With Gerard Gallant’s tenure ending after just two seasons behind the New York Rangers bench, general manager Chris Drury has started interviewing candidates for the head coaching vacancy. Per Arthur Staple of The Athletic, Peter Laviolette and Mike Babcock were interviewed first (from “What we’re hearing about the Rangers’ coaching search as interviews have begun,’ The Athletic, 5/19/23).
Staple then reported on May 23 that the Rangers have also interviewed Spencer Carbery, assistant coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
With the process well underway, it’s safe to wonder what direction the Rangers will head with their next coach. The idea of a veteran behind the bench who has done it before seems appealing to Drury, but the path less traveled may be the wise approach, as candidates like Carbery, Kris Knoblauch, and Jay Leach (the latter two have yet to be interviewed formally) may be the next John Cooper-esque coaches waiting in the wings.
Laviolette is in contention for many NHL coaching vacancies. He has had success throughout his career, having coached in major markets like the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Islanders, his first job in 2001-2003. The 58-year-old, American-born coach is in the running for the Rangers’ vacancy, so here’s a closer look at his career.
Early Years for Laviolette
Laviolette is a native of Massachusetts, playing for Westfield State College in the ECAC for two seasons. He went on to play for the Indianapolis Checkers after college in the IHL, tallying 30 points and 146 penalty minutes in 72 games. Laviolette got his crack at the NHL with the Rangers in 1988-89 but lasted just 12 games, failing to record a point at the NHL level.
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Laviolette played 11 seasons in the minors before his playing career ended. After retiring from playing in the 1996-97 season, which he spent with the Providence Bruins, he immediately became a head coach for the Wheeling Nailers in the ECHL.
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After one season in Wheeling, Laviolette landed the head coaching job with his former team in Providence. In his first season in 1998-99, he won a championship, and he was named the AHL’s coach of the year.
Players who lack elite skills often become the game’s better coaches. Laviolette fits that mold perfectly, and although he didn’t become the NHL regular he had hoped, his coaching career took off because he knew how to get the most out of a lineup, from the role players to the stars.
He would get Providence to the third round of the AHL playoffs the next season before leaving his head coaching job for the Boston Bruins assistant job in 2000-01. After one season as an assistant in Boston, he departed the Bruins and took over as the head coach of the New York Islanders.
Laviolette’s NHL Coaching Resume
Laviolette’s NHL coaching career has spanned 22 seasons. He has amassed 752 wins, making him the winningest American-born coach in NHL history. He has coached five organizations, starting with the Islanders, then the Carolina Hurricanes, Flyers, Nashville Predators, and Washington Capitals.
He took his teams to three Stanley Cup Finals, winning with the Hurricanes in 2006 and losing once with the Flyers and Predators. Laviolette has a career coaching record of 752-503-25-150 (W-L-T-OTL) and has made the postseason 13 times, advancing past the first round seven times (from ‘These NHL playoffs show recycled coach like Peter Laviolette could be Rangers’ best bet, NY Post, 05/16/23).
In 2006, Laviolette was named the head coach of the USA Men’s Olympic team, and in 2020, he was named the head coach for the USA during the Men’s World Championships. His track record is respected, but his teams have only made it past the first round once since 2017-18.
He is a great coach, but the question remains: is he the right fit for the Rangers? The answer is unclear, but for a team that has recycled veteran coaches — with the exception of David Quinn — since hiring Tom Renney in 2004, confidence won’t be high.
The Rangers have a mix of veteran talent and young players with potential that most coaches would jump at the opportunity to lead. With Igor Shesterkin in goal, the Rangers have a chance to win every night. Laviolette could return the team to the postseason, but we know the Blueshirts’ expectations go beyond that.
The better option is a fresh face, but of the veteran coaches who will be or have been interviewed, Laviolette is the best option for this group. His track record speaks for itself, and his style worked with defensive-minded teams in Nashville and more upstart teams like the Hurricanes in 2006.
He has had success getting players to buy into his system, something Gallant could not achieve. X’s and O’s are more Laviolette’s speed, and for the Rangers, that is not something to gloss over. There is a good chance we will hear his name more often as the search continues, and he will likely be a finalist for the job.
Do you think Laviolette is a fit? Let us know in the comments below!