A Quinn-tessential Review: Analyzing DQ’s first year with the Rangers
Alain Vigneault was a pretty well respected coach for most of his tenure in New York. He brought the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final in his first year as head coach, which was immediately followed by a President’s Trophy victory the following season.
But as the playoff exits began arriving sooner and sooner into the postseason, it began to look as though a change was needed. Then, finally, after a poorly handled postseason and a trade deadline selloff the next season, Vigneault was shown the door.
Unfortunately, he’s back, and in the division as having just been named head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers. So he may haunt the Rangers as they emerge as a contender from this rebuild.
But in the wake of his firing, the Rangers brought in this not-so-well-known coach of Boston University named David Quinn. Having served as an assistant in the NHL for one year and as an AHL head coach, this seemed, maybe for some, a little questionable.
Quinn was brought to the Big Apple because he’s a teacher. He proved during his tenure as an NCAA coach that he knows how to get through to the young guys. And the Rangers have an incredibly young team.
This season was shaky at times, and he certainly made mistakes. But Quinn has cemented himself as the right man for the rebuild.
Quinn was an excellent mentor for the younger Rangers this season. Earlier in the season, it was reported that he would take his rookies out to breakfast every game day because he wanted them to respect him and build a relationship, rather than be scared.
A major difference between Quinn and his predecessor was the way he handled younger players. Quinn benched the neophytes if they played poorly and demoted them to lower lines if need be. But one thing he didn’t do is lock them in a crate and throw the key away.
This is one thing that Pavel Buchnevich once said was a major issue with AV. He would punish the youngsters for making poor plays and not allow them to find their game on the ice. He made the kids play safe, and they were punished every time they tried to get creative and use the real skill they possess.
Quinn’s benchings were justified because he still allowed the team to find their game and test their skills on the ice. He encourages the creativity and learning. The only time Quinn benched players was due to glaring mistakes that no one, at any age, should make, or due to a lack of production and/or effort; but it was seldom for being too creative or trying new things.
On this same note though, Quinn needs to improve his consistency when it comes to benching players. Filip Chytil, Neal Pionk, Pavel Buchnevich and many more all were scratched at times due to poor play. Yet, rookie Brett Howden was not. Howden showed excellent potential this season at times, but he made a plethora of bad errors. He turned the puck over a lot and was not the best decision maker. But he never saw the bench. Nor did Jimmy Vesey, who also committed enough errors at times to earn a trip to the “Quinn Bin.”
One area that Quinn excelled at this season was his honesty. He knows he’s a rookie coach and that he may make an occasional boneheaded decision. Every time he did something wrong or noticed an area he could improve, he made that known. Quinn made it a norm to analyze his performance during press conferences, as well as the performances of his players. He did not shy away from acknowledging mistakes or misjudgments on his end. This sort of transparency is a breath of fresh air after AV, who was not one to often admit his mistakes.
One of the mistakes he did not apologize for though, was his questionable decision to carry 11 forwards and seven defensemen for a large portion of the year, playing Brendan Smith on the fourth line. Creating unique combinations and trying new things is never a bad thing, especially with a young team. That being said, there were always actual forwards who would end up on the bench in favor of Smith. Unfortunately, Smith was only played as a forward due to how bad he was at his actual position. Regardless, it would’ve been nicer to see the gritty Connor Brickley, an actual fourth liner, the popular Boo Nieves, or maybe even forward prospect Tim Gettinger, instead of Smith.
The most promising part of Quinn’s methodology and performance this season was the respect he earned. Despite the fact that this was a wild ride of a season with plenty of changes and instability, Quinn was able to get his team playing extremely hard every single night. Even after the Rangers were eliminated from playoff contention, they came out with the same intensity and grit. He has already instilled in the minds of his players what the words “compete level” mean in his eyes, and they’ve fully bought into it.
Quinn is the right guy for this job. He has gotten through to the young players and hammered home his relentlessly competitive ideology. He made rookie mistakes like the inconsistency with his benchings, too many penalties for too many men, and some lineup decisions. But, all in all, Quinn did a remarkable job in his first year.
Season Grade: A-