It’s been a couple of days since the shocking news that John Tortorella was fired which means it’s probably time to start looking at replacements. (Yes I know people have been doing this since the news broke but I thought we owed it to Torts to wait a couple of days. Plus I’m not convinced Sather has started his search yet.)
The good news in waiting a couple of days is some of the options have already been taken out. Let’s start with the ones who are not believed to be on the list:
Lindy Ruff – Word is the Rangers have yet to ask permission to speak with Ruff nor do they intend to do so. Ruff is a similar coach to Tortorella without the win record so basically this one never made sense to me. If the rumors are true that the players no longer wanted to play for a coach like Tortorella, there is no way they would play for Ruff which means there would be no sense in hiring him. (Why get rid of one coach to bring in another that will have the same exact style?)
Dave Tippett – I am a huge Tippett fan but understand the argument that he is not a good coach for the Rangers right now since he also has a similar style to Tortorella in that he is a defense-first coach. I still believe that is the only way this team, as constructed, can win but I expect them to go with a more offensive-minded option. That said, Tippett wouldn’t be an option either way as Dave Maloney has repeatedly said the Coyotes plan to re-sign him for next season. Unless it comes out the team is moving before the end of the month (which I guess is possible), I don’t expect him to go anywhere.
Wayne Gretzky – Last Friday, rumors began that Gretzky had thrown his name into the ring when he heard the job was available. Luckily for all Rangers fans, he denied that rumor yesterday and said that his name should not be included on the list of candidates. Anyone who thought this was a good option didn’t follow the Coyotes while he was their coach. Besides a losing record, he was absolutely horrible with the kids stunting the growth of many top prospects for the Coyotes organization. Bobby Holik told Andrew Gross over the weekend that not all great players make great coaches. Gretzky is a prime example of that.
As for the ones believed to be in the running:
Alain Vigneault – If I had to take a guess, Vigneault is the front runner. (The good news is I’m finally getting the hang of spelling his name so that should mean he won’t get the job.) The previous Canucks coach won the Northwest Division six out of the seven years he was head coach and is known as an offensive-minded coach. The reason I’m not sold on him is of those seven years, he only got past the second round once and that was in 2011 when the Canucks lost to the Bruins in the finals. I know the Rangers defense and goaltending is better than what he had in Vancouver but bringing someone like that in is saying the organization thinks he will bring the team to the promise land and there is nothing in his resume that says he could do that.
Dallas Eakins – On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have Eakins who the Rangers have received permission to speak with. Eakins has never coached in the NHL but won’t be able to say that come October as there are a number of teams interested in the current Marlies (AHL affiliate for Toronto) coach. I’m intrigued by Eakins. He’s a young coach who has done wonders up in Toronto with younger players. Plus he knows how to handle big market media. The question mark is how will he work with veteran players such as Ryan Callahan or Rick Nash? Honestly, that’s a risk I’m willing to take if he fits all the other criteria Sather decides he’s looking for.
Mark Messier – It kills me to put him on this list but rumor is he’s interested and since he hasn’t put it to rest as Gretzky did, we need to discuss it. My thoughts on this? NO NO NO NO NO NO NO PLEASE NO! In case you weren’t sure, I’m completely against this. Messier can more or less do no wrong in this city but what happens if this doesn’t work out? Not only do you taint his image, the organization is in an extremely sticky situation. So if you are going to do this, you need to know it will work. And we have no way of knowing that. Messier has never coached other than coaching Team Canada during two minor international tournaments and I’m sorry but that’s not enough to say he’s ready for a head coaching job in the NHL with any team, nonetheless one that is in win-now mode (which the Rangers are). Could it work out? Of course, anything is possible. But I think there is more of a possibility it doesn’t and then not only is Messier run out of town, Lundqvist will be running out the door behind him.
Personally, the fact that Messier as an option is out there, leads me to believe it’s a curve ball being thrown by the organization to distract the media because Sather never tips his hand. Just a hunch I have.
Lastly, a few names that have been thrown out there but haven’t garnered much steam:
Ex-Lightning coach Guy Boucher is supposedly a player-friendly coach who plays a defensive system. If the Rangers want to admit that Tortorella’s style worked but his personality was the reason he was fired, hiring Boucher would be the way to do it. I don’t expect that to happen so I would take him out.
Mike Sullivan, Jim Schoenfeld and Ken Gernander are all currently part of the Rangers organization and could take over the head coaching job. My guess, although stranger things have happened, is Sullivan will be out of a job by the end of the month so I would take him off the list. I haven’t heard much about Schoenfeld so I’m guessing he would prefer to keep his GM duties (assistant GM in New York, GM in Hartford) rather than take on a head coaching job so you could probably scratch him as well. Gernander is an interesting one as he has been in the organization for years and probably is looking to move up at some point. The question is do the Rangers like what he’s done in Hartford enough to give him that chance? He knows a lot of the players so I definitely think he should be an option but there are a lot of fans out there who don’t like the job he’s done in the AHL. There were also rumors the team quit on him at the end of this season causing them to miss the playoffs but without confirmation, I’m leaving him as an option.
The NHL website listed Paul Maurice and Marc Crawford as options. Honestly that is the only place I saw them mentioned and I don’t think they will be good fits.
And then we have Wisconsins’ Mike Eaves. Yes the guy who coached Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan before they came to the NHL. The list of players he has developed is staggering and I would be shocked if there wasn’t a line for his services the day he decides he wants to leave Wisconsin. The question is, has that time come? I haven’t heard his name mentioned a lot so the safe bet is to say it hasn’t. That said, if the right opportunity comes along, he may change his mind. Going with Eaves would be a risk as while he has coached for decades, it hasn’t been at the professional level meaning he is a little more green than Dallas Eakins. But if interested, this is a risk I absolutely would take as players say nothing but good things about their time under him. Yes the Rangers need someone who can handle the veterans but they also need someone who can develop kids and he definitely could do that. Plus, it wouldn’t be the first time the Rangers stole a Badger no one knew was available.
So who do you think it will be? Personally I’m okay with going with a younger coach to try and build something within the organization but the Rangers are in a tricky spot as they can’t afford a lost season next year. Guess that’s why Glen Sather is GM and I’m not. His pick over the next month, however, will go a long way in determining whether he remains in that position.