This will not represent quite the culture shock of Alain Vigneault replacing John Tortorella behind the bench in 2013, or maybe not even of David Quinn being hired for his first NHL gig in 2018 to succeed Vigneault.
But the hiring of Gerard Gallant as the Rangers’ 36th head coach as first reported by The Post on Monday afternoon, will represent a marked change in approach. The voice will be different, the tone will be different and so, perhaps most importantly, will the relationships between the players — especially the veterans — and the coach.
Chris Drury’s first coaching search as president and general manager came to a conclusion Monday when the parties reached an agreement for Gallant to take over the club that has missed the playoffs the past four seasons.
Gallant was identified as the front-runner for the job from the outset and was interviewed for the job by Drury on May 14, two days before jetting off to Latvia for the World Championships as coach of Team Canada. He returned last Sunday from the tournament with a gold medal in hand after steering his team to the title after starting with three straight defeats.
Drury, meanwhile, granted two formal interviews to Rick Tocchet and is known to have had conversations, at least, with several other would-be candidates. It had been believed that the Blueshirts were monitoring the situation in Carolina with Rod Brind’Amour, whose contract expires at the end of the month and who may become a free agent.
But the Rangers did not wait for the situation to play out with Brind’Amour, who would become the expansion Kraken’s first choice as coach if he becomes available. Instead, we’re told that Drury offered the job to Gallant on Monday morning, with the head coach accepting immediately.
Sources have told The Post that Gallant — who had also been interviewed for the post in Columbus — was offered and accepted the job without meeting Garden chairman Jim Dolan.
The parameters of the yet-to-be-signed contract are unknown, but Quinn was working on a four-year deal. It would be expected that Gallant’s term would be at least that long with compensation in the $4 million-$5 million range.
The Blueshirts were in need of a coach with a track record of NHL success. That defines the 57-year-old Gallant, who has a career 270-216-55 record with Columbus, Florida and Vegas, and was named 2017-18 NHL Coach of the Year for his work with the expansion Golden Knights, whom he led to the Cup final. Gallant also coached Saint John of the QMJHL to two league titles and a Memorial Cup.
Gallant is known as a salt-of-the-earth personality, a no-nonsense, strong communicator with his players who believes in an up-tempo, puck-pursuit, high-pressure game. He is not someone who is prone to coddle the personnel, and that includes prospects.
But Gallant does have a positive history with young players, most notably with the Panthers, where he was instrumental in the development of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aaron Ekblad. He also got the most out of a then-43-year-old Jaromir Jagr in Florida. That alone should speak to the scope of the coach’s communication skills and his ability to get the most out of marquee veterans with strong personalities.
There is a roster to bolster with players who play a more rugged style. There is also a coaching staff to fill. That includes the role of video coach in the aftermath of Jerry Dineen’s dismissal on Monday.
If there is one critique of Gallant, it is that he is not especially strong on X’s and O’s and may not be the most adept game coach in the league in terms of making strategic adjustments on the fly. Though one source familiar with the coach said that this criticism is exaggerated, the Rangers are going to need to hire at least a lead assistant who can fill in those blanks.
Criticisms of Quinn, as they have seeped into the ether following his dismissal, have focused on the former BU coach’s tendency to over-coach and both literally and metaphorically look over his players’ shoulders. One player recently told The Post that Quinn was too concerned about what players thought of him.
Though the Blueshirts’ skilled guys kept producing, Quinn could not get them to play a more north-south, straight-line game. Despite constant wheedling — or perhaps, because of that — he could not get them to adopt a shoot-first mentality. It became a battle of wills that the coach did not win.
We are told that players who do not follow Gallant’s dictates wind up not playing all that much, and that Gallant does not hesitate to sit players no matter their names. There is accountability demanded and respect earned.
There is much work ahead. But the Rangers have a coach. They got their man. And 2021-22 is underway on Broadway.