When Alain Vigneault was let go, the big name target all along (among fans) for the Rangers rebuild was Toronto’s Sheldon Keefe. The head coach of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies earned a lot of buzz as the Leafs organization has relied on the development of several young players to finally return to respectability. But after his buddy Kyle Dubas was named the Leafs new GM, it’s assumed Keefe will stay put to be groomed as the eventual Babcock successor behind the bench. Jim Montgomery was another name linked to the NY job, but the former U of Denver coach ended up hired by the Dallas Stars. Now, despite earlier reports of not wanting to leave his dream job at Boston University, it’s expected that David Quinn will indeed take the reigns to help shape a new, young Blueshirts core.
I don’t know much about Quinn – or any NCAA hockey for that matter – but there’s no questioning that his coaching history proves he’s a great fit for what the Rangers need right now. Besides 5 years as head coach at BU, he had several years assisting his predecessor & NCAA legend Jack Parker. Quinn has also been a part of several USA national squads & coached Colorado’s AHL affiliate for a couple years as well. To have brought in another crusty old option off the NHL head coaching carousel would’ve been a huge mistake. Some long leashes will be needed to allow these kids to gain confidence & for the brass to truly evaluate the pieces they have. Quinn should provide exactly that.
As far as his coaching style, a little research tells me it’s gonna be a complete 180 from what AV brought to the table. AV was hands-off, simply expecting his players to “get it”. He relied on veterans to lead in the locker room. Whenever he was pushed to give a youngster a chance in the lineup, they were forced to play under an unspoken zero-tolerance policy knowing that just one mistake would have them stapled to the end of the bench. Quinn should come in as a much more vocal teacher-type. He’ll command the attention of his players off the ice, let them know exactly what he demands & allow them the room to show they can do it without the threat of being cast aside during an expected learning curve. Quinn says he stresses physicality & a commitment to defense, which were things essentially thrown out the window by the time Vigneault had worn out his welcome.
The former Terrier suffered an unexpected end to his career before it could take off professionally. He was the NHL’s 13th overall pick out of prep school but decided to play at BU. A productive defenseman, he was forced to stop playing in his junior year due to a rare blood disorder. He later got an Olympic tryout and even skated a few games with the Rangers’ AHL squad in Binghamton but will never know what could’ve been had he stayed healthy. This is an excellent character-builder for a head coach of a young team that’ll undoubtedly face some adversity during their resurrection. Quinn can stress to these kids to take nothing for granted & instill a quality work ethic with his story. The ultimate motivator.
There’s definitely some ties here too. Another BU alum & probably the best Terrier in their hockey history is assistant GM Chris Drury. Drury also served as GM of Team USA with Quinn as an assistant coach and Brady Skjei on the roster in 2016. Shattenkirk played at BU as well while a few other Massholes had NCAA careers nearby (Kreider, Hayes, Vesey). And if the Rangers somehow end up drafting Brady Tkachuk next month, there’s nobody that knows him better than coach Quinn. He’s got fingerprints on a few recent kids who’ve made an immediate NHL impact out of college (Eichel, McAvoy, Keller) and will inherit several other NCAA-developed players (Pionk, Lettieri, Lindgren, etc.) looking to find their role with the Blueshirts.
Nothing is official yet. Jeff Gorton returns from his trip to the World Championships next week so an announcement could come as early as Monday. But if the reports are true, fans should be excited about a new, hardworking voice well-versed in the development of young talent. It obviously doesn’t guarantee success – but there’s no question the Blueshirts are, so far, going about their rebuild the right way. Now it’s onto 5 picks in the first 48 of the 2018 draft.