Per Darren Dreger of TSN on Twitter, the Rangers have been granted permission to talk to recently fired Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, and Toronto Marlies coach, and former Ranger Dallas Eakins. The announcement follows an expression of interest from another former Canucks coach, Marc Crawford, who is currently coaching in the Swiss Nationaliga.
Of the candidates listed, the only one to win a Staney Cup is Marc Crawford, with the Colorado Avalanche in just his second year as a head coach. It’s fair to say that the Avalanche were a pretty good team already with the likes of Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Patrick Roy on the team, not to mention a strong supporting cast.
The biggest knock on Crawford is that he hasn’t made the playoffs in the past five seasons he coached with the Canucks, Kings and Stars. He has only ever coached one season in the East – with the Quebec Nordiques in his rookie season – and seems an unlikely candidate.
While Messier would seem like an obvious choice as the most storied leader of the Blueshirts in recent times, it appears his interest in coaching might be muted. The NY Times reported that Messier turned down the opportunity while still playing with the team following the ouster of Ron Low back in 2002. He was also reportedly approached by the Edmonton Oilers after Tom Renney was let go, but turned that down too.
Messier himself has supposedly said he understands that being a great player doesn’t necessarily translate directly to being a great coach, and with little real experience, it’s hard to see this being a good match.
Dallas Eakins, who played a small role for the Rangers in the 1996-97 season, has risen to prominence recently with his exploits for the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. The Marlies are the minor league affiliate of the Maple Leafs, and as such they get perhaps a higher profile than many other teams might in the AHL. Eakins has coached only four years in the AHL, the first two missing the playoffs, but took the Marlies to the Calder Cup Finals last year, and to the Western Conference Semifinals this year.
Perhaps the premiere candidate would be Dave Tippett, but the current Phoenix Coyotes coach is under contract through June 30th, and with the Coyotes on the verge of perhaps finally solving their ownership issues – and extending Don Maloney as GM – he may not be a viable candidate.
Tippett has made it to the Conference Finals twice, once with the Stars and once with the Coyotes last year. He’s made the playoffs in 8 of his 10 seasons with the two teams, and would be a strong candidate, despite having coached only in the West.
Ruff is another interesting candidate, though the longest lived NHL coach in recent history with the Buffalo Sabres, is a bit of an unknown quantity, missing the playoffs 6 out of his 14 full seasons, but also getting his underfunded Sabres into a competitive position on many occasions. Ruff has been to the Conference Finals three times, and the Finals once, but the last time was six years ago in 2007.
Finally Alain Vigneault became available after the Vancouver Canucks were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Vigneault has made it as far as the Stanley Cup Finals Game 7, as the losing coach when the Bruins blew out the hometown Canucks in their recent Cup win.
Vigneault has coached 806 regular season games with Montreal and Vancouver, with a .583 win percentage and a 422-288-35-61 record over his career. Vigneault made the playoffs in 8 of his 11 seasons, and to the second round or better in 5 seasons.