Leadership questions facing the NY Rangers going into next season

By Julia Capitelli
rangers questions
Apr 17, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers hits Nathan Bastian #14 of the New Jersey Devils after he ran into Igor Shesterkin #31 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers have yet to hire a head coach since firing David Quinn and his staff. The list seems to be fairly short, but Chris Drury does have options and is reportedly close to hiring one. The removal of Jeff Gorton and John Davidson came as a shock to the fanbase, so they will be watching Chris Drury’s decisions very closely. Lastly, there is the issue of naming a captain which has been a debate for multiple seasons. Now that the rebuild has been declared over, management may see this season as being the right time.

Will the fanbase be satisfied with the front office?

The dismissals of Jeff Gorton and John Davidson surprised large portions of the Rangers’ fanbase, especially considering that many fans believed they were doing an excellent job with the rebuild. Now they will have to wait to see what happens with Chris Drury serving as both President and General Manager. With Glen Sather as an adviser and James Dolan seemingly becoming more involved, will Drury’s decisions be influenced heavily by them?

Naming a head coach is the number one issue facing the front office at present. Drury has expressed how spending the last few years with Jeff Gorton has been helpful to him. Further, he has been in New York for the rebuild and understands his task now. He knows this team and what they need to succeed. Drury is clearly not rushing the coaching decision. Rangers fans are passionate and can be rather opinionated, so it’ll be interesting to see how they react to Drury’s decision.

new york rangers
Apr 13, 2021; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New York Rangers right wing Pavel Buchnevich (89) celebrates his goal with defenseman Jacob Trouba (8) and center Mika Zibanejad (93) during the third period against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Who will the next head coach be?

Gerard Gallant is the Rangers’ top candidate for head coach next season. With Canada’s recent success at the World Championships, recovering from an 0-3 start to winning gold, it makes sense that Drury and the front office are seriously considering him. Other names that have been mentioned are Rick Tocchet and more recently, Rod Brind’Amour.

Management has made it clear that the goal for next season is to make the playoffs. Therefore, they need a coach who knows how to win in the NHL. However, with so many young players still on the roster it’s important to keep player development in mind. Ultimately, the next head coach must be a skilled multitasker. There’s going to have to be a balance of developing first, second, and third year players as well as turning the team into a real contender.

Gerard Gallant has coached three different NHL teams in Columbus, Florida, and Vegas. But he was only with each club for three seasons. This may be a concern especially because of the immediate success he had with the Golden Knights in their inaugural season. There has to be a reason that a coach of a successful team gets fired. His time with the Golden Knights, however, did prove that he can coach a team in a unique situation.

John Tortorella was a name that was mentioned quite often immediately after the firing of David Quinn, but the discussion surrounding him has declined since. While his coaching style may be beneficial to the Rangers at this point, he’s not an ideal long term candidate. His style of structure, tenacity, and tough love could help the team develop a real identity. But they also need some stability. Eventually, Tortorella teams seem to lose the ability to win. So regardless of Dolan’s nostalgic feelings towards bringing him back, Tortorella is not the answer.

Rod Brind’Amour has been mentioned a few times, but of course this would require him to leave Carolina. That really doesn’t seem likely as he’s turned them into a winning team. Their second round playoff exit probably won’t be enough for Carolina to choose not to re-sign him. Part of the reason the Hurricanes have been able to achieve success is because they’ve established a culture and identity. Both of these are heavily influenced by Brind’Amour himself. It doesn’t appear that Quinn really created a strong culture with the Rangers, and it’s no secret that it’s something they need. The adversity they faced this season is sure to help them move in that direction, but it can’t stop there. They need a coach with real influence and real leadership to promote a winning culture.

Will the Rangers name a captain next season? Should they?

The Rangers have been without a captain since Ryan McDonagh. They haven’t had stability the last few years due to the rebuild, and now they need to become a cohesive team again. They’ve already developed stronger relationships and a stronger sense of community through the adversity they faced this past season. But further advancement might be achieved if driven by a leader. The coach is an important factor in creating a culture, but a captain also plays a role.

The obvious candidates for captain are Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, and Jacob Trouba. Kreider is the senoir-most Ranger and seriously made a case for himself last season. Both vocally and through example, Kreider proved that he can be a positive force and an effective leader. While Zibanejad and Trouba could also be considered, neither of them is as vocal as Kreider. Further, Chris Kreider stepped up in the absence of Artemi Panarin and when Zibanejad was experiencing a colossal slump.

Now that the Rangers are past the rebuild and are ready to be a contender, they need a leader who’s been to the playoffs. Kreider has been through multiple playoff runs with the team and seen quite a bit of change in New York. He is the right person to lead them and it’s time to name him captain.

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