Apr 29, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant speaks to the media following a 3-2 win against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers just fell victim to the Chicago Blackhawks by the score of 5-2. The Blackhawks entered the game having lost ten of their last eleven games – including eight straight. New York didn’t show much effort or heart besides captain Jacob Trouba. No one seemed interested in competing and the Blueshirts just seemed to have no energy. They did hit a few posts, but you don’t get pity points for hitting the post. And to make matters worse, the Blackhawks had a goalie change to start the third period as Petr Mrazek was unavailable due to injury. Arvid Soderblom came in for the final 20 minutes and was never really tested as the Rangers mustered just six shots on goal. The only shot that beat Soderblom was when Kreider was checked into the puck and goalie and basically scored on a pass he knew nothing about. To say it was an embarrassing defeat would be an understatement.

What Moves Can the Rangers Make?

The answer is there is not a clear-cut option. They are very tight on cap space and trying to save as much cap space as possible to make a splash at the trade deadline. They don’t have an A+ prospect in the AHL who could give them a jolt. They don’t have a long-term injury – which means they are not expecting any reinforcements. The answer has to come from within the organization.

Option 1: Fire Gerard Gallant

Perhaps the only move the Blueshirts could make is to part ways with second-year head coach Gerard Gallant. Let’s make something clear – this isn’t all on Gallant and firing him won’t magically solve all of their problems. But he isn’t clear from any of the blame. Gallant hasn’t called timeouts when the Blueshirts have faced tough times or were in the process of collapsing. His idea is that it’s up to the players to figure it out which isn’t exactly wrong, but he is the man responsible for the on-ice product. He’s also been stubborn at times to not change the lineup or the power-play (more to come).

The idea with firing Gallant would more be a wakeup call to the team as he is about the only piece of the team that the Rangers can change. The Rangers are locked into the core of this team for at least the next three years and beyond. Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Vincent Trocheck, Barclay Goodrow, Jacob Trouba, and Adam Fox. Gallant is the only one who can be scapegoated. It’s not necessarily fair to Gallant but it is the nature of the business. It is one of the few moves General Manager Chris Drury can make.

Here is the other complicated part – if you fire Gallant who is the interim or new head coach? Well, if you fire Gallant, you have to think his longtime assistant Mike Kelly isn’t going to stay either. Gord Murphy got promoted from the AHL last season, but he doesn’t have experience as a head coach in the NHL or AHL. The other assistant is Jim Midgley who was brought in last season. Midgley has been friends with Gallant for 15 years and it’s unclear if he would follow Gallant out the door if it came to that. Gallant was very excited at the time of hiring Midgley.

“I think if you look at my staffs, I’ve always brought in a younger guy,” Gallant said in 2021. “He’s not real young, he’s 43, but he’s one of those guys who has a good hockey mind. He’s well thought of by a lot of people. It’s a name that might catch people by surprise here, but he’s a hard worker and he’s a good communicator.”

The likely option would be that Drury would look to a current free agent coach who has coaching experience. The goal entering the season was to make the playoffs and contend for the Stanley Cup. Getting a head coach with experience would be something that is required.

But who is out there available to coach? Former Islanders head coach Barry Trotz is perhaps the biggest name out there. He likely would want to coach a team capable of competing for the Stanley Cup and given where the Rangers are – he might choose to continue to wait for a different opportunity unless he feels he can turn the ship around. The other thing to take into consideration is would his defensive system be something that would be a good fit for this current Rangers roster?

Another name out there is Joel Quenneville. Quenneville won three Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks in the 2010s and knows what it takes to get the job done. The veteran coach is allegedly hoping for an NHL job sooner rather than later, but there are some obstacles standing in his way. The former Florida Panthers coach resigned last season after an independent investigation revealed Chicago mismanaged sexual assault allegations back in 2010. Obviously, the Rangers would have to go through the Panthers first to get permission to speak with him. The biggest hurdle is that the Blueshirts would have to be cleared by the commissioner’s office and it is very unclear when or if that will even happen. Quenneville is the second winningest coach in NHL history with 969 victories to his name.

Perhaps the most likely name is former Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet. Tocchet is often atop many teams’ coaching lists but hasn’t landed a job just yet. The current TNT analyist was reported as a serious contender for the Blueshirts job before Gallant ultimately getting the job. Tocchet is known as a players’ coach and would likely be seriously considered if the Rangers opted to go in a different direction for Gallant.

Other options include Kris Knoblauch – the head coach of the Hartford Wolf Pack. Knoblauch had a brief stint during the shorten season from 2020-2021 when then head coach David Quinn was out with COVID-19. Travis Green and Mike Babcock are also looking for jobs but those names seem like a longshot for different reasons.

It wouldn’t exactly be fair to Gallant but it is one of the only cards Drury can use.

Option 2: Tough Love

As mentioned, the Rangers are locked into the core of this team. The core of the team got paid and seem largely unmotivated at the moment of writing. Perhaps they start from square one where you have to earn your spot and you are not just given it based on previous years. That means if Panarin – one of the highest paid players in the entire league is the 13th best forward in practice – then Panarin is the healthy scratch. Now this is a bit of an extreme as this won’t make the Rangers better, but it will motivate individual players and perhaps spark them to bring the best out of them. This goes for any player not giving 100%.

By giving tough love you can mix up the lineup and play the guys who are giving it there all. While you won’t say be relying on someone like Ryan Carpenter to be tying the game, you can make a statement by ice time given. How about giving the second power-play unit the first chance on the power-play for a change? Or even taking someone off the first power-play to offer it a different look? There aren’t many moves to make and it is definetly a move that could get Gallant fired. But what else can Gallant do? It’s not likely he makes a drastic move as suggested, but perhaps he could try to change up the power-play. The definition of insanity is “trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Why not try something different if you are Gallant?

Option 3: AHL Young Guns

The Rangers may not have an A+ quality prospect in the AHL, but they do have multiple younger talents who are hungry for a shot in the NHL. Perhaps giving a couple of chances to some players who are looking to prove themselves in the NHL could wake up players and give them some much needed motivation and energy. Forwards include Will Cuylle, Bobby Trivingo, Ryder Korczak, and Karl Henriksson. Defensemen include Matthew Robertson and Hunter Skinner. In goal, the Blueshirts could go with Dylan Garand but that wouldn’t be fair or advised to drop Jaroslav Halak. While Halak hasn’t been perfect, he has a lot of experience and if something happened to Shesterkin, he would be the only player who has experience starting on a regular basis. The Rangers have only scored more than two goals for Halak just one time in eight games. The only other goaltender with experience in the organization is Louis Domingue, but he doesn’t have a long-term future in the organization and he is an older netminder. Bringing in hungry players might make the team worse and less experienced, but maybe they’ll bring fight and motivation as they would be playing for future NHL contracts.

What would you do if you were Drury or Gallant?


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