While player after player took the virtual stand for the New York Rangers’ exit interviews on Monday, head coach David Quinn was a notable absence; not made available to the media.
The Blueshirts’ season ended on Saturday night as they’ve technically missed the postseason for a fourth-straight year, even though they were swept out of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers last season upon the NHL’s expanded postseason return from its COVID-19 hiatus.
Quinn has been at the Rangers’ helm for each of the last three seasons — the hotshot coach from Boston University becoming the face behind the bench of a team that admitted it would be undergoing a rebuild while putting stress on aggregating youthful, promising talent to set up sustained success.
All things considered, the Rangers are ahead of the rebuilding schedule after that famous letter was sent to fans in 2018. They signed Artemi Panarin, acquired two major young prospects in Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere at the draft, brought on major youthful defensemen in Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller, and Ryan Lindgren.
A fifth-place finish this year, however, in the toughest division in hockey that had four playoff spots available this season wasn’t enough to save the jobs of president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton, who were shockingly fired just days before the end of the regular season.
Under normal circumstances, the head coach would be another casualty when a team cleans house. Yet Quinn is still here, at least for now, as new president and GM Chris Drury holds the 54-year-old’s fate in his hands.
It’s here he sees that Quinn is 96-87-25 as the Rangers’ head coach while somewhat living up to his original billing of being the guy to develop New York’s young talent. Fox and Miller are stars in the making on the blue line, but Kakko and Lafreniere have left plenty to be desired.
“He helped me a lot, for sure,” Lafreniere said. “Just getting here as a 19-year-old, you need people to help you and he was one of them who really helped me throughout the season.”
“From day one they just harped on me being a complete player,” Fox added. “They knew I could defend. They helped me elevate my game.”
But the overarching theme of the Rangers’ season-ending media availability was that this team is not content with moral victories, or getting close to the playoffs.
“Our attitude, starting right now when we leave the rink, is we’re making the playoffs next year,” veteran forward Chris Kreider said. “That’s our goal in everything that we do, everything that we work toward over the course of the summer going into the preseason is going to be built toward that one goal.
“Talk is cheap. It’s something that we’ve talked about and said that we want to do for a while. And now, we have to act on it and get ready through the course of this summer to show up and be ready to do that.”
For now, it remains to be seen if Drury truly believes that Quinn can be the navigator to steer the Rangers to that hopeful destination.