What is delaying the Rangers in naming a head coach?

Former Washington Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette is considered to be one of the front runners for the Rangers head coaching job.

Former Washington Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette is considered to be one of the front runners for the Rangers head coaching job.

Sam Mendlowitz

The New York Rangers head coaching vacancy is the most coveted in the sport this year. Since relieving Gerard Gallant of his duties on May 6, President and General Manager Chris Drury is in the middle of his second head coaching search in just two years at the helm. While the team has interviewed a few candidates, over a month into the process, it doesn’t seem like we are as close to hiring someone as we initially thought. What could be holding up this delay?

The main reason behind Gallant’s dismissal wasn’t so much their play on the ice. He had constant disagreements and arguments with Drury. That was highlighted by their fight behind close doors following their game four loss to the New Jersey Devils in round one. Many players, most notably veterans, said that the veteran coach lacked attention to detail and smaller areas of the game during their end of year meetings with the team. Undoubtedly the team will be looking for an experienced coach who can get them a Stanley Cup, pay attention to the x’s and o’s, and work well with Drury. Drury is a more private and secretive executive and has kept a large portion of the process close to his vest. The team interviewed Jay Leach and Spencer Carbery. Leach is too young and inexperienced and Carbery got hired in Washington. Kris Knoblauch, the Rangers AHL affiliates Hartford Wolf Packs coach, is not a candidate either. Mike Sullivan, Mike Babcock, Sheldon Keefe, and Darryl Sutter are all off of the table. Patrick Roy isn’t a candidate. It appears to be down to John Hynes and Peter Laviolette. 

One possibility is that they are waiting on the news on Joel Quinniville. Quinnville is the second winningest head coach in league history and won three Stanley Cups in a six year span with the Chicago Blackhawks. But his career is overshadowed by the Kyle Beach scandal, when Quinniville helped cover it up and refused to comply with the league. He is suspended indefinitely by the league. Commissioner Gary Bettman is expected to meet with him sometime soon, but that will be well after the playoffs, the draft, and free agency ends. Bettman controls the news and under no circumstances would he want Quinniville to distract from the draft or free agency. The expectation is that if Quinniville is reinstated, it would be later in the summer and well after the current coaching cycle. Quinniville is not why the Rangers are waiting.

Another theory is that the Rangers aren’t satisfied with the current candidates. At this point, Drury has interviewed both Hynes and Laviolette. He is familiar with both, having played for Laviolette at the 2006 Olympics and having been teammates with Hynes at Boston University many years ago. He already knows everything he needs. It seems as if he is still debating the two, or praying that someone else becomes available. The latter is extremely unlikely. Laviolette pays attention to the smaller details and would certainly apply to many of the needs the Rangers would need. The problem is that he hasn’t had a ton of recent success. He hasn’t won a playoff series since 2017-18 and missed the postseason this past season with Washington. He has lots of familiarity with the Metropolitan Division, having previously coached the New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, and Washington. He is a recycled coach. The Rangers might want that, as Florida and Vegas both have done on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals this year, but it is very possibly he wants a fresher mind. 

Hynes is a good defensive first coach and focuses more on the x’s and o’s and play in the defensive zone. Many are unsure of this style and how it will sit with the team’s top players. He also hasn’t had any playoff success. In four trips over eight seasons with the New Jersey Devils and Nashville Predators, he has a record of four wins and 15 losses. He has never gotten out of the first round. While the two remain very close to each other, I would say that they each have a 45% chance of getting the job. The other 10% would be for a “wild card” candidate. 

They could possibly be finalizing the coaching staff. Mike Kelly and Jim Migid, two of Gallant’s assistants, were let go. Gord Murphy, who was the other assistant under Gallant, will have his future decided by the incoming coach, although it is unlikely that they will keep him. Drury is currently at the scouting combine in Buffalo, so it will be at least another few days before a decision is made. One thing is certain, someone will be named the new coach by the draft in late June and by July 1, when free agency begins.