Dave Tippett is the right man to lead the Rangers next season

Since the moment Alain Vigneault was relieved of his coaching duties, the majority of Rangers fans have been advocating for young, new blood behind the bench. Over a month has passed since the season ended and some of those wanted coaches are off the board.

Other Teams Moving Quick

The Flames filled their coaching vacancy with former Canes coach, Bill Peters. Dallas hired NCAA coach, Jim Montgomery which could kick off a wave of coaches with no NHL bench experience coming in. Another college coach, David Quinn of B.U. appears to not want to leave, thus making Sheldon Keefe of Toronto’s affiliate, the Marlies a top candidate for the Rangers.

Keefe is a 37 year old AHL coach with limited NHL playing experience. The new age hockey fans love him because he’s very big into advanced analytics. If you listen to some of the talk, he sounds like the second coming of Scotty Bowman, but armed with a spreadsheet instead of a clipboard.

To be fair, they may be right. He is seeing the game as it is currently constituted today and should have a long career behind the bench in the NHL. Even though the Rangers are “rebuilding”, that’s a lot of pressure to put on a coach with no NHL experience in NY.

On the flip side, may I remind you all of Dallas Eakins and how that turned out.

Rangers Coaching Qualifications

James Dolan revealed in April what the Rangers are looking for in their next coach. Here are the high points:

  • Must be a developmental coach
  • Able to work with young and veteran players alike
  • Understand and use today’s analytics
  • Work with assistants and training staff to put programs into place
  • Quickly identify deficiencies and fix them
  • NHL coaching experience a plus

If you read what is written above, Sheldon Keefe appears to be able to qualify. Still, for such a big job and for one of the toughest fanbases in the NHL, that last bullet point seems more important than what we are being led to believe.

Dave Tippett fits the bill

When Tippett left Arizona, he said it was the right time to go. The team changed owners and was overhauling the organization. They got rid of players like goaltender, Mike Smith and forward, Shane Doan and looked to bring in younger players. It appeared the writing was on the wall that Tippett was likely going to be on that list of changes too.

Tippett (AP)

When Tippett left, he made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t looking to become the next NHL Network analyst, he wanted to keep coaching. Why not? The 56 year old bench boss has amassed a record of 553-413-28 during the regular season. He has the proven track record to coach in the NHL and could handle the pressures of NY during this “rebuild”.

In a recent interview with the NY Post, former coach, Dan Bylsma mentioned Tippett to the Rangers makes sense. “I’ve seen the talk that might mean a younger coach, a coach that could develop with the group as well,” Bylsma told the Post. “There are always coaches that are on their way up, so to speak. They are viewed as development coaches, I guess.”

When he spoke of Tippett he said, “We’ve seen him behind a NHL bench before. So why isn’t Dave Tippett a development coach? He’s developed players for a long time.” That sounds like an endorsement from one veteran coach to another. So why not Tippett is a fair question.

The Argument Against is Weak

One of the knocks against Tippett is he is too defensive minded. If that’s the case, I’m sure Lundqvist wouldn’t mind. The truth is that he loves skilled players, but like any winning coach wants them to be responsible. One of the NHL’s most talented centers, Mike Modano who played for Tippett reaffirmed that notion by saying “it was a horeshit rumor” that Tippet isn’t offensive minded.

Another knock on Tippett is that he doesn’t like young players. Young Coyotes forward, Max Domi dismissed that in his rookie year. Domi told the reporters that in one conversation, Tippett explained to him that there are times I want you to make the play, and others where you need to play if safe. Ultimately, he knows mistakes will come but he needs him to learn from them.

“That’s the biggest thing for me, that sense of comfort and trust he has in me and that understanding that that’s what my game is. At the same time, he’s trying to teach me when I shouldn’t be doing those things so it’s been a great relationship.” – Max Domi

As far as the new age hockey fans are concerned, Tippett embraces analytics as well. Early in his career, Tippett developed his own set of numbers and did the calculations by hand. He also embraced the hiring of new Arizona GM, John Chayka before departing due to philosophical differences with the organization.

Rebuild or Not, New York is a tough place to learn

Whether or not this is a true rebuild or just a retool, NY is a tough place to be in. Sheldon Keefe does have the makings of a great future coach, but handling the NY media and the crowd during struggles might be a tall order on top of learning to coach in the NHL.

Dave Tippett may just be the perfect fit. Before Alain Vigneault was hired, he was one of my top coaching candidates to replace John Tortorella. Tippett did win the Jack Adams award in 2012 after getting the Coyotes back into the playoffs after 8 years. The guy knows how to win, and he knows how to get the most out of the talent he has in the lineup.

In the end, I believe the Rangers will be looking at either Keefe or Tippett. When all is said and done, the Rangers will take the experience over potential for 2018-19. It’s comes off as the safe play, but it is also the right one.


Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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