Rangers playoff series vs. Panthers features 2 elite NHL coaches

NHL: New York Rangers at Arizona Coyotes
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers face off in the Eastern Conference Final, beginning next Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, two of the most respected coaches in the game will be behind the benches. It’s an intriguing subplot to what should be a memorable best-of-7 series to decide who will play in the 2024 Stanley Cup Final.

Somehow, neither Peter Laviolette of the Rangers nor Paul Maurice of the Panthers are finalists for the Jack Adams Award, presented to the NHL coach of the year. This despite Laviolette leading the Rangers to the most wins (55) and points (114) in franchise history, guiding them to their fourth Presidents’ Trophy. And Maurice’s Panthers finished first in the Atlantic Division and had 110 points, second most in franchise history.

But neither veteran coach is concerned with personal awards. Each wants only one trophy, the Stanley Cup. And that’s an area where Laviolette has the edge on Maurice. Laviolette won the Stanley Cup as coach of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. Maurice has taken two teams to the Cup Final but never won, including the Panthers last season when they lost in five games to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Laviolette has also lost twice in the Stanley Cup Final, in 2010 with the Philadelphia Flyers and 2017 with the Nashville Predators.

Between them, Laviolette (164) and Maurice (124) have coached 288 Stanley Cup Playoff games. So, this won’t exactly be Laviolette against rookie NHL coach Spencer Carbery of the Washington Capitals in the first round this postseason, nor even against Rod Brind’Amour, a successful six-season coach with the Carolina Hurricanes who’s had an up-and-down playoff history, in the just-completed second round.

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Rangers, Panthers coaches among most successful in NHL history

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Boston Bruins at Florida Panthers
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Maurice is the winningest active coach in the NHL and his 869 regular-season wins are fourth all-time behind coaching legends Scotty Bowman (1,244), Joel Quenneville (969) and Barry Trotz (914). Only Bowman has coached more games (2,141) in NHL history than Maurice (1,848).

So, yes, that means no other bench boss has coached more games in the NHL without winning the Stanley Cup than Maurice.

Laviolette is the winningest United States-born coach in League history. His 807 victories are third overall among active coaches (Lindy Ruff has 864) and seventh all-time.

The Rangers coach has a decidedly better points percentage than his Panthers counterpart, .593 to .536. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Laviolette is 86-78 (.524) and Maurice is 62-62 (.500).

Each has been around a while and worked for a number of teams. Laviolette began his NHL coaching career as a 37-year-old with the New York Islanders in 2001-02. He’s also coached the Hurricanes, Flyers, Predators, Capitals and Rangers, making the playoffs 14 times in 22 seasons.

Maurice was just 28 when he was named Hartford Whalers coach in 1995-96. He’s also coached the Hurricanes (after they relocated from Hartford), Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets and Panthers (the past two seasons). His teams made the playoffs 10 times in 26 seasons.

Interestingly, Laviolette replaced Maurice as Hurricanes coach in the 2003-04 season. Maurice then returned the favor in Carolina when he replaced Laviolette in 2008-09.

Maurice is a quote machine, quick with one liners and quips, though able to deliver serious, powerful messages on the bench, which he’s done several times in these playoffs already. Laviolette has more of a dry sense of humor and delivers his most fiery passionate speeches for behind closed doors.

Each coach is engaging, respectful, highly-respected, thoughtful and intelligent.

And facing one another in this Eastern Conference Final is a tremendous subplot that could decide the series considering how tightly contested it’s expected to be.

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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