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2019 Report Cards: Assistant Coaches

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David Quinn’s bench lieutenants handled themselves well, except for one glaring problem.

2016 NHL Awards Nominees Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Whenever a team hires a new coach, there’s almost always a slew of changes as that coach brings in others to work alongside them. Those assistants often handle the more intricate details of the system that the new bench boss wants their team to play.

This past season the Rangers brought in first year head coach David Quinn straight from Boston University as the Blueshirts transitioned into their first full year of the rebuild. One of Quinn’s first big tasks was to fill out his bench by finding the coaches he felt were the best compliments to the system and identity that he wanted to install.

Instead of looking around the “Recently Fired Head Coaches” section, David Quinn called upon two other first year NHL coaches to be his lieutenants, as well as holding onto a couple of mainstays — one of which has overstayed his welcome.

Via Behind the Benches, here’s what the Rangers coaching staff looked like in 2018-19.

Behind the Benches

To grade the assistant coaches I’m going to break it down into the three aspects of their responsibilities; offense, defense, and special teams, with my grade for each coach and then the cumulative grade at the end.

Let’s start with the offense, shall we?

Offense

To put it frankly, the Rangers offense stunk. Near the bottom of the league in most offensive categories, the Rangers struggled all season to generate shots and chances consistently. This led to the Rangers owning the worst ROW in the NHL and 7th worst record in the league.

All of that being said, there needs to be context applied here as the Rangers were transitioning from Alain Vigneault’s rush oriented offense to Quinn’s style of offensive zone schemes and lost two big offensive weapons in Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes at the deadline. This team just didn’t have the horses to put up big offensive numbers, though; Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich were two players who put up career figures in the first year of this new system.

Helping guide Quinn in installing and running this new offense was rookie NHL coach David Oliver. Oliver came to New York after spending a lot of time in the Avalanche organization, serving as the general manager of their AHL affiliate and as the Avs’ Director of Player Development before being wooed by Quinn to come to New York. Oliver and Quinn did have a previous relationship as Oliver served as Quinn’s assistant coach in the AHL before jumping up to the player development role.

Oliver’s role was to help the head coach teach his offensive system to a team with a thin roster filled with a bunch of young, talented players while also trying to get rid of bad habits from the previous regime.

Final Grade: C

Defense

I guess we have to talk about it.

As bad as the offense was, the defense was worse. It is hard to put into words just bad the defense was this past season and I don’t want to dredge up the numbers. It’s no secret that it was the Rangers achilles heel last year, and while you can blame the defensive issues on some players (Marc Staal, Neal Pionk, etc.) much of the Rangers’ defensive woes come from the systems installed and the ideology behind the decisions being made. Those decisions fall onto the coaches in charge of the back end of the ice.

When Quinn came to New York, he brought along two of own coaches but he kept a couple around, most likely because the team didn’t want to have so many rookie coaches. Just like teams often want to have some veterans around to teach the younger players on the ice, teams probably want some established NHL experience to help guide the younger coaches. The problem is that the Rangers kept the wrong assistants.

As everyone knows, the man in charge of the Rangers blueline brigade is Lindy Ruff, though Quinn did bring in former BC coach Greg Brown to help out. Everyone also knows that Ruff is primarily responsible for the biggest issues that the team has. It’s hard to really judge the input that Brown has on the Rangers defensive schemes because it’s hard to fathom that a rookie coach’s voice would ring louder than someone who’s been to the Stanley Cup Final, even if that Stanley Cup Final was two decades ago.

Final Grades:

Lindy Ruff: F-

Greg Brown: C

Special Teams

The Rangers power play and penalty kill were... challenges. The jurisdiction of the power play fell mostly to the rookie assistants Oliver and Brown, though Ruff still worked with the penalty, and they had their work cut out for them as they juggled players around and tinkered trying to find the right combination of players and system to give the team the advantage. When it worked, it mostly consisted of having Pavel Buchnevich, Chris Kreider, and Mika Zibanejad on the ice being mean to opposing teams; when the power play faltered you mostly saw Jimmy Vesey, an overmatched Brett Howden, and sometimes Brendan Lemiuex (?) wasting everyone’s time.

The less said about the 2018-19 New York Rangers penalty kill, the better.

Final Grades:

David Oliver, Greg Brown: C+

Lindy Ruff: F--

Goaltending

I do want to take a quick moment to shout out someone who is almost as under-appreciated by the team and fans as Henrik Lundqvist is: Benoit Allaire. The Rangers’ goalie guru has been with the team for fifteen years and has done nothing but groom Henrik into one of the greatest goaltenders in the history of the NHL and worked diligently with backups like Cam Talbot, Antti Raanta, and now Aleksandar Georgiev to turn them into quality goaltenders. With Igor Shesterkin now under contract, Allaire sticking around will be an incredibly important aspect of the Rangers’ future.

Final Grade: A++++++++++++++

The Blueshirt Banter consensus grade for the Assistant Coaches: C-

It’s hard to really fault the job that the Rangers coaching staff performed over the course of the season, especially in the first year of a rebuild. However, everyone felt that the performance of Ruff really damaged the overall grade of the group.