Have the New York Rangers made the right decision by letting go of Head Coach David Quinn?
Another day brings another Head Coaching casualty in the National Hockey League with the New York Rangers today firing David Quinn as the Original Six franchise continues to head in a new direction. But was it the right call at the right time?
OFFICIAL: #NYR President and General Manager Chris Drury has announced that Rangers Head Coach David Quinn and Assistant Coaches David Oliver, Jacques Martin and Greg Brown have been relieved of their coaching duties.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) May 12, 2021
These are strange times for the Rangers who have undergone seismic changes over the last week or so after Owner James Dolan sent shockwaves throughout the hockey world by firing President John Davidson and General Manager Jeff Gorton, with Assistant GM Chris Drury promoted to take on both roles.
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And Drury, who spent four seasons with the team as a player between 2007-11, has now made the first huge decision of his regime by firing Quinn after just three seasons, with Assistant Coaches David Oliver, Greg Brown and Jacques Martin all also being let go, although Goalie Coach Benoit Allaire was retained.
Quinn went 96-87-25 (.522 points percentage) with the Blueshirts over his three seasons at Madison Square Garden, including going 27-23-6 this year and finishing fifth in an ultra-competitive East Division, missing out on the postseason after going 4-6-0 in their last 10 outings the regular-season.
However, it is worth remembering that Quinn was hired at the start of the rebuild that was orchestrated by Gorton, and his main mandate was to develop the plethora of high-end prospects and young studs that the team had piled up thanks to trading away some of their big-name stars.
While the team invested big money in superstar forward Artemi Panarin in Free Agency, in addition to locking up left-wing Chris Kreider to a seven-year, $45,500,000 contract at last year’s Trade Deadline, the overall makeup of the roster was still incredibly young this season and 2020-21 was seen as very much another development year.
So, with that in mind, did Drury and the Rangers make the right decision to fire Quinn now?
Will the New York Rangers live to regret letting go of David Quinn this early?
Anyone with a decent knowledge of the NHL and the Rangers in particular would have admitted that making the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year probably wasn’t the be all and end all given how loaded the East Division was, coupled with the fact that this roster was one of the youngest in the entire league.
In fact, many close to the Blueshirts felt that this season was all about the continued development of the franchise’s young jewels in the crown, including stud goalie Igor Shesterkin, Norris Trophy hopeful Adam Fox, and forwards in the ilk of Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Alexis Lafreniere.
If Quinn could help the young core take the next big leap in their flourishing careers and help guide them along as they continued to cut their teeth in the NHL, then it would set the Rangers up nicely heading into the 2021-22 season.
Based on that criteria, Quinn did his job as Lafreniere, despite a slow start, began to show signs of his undoubted potential and he finished the season with 21 points (12 G, 9 A), including seven points in his last nine regular-season games, while Fox morphed into an elite top-four defenseman with 47 points (5 G, 42 A) in 55 games.
Players like defenseman Ryan Lindgren and forward Pavel Buchnevich also really flourished under Quinn, particularly the latter, and you could make the argument that the Rangers may have put up a stronger fight for the Playoffs had they not lost Panarin for a chunk of the season while center Mika Zibanejad endured a sluggish start to 2020-21 after struggling with a bout of COVID-19 during Training Camp.
Overall, Quinn did what was asked of him and his team were competitive, making the Play-In Round of last year’s postseason only to be swept by the Carolina Hurricanes, while, and again, they did prove this year that they could hang with some of the true heavyweights of the NHL.
Granted, Quinn did have his faults including deploying some questionable matchups in crunch time, the play in the defensive zone was a constant concern under him and there was a perception among fans that Quinn did not handle ice time among his young players very well.
There was also unhappiness at how this roster was constructed with an emphasis placed more on skill and speed than toughness and grit, which you still need in order to win even in the modern-day NHL, but the failure to address the lack of substance on this roster was more a fault of the front office’s than Quinn.
It is clear that the Rangers, now under the guidance of Drury, will spend much of the offseason adding some brute force to their bottom-six and developing a tough underbelly, and that is no bad thing, but you can put forward a strong argument that this team are probably a year or two away from being a true contender when it comes to competing for Stanley Cups anyway.
With the young core still needing time to fully develop, iron out the kinks in their game and become consistent top-level performers in the NHL, it maybe would have been wise to allow Quinn another full preseason, something he didn’t have this year, and another season behind the bench in order to help this team take the next giant leap and then assess things this time next year.
Instead, it is now looking likely that the New York Rangers will appoint a Head Coach who can help them to win now but whether they are ready to is another question entirely, and time will tell if new President and General Manager Chris Drury made the right call when it came to firing David Quinn with the Blueshirts still not yet fully out of the rebuild.