Just a few weeks ago from a decade ago, the Rangers were unceremoniously dropped in the playoffs. Too soon, in the opinion of their owner and general manager. But they were ready to roll back – at least until some of the key players on that 2012-13 team told general manager Glen Sather things couldn’t go on under Torts.
This change went rather well, as Alain Vigneault coached the Rangers to the final the following season.
Current general manager Chris Drury can only hope that his decision to let Gerard Gallant leave on Saturday will have the same effect. We’re told at least a few Rangers players have spoken out against Gallant in exit meetings this week, which could have been one of the many factors Drury considered when, as he said, he and Gallant decided a change was needed.
The change will be hard to find on Drury’s roster, which includes five players who have no-travel clauses and one, Barclay Goodrow, with a 15-team no-trade clause. But Rangers, with or without Gallant, must change and adapt to the new realities around them.
They lost to a Devils team that, although currently rocked by the Hurricanes in the conference semifinals, is built to last with speed and a solid system to back it up. Carolina’s system is second to none, able to cycle through different players and goaltenders and still produce the same effect. Three Metro teams have a chance to win Monday’s NHL Draft lottery to select Connor Bedard, a game-changing No. 1 pick.
The Rangers are good enough to be a perennial playoff team. Whether they have the horses at their heart to go deep in the playoffs may not depend on the proven track record of the next trainer, whether that person is currently suspended Joel Quenneville, currently exiled Mike Babcock or one of the other long-time trainers. date on the market (Peter Laviolette, Darryl Sutter, Bruce Boudreau). Perhaps it has more to do with how hard the settled veterans want to work to change things.
“I’m excited with our team, we have a lot of good players,” Drury said on a conference call Saturday. “We are all disappointed not to play. After having the exit meetings, it was good – no one wants to be left out. This week, everyone took a long look in the mirror. »
Gallant, longtime assistant Mike Kelly had a system and they tried to fit. Rangers have shown in at least a few games against the Devils that they can buy into a system, that they can think ahead and stay patient in the neutral zone and adapt to a team that thrives on turnovers and chances to precipitate. But it didn’t last. Devils forward Nathan Bastian gave a damning assessment of Rangers as he complimented the Hurricanes after the opener of the second round.
“(Rangers) like to cheat a bit more than these guys,” Bastian said. “These guys, I think, all year they’ve had guys out of the lineup, missing bodies and as a team they’re one of the best teams I’ve ever seen in this league. .”
Drury has been there the last two trade ties, acquiring four players each time. The 2021-22 players fit right in: Andrew Copp, Tyler Motte, Frank Vatrano and even Justin Braun filled roles and made a Rangers side already warming up to Gallant’s style an even tougher team to generate odds against. This team was lucky when it came to the goaltenders they faced in the first two playoff rounds, but this team made their own luck with a healthy dose of work ethic and attention to the system .
This time around, the trade adjustments weren’t so tight. Vladimir Tarasenko has done some good things, as has Niko Mikkola. Motte was again a solid addition, at least in the regular season. But Patrick Kane and his bad hip felt like overkill, forcing Rangers and Gallant to ride the stars instead of reading the game and reacting to it; the top six was sometimes too disjointed, the youngsters of the third line never broke free and the veteran of the fourth line did not control his movements well enough.
So the search is now for the right trainer. It will almost certainly be an established name trainer. If Drury and the owner had so little patience for Gallant, a guy with a dozen years of NHL coaching under his belt, do you think they’d allow a first-time coach to get his feet wet? ?
“We’re just looking for the right fit,” Drury said. “See where we can go to help this team achieve their goals.”
The team, which will probably not be too different next season, must also play its part. He’s already done that by getting rid of Gallant.
(Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today)