Expectations and pressure are up for David Quinn

David Quinn is entering his second pro season as the Head Coach of the New York Rangers. Quinn, hired on May 23, 2018 after a lengthy and extensive coaching search by Rangers management, will face more pressure and expectations in his second year behind the bench in the Big Apple.

Rangers need a fresh face

Following the Rangers letter to season-ticket holders on February 8th, 2018 and coupled with the firing of former Head Coach Alain Vigneault on April 7th, 2018, it was clear that the Rangers desperately needed a change of philosophy behind the bench. Vigneault’s tenure in New York was quite successful but it was time for a shake-up due to a variety of reasons that included Vigneault’s questionable evaluation of talent, a lack of trust in the Rangers younger players, but most importantly, a new voice to lead and guide the Rangers through a rebuild. “AV” is a coach that thrives with a veteran roster that polices themselves and their teammates. His coaching style simply did not equate to the direction of the Rangers and the youth movement beginning to take place on Broadway.

After it became evident that the Rangers were intending to build from within through drafting and player development, the writing was on the wall that the Rangers needed a coach with a “hands-on” approach that specialized in player development. Enter: David Quinn

Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton choosing Quinn as the man to help guide and mentor the Rangers young prospects to success in the NHL was certainly a risky decision. Prior to the 2018-2019 campaign, Quinn had never coached a professional hockey team, with his only NHL experience coming as an assistant for the Colorado Avalanche during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign. However, Quinn spent 5 years as the Head Coach of the Boston University hockey team and developed a reputation as a specialist in player development, an area that the Rangers organization and previous coaching staff was lacking. During his time at BU, Quinn coached modern-day and budding NHL stars in Jack Eichel, Clayton Keller, Charlie McAvoy, and Brady Tkachuk.

Evaluating Year I

David Quinn’s rookie year as Head Coach of the Rangers was fairly successful when put in context with the expectations of the organization and the Blueshirt Faithful. Quinn regularly benched players that weren’t performing to his standards and they typically were able to learn from sitting in the press box for a game or two. Kevin Hayes was terrific under Quinn’s regime before being shipped to Winnipeg at the deadline, as he recorded 42 points in 51 games on Broadway en route to his first 50-point campaign in the NHL and a very large contract in Philadelphia.

Mika Zibanejad scored a career-high 74 points and established himself as a true #1 center playing under Quinn in 2018-2019. Filip Chytil showed flashes of his natural play-making abilities and Brett Howden had a strong start to the 2018-2019 season before dealing with injuries and inconsistency down the stretch. Ryan Strome seemed to rediscover his scoring touch following a mid-season trade to the Rangers and Chris Kreider had a terrific first half before being mired with a hamstring injury that impacted his performance. However, there’s two players in particular that I believe Quinn had a significant impact on during his first year as the Rangers bench boss: Pavel Buchnevich and Tony DeAngelo.

Developing Prospects into Players

After dealing with inconsistency issues and a couple games in the press box during the first half of the season, Buchnevich seemed to finally find his game during the 2nd half of the 2018-2019 NHL regular season as he led the Rangers in game-tying goals and scored a career-high 21 goals in just 64 games played. It appears that Quinn and “Buch” have created a solid rapport in that Buchnevich knows what the coach expects of him and that in order to receive ice time, he will have to play to Coach Quinn’s standards.

DeAngelo, like Buchnevich, struggled in the first half of the season but was able to figure it out in New York this past season with Quinn behind the bench. DeAngelo recorded 30 points in 61 games in 2018-2019 and will be looking to improve on those numbers on a more competitive Rangers squad in 2019-2020.

Quinn’s coaching style of being hard on his players and holding them accountable for their actions while simultaneously creating relationships with his players on and off the ice seemed to gel with the abundance of young talent on the Rangers roster last season. And although the Rangers only improved by 1 point compared to 2017-2018, Quinn had the Rangers playing hard and competing from training camp until Game 82 of the season in Pittsburgh.

When you finally win a game against Matt Murray…

What should Rangers fans expect in Year II?

Even though the Rangers are technically still “rebuilding,” they have added Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba to the lineup and most likely Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov, and Adam Fox as the Rangers have the potential to be a “bubble team” in 2019-2020. Unlike last season, the Rangers have the presence of elite talent on the roster and “Quinnie” will be responsible for putting his players in the best position to succeed this upcoming season.

Quinn’s first major decision will be how he chooses to deploy superstar left-winger Artemi Panarin. Quinn may opt to use Panarin with Mika Zibanejad and either Kaapo Kakko or Pavel Buchnevich on the right-wing. He also could choose to keep Kreider and Zibanejad on a line together and use Panarin to help jump-start a talented young player’s career like Filip Chytil or even fellow Russian Vitali Kravtsov. This would be similar to how Panarin helped budding star Pierre-Luc-Dubois during his two seasons in Columbus.

Quinn will also need to create and foster relationships with Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox, two newcomers on the Rangers blueline. Quinn will have to assess where Fox is at in his development and deploy him accordingly. It will be important for the Rangers bench boss to continue cultivating relationships with all of his players and staying consistent with his business-like approach to the game.

Quinn will also be responsible for managing his netminders properly in 2019-2020. Henrik Lundqvist is 37 years old and his play has certainly declined over the past few seasons. That being said, the Rangers defense in front of “Hank” didn’t do him any favors and the offensive support was not present to bail “The King” out of any games in 2018-2019. Lundqvist started 36 of the first 50 games last season before only starting 16 of the final 32 games. Quinn will be responsible for managing “Hank’s” workload this season and may have to make some difficult decisions in replacing Lundqvist in the crease with promising youngster Alex Georgiev or maybe even Igor Shestyorkin. It will be very interesting to see where the Rangers goaltending situation stands in a year from now, as Lundqvist has 2 more seasons remaining on a contract extension he signed in 2014.

All in all, David Quinn will have much more talented personnel to work with this season and the expectations from a large majority of the fanbase may be to make the playoffs. It’s those expectations that may be concerning for the amount of pressure on Quinn in 2019-2020 as the Rangers have been one of the most improved teams across the National Hockey League this summer. It’s important to keep in mind that the Rangers are only 18 months into the process of a rebuild and Quinn will be tasked with creating relationships with his new personnel and motivating a batch of young and highly skilled prospects to compete to the best of their abilities when the puck drops at MSG on October 3rd.