NEW YORK — The New York Rangers’ managerial shakeup is complete.
New general manager Chris Drury fired Coach David Quinn and three assistant coaches Wednesday after they missed the playoffs with one of the NHL’s up-and-coming teams. The move is the first major one from Drury, who took over last week after the team fired popular president John Davidson and GM Jeff Gorton to start the front-office overhaul.
In a brief statement issued by the team, Drury thanked Quinn and the others and said the Rangers will begin a search for a new head coach immediately.
In three years, Quinn posted a 96-87-25 record in rebuilding the Rangers with a much younger team that included No. 1 overall pick Alexis Lafreniere this past season. The roster also includes talented forwards Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Pavel Buchnevich, Kaapo Kakko and standout defenseman Adam Fox.
Assistant coaches Jacques Martin, David Oliver, Greg Brown were also fired. Goaltending coach Benoit Allaire was retained.
Longtime NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire said he felt Quinn related well with his players and ran a good bench – and it wasn’t enough.
“Somebody, whether it was Chris Drury or the owners or someone in upper management, thought they weren’t the staff that would take the team to the next level,” McGuire said.
Quinn, who was hired by the Rangers after a stint at Boston University, is the fourth NHL coach fired this season, joining Claude Julien of Montreal, Ralph Krueger of Buffalo and Geoff Ward of Calgary. Contracts were also not renewed for John Tortorella of Columbus and Rick Tocchet of Arizona.
The Rangers made the expanded playoffs in the 2019-20 season but were swept in the play-in round by the Carolina Hurricanes. New York posted a 27-23-6 record in this shortened 56-game season and finished in fifth place in the tough East Division.
The past week has been wild for the Rangers.
The unexpected firings of Davidson and Gorton came a day after the team called for the removal of NHL head of player safety George Parros, who fined but did not suspend the Capitals’ Tom Wilson for a scrum that injured Panarin. The league fined the Rangers a whopping $250,000.
The firings of Davidson and Gorton were described as unrelated to the Wilson saga.
McGuire said one of the final straws for Quinn may have happened at the end of the season, when New York was still contending for a playoff spot.
“The thing with the Rangers and, one of the potential setbacks, was way they lost to the Islanders, not scoring a goal in two straight games,” McGuire said. “I don’t know how well that sat with the people in the organization and then the Tom Wilson incident followed.”
It was all part of a five-game losing streak that ended the Rangers’ playoff hopes and Quinn’s stay in New York.
“You know, you’re always disappointed when you you see good friends, coaches that you coached with lose their job,” said Devils Coach Lindy Ruff, who worked on Quinn’s staff before being hired by New Jersey this season. “So for me, it’s a tough date to see all that personality gone.”
Whoever is hired by the Rangers is going to inherit a team with a lot of talent and potential.
“They are a work in progress,” McGuire said. “Whatever the setup of the league next year, they are going to be very good for a very long time, a very formidable team.”
Despite scoring three goals in the first 27 games, Zibanejad finished with 24 to led the team for the third straight season.
Panarin led the team with 58 points in 42 games. Ryan Strome (14 goals, 35 assists), Buchnevich (20 goals, 28 assists) and Fox (five goals, 42 assists) also topped 40 points. Lafreniere had 12 goals and nine assists, and Kakko – the No. 2 overall pick in 2019 – had nine goals and eight assists.
Ilya Shesterkin had a bit of a roller-coaster season as the No. 1 goaltender, but when he was good, he was very good.
“I think the group really came together over the course of the year,” forward Chris Kreider said earlier this week. “Youngest team in hockey, a lot of new faces, lot of new guys stepping into roles and positions they may not have been in the past. I think the entire year was a terrific learning experience.”
KRAKEN: The expansion Seattle Kraken signed the first player in franchise history after agreeing to terms with free agent center Luke Henman on a three-year entry level contract.
Henman, 21, currently plays for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He will complete the season with the Armada before joining Seattle for its rookie training camp later this year.
Henman had a team-high 43 points in 32 games for the Armada this season, including 16 goals and 27 assists. He has scored six goals in eight playoff games this season.
Henman was originally a fourth-round pick by Carolina in the 2018 NHL draft. He has played the past five seasons with Blainville-Boisbriand.
SABRES: GM Kevyn Adams intends to move ahead with “players who want to be here” and that – for now – includes disgruntled captain Jack Eichel.
Adams said Eichel has not requested a trade and disagreed with his team captain’s assessment of there being “a disconnect” with the Sabres over how to treat a herniated disk that has sidelined him since early March. In raising questions about his future in Buffalo on Monday, Eichel said he favored having surgery.
Adams spent the first five minutes of an end-of-season video conference call by stressing both sides have been in constant communication in regards to the injury, and had agreed to wait until early June to determine how to proceed. He said the surgery Eichel desires is one that has never been performed on an NHL player.
“We all want the same thing when it comes to Jack Eichel’s health. We want Eichel to be healthy and playing on top of his game,” Adams said. “He’s the captain of our team. He’s a great hockey player. I enjoy Jack. Where we go from here, nothing’s going to change for me personally.”
Adams then addressed Eichel and other veterans who questioned their futures in Buffalo by saying, he’s excited by the team’s young core, while adding: “We are going to get this right with the people who want to be here.”
Eichel, who has five years left on an eight-year, $80 million contract, said he has a lot to consider about his future this offseason.
“I think the most important thing is just trying to get healthy and figure out a way to be available to play hockey next year, wherever that might be,” Eichel said.