A Full David Quinn Primer

The Rangers finally announced that he will be the team’s next head coach, but who exactly is David Quinn?

Hello Valued Consumer,

Let me be the first to thank you for your purchase of David Quinn as head coach of your hockey team. You will be happy to know that we have an extensive FAQ report of your new purchase, which we will go through below.

For even further information, we did a podcast with Jack Reiser and Jeff Cox answering questions about David Quinn. Give it a listen here, it will fill in a lot of the blanks.

Anyway, let’s get to know who Quinn really is.

I’d like a quick primer on Quinn

I’ll ask Jake Reiser from Stanley Cup of Chowder for help on this one. Here’s his elevator pitch on Quinn and his fit in New York:

I think he’s an incredibly smart pick. Really knows how to nurture kids the right way, but challenge them when they need it. Challenged Brady Tkachuk to take the next step by giving him PP time towards the end of this season and it paid off. Really became a father figure for a tough guy like Jordan Greenway. He’s rough around the edges on a PP, but that’s what an assistant coach is for. As far as fostering a winning culture within a team, motivating guys the right way, and working really well with the defense while trusting his offensive guys to be creative yet smart, it’s a really good fit for the Rangers.

How does Quinn like to play? These quick blurbs should make you happy:

And here’s a quick grab of his system from Reiser:

He likes to use big bodies to crash and grab rebounds, makes sure you’re getting shots from the middle of the ice, and works a good cycle to open up those lanes. He’s fortunate to have had a guy like Jordan Greenway who had a big body to create screens and bully defenders while also having a wicked shot, but I think his system 5v5 is adaptable.

From what I can tell, Quinn’s system has been something we’ve all been looking for: focus on entering the zone with possession, try to cycle the puck to high impact areas in the offensive zone, and generate shots while having bodies in front to cause chaos. If that’s the structure of the system, the quick breakouts will still happen, but hopefully there will be more sustained offense behind them.

On the defensive end it’s a bit more complicated. Quinn has adjusted his system a few times to make up for talent that’s fresh to the NCAA, or to focus on the veterans he had in the lineup. By all accounts, though, Quinn’s work on defensive structure has been a success.

David Quinn was not the team’s backup choice as head coach

This ideology has been pushed forward by reports that Jim Montgomrey turned down a far more lucrative offer from the Rangers to take the Stars’ job.

On the podcast, Mike and I discussed what we thought was the timeline of the Rangers’ offer, after discussing what a “lucrative offer” may have actually looked like:

The Rangers never moved forward with an interview for Sheldon Keefe’s services, which means he was never truly on the team’s radar — as much as we might have thought he was a perfect fit.

Quinn’s name was on the radar from the get go, the Rangers made their push for him, and then sweetened the pot twice to get him. Despite all the team’s issues, it’s still New York, Broadway, an Original Six franchise, and the hockey royalty other teams dream of. I can’t imagine the Rangers would have had to look far to find a plethora of people looking for the job.

The truth is they didn’t even wait to interview Keefe, Washington assistant coach Todd Reirden, or even Barry Trotz (I’m still not sure that name was true, but my word if he was of interest...). There’s no indication the team didn’t have an extensive interview process, but the only big name they spoke to that we know about is Montgomery. They offered him the job, presumably after they went after Quinn the first time, and he went in a different direction.

The point of all this is that they wanted Quinn, and they got him.

Quinn had to be forced to come to New York and didn’t want the job

This insanity is also being pushed forward thanks to reports the Rangers twice sweetened their offer to bring him to Broadway.

In the interview with both Reiser and Cox there was a common theme: Quinn relates to the players on his team on an emotional level. It couldn’t have been easy for him to walk away from those players, or the players that have yet to enter BU’s program as freshmen that he recruited for next year. It was a dream job for the guy, one where he had incredible job security, and already had a successful resume to keep the seat he was in as cool as possible.

So, yes, he needed to be persuaded — to leave BU rather than to come to New York. There is an enormous difference between those two things.

His teams objectively under preformed at the NCAA level

There’s two ways to look at this. The first is, yes, he had teams that should have had better analytical numbers with all the talent they had, and probably should have won more with him than they did. That said, it’s harder to judge success in the NCAA where single-elimination tournaments are king.

All of that can be true, while still recognizing that he won a 2009 National Championship with BU as an assistant (where his defense was the star of the show), and that he came the flukiest goal possible away from winning the 2015 NCAA national championship as a head coach. It’s fair to wonder what his reputation would be if BU had won that game.

Over his five years in charge of BU he went 105-68-21, which includes the disastrous 10-21-4 record as a first-year head coach. Over the life of his head coaching role at BU, he made a n number of accomplishments (from the official Terriers website):

Two Hockey East Tournament Titles (2015, 2018)

Two Hockey East Regular-Season Titles (2015, 2017)

Four NCAA Tournament Appearances (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)

2015 Beanpot Title

2015 New England Coach of the Year

2015 Hockey East Coach of the Year

2015 Spencer Penrose Award Runner-Up

That’s nothing to scoff at. Should he have another Beanpot or two on his resume? Yes. Should his teams have advanced further in the NCAA Tournament outside of the year they went to the final? Probably. But both of those answers are on paper, and the game isn’t played on paper.

He needs good assistants to help mitigate his tactical shortcomings

This is a legitimate concern that has been brought up by nearly everyone I asked about Quinn. The X’s and O’s haven’t been his strongest suit in the NCAA ranks, which has poisoned the well of his power play (which has been objectively bad based on how much talent he had) more than his 5v5 play.

There’s two sides to this, ironically enough both brought up by the two interviews on the podcast (again, listen if you haven’t). In his interview, Cox brought up that BU has traditionally been one of the youngest teams in the NCAA ranks while Reiser brought up the constant turnover Quinn had to deal with thanks to the top-end talent he was able to bring to BU. Jack Eichel and Clayton Keller were one-and-done players, Charlie McAvoy stayed just two years, Brady Tkachuk would have been another decision to be made for Quinn this summer.

It is hard to come up with a consistent system with that type of turnover of your best players. It’s hard not to try and to adjust to still trying to win despite being one of the youngest teams in the country. There’s aspects to Quinn’s X’s and O’s that should concern you, but as with everything in life, there is another side to the story, too.

It should also be noted Reiser’s take on Quinn’s 5v5 strategies have been positive (what we quoted above) and Cox did think there was a lot of good in the system Quinn employs on both sides of the ice.

With all of that out in the open, I do think it’s fair to say Quinn’s assistant coaching hires are going to be critical, especially in the beginning. Maybe Lindy Ruff (if not re-assigned in the organization or outright let go) could be a good fit as a power play specialist coach. Maybe there’s options out there to help let Quinn focus on what he’s good at while he’s figuring out everything else. He’s been a coach who is both not afraid to shake up his roster when things aren’t working, and a coach who looks at the analytical aspects of the game to know when things will start working (more on that in a bit).

Quinn is an evolved coach, who has a hand in analytics

This should give you a big boost of positive vibes around the hire as well. Here’s a great Q&A done with Kathryn Yates, who had become BU’s Director of Analytics thanks to Quinn allowing himself to evolve thanks in part to her work. It’s also something we know was important to the team — as Mike and I went over in our Patron only podcast about Dolan’s comments.

Here’s an example of why something like that is important:

It’s not just situations like that. Quinn wants to play a more puck possession game, focused on entering the zone with possession rather than the ol’ dump and chase. On the podcast interview, Reiser talked about how Quinn knew the game was moving towards speed and skill and away from hits and pointless toughness, which is wonderful. We’re not talking about a guy who is using a “sophisticated stats package” that no one can see or read. We’re talking about a guy who has evolved his coaching to the direction the game is trending.

That’s particularly powerful when you remember all the failed attempts at “adjusting” the Rangers’ system under the previous regime. Quinn is a guy who isn’t afraid to shake things up when they’re not working, and has been quick to adjust himself to whatever current issues ail the team. That’s music to Rangers’ fans ears, but also something that’s needed in today’s NHL. Once opposing coaches figured out how to shut off the valves of offense in Vigneault’s system, there was no coming back — not without a major adjustment — and that adjustment never came.

Quinn is a master recruiter, and by all accounts an outstanding developer of youth

If nothing else, this should be the reason you’re most excited about this hire.

Quinn has had a ton of success growing youth at Boston University, and an even better track record at bringing the talent into the doors in the first place. He’s never been shy about playing youth other veteran players when he thought they were a better fit, and he’s never been one to throw healthy scratches or benchings to prove a point. He connects with his players on an emotional level, has been called a fatherly figure by some, and even went so far as to fly out to Nashville to watch Jordan Greenway make his NHL debut with the Wild. That’s something we never saw from the previous establishment, and it’s something that — if you read Pavel Buchnevich’s interview after the season ended — is very important for young guys trying to establish themselves.

This will be the make or break aspect of Quinn’s hire — at least during the first two years of the Rangers’ rebuilding phase. The Rangers prioritized player development when it came to their next coach, and Quinn has that ability in spades. Is there something to be said for being a better recruiter than developer? Sure, and it’s a fair argument — since with a guy like Eichel, Quinn is probably more of a witness to his development than anything else. But he’s found a way to nurture a lot of talent in Boston, and it’s part of the reason his teams have been as good as they have been.

Kevin Hayes, Kevin Shattenkirk (someone Quinn coached as an assistant at BU), Brady Skjei, Neal Pionk, Pavel Buchnevich, Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, and the like are all probably thrilled at this new development in coaching; so are a bunch of other players who might get an even better look under a more offensively forgiving coach.

Specifically, guys like Hayes and Buchnevich should see instant jumps in their roles and production. If Shattenkirk is actually used as a top pair guy he will, too.

Quinn is the perfect fit for the Rangers’ timeline

There are parts of Quinn’s coaching puzzle that will need to be fleshed out. His power play work, his overall 5v5 settled system, and simply figuring out the NHL game. This is something that almost everyone we spoke to agreed on.

The good news, however, is the timing of it all. The Rangers aren’t expected to be competitive next year, and in all reality that expectation should extend to the year after as well. That means Quinn has at least a year, but realistically two, to figure himself out at the NHL level. Not many coaches come into that type of a situation, and it will allow Quinn to make sure all the pieces fit the way he wants them to.

Is it possible with Henrik Lundqvist and a young, hungry core the Rangers make the playoffs next year? Well, Vegas is in the Stanley Cup Final so yes, anything is possible — but there’s a difference between expecting it and it happening organically. Cox said in his interview that there wasn’t a more perfect fit for Quinn than a Rangers’ team with room for him to breathe.

For what Quinn brings to the table right now, he’s a perfect fit. I might have likes Keefe’s systems and previous success stories more, but Quinn is just as good as a developer, and not nearly as much of a hot head in the room. Plus, he doesn’t come with the baggage of a rocky past.

Quinn should fit in the room right away, has no pressure to be good immediately, and can make sure he’s developing the players he needs to the right way. Now that he’s been brought on pre-draft and pre-free agency, he can at the very least have some input in what he’s looking for. Supposedly he made a major push for incoming NCAA star-in-the-making Oliver Wahlstrom (who has since de-committed from Harvard and will attend BC). Basically, I think the fear that Quinn will be part of the Rangers trading up to draft Brady Tkachuk is overblown. The Rangers’ board has been set for week, I’m sure, and Quinn probably can’t do much to alter it.

Basically, you should be excited about this. Even if Quinn wasn’t your first choice, he’s a good fit. And there’s something to be said for Quinn being a totally different direction than this team has ventured into in the past.