Sitting here finishing off a Guinness in the wee hours watching classic videos on MTV Classic, I cannot help but wonder why Lindy Ruff is still here. The news came down officially over the weekend. The former Sabres and Stars coach, who was an assistant under Alain Vigneault in ’17-18, will return to the Rangers.
That’s right. The veteran coach will be part of new coach David Quinn’s staff. I’m wondering how that’ll work out exactly. Now, this isn’t a criticism of Ruff, who knows the game. It’s just that he was part of what was wrong on the first Rangers team to miss the postseason since the ill fated shootout nightmare in Philadelphia eight years ago. Under him, the defense struggled mightily. Even with Marc Staal returning to form, let’s just say the system the Blueshirts played was puzzling. Hopefully, it had more to do with Vigneault than Ruff.
Quinn enters his first NHL head coaching job emphasizing improved play from the defense. He comes from a good program coaching Boston University where Charlie McAvoy graduated, and was splendid in a good rookie season for the Bruins. So, I’m hopeful.
I think that’s the right word to describe most Ranger fans entering the offseason. Following the NHL Awards which will be filled with more celebrations from Alexander Ovechkin and his Capitals teammates along with either Taylor Hall or Nathan MacKinnon the new Hart winner, the NHL Draft hits in Dallas for two days a week from this Friday. I’m excited to see what our team can do with the extra picks in the first and second round. We’ll see if GM Jeff Gorton can parlay his ninth overall pick and extras along with possibly RFA’s Ryan Spooner or Vladislav Namestnikov going. We’ll see what happens.
Between a NHL Draft that’s loaded with talent including soon to be top pick Rasmus Dahlin to the Sabres, Andrei Svechnikov, Filip Zadina, Brady Tkachuk, Noah Dobson, Quinn Hughes, Adam Boqvist, Oliver Wahlstrom, Evan Bouchard and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and potential established stars (Erik Karlsson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Ryan O’Reilly) who could be moving, it’s sure to be an action packed weekend.
July 1 is around the corner. It’s not a big free agent class with only John Tavares, James van Riemsdyk and John Carlson the potential headliners. There are other good players such as James Neal, Joe Thornton (if he returns), David Perron, Paul Stastny, Rick Nash, and Michael Grabner all available.
The Rangers have a few Group II’s they’ll turn their attention to. Kevin Hayes should be at the top of the list with possibly a term in the $4.5 million AAV range and length between four to five years. Then Brady Skjei, who didn’t distinguish himself following a promising rookie season. Jimmy Vesey will likely accept a one or two-year deal that’s very affordable to prove himself. He wasn’t exactly utilized properly under Vigneault. A player of his stature should be looked at in the top six to see if he can be more than a 15-goal 30-point player. I believe there’s untapped potential.
As for Ruff, with him returning and of course valuable goalie coach Benoit Allaire, there isn’t much more to fill. One more assistant position is available. I have no idea what they’re thinking. Do they?