Gallant is gone but that doesn’t solve the Rangers real problem

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For the third time in six seasons, the New York Rangers are in the hunt for a new coach.
It was announced on Saturday Gallant and the organization had “Mutually parted ways” after two seasons together, despite his 99-46-19 overall record, which included a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals last season.

“I want to thank Gerard for his work and commitment to the New York Rangers as head coach. I have a ton of respect for Gerard as both a coach and a person and truly appreciate everything he did for us on and off the ice these last two seasons.” Rangers President and GM Chris Drury said.

“After my evaluation of the season and discussions with Gerard, we mutually concluded that a change would benefit both parties. I wish him and his family all the best in the future. Our search for a new head coach will begin right away.”

According to the New York Post, most players privately expressed their disapproval of Gallant returning to coach the team for the 2023-24 season, leading to Druy’s decision to part ways with him.

Gallant has a history of losing locker rooms. It happened when he was fired as the Florida Panthers coach, despite a playoff appearance in 2016 and an 11-10 start to the 2016-2017 season. It transpired in Vegas, despite Gallant winning the Jack Adams Award after he led the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural 2017-2018 season.

But he was canned two years later despite a 24-19-6 start to the 2019-2020 season. He’s yet to last three full seasons, representing a franchise as a coach thus far.

When Gallant arrived in New York, replacing the strict David Quinn in 2021, although he wasn’t a tactical genius, the veterans appreciated his calm demeanor and hands-off approach. It felt reminiscent of Alain Vigneault’s tenure from 2014-2018, where the team reached the playoffs in four of his five seasons. However, the young players shared a different view.

They wanted lineup stability and a consistent identity that Gallant didn’t offer. “He lets you do your own thing,” Barclay Goodrow said on Wednesday. That was likely the problem in the eyes of the players. They prefer someone with a sense of direction.

According to lohoud.com, the Rangers considered moving on from him in December after losing 15 of their first 26 games. But those quickly subsided as New York turned their season around and finished with 107 points, making Gallant the first coach in franchise history with back-back 100+ point seasons. Yet the question surrounding the team was how they would fare in the playoffs after reaching the final four last season.

It was a Stanley Cup or bust for this group following the additions of all-stars in Vincent Trocheck, Patrick Kane, and Vladimir Tarasenko, along with grinders in Niko Mikkola and Tyler Motte. But they bowed out in the first round in seven games to the New Jersey Devils.

Throughout the series, the Devils’ speed overwhelmed the Rangers. The Blueshirts raced to a 2-0 series lead through their breathtaking skill. But once New Jersey head coach Lindy Ruff imposed a neutral zone trap defense emphasizing teamwork,  Gallant couldn’t afford to do much besides changing his line combinations. It was up to the players to produce, they didn’t.

“(The Rangers) like to cheat a little bit more than these guys,” Devils forward Nathan Bastian told the Athletic following the Devils’ second-round series opener against the Carolina Hurricanes. “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.”

But it’s difficult to move players given their hefty contracts, no trade clauses, and the Rangers’ cap crunch, so the sacrifice was Gallant. “We win and lose as a team,” Drury said. “We’re all disappointed we’re not still playing. If I could reference the exit meetings, the good thing is no one wants to be left off the hook. Everyone throughout this last week was taking a long, hard look in the mirror and using it as motivation and a learning experience.”

As previously reported by Sportsnet and confirmed by the Athletic, there was a heated exchange behind closed doors featuring Gallant and Drury after the Rangers’ 3-1 game-four defeat. The east-west happy players didn’t implement the north-south style of play Gallant preferred.

The coach mentioned the team’s overreliance on talent instead of hard work following their 4-0 loss in game seven on Monday. It might’ve also been a personal jab at Drury for his talent-driven deadline moves instead of sticking to last year’s toughness approach when he acquired Andrew Copp and Frank Vatrano.

“Talent doesn’t mean a thing. It’s great to have talent, but you’ve got to play together and work together. We had two goals in the four games we lost. That’s the bottom line. You won’t win if you get two goals in four games. I love to have talent, but you love to have a work ethic and more forecheck and stuff like that. We didn’t get it done.”

Gallant is without a job but should soon land elsewhere. The Calgary Flames, who fired Daryl Sutter(Reportedly not on the Rangers list) on Monday following a disappointing season where they missed the playoffs, may go after him.

Meanwhile, Drury begins his search for a new coach who knows he’ll have a short leash considering his predecessor lasted just two seasons, despite consecutive playoff appearances. “We’re just looking for the right fit,” Drury said on Saturday. “See how we can help this team reach its goals.” “It’s pretty early, but we’re looking at many different things.” “Hopefully, we’ll have a good, long, robust list of candidates to interview.” The candidates are unclear, but the Rangers will likely start with experienced coaches with championship pedigree.

According to the New York Post, Joel Quenneville, who won three championships with the Chicago Blackhawks in a six-year span( 2010-2015), isn’t one of them. In 2021, it was revealed Quenneville approved of his team covering up claims that former Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich sexually assaulted prospect Kyle Beach during the 2010 playoffs.

As a result, Quenneville resigned as Florida’s coach and was placed on the commissioner’s list.  If Quenneville were to coach again, Gary Bettman’s approval would be required.

Regardless of where this goes, it’s a bad look for the Rangers, who last won a Stanley Cup in 1994 and continue to show no long-term commitment to an identity or a philosophy. Until that changes, the drought will continue.