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Rangers and coach Gerard Gallant part ways, coaching search underway

May 7, 2023, 5:17 AM ET [1137 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
In a move that came as little surprise, if you had read the tea leaves the past several days, the Rangers/GM Chris Drury and coach Gerard Gallant agreed Saturday to a "mutual" parting of the ways. I guess the use of the term mutual is to indicate dissatisfaction by both parties in the relationship, though that word is kind of a misnomer given the situation. With the departure of Gallant, who lasted just two and not his usual three years with a team, New York will have their fourth coach since the 2017-18 season.

Gallant, who went 99-46-19 in his two seasons in NY, with an ECF loss last year, used the term "disappointing" (see full quote and the video below) when describing the rumors of his job being in jeopardy Wednesday. He clearly was in self-preservation mode in that press conference, trying to save his job.after the seven-game loss to NJ during which the team was whitewashed 4-0 and invisible in both Games 5 and 7. Gallant, possibly a candidate for the open role in Washington, could have handled the situation in many different ways, but opted for anger and fury rather than admitting the ending was less than satisfactory given the expectations. The end result was like many of us expected, though the question has to be if this was a Drury decision or one made by Glen Sather and/or James Dolan? Given the remaining two years and $11 mil left on Gallant's contract, "senior management" clearly had to sign off on the decision.

"I'm coming in here after what I think were two successful years. We had one bad week and that cost us. If I can't stand by my record and what I've done -- and not just my record here -- I think there's something wrong. I think it's pretty good. But we're in New York and people put stuff out there, and that's fine," he said.

Gallant added: "I can't believe I have to answer some of these questions about me getting let go or getting fired, brought up by the media. Disappointing."

Joel Quenneville had been rumored to be of interest. Larry Brooks, in his column Saturday, doused cold water on that theory. This is largely because Q has not been cleared by the league for his failure to act responsibly in connection with the Kyle Beach sexual assault issue. While Brooks did not provide any possible coaching names for consideration in the below column, he did espouse the virtues of Hartford coach Kris Knoblauch in his Slap Shots article. But Brooks did provide some insight, in line with what many of us have discussed, as to reasons for Gallant's ouster, excerpts of which I have included here.

When he was hired to succeed David Quinn after the 2020-21 season, Gallant came with a reputation as an old-school players’ coach who was lacking in X’s and O’s and motivational skills. That is exactly how it played out.

The 59-year-old was an instant breath of fresh air in the room the way he dealt with the veterans who had felt smothered by Quinn’s style and personality that he had developed at Boston University. Gallant treated his players like professionals. He was protective of his athletes, rarely singling out any for public criticism. He believed in keeping everything within the room. He was appreciated for his approach

Gallant was not a rah-rah motivational speaker, preferring to leave that assignment to the leadership group within the room....And Gallant was not a wizard when it came to X’s and O’s. He did not make in-game or game-to-game strategic adjustments quickly or effectively enough. The Rangers’ breakout system was wanting. They lacked structure in their own end. Their forecheck was, well, there is no need to belabor the point, but there effectively was none against New Jersey after appearing intermittently during the season.

Other than for Igor Shesterkin and to an extent Chris Kreider, not a single one of the Marquee Rangers played up to par. That may be reflective of a coaching issue, but that surely does not absolve the players, who one after another failed to produce....The Post has confirmed SportsNet’s Elliotte Friedman’s report of a heated conversation following the team’s Game 4 defeat. There have been several times during the last two years that the GM and coach have had differing opinions on personnel and player usage, but that is not at all unique around the league.

The existence of a heated discussion with management post-Game 4 did not come out after that contest. In fact, it wasn’t “leaked” until after the series ended. As Brooks noted, this was not the first time a coach and a GM got into it and you have to question who released the information as the why was to make Gallant look bad. Plus we have no context as to what the discussion entailed beyond the speculation of dissatisfaction after two losses at home. Who gave Friedman the info and why did no one else on the beat have it?

In addition, and not in the column, Gallant was rumored to be on thin ice in December, prior to and post Jacob Trouba's helmet throw and tirade towards his teammates on the bench. But he was bailed out by a comeback win against the Blues that led to a seven-game win streak. Brooks' comments indicate a beat writer not overly impressed by Gallant as well as one who rightfully took the players to task for their indifferent play at times and inability to play harder when needed. To me, this sums up the flaws on both sides, "it is clear that this group needs a coach who combines motivational abilities with X’s-and-O’s technical prowess. The players need help. The team needs structure."

Elliotte Friedman noted that the player exit interviews played a role in Gallant's departure. If you watched Trouba's end of season interview, he almost struggled to articulate what he felt Gallant brought to the table. In addition, Friedman indicated that Q, who has spoken to the NHL and has attempted to remediate his image, could be in the coaching mix. I believe Brooks more than Friedman, who is connected within the league but may not have the inside sources in New York that Brooks possesses.

Kevin Weekes indicates that Patrick Roy could be in the mix. Seeing how his stint in Colorado ended and the fcat he didn't get an interview two years ago when Gallant was hired, I would put the odds of Roy getting hired as remote. But Weekes is highly connected, so don't dismiss what he says.

Mollie Walker provided a list of possible Rangers' coaching candidates. That list consisted of Peter Laviolette, who last coached in Washington, Knoblauch, Mark Messier and Bruce Boudreau, who is an offensive minded coach but one whose stint in Vancouver ended badly. Add in Mike Sullivan, albeit unlikely, Darryl Sutter, who was let go in Calgary, and Roy, and that's seven names. Other possible candidates could include Mike Babcock, though that would be exceedingly remote, Andrew Brunette and Jeff Blashill, who has USA hockey connections with Drury and coached as an assistant in Tampa Bay. If you ask me who I would want, it's Sullivan, but with him likely unavailable, next in line would be Knoblauch.

The Rangers have not promoted a head coach from within since 1973, so going in that direction would be a shock. But Knoblauch showed in a six-game stint while replacing David Quinn in 2020-21 that he can handle a bench. In addition, he has gotten the most out of a Hartford team in the AHL. That said, knowing the Rangers, Sather and Dolan, they will opt for the sexy name. If that is the case, Messier, who has never coached but has petitioned for the role, and Roy, who I mentioned above, would be of major interest. If Sulllivan somehow became available, he would be a primary candidate, though that would appear to be a pipedream.

A longer offseason than originally hoped most certainly got more interesting Saturday. Plus this does not even factor in if any big names are attempted to be moved, which very well could be the case. Drury et al have their work cut out for them.

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