The New York Rangers are in the market for a new head coach and there are plenty of veteran minds, and young talents that could fit what the team needs heading into the 2023 offseason.
After a disappointing first-round exit that saw the end of Gerard Gallant’s tenure after two seasons, general manager Chris Drury now must embark on the difficult task of finding the right coach for a veteran roster with championship aspirations. Many fans and analysts have already decided that the team needs a strong veteran presence that knows how to win in the NHL while being able to develop some of the younger talents the team already has.
That may not be the best overall decision though for New York.
Consider this, the three best coaches in the NHL currently are all still in their first stints as the head man for the job. Jon Cooper, Jared Bednar, and Rod Brind’Amour each have built teams that have grown to be some of the best organizations in hockey with little experience leading up to their tenures with their current teams. Of the three of them, three Stanley Cup Championship wins have followed.
The measure of a coach isn’t how much they’ve experienced in past stints with organizations. In truth, just because a coach has playoff experience or simply experience leading a club doesn’t mean success will follow. There’s a reason experienced coaches were fired in the first place and if they don’t learn from their mistakes – as many don’t – the stints in new places could be very short.
That’s essentially what happened to Gallant and the Rangers. New York ignored the cause of what made Gallant’s previous tenures so short and hoped that he would change his ways from the experience he gained. That wasn’t the case and the Blueshirts are now picking up the pieces.
While most want the Rangers to go after an experienced veteran coach because of the veteran roster and lack of in-game experience a new mind would bring – perhaps that’s exactly what the team actually needs. Newer minds bring fresh ideas and purpose to organizations like Colorado and Tampa Bay experienced.
In reality, a coach’s job is to have his team prepared and on the same page throughout the season. A leader doesn’t need to be experienced to know how to get the most out of his players. As long as he communicates well, is able to understand when to adjust, and develops younger talent, any coach can be successful.
With that in mind, there are plenty of coaches out there in the AHL, as well as assistants that could be the kind of leader in the clubhouse that the Rangers need.
The first name that comes to mind is Kris Knoblauch of the Hartford Wolf Pack. Knoblauch has done a great job of developing the Rangers’ AHL affiliates and has shown the ability to adjust in-game. He only has filled in recently when COVID protocols hit the Blueshirts but has seen what life is like behind an NHL bench.
Other names like Spencer Carbery, Paul McFarland, and Jay Leach could also be in consideration and are considered “fast risers” in the coaching ranks.
There is also an outlier to this experience rule when it comes to Andrew Brunette. Brunette is the assistant in New Jersey and had the Florida Panthers in the playoffs as the President Trophy winners just a season ago. While he lacks the experience of other long-time coaches that are looking for jobs, he could be a tantalizing idea for Drury to consider as a leader for the Rangers.
New York could go in a lot of different ways with their head coaching position. But just because an experienced mind is one that the fanbase wants, doesn’t mean that’s actually in the best interest of the organization’s future. There are plenty of young minds that can grow with the young core the Rangers have while continuing to win and produce at a high level.
Almost every team should be looking to mirror how the Lightning, Avalanche, and Hurricanes have built their franchise but that absolutely starts with the head coaching hire. The Rangers should not take that thought process lightly.