Regarding the Chris Drury-Gerard Gallant Rangers:
1. The one thing that I don’t quite get from Gallant’s introductory press conference on Tuesday was when the incoming coach cited the Rangers’ next-game response to Tom Wilson as evidence of the team’s leadership, toughness and ability to compete against the league’s brawniest teams.
Yes it was admirable that the Blueshirts didn’t shrivel and turn tail 48 hours later, but I interpreted their reaction as completely disconnected from hockey and that did nothing to address the club’s lack of players with the smash-mouth mentality that is required for success in this NHL playoff era.
We’ve been over this before. The Rangers don’t need to add third- and fourth-line enforcers to act as a deterrent to the Wilson’s of the world because that animal doesn’t even exist. No one questions the Bruins’ team toughness, but that did not deter Wilson from running Brandon Carlo from behind. The guy is an equal opportunity menace.
The Rangers need a change at the top of the lineup, and if not a change in personnel, then a change in attitude. But probably a change in personnel, too.
They need top-sixers who consistently get to the inside rather than play on the perimeter, who have more to offer than sheer skill, and who will take as much pride in scoring from the dirty areas of the ice as in creating a highlight reel of pretty goals.
2. The Blueshirts have not had a Stanley Cup winner on the roster since Adam McQuaid in 2018-19. They have not had a prominent Cup winner in the lineup since Dan Boyle in 2015-16. They have not had a Cup winner who created a positive influence both in the room and on the ice since Marty St. Louis in 2014-15.
Bulking up on leadership should be as much a priority for president-general manager Drury as bulking up on the ice. Naming a captain must be a priority for this club that has gone without one since Ryan McDonagh was swept out in the Deadline Purge of 2018.
“I think if we can continue moving that forward, a big piece of that for me would be getting a captain,” said Drury, who captained the Rangers and Sabres after winning the Cup with the 2000-01 Avalanche. “For me it’s a priority, but at the end of the day it’s got to be the right person.
“I’m not interested in just giving it to somebody to say we have a captain, but I think we have a lot of leaders in our room and leaders that have taken big steps the last couple of years including the second half of last season.
“So I’m looking forward to talking to Gerard further about that after we talked about it a little bit during the interview process,” the GM said. “I’ll see how it shakes out this summer and then in training camp.”
The last regime of which Drury was a part but did not have decision-making power obviously did not believe that either Mika Zibanejad or Chris Kreider, the two most logical candidates, had the necessities. It is doubtful that Drury would now reverse that call.
The leading in-house contenders are Jacob Trouba, whose leadership qualities were extolled throughout the year by then-coach David Quinn, and Ryan Lindgren.
But the concept of trading for a captain should not be ignored.
3. It may be ancillary benefit, and perhaps not one even considered by Drury when he reached the decision to dismiss Quinn following the season, but the players no longer will have the crutch of blaming “a college coach” for their deficiencies.
“As far as David, I just think it was time for a new voice, a new coach and new leadership in the room,” Drury said. “I’m very confident that Gerard is the person for that job.
“At the start of this process I was looking to find a coach with a proven track record of success at several levels. I think he captures the room whatever room he walks into. At the end of the day I think he is the perfect fit for what we’re trying to accomplish as an organization.”
4. Drury, whose next tasks will be to complete the coaching staff and fill out the front office, player personnel and scouting departments, was careful to say that he does not believe there is a “mandate” to make the playoffs. He instead said it was “a goal and a hope.”
Maybe the GM was attempting to allay irrational fears that arose in the wake of the firings of president John Davidson and GM Jeff Gorton that there would be another round of dismissals if the team fails to qualify for the playoffs for what would be the fifth straight season.
Maybe he was attempting to assuage those who think that there’d be pressure from the owner’s suite to trade, say, a Kaapo Kakko for a Pat Maroon at next season’s deadline if the playoffs are in reach.
But rest assured that the slow-walk has ended. Next year won’t be about how young the Rangers are. It will be about where they are in the standings.