Rangers Should Aim to Avoid Coaching Retreads

After the mutual decision to part ways with head coach Gerard Gallant, the New York Rangers have another vacancy behind the bench. General manager Chris Drury, senior advisor Glen Sather, and (maybe) owner James Dolan will be tasked with one of the Rangers’ most significant decisions of the last decade. The window to win a Stanley Cup is open, and they need to get this hire right to accomplish what the organization has done just once in the last 83 years.

Explore everything hockey with THW’s Hockeypedia pages.

The Hockey Writers HockeyPedia 800x120

Before Gallant, the Rangers tested the rookie coaching market by hiring David Quinn, now the head coach of the San Jose Sharks. That hire did not pan out, and the Rangers tried to retread with Gallant. Gallant’s track record had been one of early success, which was enticing, but longevity was never his strong suit.

He had failed to last more than three seasons with a club – his Rangers tenure ended after two. He had success with the Blueshirts, but back-to-back blown 2-0 series leads and poor exit interview reviews from the players left the Rangers searching for yet another head coach.

So now what? Do the Rangers again follow the path that many other teams have tried without success and find a retread? Or will they try to find a candidate who may be less known but has the knowledge needed to get the group to the promised land?

Retread Candidates: Is it Best to Avoid Them?

Only 19 head coaches have won multiple Stanley Cups. The number seems too low, but only 19 men have at least two championships, and of those 19, only three have won with more than one franchise: Lester Patrick, Dick Irvin, and Scotty Bowman.

Patrick and Irvin both won multiple titles before 1954. Bowman is the only coach to have done it in the modern era, winning his last Cup in 2002 with the Detroit Red Wings. No coach has done it since then, yet organizations continue to hire a coach who has made his rounds rather than try to find that fresh voice who best suits their team.

Retread candidates hired due to their pedigree have all failed to bring the Cup to their new franchise. Yet, the trend continues. Of course, someone will eventually break that trend, but, more likely, it’s time for the NHL to usher in a new wave of candidates.

Related Story: Rangers’ Coaching Carousel Hints at Organizational Issues

Peter Laviolette and Mike Babcock have been linked to the Rangers at this early stage of their coaching search. Both have won Stanley Cups – Laviolette in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes and Babcock – in 2008 with the Red Wings. Laviolette has taken three teams to the Cup Final, the Hurricanes in 2006, Philadelphia Flyers in 2010, and Nashville Predators in 2017.

Head coach Peter Laviolette, Washington Capitals
Head coach Peter Laviolette, Washington Capitals (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Of the retread options, he has had the most success with numerous franchises, but he has failed to win that next championship despite multiple playoff runs. The Rangers will also likely consider other retread options like Bruce Boudreau. Boudreau has a career 43-47 postseason record but is known to be beloved by his players.

Does that sound familiar? Yes, that was exactly what the Rangers liked about Gallant. Avoiding retreads is the best option, but where do they look if they want a fresh face?

Fresh Faces That Could Land the Rangers’ Coaching Job

Per Vincent Mercogliano of Lohud, the Rangers will consider Andrew Brunette, Kris Knoblauch, and Spencer Carbery for the head coaching position (from ’10 candidates we’re hearing who could be the next NY Rangers’ head coach,’ by Lohud – 5/7/23).

Latest News & Highlights

Brunette is the most familiar name on the list, winning the Presidents’ Trophy with the Florida Panthers a season ago after taking over for Joel Quenneville. Despite that, he was replaced by Paul Maurice and joined the New Jersey Devils as an assistant. His experience behind the Devils’ bench could be a bonus to a team they ousted in the first round of the 2023 Playoffs.

The other two candidates, Knoblauch and Carbery, are the most interesting. Neither has had an NHL head coaching job, but both have impressed at the AHL level. Carbery won the AHL Coach of the Year in 2021 when he was the bench boss of the Hershey Bears. After that season, the Toronto Maple Leafs hired him as an assistant on Sheldon Keefe’s coaching staff.

Carbery is young, with the viewpoint of a former player but without the old-school tendencies of some of the more veteran candidates. He is a very interesting option and an outside-the-box move for an organization that tends to stay away from those.

On the other hand, Knoblauch is already in the Rangers’ system as the head coach of their AHL affiliate Hartford Wolfpack. He was also the Erie Otters’ head coach, where he helped to develop numerous players, including Connor McDavid, in the OHL.

From there, he went to the Flyers as an assistant coach before accepting the head coaching job in Hartford in 2019. Knoblauch is highly regarded as a future NHL head coach, and the Rangers would be wise to consider him. He has dealt with several of their younger players during their stints in Hartford and might be the fresh voice the Blueshirts need.

We know that retreads usually don’t work out, but it’s also a big gamble to hire a coach who has yet to reach the NHL ranks, especially at Madison Square Garden, where the team is expected to win. This is not an easy decision, and the candidate pool is rather thin. Nonetheless, Drury and management need to get this right.