The New York Rangers could be the first team of the 2023 offseason to fill a vacant head coaching position. Per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, well-tenured NHL bench boss Peter Laviolette is becoming the consensus pick to take over behind the Rangers bench, with a potential announcement coming next week.
Out of all the teams looking for a new head coach this offseason, the Rangers’ search has been the shortest. The team announced they’d parted ways with second-year coach Gerard Gallant on May 6.
If hired, the Rangers would be the sixth stop on Laviolette’s coaching tour. He ranks third among active coaches for seasons spent as a head coach (21), tied with current Philadelphia Flyers bench boss John Tortorella.
Laviolette, 58, himself became a free agent this summer, mutually parting ways with the Washington Capitals after three seasons as their head coach. His contract was set to expire regardless on June 30.
Undoubtedly, Laviolette is one of the most coveted options on the market. He’s got multiple deep playoff runs under his belt, and at first glance, he seems like an ideally experienced candidate to handle the New York market and lead the team into its first Stanley Cup Final since 2014.
But if you’re met with exasperation from Rangers fans when bringing up the connection, it is justified. The team’s largest issues over the past few seasons have been developing the talent they drafted to lead their retool, instead leading on their veteran stars (and goaltending) to take them to the next level.
Filip Chytil seems to be growing well into a high-end third-line center, but Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko weren’t able to reach their peak effectiveness under two previous coaches in New York. Other top ten picks, namely Lias Andersson and Vitali Kravtsov, ended their Rangers careers as merely a blip in the stat book and now reside outside the organization.
Is Laviolette the right candidate to fix that issue and utilize the most out of depth players? The jury’s out on that one. His two previous franchises, the Capitals and Nashville Predators, are currently stagnant in their development. Nashville’s future only recently brightened thanks to a series of shrewd moves over the past few months from outgoing general manager David Poile.
There is one thing on Laviolette’s résumé that puts him ahead of a more developmental candidate or potentially an internal promotion from the team’s AHL staff in Hartford: three conference championships, all with different teams. Considering he hasn’t reached the Cup Final since 2017 with Nashville, Laviolette does seem due for another chance at Stanley after appearances in 2006 (a win with Carolina) and 2010 (a loss with Philadelphia).