New York Rangers 2023-24 report cards: Grading the coach, GM

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

A historic regular season and disappointing playoff finish are behind the New York Rangers, who scattered to their respective homes around the world a week ago. Though there’s plenty of offseason business ahead, including the 2024 NHL Draft on June 28-29 and the start of NHL free agency on July 1, it’s still worth taking a look back and handing out final reports cards.

We’ve graded each player. So, now let’s take a look at the work of coach Peter Laviolette and general manager Chris Drury.

Grading the Rangers forwards in 2023-34

Grading the Rangers defensemen in 2023-24

Grading the Rangers goalies in 2023-24

Grading the New York Rangers coach and general manager in 2023-24

NHL: Stadium Series-New York Rangers at New York Islanders
Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Grading players is one thing and, arguably, a bit easier than assessing the work of the front office and coaching staff. But here’s a look at the final two report cards to be handed out.

Rangers coach Peter Laviolette

Regular-season: A

Playoffs: B

You couldn’t ask for a much better first season as Rangers coach than the one Peter Laviolette just completed. He guided the Blueshirts with a steady hand to franchise records in wins (55) and points (114), and the fourth Presidents’ Trophy in Rangers history.

Only Mike Keenan in 1993-94 had more regular-season and postseason wins combined (68) than Laviolette (65) in his first season as Rangers coach.

Laviolette brought out the best in Alexis Lafreniere, who blossomed into a 28-goal scorer after the coach put him on a line with Artemi Panarin from Day 1. There was no panic, nor excuses, from the coach when Filip Chytil went down with an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion Nov. 2 and didn’t play again in the regular season. He moved Vincent Trocheck up to play with Lafreniere and Panarin, and never broke that line up the rest of the way.

He deftly guided the Rangers through injuries to Adam Fox, Kaapo Kakko, Jacob Trouba and Ryan Lindgren during the season. The coach didn’t make excuses and, by extension, neither did his team. Together, they navigated a tough stretch in January, but came out of it playing their best hockey of the season.

It’s clear Laviolette had the respect of his players, and also respected his players, trusting in his veteran leadership during the successful 82-game grind.

It was neither smooth nor perfect for Laviolette in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Certainly, his steadiness was a plus, especially late in the second round against the Carolina Hurricanes and throughout the Eastern Conference Final against the Florida Panthers. There’s no panic with this coach.

He juggled lines in the conference final, trying his best to get Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider going, to no avail. He also wasn’t afraid to remove the captain, Trouba, from the second defense pair. Perhaps, Laviolette could’ve shaken up the power play and found a way to get Lafreniere more ice time in the playoffs before the Rangers were eliminated, two wins shy of reaching the Stanley Cup Final.

All in all, though, it was a helluva run for Laviolette this season.

Rangers general manager Chris Drury

Overall grade: B+

This was the third straight 100+-point season for Chris Drury as Rangers general manager and the second time they reached the conference final in his tenure. It should be noted that most of the players were acquired by previous GMs Jeff Gorton and Glen Sather. But Drury has done a good job keeping this core together and adding to it for three seasons.

Drury deserves a lot of credit for getting it right with the coach. He hired Laviolette, who’s much more of a detailed tactician than his predecessor Gerard Gallant, and that couldn’t have worked out better. Drury also stuck to his guns and refused to trade Lafreniere last offseason when many had given up on the former No. 1 overall pick. Certainly, Lafreniere repaid that trust.

His moves last offseason, with almost no maneuverability under the salary cap, deserve praise, too. Jonathan Quick was an absolute revelation as the No. 2 goalie. The three-time Stanley Cup winner turned the clock back at age 37 and was a huge addition for the Rangers. Erik Gustafsson played well above expectation on the third defensive pair all season, and did so for $825,000. Blake Wheeler was not his old productive self on the ice before his season-ending knee injury but was a widely-respected leader, for just $800,000. Drury missed with Nick Bonino and Tyler Pitlick, but, again, neither cost much in the way of dollars.

Drury ultimately played it safe with his two significant moves ahead of the trade deadline. In Alex Wennberg, he added a solid third line center, who lived up to billing as an excellent defensive forward and penalty killer, who doesn’t score much and is not good in the face-off circle. Wennberg’s OT goal in Game 3 against the Panthers was a true postseason highlight, but the Rangers needed more from this spot on the roster.

The bigger miss ahead of the deadline, though, was acquiring Jack Roslovic to play right wing on the top line. Wildly inconsistent throughout his career, Roslovic provided moments of spark, but they were few and far between. He didn’t score much and ended up on the fourth line in the final game of the conference final.

Drury did hold on to the Rangers first-round pick in 2024, as well as all of their key prospects, but at what cost to this season? Perhaps swinging a bigger deal could’ve put this Rangers team over the top. Or not. We will never know. But the missed opportunity this postseason must be something that haunts Drury even just a little.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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