6:02PM: Gerard Gallant is considered to be at the top of the list for Drury. (NY Post)
10:46 AM: With the firing of David Quinn the Rangers join the Columbus Blue Jackets, Arizona Coyotes, Seattle Kraken as teams currently without a head coach.
Both Columbus and Arizona announced over the weekend that they were parting ways with John Tortorella and Rick Tocchet, respectively.
In addition to Tortorella and Tocchet other head coaching candidates include Mike Babcock, Gerard Gallant, Bruce Boudreau, Bob Hartley and Claude Julien.
Coaches that Chris Drury played for in the NHL include Hartley, who just won the KHL Championship, Darryl Sutter, back coaching in Calgary, Lindy Ruff, coaching the Devils, Tom Renney and John Tortorella.
Patrick Roy appears to be the only one of Drury’s teammates, other than Craig Berube, who is coaching the Blues, that has been an NHL head coach. Former Islanders coach Doug Weight was a teammate on the 2004 World Cup team and 2002 & 2006 Olympic teams.
Roy won the Jack Adam’s award in 2013-14 and led Colorado to the playoffs before missing the playoffs the next two seasons.
Drury did just hire former Islanders head coach Jack Capuano to be the coach for Team USA at the World Championships. Capuano has been an assistant with Ottawa the past two seasons. Drury hired Peter Laviolette to coach Team USA at the World Championships last year before the tournament was canceled. Laviolette is currently coaching the Capitals. Drury hired current Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill to coach team USA at the 2019 World Championships. Former Penguins and Sabres coach Dan Bylsma has also been an assistant for Team USA at tournaments where Drury has been involved.
Drury played under Laviolette at the 2004 World Championships and 2006 Olympics, Ron Wilson at the 2004 World Cup, and 2010 Olympics, the late Herb Brooks at the 2002 Olympics and Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson at the 97 and 98 World Championships.
Adam Rotter: While the Rangers went the college and development route with David Quinn it is almost certain that the next head coach will be one with not just NHL experience, but high level success.
The first name to discuss is obviously John Tortorella. Torts has the obvious connections in that he coached the Rangers, Drury was his captain, Artemi Panarin had success with him in Columbus and it’s believed that Tortorella and James Dolan still have a fairly good relationship. Is Tortorella a match? Probably not and it probably goes both ways. Tortorella would certainly bring back the level of grit and team defense that has been missing to a large degree since he was fired, but would he be the right fit with the players assembled as they are? Probably not and I’m not even sure Tortorella would want to deal with all that comes with coaching the Rangers. I just get the feeling that Tortorella would prefer to coach in a quieter market and that certainly won’t be here.
The next name that is sure to be talked about is Kris Knoblauch after Drury hired him to coach the Wolf Pack and he had success in his run this year while David Quinn was out with Covid. Hiring Knoblauch, who is considered to be similar to Quinn in how he communicates and creates relationships with players would mean that the Rangers want the same kind of coach they have now, but want the message delivered by someone else. I think he’s a bit of a long shot, especially with the thought that experience will be a driving factor in who the next coach is.
Tocchet has been saddled with all of the issues that come with coaching the Coyotes and made the playoffs in one of his four-years. He had great success and helped win two cups with the Penguins under Mike Sullivan and he is said to be, like David Quinn was, a great communicator with his players. He is going to be a top candidate for most of the openings and some believe he will join his former Penguins teammate Ron Francis and become the first coach of Seattle.
Claude Julien has won a Stanley Cup and has been a head coach every year since 2002-03. He was fired by Montreal earlier this season and may want to take a break and just collect his money from the Canadiens. Julien has often coached defensive, heavy teams with Boston and that might appeal to the Rangers, but he just doesn’t seem like a fit.
Gallant has had success in Florida and Vegas and didn’t coach this season. Columbus, where Gallant was an assistant for three years and then head coach for parts of three seasons, is thought to be very interested in him. Gallant makes sense and could be considered a favorite based upon what he did with the Panthers and Vegas but there are questions about why he was let go and why he hasn’t resurfaced yet. While there will be interest in Gallant from multiple teams, if the Rangers want him I’m sure they will get him.
Bruce Boudreau has had terrific regular season success everywhere he has been and spent the year working at the NHL Network. He’s only gotten out of the second round once and he’s always been known as more of an offensive coach whose style has been questioned about whether it works in the playoffs. He would almost certainly bring out the best offensive numbers in a bunch of players, but defense and toughness are more of what this team needs to take the next step. He’s a players coach and would probably bring out the most exciting team.
Then there is Mike Babcock, who did some TV this year and is slated to be the head coach for the University of Saskatchewan for this season. Babcock is still under contract to the Maple Leafs and saw his stock drop immensely after he was fired by Toronto and stories about him came out that painted him and his tactics in a negative light. He’s going to get back in at some point and he would be a high profile type of coach and the kind of “big move” the Rangers have been known to make. He took over a Leafs team that was in the sort of transition that the Rangers have been in and had some success, but the Leafs didn’t take off until he was fired and replaced by Sheldon Keefe.
Patrick Roy had great success in his first season, faltered a bit the next two years and then left the Avalanche in the lurch late in the summer of 2016. He would be the most unique and possibly the biggest boom/bust candidate of the bunch. The hope of many, at least in the media, is that he will eventually make a triumphant return to Montreal and bring them their first Stanley Cup since he was their goalie in 1993.
Bob Hartley is only 60 and while he hasn’t had a ton of NHL success since he won the Stanley Cup with Drury in 2001 he has won internationally. He was Drury’s first NHL coach so he would know how he deals with young players, which the Rangers will still have many of. I think he could be the dark horse candidate.
I wonder about Bylsma who Drury has a relationship with from USA Hockey. Bylsma has been an assistant with Detroit for the past three seasons after two seasons as head coach in Buffalo. His struggles in Buffalo have sort of taken Bylsma out of the spotlight for head coaching positions, but he took a young Penguins team to the Stanley Cup in 2009. He could be another under-the-radar candidate.
Whenever any job with the Rangers opens up there is always a question of Mark Messier. I do not think Mark Messier will be a candidate for this job. He has no coaching experience and the experience of just being “Mark Messier” is not going to be enough. Messier was passed over by Glen Sather for Alain Vigneault and has not had much in connection, at least in an official way,with the team since.
There are probably some other candidates, but these are the ones that seem most likely based on what the Rangers are likely to look for in their next coach. Despite all the turmoil that has surrounded the Rangers in one way, shape or form all season they still have the most desirable opening. Seattle and the ability to build a team from the ground up is also appealing, but the Rangers are on the cusp of contending and will probably be able to get who they want.