Rangers Starting to See Cracks in Gallant’s Coaching Experience

The New York Rangers have performed well below expectations through the first 22 games of the 2022-23 NHL season, highlighted by an ugly 4-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday (Nov. 26). Nearly every player has struggled, and when Leon Draisaitl tapped home the Oilers’ fourth goal of the third period, erasing the Rangers’ 3-0 lead, the fans at Madison Square Garden had finally reached a boiling point.

There is plenty of time for the Rangers to turn it around, especially considering they are just a mere point outside the playoff picture, but the poor play and inconsistent stretches are troubling if we look at Gerard Gallant’s head coaching career.

Gallant was previously the head coach in Columbus, Florida, and Vegas before taking over as the Rangers’ bench boss. Despite some success with each team, he was fired mid-season by each organization. In Florida, the Panthers went 47-26-9 during the 2015-16 season, but he was let go the following year after his team started 11-10-1.

A similar pattern arose in Vegas with the Golden Knights. After reaching the Stanley Cup Final in their first season, the Vegas Golden Knights went 43-32-7 in season two and were 24-19-6 through 49 games in season three before Gallant was relieved of his duties. He has not lasted more than three seasons at any of his posts, and now is sitting on the hot seat in just his second season in New York.

Pressure Mounting on Gallant

When the Golden Knights decided to part ways with Gallant halfway through the 2019-20 season, many questioned the decision. Pete DeBoer replaced him as head coach, and the Golden Knights went 15-5-2 en route to another Conference Final appearance. Gallant had lost the room, and management decided to waste no time in bringing in a new voice so their ultra-competitive team could regain their previous form.

The following season, DeBoer led the Golden Knights to a 40-14-2 record and another loss in the Conference Final, this time to the Montreal Canadiens due to a wonky COVID format. Vegas’s success with DeBoer after Gallant was fired is certainly food for thought for the Rangers. And for Gallant, the situation has to feel eerily similar as the rumblings start to grow louder.

Pete DeBoer Vegas Golden Knights
Pete DeBoer, former head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

A nearly identical situation is starting to appear on Broadway, as the Rangers’ 52-24-6 record in 2021-22 has been forgotten. At 10-8-4, Gallant is on track to erase another quality start with a new team and seems headed for the hot seat with his fourth straight organization.

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If he wants to change the narrative, Gallant must get more out of his team, including young forwards like Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, and Vitali Kravtsov, who has been a healthy scratch for six straight contests. If Saturday’s matinee loss to the Oilers was any indication, patience is already running thin among the fanbase (from, ‘Dreadful third period costs Rangers in loss to Oilers as boos rain down at MSG,’ New York Post, 11/26/22). Even if the players are underperforming, blame always starts with the man at the helm.

Will the Rangers Have a Quick Hook for Gallant?

I’d be curious to see a poll rating the fans’ faith in the franchise. There’s a trend of prospects failing to pan out and poor evaluation of talent or decision-making when adding players. The sudden firing of John Davidson and Jeff Gorton, then naming Chris Drury as general manager was shocking, yet a run to the Conference Final had many underlying issues swept under the rug.

Now, amid a disappointing season, those issues are glaring. Someone will get blamed, especially if the team remains on this trajectory. The question is, how long is the leash before we see a trickle-down effect? Gallant was given 49 games of mediocre play before the Golden Knights pulled the trigger.

The Rangers have played 22 games of that same mediocre hockey and are losing ground in the playoff race quickly. Can Drury and James Dolan afford to wait that long or will this be a moot point when the team turns things around? By no means is all the blame on the head coach, but Gallant’s history of losing a locker room after early success leads to more criticism than some may believe is warranted. If the Rangers are considering a change, Barry Trotz is available and has said he’d like to be the bench boss of an Original Six team.

Barry Trotz
New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz behind the bench. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Maybe Trotz is not interested in a job with the Rangers, but the longer they continue to play subpar hockey, the more inclined Drury will be to get in touch with the Stanley Cup-winning coach. Gallant hopes to right the ship and get the Rangers progressing toward the top of the Eastern Conference once again. But if he fails to do just that, changes may be right around the corner.

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