Should the Rangers give Gerard Gallant another year to reach championship expectations?

Rangers' part ways with Gallant's coaching staff
New York Rangers coach Gerard Gallant, back right, gestures to players during the third period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the San Jose Sharks in San Jose, Calif., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
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A first-round exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is always a tough pill to swallow – especially if the talent on your roster was in “win-now” mode. That’s where the New York Rangers currently find themselves after being blanked in Game 7 Monday night. 

A year that began full of high expectations crashed down in the span of a single week. A 2-0 series lead against a division rival vanished in a matter of days, and the stars that were brought in to help the Blueshirts reach those high aspirations were helpless under the weight of certain failing stars. 

There’s really no other way to put it. Someone must pay for the Rangers’ playoff failure. With the massive trades made during the season by the front office and a majority of the roster locked into long-term contracts, there seems to be only one man that could be seen as the scapegoat for the team’s inability to get out of the first round. 

And that’s head coach Gerard Gallant. 

It’s crazy to think that Gallant could be on his way out of the Rangers after two of the most successful seasons to start his run in New York. His win percentage through two seasons is the highest of any Rangers coach and they’ve been in the playoffs for the last two years while they struggled to reach that point under David Quinn. 

But expectations changed the minute the Rangers reached the Eastern Conference Finals in 2022. The fact Gallant was able to ride Igor Shesterkin through the postseason and orchestrated the Kid Line to perfection showed that the team was ready to win now. 

And they just didn’t do that during the 2022-23 NHL season. Whether it was starting 10-9-4 to start the year with questions already swirling about the coach’s dismissal, or struggling to adjust to the Devils’ speed in round one with some of the best all-around skaters across the league, the Rangers coaching staff has been a simple target for fans.

After the Rangers brought in Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane through the trade deadline, the expectations reached a fever pitch. The talent on New York’s roster has never been greater and it would be up to Gallant and the coaching staff to fit those pieces in. 

The issue is that it never materialized. 

“Talent doesn’t mean a thing… You’ve got to play together and work together… I love to have talent, but you love to have work ethic and more forecheck and stuff like that,” Gallant said after their Game 7 loss. 

So what happens to the Rangers and Gerard Gallant? The team failing to meet the high expectations means that someone has to take responsibility. It’s hard for the general manager to take the blame when he brought in excellent pieces to add to the roster. It’s hard to put all the onus on the players when many are locked into long-term deals. 

With Gallant’s future now in question, it’s clear that if there’s a scapegoat to be made for 2023’s failures, it’ll fall down to the head coach. 

And it’s not like Gallant helped himself at any point in New York’s disaster first-round exit.  

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