In our next installment of New York Rangers: The Good, the Bad, and the Uncertain we shine the spotlight on head coach Gerard Gallant.
The Blueshirts hired the 58 year veteran bench boss with nine NHL seasons of coaching experience this summer to take them to the next level. He has the team off to an excellent start, but a recent three game losing streak will put him to the test.
Still, you can’t deny his immediate impact just 12 games into the 2021-22 campaign. At 6-3-3, it’s their best start in years and has many thinking the playoffs are legitimately within reach.
While it is too early to make any definitive remarks, let’s quickly look at what can be deemed Good, Bad, and Uncertain so far.
Gerard Gallant: The Good
Great motivator: The Rangers have found ways to win this season that was lacking for several years during the rebuild. Prime examples of games where they did bend but not break are wins in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Seattle. All those games were on the road and decided in the third period or later.
Player’s coach: When Gallant was hired, several people went on record lauding his communication with players. Team Canada’s GM Roberto Luongo commended Gallant’s work in winning Gold at the WC this summer. He noted how players would run through a wall for him. Jaromir Jagr said the veterans on the team will love him. He attributed that to Gallant being a star player in his playing days and understanding what that meant. So far, the players are responding to him.
Excellent in-game management: One of the key qualities the Rangers were looking for in their search for a new coach was someone who had a “feel” for the game. A veteran that could make the appropriate moves and get results. One prime example happened in Toronto when he paired Panarin and Zibanejad midway through the game and they picked up the OT winner.
Favors veterans over kids: Sometimes a positive for one player could be a negative for others. Make no mistake about it, Gallant is looking to win hockey games not develop kids. That’s concerning since Alexis Lafrenière has found himself on the 4th line in his sophomore year and rookie Nils Lundkvist has been scratched several times. One could counter that he’s sticking with Kaapo Kakko on the second line RW, but if we’re being honest what other options does he have? Also rolling out Greg McKegg on the 4th line, or promoting Kevin Rooney to the third line when Morgan Barron is sitting in Hartford doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. As for scratching Lundkvist, has Jarred Tinordi been better? The answer is no.
Overvalues grit over skill: This may also go hand and hand with favoring veterans over kids. I get valuing grit, which many of the veterans on this team bring. GM Chris Drury went out and got players like Barclay Goodrow, Ryan Reaves, and Sammy Blais for that purpose. However, was keeping Dryden Hunt on the roster over Vitali Kravtsov worth the consequences? That’s a big negative.
Developing young players: To be fair, Gallant has had some success with younger players, at least in Florida. We are 12 games in and I’m likely not seeing everything when it comes to Lafrenière and Lundkvist. Both young players have had their struggles for certain. My issue is that others seem to as well but aren’t being dropped to the 4th line or scratched. Jury is still out here, but the red flag is up.
Relying too much on feel: The NHL is moving more and more to analytics. This isn’t breaking news, but Gallant isn’t a big numbers guy. It’s supposedly why he was unceremoniously fired from the Panthers and eventually with the Golden Knights. With so many teams using that data to make some decisions, Gallant may rely too much on his gut. That’s great when it works, but when it doesn’t it’s hard to explain some choices without numbers to back your moves.
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