Just over a month after firing David Quinn, the New York Rangers have named a new Head Coach in Gerard Gallant. Originally considered one of the frontrunners for the job, Gallant brings the organization’s experience desperately wanted.
Who is Gerard Gallant?
After an 11-year NHL career in Detroit and Tampa Bay, Gallant coached at almost every level. Gallant’s first coaching position in the NHL came as an Assistant for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2001, where he eventually became Head Coach after Doug MacLean resigned in 2004. Due to the team’s poor roster construction and the 2004-05 lockout, the Blue Jackets early franchise struggles continued during Gallant’s tenure. Ultimately, Gallant lost the job in 2006 and started coaching the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL.
Under Gallant, Saint John dominated the QMJHL, winning two league championships and one Memorial Cup in three seasons. This success led to the Montreal Canadiens bringing Gallant back into the NHL as an assistant. Soon after, he would become the Florida Panthers head coach in 2014. In his second year in Florida, the Panthers won a franchise-record 47 games and a division title, but after a first-round exit and a mediocre start to the 2016-17 season, Gallant was fired after 22 games.
Not long after Florida’s surprising decision, Gallant became the first-ever Head Coach of the Vegas Golden Knights. Gallant led Vegas on an unprecedented run to the Stanley Cup Finals in the team’s first season. This historic run earned him the Jack Adams Award for the best coach in 2018. The Knights returned to the playoffs the following season, but almost identically to his stint in Florida, a first-round exit followed by an average start in 2019-20 led to his firing. Are these three instances similar by coincidence? Or will history repeat itself? Rangers fans will find out.
What Kind of Head Coach is Gerard Gallant?
Gerard Gallant is a simple, calm players-coach who sticks to the game plan. His teams have consistently kept goals against low and continuously outperformed expectations. More importantly for New York, he will not hesitate to give young players top minutes. In 2014-15, Aaron Ekblad played 22 minutes per game at 18-years-old and Aleksandar Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau played key minutes all season long. Those two characteristics were the main drivers behind this hiring as the Rangers prospects should be given time to grow as players.
Some retractors believe that Gallant’s historically defensive-minded game will not gel with the young Rangers lineup. But if you take a step back and look at the teams he has coached, this was by necessity. None of Columbus, Florida, or Vegas had the talent the Rangers roster currently possesses. The meetings between Drury and Gallant likely centered around his plan for this specific group. Now that he has been hired, I find it hard to believe that he plans to take that same approach.
Overall Coaching Expectations
Rangers fans can expect Gallant to implement consistent defensive systems while allowing creativity from the forwards. Generally considered to be loved by players, the young players will be given every opportunity to succeed.