David Quinn
The New York Rangers’ plans no longer include former head coach David Quinn. (Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

To say the New York Rangers had a rough week would be an understatement. After letting go of their president and general manager a week ago, new GM Chris Drury made his first significant decision and fired head coach David Quinn. Quinn, who spent three seasons behind the Rangers’ bench, becomes the third coach fired this offseason, joining Columbus’ John Tortorella (who coached the Rangers from 2008-2013) and Arizona’s Rick Tocchet.

Quinn arrived in New York in 2018 after a successful five-year run as head coach of the Boston University Terriers. Under Quinn, BU reached the NCAA tournament four times, highlighted by finals loss to Providence in 2015. Expectations in Quinn’s first year weren’t very high, as New York announced its intent to rebuild and then sold key pieces the following deadline. The Rangers went 32-36-14 under Quinn, finishing 7th out of eight teams in the Metropolitan Division.

In the 2019 offseason, the Rangers took a step towards competing and moved up to second overall in the draft lottery while bringing in key pieces Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba. A red-hot February put the team in playoff contention: from February 1 to the end of the season (March 12), the Rangers went 13-7-1, tied with the Vegas Golden Knights for the fifth-most points in that span. When the season shut down, they were 11th in the Eastern Conference, trailing the New York Islanders by just one point for the second wild card in the East.

New York drew a tough match-up in the Qualifier Round when they faced the Carolina Hurricanes. The team couldn’t hang with the Canes, partly due to missing key players like Igor Shesterkin and Jesper Fast for most of the series. Regardless, Carolina easily handled the Rangers, pulling off the only sweep in the one-time-only-best-of-five Qualifier Round. Though it was a disappointing end to their season, the Rangers viewed 2021 optimistically. Panarin finished third in Hart Trophy voting. Mika Zibanejad scored a career-high 41 goals. When healthy, Shesterkin played lights out in his first NHL audition. The rebuild was coming around…

But not soon enough. The cards were stacked against the Rangers from the start of the 2020-21 season, as the East Division contained five clear playoff-caliber teams — the Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and New York Islanders — with only four playoff spots available. The Rangers were a potential playoff team but pushing past two teams ahead of them proved impossible, although they did finish ahead of the Flyers. Despite the Rangers’ improvement, however, the team was never anything more than a plucky underdog challenging a struggling Boston team for a playoff spot.

Ultimately, the Rangers finished 27-23-6, with their points percentage dropping from .564 (about a 93-point pace in a full season) to .532 (87-point pace). Some of the young players, including Shesterkin, Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller, and Alexis Lafrenière, have thrived, but others, like Kappo Kakko and Brett Howden, have struggled at times. Former top-ten pick Lias Andersson was mismanaged so poorly he outright refused to play for the team and he was eventually traded to the Kings for a second-round pick. Trouba struggled to live up to his hefty contract. Zibanejad regressed heavily early in the year but he finished with decent numbers thanks to a late-season beatdown of Philadelphia. David Quinn couldn’t lift the team to the next level management was apparently hoping they would reach this season.

The Rangers rank 29th in the NHL in Corsi at 46.4% (score and venue adjusted) since Quinn’s arrival, beating out only the Red Wings and Senators. They don’t look much better when examined through the statistic of Expected Goals either (47.31%, 25th). Despite having solid goaltending, the Rangers team save percentage under Quinn is .906%, 12th in the NHL. Every team with a higher percentage (even the Coyotes!) has made at least one playoff appearance in that time span. The Rangers, not counting the Qualifier Round sweep, have not.

Ultimately, this decision appears to stem from Drury’s desire to make an immediate mark on the team. New general managers often bring in new head coaches, and Quinn didn’t exactly force Drury’s hand. In fact, it was Drury himself, not Quinn, who coached the Rangers to their massive 9-0 and 8-3 wins over the Flyers, stepping in along with two of the club’s AHL coaches when a COVID-19 outbreak swept through the Rangers staff. That isn’t Quinn’s fault, of course, but it illustrates that he might not have been the reason for any success the Rangers did have during his tenure.

If you’d like to read about a team (or two) that is in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, we’ve got you.

After failing with a younger college coach, most teams tend to veer in the opposite direction for their next hire. When the Flyers fired Dave Hakstol in 2018, they turned to the experienced Alain Vigneault, and when the Dallas Stars let go of Jim Montgomery in 2019, they hired veteran coach Rick Bowness. If they follow this precedent, the Rangers will likely seek out the biggest names on the market. Ultimately, firing David Quinn sends a similar message as the Jeff Gorton and John Davidson dismal: The time for patience is over at MSG, and a fresh perspective is needed to return the Rangers to greatness.

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