Whether you were a Torts fan or not, the Rangers are now without a head coach. The hunt is on for Glen Sather to find a suitable replacement, and there are a number of strong (or not so strong) candidates for him to choose from. If you are to believe the reports, then Torts lost the locker room, and that may have been the primary reason for his dismissal.
When a coaching change is made, it isn’t to just get a new style, but to get a new and different voice in the locker room. With Torts, the Rangers had a brash and outspoken coach who had an aggressive personality. His relationship with the media aside, Torts was known for using tough love to get the most out of his players. While it can be expected that the Rangers would go after a marquee name, they will likely go for a different type of person in the locker room, someone who is more of a player’s coach.
There are really four key names that stand out as front-runners for the position, and a few others that will at least have their names thrown out there:
Lindey Ruff (fired by Buffalo this season)
Ruff was always the first name brought up whenever firing Torts was discussed, and it actually confused me a bit. As mentioned above, the point of making a coaching change is to get a new style into that locker room, and Ruff is the same kind of style as Torts. He is brash, out spoken, and a tough love kind of coach. What Ruff does have going for him is his pedigree and his success in Buffalo. Still, hiring Ruff would appear to be a step sideways in the personality department, so I’d venture a guess to say they will interview him, but it would surprise me if he landed the position.
Alain Vigneault (fired by Vancouver after this season)
Vigneault is the second of the high-pedigree names that gets brought up, and this one is a lot more appealing than Ruff. Vigneault is a softer personality, and more of a player’s coach than Ruff or Torts, which is a step in the right direction for a new personality. Vigneault also had a Vancouver team play a more creative style of hockey, which is less north-south and more finesse, but he had The Brothers Sedin to make that style work. The Rangers don’t have nearly the same skill that the Canucks, but they have significantly more depth. Vigneault, though, has only made it past the first round once, and that was in 2011 when the Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Ken Gernander (Hartford Wolfpack Head Coach)
The Rangers saw a lot of success under Tom Renney, who coached the Wolfpack before the lockout and took over the head coaching job full-time post-lockout. The current Rangers roster has a eight players that played under Gernander, and they are all core members of this organization. Gernander knows them better than any outside option, and that could play into his favor. That said, Gernander has zero NHL experience, although he is more of a player’s coach.
Dave Tippet (Current Phoenix coach)
Tippet is interesting. He’s a step in the right direction personality-wise, but he’s also the exact opposite of an offensive-first coach. The Yotes are actually worse at G/G and PP% than the Rangers, although they have signicantly less skill. Plus, he’s also under contract until July 1, and the Rangers want a coach before the draft. He’d be a nice change, but I don’t think he’s the best option.
Mike Sullivan (current Assistant Coach)
Laugh all you want, but the current assistant coach is always a candidate to take over for a team that has just fired its head coach. Sully is likely the least popular candidate on this list because of his work on the powerplay. That said, Sully is a more passive voice than Torts, but he still comes from the Torts regime. It’s highly unlikely he gets the job.
Jeff Beukeboom (current assistant at Hartford) / Dallas Eakins (current Toronto Marlies coach)
Both names have been tossed around, and both have their pros and cons. Beuke is familiar with most of the Rangers/Wolfpack defensemen, but doesn’t have any NHL coaching experience. Eakins is a former player as well, and has had great success in Toronto with the Marlies in the AHL. He is also rumored to be the front runner for some of the other coaching vacancies.
Mark Messier / Brian Leetch / Any ex-Ranger player who isn’t currently coaching
These names have been tossed around, but right now it doesn’t make sense. None are really qualified to take over a team that is supposed to be a Stanley Cup contender.
Personally, I think Vigneault eventually gets the job. He’s got the right mix of personality contrast and previous success. Of course, the Rangers have a habit of throwing curveballs at us, so it wouldn’t shock me if they go in a completely different direction.