Deciphering NY Rangers Owner James Dolan’s Comments to the NY Post

Photo credit Ron Kuchler

Earlier today, the owner of the New York Rangers spoke to the New York Post in regards to the change in management of the team. There were several points that stood out.

Point one, the Post quotes Dolan as saying, ““I started thinking about it 20 or 25 games ago at a time when the team really needed to show heart and we had key games — I won’t be specific — where we had to show up and had to come out strong, and even if we lost, it had to be our best effort,” Dolan said. “And we clearly had nowhere close to our best effort.

Counterpoint, if the effort was lacking during that stretch of games, would not that failure fall on the shoulders of the head coach, David Quinn? And, if the lack of effort is the fault of the head coach David Quinn, then why was he not dismissed? To answer this question, it will require some hypothesizing. Hypothesis number one, Dolan approached team President John Davidson regarding a change in the head coach. Davidson responded that team personnel decisions are left to team General Manager Jeff Gorton and that the plan is evaluate all aspects of team personnel at the end of the season, not mid-season. This probably did not sit well with Dolan. Why? Here is Dolan quoted again from his NY Post interview, “Honestly, we have enough talent now to compete for a Stanley Cup,” he said.

When the trade deadline arrived, and management made no moves, Dolan probably concluded he did not have the right management team in place.

Hypothesis number two, in private, there was a power struggle between the head coach David Quinn and GM Jeff Gorton. Quinn has publicly been lamenting the fact that his star players refuse to play the game his way, north to south, not east to west. Plus, Quinn recognized the roster lacked the meat and potatoes kind of players you need to succeed in the playoffs. He lobbied Gorton to add one or two of those players at the trade deadline but instead Gorton traded Brendan Lemiuex, the exact kind of grinder that Quinn wanted added to the roster, not subtracted.

This leads to our third hypothesis. Dolan dismissing Davidson and Gorton has set in motion a series of off-season moves not likely to please Ranger fans. First, promoting Chris Drury to team President and General Manager probably means Quinn is remaining head coach.

Drury was a big advocate of hiring Quinn over the other available and more accomplished college coach who was jumping to the NHL, Jim Montgomery – formerly of the University of Denver where he led them to a NCAA championship in 2017. Montgomery was hired by the Dallas Stars and led a similarly constructed roster at the time to the playoffs in his first season. He was dismissed midway through his second season for personnel reasons, despite the Stars being second in the Conference in points. The team went to the Stanley Cup final that year. He is now an assistant coach for the St. Louis Blues.

Second, if Quinn remains head coach, then he sold Drury on the fact that he needs players who will listen to his instructions and play the game his way. I would not be surprised if we see Mika Zikanejad, Ryan Strome and Pavel Buchnevich traded in blockbuster moves this offseason. Drury would be selling high on all three players.

Those are my three hypothesis. Which one, if any, is most likely? Let’s examine another quote from James Dolan’s interview with the NY Post to gain some more insight.

What I’m talking about is not just something that happens in the locker room,” Dolan said. “It’s an entire organization that has to be together as a team. It’s everybody from the president, the general manager, the coach, the players, the assistant coaches, the trainers. … Everybody has to be together as a team, because everyone makes a contribution.” “Our organization doesn’t have that.”

This means we are looking at an offseason of major moves. Quinn and his star players are not aligned. Someone has to go. That is Chris Drury’s decision to make. Does he move half of his top six players currently on the team or does he believe Quinn has the leadership skills to bring a Stanley Cup champion to Madison Square Garden?

My answer is Quinn does not have the leadership skills to raise a Championship banner to the rafters of MSG. The team loss many games this season that were winnable, not because he had the wrong personnel but because he failed to make the necessary in-game adjustments late in games. Quinn may be a very good college coach. He is NOT a NHL level coach. His constant line shuffling is maddening. His sitting of young players for long stretches of time in games stunted their growth. His leash on his star players was so long that it wrapped around MSG. He took too long to sit Mika when Mika was off to a horrendous start this season. Once he sat Mika, his season immediately turned around and he reverted back to the all-star player he was. A message was sent. Quinn took too long to send it. He has had similar lapses with Chris Krieder and Ryan Strome. Strome has publicly said they, meaning him and his fellow veterans on the team, play the game the way they play the game and no one has the right to question it. If John Tortorella was the head coach, Strome would be looking a lengthy stretch of healthy scratches. Quinn, on the other hand, for whatever reason, is reluctant to discipline his players. Instead he will run to the press, and whine how these guys won’t play the game the way needs them to play it. That is not leadership.

My personal conclusion is that David Quinn needs to go and Strome and Buchnevich need to go as well. The team needs to make room for its young stars in its top six and bring in a couple meat and potatoes guys who will protect the young studs. Is my conclusion supported by Dolan’s comments? Here is Dolan again from this interview with the NY Post, “But other owners, other general managers have been telling me for a year that they can’t believe how stocked we are with talent, but talent alone doesn’t do it. We’re missing this piece and we need it. And when I looked at our organization, I felt that we need to change the whole organization and change the culture.”

What say you Kandy fans? Will Chris Drury keep David Quinn or will he sell high on a few of his top six players?

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