018, has also stated that Ruff was someone he had leaned on at times. Like Ruff, Martin has head coaching experience but to a much more extensive degree starting with the St. Louis Blues (1986-88), Ottawa Senators (1995-04), Florida Panthers (2005-08), and Montreal Canadiens (2009-12). (from ‘Devils tab Ruff as new head coach,’ The Times Herald, 07/09/2020) This is particularly important as Quinn will have a deeply knowledgeable counterpart to work with in Martin as he continues to establish himself as a head coach.
Martin’s Legacy Around the League
Martin’s roles in the NHL fluctuated throughout the years as he joined different teams. After guiding the Blues, he served as assistant coach of the Chicago Blackhawks for two seasons starting in 1988 before heading to assist the Colorado Avalanche for a total of six seasons starting in 1990.
After being released from the Canadiens’ organization in 2011, Martin resumed his leadership duties in the league, emerging in the Metropolitan Division. He was known for his emphasis on defense, but his demise in Montreal was due to the extreme environment in which any loss is simply unacceptable. Ultimately, it was reported that several Montreal players were surprised by his release and took accountability upon themselves.
Nonetheless, Martin joined the first-place Penguins ahead of their 2014 Playoff appearance in which they were eliminated in the second round by none other than the New York Rangers. Despite the disappointment early in his new gig, he was on the cusp of working with phenomenal talent.
Finally, in 2016, Martin would see a Stanley Cup hoisted by his team, marking his 30th anniversary of NHL coaching. The following season the Penguins secured their fifth Cup and his name was once again etched into the most coveted prize in the sport of professional hockey.
In terms of coaching accolades, Martin has a lifetime coaching career record of 613 wins and 12 playoff appearances in 17 seasons as an NHL head coach. He was also distinguished as the 1998-99 Jack Adams Award winner for most outstanding coach in the league.
Martin’s Upcoming Impact with the New York Rangers
Fast forward to today and Martin is once again immersed in the Metropolitan as he aims to assist guiding the young club towards success. During the course of Ruff’s term with the Rangers, his defensive tactics became increasingly questioned by spectators. Defense had long been a thorn in the side of the Rangers and his hiring perplexed some from the start.
Martin was eager to open up following his first Cup win in which he delved deep into what truly formulates a winning team. “In Pittsburgh this year, we had a great working relationship with all the coaches and management. It was a very close-knit group, and we all brought different dimensions. That really helped us in our success.”
Indeed it was head coach Quinn who lasered his focus on Martin upon the announcement he would not be extended in Steel City and so he was pursued. Quinn also has a personal history established back in the day as teammates at Boston University with fellow head coach, Mike Sullivan, whom Martin worked with in Pittsburgh for the past five seasons.
In fact, Quinn’s relationship with Sullivan laid the groundwork for coaxing Martin to Broadway. As the interview process prolonged, Quinn quickly became very fond of him.
Coming off his recent exposure to veteran players, he was fascinated by the youth and potential cultivated within the Rangers’ organization. Teaching is one aspect of coaching that Martin is most passionate about and the timing could not be better.
How Martin is Multi-dimensional
The 67-year-old will be taking over the responsibilities of defense and the penalty kill. This new task will be no easy feat for Martin who has joined a club that has been plagued by an inconsistent defensive core for years. But with a slew of young, eager defensemen and a leadership role recently filled by a veteran leader with an affinity for teaching, the franchise is prepped for success.
The veteran leader has years of experience sharpening the technical skills and working on the mental aspect with defenders and brings a vast degree of dimension to the team as a whole. Like Martin pointed out, comfortability among staff and teammates plays into success.
David Oliver, another member behind the Rangers’ bench, actually played under Martin in Ottawa. Professionally and personally, there had been no shortage of praise amongst staff following Martin’s hiring. After a turbulent few seasons falling from 2013-14 grace, things seem to be falling in place perfectly for the Rangers.
Rachel is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. She can be followed on Twitter @RachelNHL.