David Quinn’s two immediate predecessors, Alain Vigneault and John Tortorella, had reached a Stanley Cup Final and won a Stanley Cup before becoming the Rangers’ coach, standard big-name operating procedure around Madison Square Garden.
But this is a new era for the Rangers, and thus Quinn found himself being introduced Thursday fresh out of Boston University, never having been a head coach in the NHL.
It’s all part of the plan, which is what made the hire seem as logical as it was low-wattage.
The Rangers have been saying since February they are rebuilding after a decade of prosperity and they said it again on Thursday, adding they believe a fresh-faced college coach is the man to lead that process.
Did someone say “fresh”? That was GM Jeff Gorton.
“Fresh ideas and fresh approach,” he said at a news conference at Madison Square Garden.
Or, as center Kevin Hayes put it, “He’s a young guy who’ll connect with the players more easily.”
Actually Quinn, who turns 52 in July, is only five years younger than Vigneault. But this is more about mindset than age.
Gorton said he considered a variety of candidates but early on ruled out veteran NHL coaches. The Rangers have a young roster and have a lot of college players on that roster, several of whom know Quinn already.
So here we are, and Rangers fans seem to be mostly fine with it. The consensus is . . . we’ll see.
The franchise built up a lot of goodwill during all those years of winning — even though they never won it all — and the fan base now seems willing to give executives the benefit of the doubt.
That is not to say that Quinn is a good choice or a bad choice. For now he is just a choice that makes sense.
“You hit all these boxes and try to check them off; I think we were able to do that,” Gorton said.
Quinn is popular in the hockey community and the New England sports community. One of his best friends, ESPN announcer Sean McDonough, was there Thursday for the introductory news conference.
So were Hayes — who played for BU’s archrival, Boston College — and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, a BU alum.
To no one’s surprise, the players pushed back on the notion of a “rebuild,” and truth is there are enough pieces already in place to compete, including a 36-year-old goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist whom Quinn endorsed as his starter.
We will not know until three or four or five years from now whether Quinn was the right guy, because the Rangers are playing the long game here.
All that matters as the master plan takes shape is that everyone is “on the same page,” a phrase Quinn used more than once.
“Every time they said that ‘this is what we’re looking to do,’ instinctively I would say to myself, ‘I do that. That’s kind of my coaching DNA,” Quinn said.
Quinn is from Rhode Island and grudgingly admitted to growing up a Bruins fan (gasp), but other than that he said and did all the right things on his first day.
He admitted that when he left BU the first time in 2009 to become a head coach in the American Hockey League he “had a little bit of a knot in my stomach because there was a little uncertainty” about moving to the pro level.
“There’s no knot in my stomach today,” he said, “because I think all those steps along the way have prepared me for this.”
This is an intriguing time to be a Rangers fan. The franchise hardly is in dire shape, but neither is it anywhere close to a finished product.
“We had a good run for a long time and we got to a certain point where our franchise needed a change and to go in a different direction,” Gorton said.
“It’s an exciting time. When you go through something like that it’s an eye-opening experience. It’s a hard experience, but at the same time it’s really exciting as we look forward to seeing our young players coming.”
No time like the present.