It’s hard to judge a head coach in general. Unlike grading a player, coaches are both responsible for themselves and the players under their guise. This already difficult task becomes even more difficult when dealing with a coach who wasn’t expected to guide a team anywhere near the playoffs (and didn’t), but was expected to develop youth (which he did for the most part), and get the best out of veterans (which he did pretty clearly).
The biggest pillar of judgement for Quinn is the development of youth, since that’s the main reason Alain Vigneault was fired and one of the biggest driving forces behind his replacement’s hire. Quinn was brought in because his reputation at BU was that of a coach who knew how to woo, nurture, and develop young talent. With a college team that naturally saw drastic turnover year-to-year the dots were easy to logically connect. The Rangers loved Quinn from the moment they had the opening and they went back twice (or maybe even three times) to get their man.
It’s fair to say things got off to a rocky start. Treatment of Tony DeAngelo, Pavel Buchnevich, and Filip Chytil — arguably three of the most important youths to be developed — were questionable at best. As time went on we realized there were other messages that needed to be sent we weren’t privy to. DeAngelo needed to have maturity issues beaten out of him, and it did truly seem like Quinn got through to him since he was one of the team’s better defenseman down the stretch and does look like he can be the top-four guy the Rangers thought they were getting in the Derek Stepan trade. Buchnevich and Quinn butted heads over effort and perceived hustle, and when things seemed at their worst the two finally got on the same page and Buchnevich was one of the team’s best forwards. Chytil is a black mark on the “kids” resume for Quinn, but as a 19-year-old there’s no reason to panic about that. Being able to get 75 games of NHL experience under his belt should be a big boost for next year, so long as Quinn does a better job finding a role for him.
Ironically enough, areas where Quinn’s development of youth seemed to falter was with kids he liked too much. I get the irony of that statement after the years of complaining about the treatment of kids under Vigneault but hear me out on this.
Quinn did a wonderful job re-building the foundation of accountability that was lost thanks to his predecessor. Everyone from Kevin Shattenkirk to Boo Nieves was held to the same standard. You give your all every shift, you try to limit foolish mistakes, and you play the game the right way. The moment you don’t do all three of those things you find the bench. The problem was Quinn never got players like Neal Pionk, Brett Howden, or Jimmy Vesey into the press box often enough despite their struggles. Pionk and Howden drowned most of the year — posting bad REL statistics on an already bad Rangers team — without any real layoff. Howden got hurt and got a break from games there, but it wasn’t the same thing and he came back and had similar issues.
Again, not a reason to panic for kids who are in their early 20’s, but concerning that Quinn liked their hustle enough to keep them in the lineup at all costs.
That said, I would much rather be here — where kids are playing too much — that where things were in the past. And if Quinn was willing to let youth learn to swim in a trial by fire that’s fine, so long as he was aware of what the results were.
When discussing this it’s important to note that key veterans like Mika Zibanejad, pre-injury Chris Kreider, and pre-trade Kevin Hayes all had career years under Quinn. You can make the argument that they were going to do so anyway, but based on their age and the fact they were playing with less talent than the year before I don’t buy it. You need to give Quinn credit here.
You also have to give him credit for getting this team - who knew from November they had no shot at the playoffs — to buy into his system and play every game with a “never say die” attitude. You might take it for granted, and some of it is instinctive because it’s kids playing for their NHL lives/roles, but it was impressive to see the Rangers win games the way they did. To fight the way they did. There is a base of a very good team here, and Quinn has a lot to do with that.
I grade Quinn higher than most on the Banter, but I really did feel like he did better than expected. Some black marks (Pionk and Chytil’s usage, and the lack of discipline for struggles from Howden/Pionk) should raise eyebrows, but it’s nothing drastic. And I do thing the Rangers are in a better place moving forward because of him.
Joe Grade: B+
Banter Grade: B
2019 Report Cards: Ryan Strome / Filip Chytil / Brendan Lemieux / Tony DeAngelo / Chris Kreider / Pavel Buchnevich / Neal Pionk / Boo Nieves / Kevin Shattenkirk / Marc Staal / Jimmy Vesey / Brady Skjei / Jeff Gorton / Connor Brickley / Vlad Namestnikov