Rangers next phase under Gerard Gallant isn’t focused on developing kids

By Forever Blueshirts
Jan 22, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) reacts with center Filip Chytil (72) after scoring a goal against Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at the PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The dust has settled regarding who the next coach of the New York Rangers will be. Gerard Gallant was officially announced last week as the 36th bench boss of the Blueshirts. One thing that should be clear to all fans of the team, the focus is no longer on developing kids.

David Quinn was the right man for the “old” job

For all his perceived faults, David Quinn was brought in from the College ranks because of his experience developing young hockey players for the NHL. His mandate was clear, win hockey games but develop the prized prospects at the same time.

That is not an easy thing to do, but to Quinn’s credit he took a struggling Pavel Buchnevich and helped him become a top six winger that is a threat on the PK. Adam Fox went from rookie sensation to Norris Trophy Finalist in just his second season. He transitioned the team from an aging Henrik Lundqvist to his heir Igor Shesterkin and that was no easy task.

gerard gallant player development
Nov 7, 2019; Raleigh, NC, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox (23) is congratulated by center Artemi Panarin (10) and right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) after scoring a third period empty net goal against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Rangers won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Quinn also took K’Andre Miller and cemented him as a top-4 defenseman even when there were stretches he appeared to struggle. Quinn let him work that out while playing over 20 minutes.

It took longer than expected but Alexis Lafrenière climbed the depth chart to supplant Chris Kreider at left wing. Kaapo Kakko has shown flashes but lacks consistency in his finish, and we barely saw what Vitali Kravtsov can do since he came over late. A pretty good job when you look back.

All this and Quinn managed to keep this team above .500 in his last two seasons. He got them into the qualifying round in year two, and finished fifth in an impossible division that has the 4th place Islanders two wins away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final.

Quinn’s body of work has earned him respect around the league. He’s interviewed for almost every vacant coaching job and is a potential finalist for the Seattle Kraken position. There’s no doubt in my mind that he will be a head coach again.

Gallant’s focus is on winning and making the playoffs

Gerard Gallant was a star player in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings prior to becoming a head coach. He’s been successful in all three NHL stops which includes the Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, and Vegas Golden Knights. The 57 year-old coach has a record of 270-216-4-51 for a .550 points percentage.

He was brought in to win, and to make the playoffs. Which is something that Chris Drury has been asked to do from owner James Dolan.

“We are excited to announce that Gerard will be the next Head Coach of the New York Rangers,” Drury said in Gallant’s official hiring announcement. “His vast experience and success behind the bench at several levels make him the ideal choice to lead our team on the ice.”

“Obviously excited!” Gallant said in his first interview as Rangers coach. “To get a chance to get down there and coach that team,” Gallant continued. “We’ve got some real good young prospects and very good veteran players – so it’s an up and coming team and we’re looking forward to that.”

Winning will come at the cost of player development

Yet winning will come at a price, and Gallant will not be dictated by the same mandate Quinn was under. In other words, he won’t play Vitali Kravtsov or Kaapo Kakko on the third line unless they are willing to play like third liners should. That of course can mean different things for different teams, but Gallant’s past teams usually have some bite to them, and he gets that from his bottom six.

Same goes for the defense, especially prospect Nils Lundqvist. It would not shock me if he were to start in Hartford just to get used to the fast and physical play of pro hockey in North America. Gallant isn’t here to teach him how to handle it at the NHL level.

That doesn’t mean Gallant can’t help young players grow, but I believe the leash with kids will be a lot shorter under his tenure than it was with Quinn. This summer, it is expected that the overstock of prospects will be converted into NHL ready players that will be more role oriented. So the problems Quinn faced with say Julien Gauthier, Kravtsov, and Kakko fighting for minutes will be taken care of.

I just wonder how long it will be before fans who monitor Alexis Lafrenière’s or Kaapo Kakko’s minutes turn on the new coach? One game? Ten? We will find out – just understand this was the logical next step when fans called for release of the last coach.

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