Who are the top candidates to be next New York Rangers coach
Just when you thought the New York Rangers were ready to name Peter Laviolette their next head coach, another veteran gets added to the mix.
When the Nashville Predators dismissed John Hynes in favor of Andrew Brunette on Monday, GM Chris Drury sought permission to speak with him per the NY Post.
Initially, I did not think he would be under serious consideration. The Rangers are a Stanley Cup contender and Hynes has zero playoff series wins and just four postseason appearances in an 8 year NHL coaching career.
Yet here we are with the Stanley Cup Final starting on Saturday and no new head coach for Blueshirts.
Who is on the list for next Rangers coach
On Thursday, the Pittsburgh Penguins named Kyle Dubas the president of hockey operations. During his introductory press conference, he absolutely crushed whatever little hope the Rangers had of head coach Mike Sullivan becoming available.
“[Sullivan] can coach forever,” Dubas said. “He’s a great coach. There’s no real expiration date on Mike.”
Meanwhile in Toronto, new GM Brad Treliving said he was going to get to know Sheldon Keefe before making a decision. Although he wants to do it quickly, the Rangers can’t sit and wait for too long or they could miss out on the only two available head coaches with any recent NHL experience.
Remember, the Rangers have reportedly scratched off Joel Quenneville, Darryl Sutter, and Mike Babcock off their list. If Drury wanted to go with a rookie coach, he missed out on Spencer Carbery to the Washington Capitals.
So let’s breakdown the available candidates and where I think they rank for the Blueshirts.
New York Rangers coaching candidates
Peter Laviolette (752-503-25-150)
The 58 year-old is still the front-runner to land the Rangers job in my opinion. He was fired by the Capitals after they missed the playoffs this season and is the safest bet because he’s the only Stanley Cup winning coach on the list (Carolina Hurricanes 2005-06). Mollie Walker of the NY Post also noted that Drury has a connection to Laviolette having played for him at the 2006 Olympics for Team USA.
Patrick Roy (130-92-24)
Chris Drury’s former teammate with the Colorado Avalanche is a proven winner as a player. Although his NHL coaching record with the Avs is solid, he and Joe Sakic did not see eye-to-eye before his departure. However, Roy did win the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year as a rookie bench boss with the Avs in 2014. He’s also been known to have a big temper, and that could be a combustible mix with the fiery Drury. Currently, the 57 year-old is coaching the Quebec Remparts, who are awaiting their opponent in the Memorial Cup Final which concludes on Sunday.
John Hynes (284-254-63)
While Drury has a reportedly good relationship with the 48 year-old coach from their playing days at Boston University, I believe this is a hard sell to Rangers ownership. Hynes has a playoff coaching record of just 4-15 (.211 winning percentage) and that’s not something James Dolan is going to get excited about. Despite being known as an excellent mind for strategy, he’s never been able to win when it counts. He’s still one of the few experienced options out there, so that’s playing in his favor.
Kris Knoblauch (AHL: 112-87-0-31)
Hartford Wolf Pack coach Kris Knoblauch is considered one of the bright young minds in the game. The 44 year-old has no real NHL head coaching experience except for acting as a stand-in for both David Quinn and Gerard Gallant during bouts with COVID. He did serve as an assistant coach for Dave Hakstol with the Philadelphia Flyers from 2017 to 2019. If it were up to me to go with a rookie head coach, the choice would easily be Knoblauch. Simply because he knows some of the young players already and the transition would be easier.
Jay Leach (AHL: 138-77-0-27)
Leach, 43, played parts of 5 seasons in the NHL as a defenseman for the Devils, Bruins, Lightning, and Sharks. The Syracuse, New York native recorded 1 goal and 2 assists for 3 points in 70 games with 60 penalty minutes. The up-and-coming coach was a late season replacement for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, who lost in the second-round of the Calder Cup playoffs in 2015-16. He was then named the head coach for the Providence Bruins in 2017-18 for the next four seasons before joining Dave Hakstol as an assistant in Seattle.