Top questions a new Rangers coach must answer in 1st year with team

Rangers dominate Capitals 5-2
New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafrenière (13) celebrates his goal with defenseman Jacob Trouba, right, and center Filip Chytil (72) during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals, Sunday, April 2, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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The search for a new head coach seems to be winding down for the New York Rangers. While all signs point to Peter Laviolette being named the 37th coach in franchise history, nothing has been finalized just yet. 

When the deal officially gets announced though, it’ll mean New York has acquired one of the more successful coaches in recent NHL history to try and get their young team over the playoff hump. Laviolette is expected to join a team full of top talent and budding superstars – there are worse places he could’ve picked to be a head coach again. 

That being said, a team with championship aspirations doesn’t leave a lot of room for slow success. Players will need to buy in quickly to hit the ground running during the 2023 season, and Laviolette will need to show his chops early if the Rangers are going to be successful in his first year. 

These are the top questions Laviolette, or the incoming Rangers’ head coach must answer during his first year on the job.

How can he develop the kids into budding superstars?

This is an incredibly important season for Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere, and Kaapo Kakko. All three are coming off career years but if the Rangers are to be successful in 2023, those numbers will need to be eclipsed even more so. Kakko should expect to see more playing time on the right side regardless but how Laviolette handles the kids is a major key going into the new season. 

If he can find a way to get the most out of these young stars, New York can loudly exclaim they made the right hiring. If not, then it would arguably say more about the team’s draft process that several high picks continue to lack in NHL production. 

Can he help fix Artemi Panarin’s playoff woes?

Most of the Rangers’ top-line stars had an abysmal postseason against the New Jersey Devils. If you add up all the struggles they’ve had in the last two playoff series, New York needs to find a coach that can get these high-priced players playing up to their contract when it matters most. 

Laviolette’s job will ultimately be to win when it matters most, but finding the right formula for Artemi Panarin to be successful in the playoffs is a key part of it. Otherwise, the Rangers are spending a lot of money on continued playoff absences. 

Will his experience in the Metro help the Rangers?

All signs point to Laviolette joining another team in the Metropolitan division. That makes it five teams now that have been under his tutelage in the toughest division in hockey. 

With so much knowledge of the entire division, does Laviolette’s experience help New York in 2023? To get where the team needs to go, they’ll most likely have to beat two of their division rivals to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. Laviolette’s experience could very well help to face some of the tougher teams the Rangers will play this season. 

Of course, the Capitals’ last season (Laviolette’s last year with the team) went 0-4 against the Devils and Hurricanes. They went 3-0-1 against the Islanders though so that could help!

What does player development look like to him?

We mentioned the kids but how do the young players on the cusp of the major league roster improve? That’s another question the new coach must answer this season. Several prospects are on the cusp of taking the step to be with the Rangers this season, but that will also be determined by the head coach’s feelings toward young players. 

Players like Will Cuylle, Zac Jones, and even Brennan Othmann are expected to compete for playing time this year – will Laviolette look past them for more of a veteran presence? Those questions will need to be answered early in the new guy’s tenure. 

Can he adjust in-game, and do those adjustments work?

This is arguably the single-most important question for New York’s head coach going into the 2023 season. In a division with so many excellent hockey teams, the small differences that coaches bring ultimately can decide between moving and going home in the playoffs. 

Can Laviolette, or any head coach be able to adjust in-game to an opposing team and provide the adjustments necessary to put the Rangers on top? If that’s the coach Laviolette can be, New York is going to be extremely successful in 2023. 

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