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Brooks and LeBrun on the Rangers' coaching search plus my thoughts

May 17, 2023, 3:37 AM ET [259 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Rangers coaching search is no closer to being completed compared to when Gerard Gallant was fired. What has become clear - as Larry Brooks points out in his interview - is that Chris Drury will be deciding between what can be classified as a retread or new hire. In addition, I will post an update on the mock draft either as part of the comments or a new blog.

Brooks notes that the Rangers are not alone with their search for a new coach, as three of the four teams in the final four have had at least three coaches over the last four years. Dallas, Vegas and Florida all fall into that category, only Carolina - with Rod Brind'Amour - has had some stability behind the bench. Each of the three teams that brought in new coaches have gone with a "tried and true veteran" as opposed to a first year coach. 

The "older" names are well known. Peter Laviolette. Mike Babcock. Jack Capuano. Bruce Boudreau. Darryl Sutter. If going the mid-tier route, meaning a coach who has helmed a team but not bounced around, Andrew Brunette and Patrick Roy. are possible options. The younger and/or neophyte coaching route would consist of hiring Kris Knoblauch, Jay Leach, Jeff Halpern, Jeff Blaisdell or Mark Messier, the latter with a ton of playing but no caching experience

To me, the below was one of the key paragraphs in the column. It highlights the disconnect that existed between Gallant and the team and the lack of teaching and adjustments that we bemoaned the last two seasons. Exit interviews, rumored to be a driving factor in the determination to dismiss Gallant, clearly played a role in Drury's decision.

Drury needs to go with his gut here. He needs a coach who has the technical ability to help this veteran team take the next step in the playoffs when matching and strategic adjustments become paramount while treating the players in the same empowering and professional manner that marked Gallant’s tenure. Our understanding is that players were asking for help during exit interviews.

Pierre LeBrun reports that Columbus also has interest in Laviolette or Babcock. The Blue Jackets also have an internal candidate in Pascal Vincent, who might be the favorite for the role. LeBrun mentions the Roy-Drury connection that could be a driving consideration in who gets the job.

Brooks also gives the diametrically opposing views he has on Babcock and Laviolette. His vitriol and annoyance if Babcock was hired far outweighs the facts he points out on Laviolette. As I note below, that's not the whole story in his view on the type of coach the Rangers should pursue, which mirrors my thoughts. 

The Rangers most certainly do not need an autocratic disciplinarian. They do not need someone as mean-spirited and dictatorial as Mike Babcock within miles of this franchise. His players in Detroit generally despised him. He had serious issues in Toronto, both in interpersonal relationships and game management.

There would be throw-up in the mouth if this individual is hired to coach the Rangers and not only in mine.

If we are talking about achieving instant success — and is there anything more important to the Rangers at this juncture? — then Drury would have to consider the fact that:

A) Laviolette took the Islanders to the playoffs in his first season behind an NHL bench in 2001-02 after the team had missed seven straight seasons; B) Laviolette won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in his first full year with the ‘Canes in 2005-06; C) Laviolette took Philadelphia to the Cup final after being hired 25 games into the 2009-10 season; D) Laviolette took Nashville to the Cup final in his third season as coach in 2016-17.

Does Drury want to pursue someone who could be the next Jon Cooper or Brind'Amour or go with a veteran recycled coach with the hope that this option leads the team to the promised land? My view is to be bold. 

Do your due diligence. See if the prevailing thoughts that Leach's ability to be strategic and communicate come across during the interview. Verify how big of a role he played in Seattle's advancement to Game 7 in the second round and if he meshes with Drury and team brass during the interview process. Find out the same about Blashill and Halpern. Determine if Knoblauch has the it factor to succeed in New York beyond the games he was behind the bench on an interim basis due to illnesses. Don't just recycle a coach because it's the easier way out. Find a leader, communicator and teacher in someone who will grow into the role and be a coach for the long-term. To me, that sounds like Leach. 

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