, Gerard Gallant Hiring Raises New York Rangers’ Expectations, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Gerard Gallant Hiring Raises New York Rangers’ Expectations

, Gerard Gallant Hiring Raises New York Rangers’ Expectations, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Chris Drury’s first major act as general manager of the New York Rangers was to fire David Quinn as head coach last month.

Drury’s second move was to hire Gerard Gallant as Quinn’s replacement over this past weekend.

The first-year GM’s third act was to tamp down expectations after hiring a man who has a 270-216-51 record with four ties in stints with Columbus, Florida and Vegas, and famously led the Golden Knights to the 2018 Stanley Cup final in their first season of existence.

When asked about the Rangers potentially returning to the playoffs in 2022 after missing them four straight seasons (including losing a preliminary round series in the bubble in 2020), Drury steered clear of any guarantees.

“My goal and our hope is that we’re a playoff team next year,” Drury told the media Tuesday. “Is it a mandate? I don’t believe so. But I want everyone to come back and know that that’s where we want to be and with the talent on this team where we should be.”

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Although the Rangers’ rebuild has gone faster than projected in the eyes of many observers, the turnaround didn’t go quickly enough for owner James Dolan. Team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton were dismissed shortly after the conclusion of this season and Drury was elevated to the GM chair.

Drury can play down the idea that the Rangers are in a playoffs-or-bust mode, but when it comes to New York and the Rangers, there’s always a high standard to strive for while competing for NHL supremacy on the ice and battling for the headlines with a handful of other professional sports teams in the market.

Mix Gallant’s coaching with a core that’s built around star forward Artemi Panarin, two-way center Mike Zibanejad, Norris Trophy finalist Adam Fox, the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft Kaapo Kakko and the No. 1 pick from the 2020 draft Alexis Lafreniere, and, realistically, finishing among the best eight teams in the Eastern Conference (when the NHL returns to its traditional alignment next season) is really the least that should be expected from a team with a ton of talent and, according to CapFriendly.com, has more than $20 million to spent under the NHL salary-cap ceiling.

, Gerard Gallant Hiring Raises New York Rangers’ Expectations, The Nzuchi News Forbes

All you need to know about the Rangers’ potentially bright future can be read in Gallant’s decision to move to New York. The 2018 Jack Adams Award winner was a highly coveted hire since he was dismissed by Vegas in January 2020. You better believe expansion Seattle, having witnessed what Gallant did with the Golden Knights, was high on him. He interviewed elsewhere, including Columbus, which launched his coaching career.

But his final decision was the Rangers.

“We got a good team, we got a good lineup,” Gallant said. “When I first talked to Chris about the opportunity and the job, I felt real good leaving the interview. I felt real comfortable with Chris. I said to my wife, ‘I hope this works out because New York would be a great spot to go.’ It’s a high-market team and it’s a good hockey team. Any time a coach looks at a team and looks at an opportunity to get a job with a team like this, you’re excited about that. And I’m really excited. The main thing is that we’ve got a [heck] of a hockey team and we can move forward and we can be a good team for a long time if we do the right things and if we play the right way.”

Gallant has coached all different sorts of teams. He had a young core in Florida and coached them to their first playoff berth in four years in 2016.

With Vegas he had veterans and younger players with something to prove after being cast off by other organizations and he was able to harness that chip on the team’s shoulders to an improbable run.

Gallant’s Vegas experience might be the one best suited to translating over to the Rangers’ mix of players with little to no postseason success aside from a handful of guys.

“When I was in Vegas — and I hate to talk about the past — but we went to training camp with a plan, we put our systems in place and we expected everybody to play a 200-foot game, everybody good defensively, everybody good offensively, everybody to have a role on the hockey team,” Gallant said. “That’s what’s important for me. It’s not going to take 15 guys to win. It’s going to take 23 guys on your roster to win games every night.

Perhaps Gallant summed up the Rangers’ situation best when he described them as “a team that is ready to take off.”

First destination after takeoff has to be the playoffs, regardless of whether Drury wants to guarantee New York will make it or not.

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