Potential Candidates Include Ruff, Vigneault, Maurice, Eakins And Messier

By Steve Silverman
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It’s one thing to get rid of a coach who demeaned and debilitated those around him.

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It’s another to find a replacement who will best take advantage of the talent that John Tortorella quashed during his tenure with the Rangers.

Tortorella certainly cared about his job and getting results; but he was the wrong person for leading the Rangers.

His emphasis was strictly on shot-blocking and defense, and he understood little about getting the most out of the talent at hand and players who had creative instincts.

Tortorella coached out of fear and that took the heart out of his team. His fear was that his team would give up a bad goal, and that would cause it to lose.

However, he didn’t see the big picture. He had the best goalie in the NHL on his team. Henrik Lundqvist did not need protection.

Tortorella didn’t understand this. When you have a superior goaltender, the idea is to give him support with goal scoring. You don’t need your forwards thinking about blocking shots and making that their priority.

You need to have your forwards thinking about attacking the net and your defensemen need to think about joining the offense.

Glen Sather must find a coach who understands that the Rangers need to develop their offensive instincts. Tortorella crushed players like Marian Gaborik, those who wanted to put the puck in the net. The next coach can’t be so limited in his outlook.

Sather must understand this or he wouldn’t have gotten rid of Tortorella. His inability to deal with the media amused most casual fans, but it just demonstrated what kind of individual the press and the Rangers players had to deal with on an everyday basis.

When you are a head coach in the NHL, you have to get along with people. All kinds of people. Overweight people with pens and microphones and elite athletes with superb hockey skills.

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The names being mentioned to become the next Rangers coach include Lindy Ruff, Alain Vigneault, Paul Maurice, Dallas Eakins and Mark Messier.

Ruff, the longtime coach of the Buffalo Sabres, would appear to be the safest. He coached the Sabres for 15 years and it took him a long time to wear out his welcome. He had the appearance of a burned-out leader when he was relieved of his duties early in 2013, but if he is recharged he would do an adequate job.

He has shown that he can bring out the best in his players and he knows how to get along with people.

However, if Sather senses that a few months off have not rejuvenated Ruff, he will have to pass.

If Sather is seriously considering Vigneault, that would be a mistake. He is a pompous prig who lacks vision and discipline. He would not choke off an offensive player’s creativity — he certainly helped bring out the best in Henrik and Daniel Sedin — but he is difficult to decipher and he does not have a clear philosophy.

If the Rangers are going to turn toward a coach who can develop young players, Eakins deserves consideration. The coach of the minor-league Toronto Marlies has brought out the best in players like Nazem Kadri of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He could do the same with Chris Kreider and other Rangers youngsters.

Additionally, Eakins is the opposite of Tortorella in dealing with the press. While it’s been at the minor-league level, he enjoys discussing the game and the give-and-take with the press.

However, the magical name is Messier. He would get instant respect from the players, fans and media, and he certainly has a philosophy that would generate interest. Messier grew up with the explosive Edmonton Oilers and attacking the net is in his blood.

Obviously a risk because he has not been an NHL head coach, Messier could turn the wet-blanket culture of Tortorella around in a matter of minutes.

With the addition of a couple of offensive-minded players, that may be just what the Rangers need.

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