A look at assistant coach candidates for the Rangers

Coming soon to MSG: David Quinn and friends!

The New York Rangers named David Quinn as the team’s head coach on May 23. Quinn was brought in because, in many ways, he represents everything that Alain Vigneault is not. He’s a hands-on coach that gets involved with his players.

Quinn already has a few roles on his staff filled with holdovers. Jerry Dineen is the team’s video coach, Benoit Allaire is the goalie guru, and Mark Ciaccio is the skill coach. Lindy Ruff is still technically on staff, but his future in New York is murky and uncertain.

Unlike a lot of teams that go through coaching turnovers, the Rangers don’t have guys they want to promote from within the organization. Keith McCambridge and his staff have only been in Hartford for one year. Gorton and company need to look outside of the organization to fill out the coaching staff, and Quinn is sure to have an opinion on who gets to stand beside him behind the bench.

Lindy Ruff

The fact that Ruff is still around suggests that the organization definitely sees something they like in the 58-year-old bench boss. Although he is only seven years older than Quinn, Ruff has been behind an NHL bench since the 1993-94 season. He knows the ropes.

Ruff is a strong candidate for the Rangers’ “eye in the sky” coach who can offer insight and experience to what could be a young coaching staff. It’s hard to imagine that he will stick around as the coach of the defense — one would imagine that Quinn would want to handpick his own guy for the area of the game that he understands best.

Scott Stevens

Yes, that Scott Stevens. He’s tough as nails, a student of the game, and widely respected for his hockey mind. The New Jersey Devils icon is currently a free agent who has at least one big fan in Larry Brooks of the New York Post:

Stevens, with experience as an assistant with the Devils and the Wild, is the ultimate teacher. Remember, he was taught himself by the best: Larry Robinson. But Stevens is also a student of the game. He is a stickler for detail. No one understands more about the importance of preparation and of work ethic.

The Hall of Fame defenseman left his job in Minnesota to be closer to his family in New Jersey. A position on the Rangers’ coaching staff would offer him a chance to spend a lot more time at home with his wife and three kids.

Brian Leetch

Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post recently wrote about how Leetch and Quinn go way back. How far back? We’re talking Quinn was Leetch’s campus tour guide at prep school — acne, Miami Vice shades, denim vests with band pins. You get the idea.

“I think he’s a great fit,” Leetch said. “I think he’s going to do an  excellent job. I think the team is in the right place and he’s in the  right position of his career, coaching-wise. I think it’s a good match, I  really do.”

Leetch is currently the Senior Adviser of Hockey Operations for the Rangers — whatever that means. The Hall of Famer revealed to Cyrgalis that he was not consulted about the Quinn hire, but that might have something to do with their preexisting relationship. It’s also worth mentioning that Leetch has no coaching experience to date, but he shouldn’t lose too many points because of that. It’s hard to imagine a better guy to work with young defensemen like Brady Skjei, Libor Hajek, and Yegor Rykov than the greatest Ranger of all time.

Brad Richards

Richards, like Leetch, is currently a Senior Adviser of Hockey Operations for the New York Rangers. He also has no coaching experience, but a great mind for the game. Richards was never the fastest or strongest player during his career. He excelled at processing the game and understanding where to be and what to do. Sounds a lot like the makings of a good coach, right?

Richards has always been considered a good leader and he definitely knows a thing or two about how a power play should operate. It’s also clear from his current role in the organization that the front office likes him. Also, who knows, maybe Richards will take a “hometown deal” to get his first crack at coaching. Remember, the Rangers are paying him $1,055,556 a year until 2026.

Marty St. Louis

In April, Larry Brooks reported that St. Louis could be on the Rangers radar for a position behind the bench. What works against St. Louis is his lack of coaching experience, and that could be even more of a concern on staff led by someone without NHL head-coaching experience. On the other hand, he helps them further embody the fresh look they’re striving for.

St. Louis may not have coaching experience, but he has a plethora of NHL experience and was known to be a leader throughout his career — one who already connected with some of these players in the locker room during his stint here. He could fit as a coach for the forwards or power play, or even as the “eye in the sky” to start and get acquainted with the game from this perspective.

Tim Army

Army is currently an assistant coach with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and is another guy with a connection to Quinn. A Rhode Island native, Army was an assistant coach with Quinn for the Colorado Avalanche during the 2012-13 season. He coached the Avalanche’s forwards and woeful power play as recently as 2016-17.

Army has a lot of experience working with younger players, but there should be some better options out there.

Steve Greeley

Greeley was an associate head coach with David Quinn for two years at Boston University and he has ties to the Rangers — he was New York’s Assistant Director of Player Personnel from 2015 to 2017.

Sounds promising right? Well, Greeley is currently the assistant general manager of the Buffalo Sabres and is widely coveted as one of the better young hockey minds in the game. He’s been getting job offers to be a GM. So, the odds are stacked against him moving back behind the bench, even to reunite with an old buddy.

Buddy Powers

Powers has a strong connection to Quinn thanks to a dozen years of service as an assistant coach for the Terriers. However, Powers retired from coaching in 2014 and is currently an amateur scout with the Dallas Stars. He’s also in his mid-sixties. Nope, it’s not happening.

Rikard Grönborg

Grönborg may not have NHL experience, but he has coaching experience, much of which he gained with Team Sweden at a number of levels. Hiring a coach like Grönborg would further the Rangers’ departure from the traditional NHL approach and it would help further infuse the European game into North America, although he does have experience with the North American game. Grönborg is a dual Swedish-American citizen, played college hockey at St. Cloud State, and has coached had the NCAA level, as well as the AWHL and WHL.

The question is whether he’d be willing to leave Team Sweden, especially for position as an assistant coach. If his goal is to eventually coach in the NHL, becoming an assistant first may be a necessary step.

From a Rangers perspective, there are drawbacks to Grönborg and there are superior European coaching options, but for the position of an assistant his weaknesses shouldn’t be particularly problematic.

Brad Lauer

After the Tampa Bay Lightning’s season concluded, it was announced that Lauer and the team mutually parted ways. Lauer spent the last two seasons behind the bench in Tampa and was an assistant with the Anaheim Ducks, Ottawa Senators, Syracuse Crunch, Milwaukee Admirals, and Kootenay Ice before that.

With the Lightning, Lauer worked with the forwards and power play. This past season, their power play operated at 23.9 percent, which ranked third in the league, and had strong underlying numbers to match.

The Rangers struggled to generate sustained offense this season and the power play has not been an area of strength over the years. Lauer has proven success in those areas, which should interest the Rangers, although it also is worth noting that he’s had outstanding talent to work with.

Rick Bowness

The Lighting will also be moving forward without Bowness, as they relieved him of his duties after this season. Bowness directed the penalty kill and defense in Tampa.

Bowness had been with the Lightning since the 2013-14 season; his NHL experience was brought in to compliment head coach Jon Cooper, who didn’t have any NHL coaching experience when he was named coach.

The Lightning’s defense has been a weakness in recent seasons, both due to execution and personnel choices. This season, they addressed that with the addition of Ryan McDonagh at the deadline, but the team opted to look for new direction for next season.

Their penalty kill this season operated at 76.1 percent, which was the fifth worst in the league. They allowed a high number of shots against, but didn’t concede as many quality chances against.

The Rangers could add Bowness to their staff for the same reasons the Lightning did, as Quinn has minimal NHL coaching experience. However, Bowness may not be the right coach to improve their disastrous defense, making him a less than ideal option.

Joe Sacco

Sacco is another option for the Rangers to explore. While he was head coach of the Colorado Avalanche, Quinn was his assistant that focused on the defense and penalty kill — which Sacco currently does for the Boston Bruins. If the Bruins would allow the Rangers to speak with him, then Sacco and Quinn could have a role reversal in New York.

Along with coaching the Avalanche, Sacco has assisted at the NHL level in Buffalo and Boston. Originally, he was brought in to work with the forwards and power play, but has since switched to the other side of the ice.

The Bruins defense and penalty kill were both a source of strength this season; their penalty kill operated at the second-best 83.7 percent in the league this year. Because they limited chances so well while short-handed, the lowest rate of goals against was expected to be scored against them.

Whether the Rangers can actually consider Sacco for an assistant position depends on the Bruins, though.

Rocky Thompson

The Dallas Stars hired Todd Nelson, who was the head coach of the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, already this offseason. After following their path in hiring a coach from the NCAA, the Rangers could also look to the AHL for an assistant. Thompson, the head coach of the Chicago Wolves, is an intriguing option, although he is still under contract with the Golden Knights.

Thompson is thought to be a more progressive coach; statistics are a part of his approach, which is something the Rangers have embraced this offseason more than ever. Plus, he has experience working with younger players and facilitating their development with the Wolves, Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL, and Windsor Spitfires of the OHL.

He’s a highly regarded coach at this point in his career, and the next step is coaching at the NHL level. Maybe, that can come behind the bench of the Rangers.