Rangers coach David Quinn did not survive the sweeping changes made by the organization at the end of a fourth-straight playoffs-less season. Less than a week after team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton were fired, the ax fell on Quinn, who was let go on Wednesday with two seasons remaining on his contract.
Quinn’s coaching staff – with the exception of goaltending coach Benoit Allaire – also has been let go, two days after the players had their exit meetings with new president and general manager Chris Drury.
"I would like to thank David Quinn, David Oliver, Jacques Martin and Greg Brown for all of their efforts and dedication to the Rangers,’’ Drury said in the statement announcing the move. "I wish each of them the best in their future endeavors. We will begin our search for a new head coach immediately.’’
On Sunday, the Columbus Blue Jackets parted ways with coach John Tortorella, the former Rangers coach, and the Arizona Coyotes moved on from their coach, Rick Tocchet. Those two men, along with veteran coaches like Mike Babcock and Gerard Gallant, will be at the top of the list of potential candidates to take over for Quinn.
Quinn, who was hired away from Boston University in May 2018 to oversee the development of the young prospects entering the lineup during the Rangers’ rebuild, departs with a career record of 96-87-25 in three seasons, including two COVID-19-shortened campaigns in 2019-20 and 2020-21.
In his time behind the bench, he saw Mika Zibanejad go from being a good player to a true star in the league, and he helped turn Pavel Buchnevich into a mature, complete player. He also groomed prospects like Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil, Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, as well as this season’s rookies, Alexis Lafreniere and K’Andre Miller.
But the Rangers’ only postseason experience during his time behind the bench came at the end of the 2019-20 season, when the Blueshirts were included in the 24-team field when the league restarted in the bubble environments of Toronto and Edmonton. Their stay in the Toronto bubble lasted only three games, however, as they were swept in the best-of-five play-in series against Carolina and failed to advance to the 16-team playoff tournament.
This season, the Rangers were in contention for a playoff spot in the East Division until they were shut out in consecutive games by the rival Islanders April 29 and May 1. In their next game, on May 3 against the Washington Capitals, they were beaten 6-3 in the game where Capitals forward Tom Wilson attacked Rangers forward Artemi Panarin, injuring him and ending his season. The Rangers were eliminated from playoff contention that night, when the Boston Bruins defeated the New Jersey Devils.
Two days later, Davidson and Gorton were fired, with three games remaining in the season, and just hours before the Rangers played a rematch against the Capitals. The Rangers lost that fight-filled game, 4-2, and ended up losing five straight games before winning their season finale in Boston against the Bruins on Saturday.
In an interview last week with the New York Post, MSG CEO and Knicks and Rangers owner James Dolan said the decision whether or not to keep Quinn was "totally Chris’ call.’’ When the Rangers players did their Zoom calls with the media at Monday’s Breakup Day, neither Drury nor Quinn was made available.
But Quinn certainly knew, once Davidson and Gorton were dismissed, that he might end up following them out the door.
"Listen, this is pro sports, and when you sign up for a job like this, and I certainly understood it when you get in the NHL,’’ he said last Wednesday night, after the changes were made. "Every day, anything can happen. And that's how I go about it. I don't think anything further than that.’’
The last time they did this, the Rangers were in full rebuild mode, and they were looking specifically for a teacher type of coach, someone who could shape and guide and develop the young players who were going to be entering the lineup over the next few seasons. So they hired David Quinn, a college coach with no NHL head coaching experience.
But now, the Rangers are thinking the rebuild is over, and it’s time to take the next step, which is to make the playoffs and go even beyond that. A veteran, proven guy, who will drive a just-about-ready team to where it needs to go, is what president/GM Chris Drury is looking for this time around. These five guys would fit the bill:
John Tortorella: He’s won a Stanley Cup, is a two-time Coach of the Year, and he’s been with the Rangers organization twice before, as an assistant and a head coach. And it just so happens he’s available right now, having parted ways with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Seems perfect.
Patrick Roy: He hasn’t won a Stanley Cup behind the bench, but he won four of them while playing goalie, two each with Montreal and Colorado. He coached in the NHL before and won Coach of the Year in his first year behind the bench. He’s currently a GM/coach in the Quebec League, and is interested in getting back in the NHL.
Gerard Gallant: Led the expansion Vegas Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018 and was Coach of the Year that season. Doesn’t seem to last long – he’s been fired in his third season in each of his three previous stops – but that wouldn’t seem to be all that important for a team that wants to win now.
Rick Tocchet: Has a losing career record behind the bench, but is nevertheless highly thought of, and viewed as a guy who’s gotten the most out of some under-talented rosters with the Arizona Coyotes. If having a tougher team is something the Rangers are interested in (and it is) he’ll demand that out of his players, for sure.
Mike Babcock: He’s won a Cup, and guided teams to the Final two other times. He’s had three losing seasons in 17 years, and his last two full seasons in Toronto guided the Maple Leafs to 100-point seasons. After he got fired 23 games into the 2019-20 season, stories came out that he isn’t such a nice guy. The Rangers aren’t looking for a nice guy right now.