Scott Stevens is just the leader the Rangers need

Scott Stevens is just the leader the Rangers need

If the Rangers are seeking a coach who can teach while re-establishing a no-nonsense culture and hard-edged identity on Broadway, then management should simply look across the river to where Scott Stevens lives.

The Devils logo that the Greatest 100 defenseman wore on his chest while winning those three Stanley Cups from 1995-2003 should not disqualify Stevens from consideration for the job. That stuff became inconsequential once quintessential Montreal defenseman Jacques Laperriere showed up behind the bench in Boston as an assistant in the late 1990s.

Bringing it closer to home, the reason Bryan Trottier failed in his short run on Broadway had nothing to do with his Islanders heritage and everything to do with his ill fit for the job. That would have been so in Colorado, Pittsburgh or on Long Island.

The future of the Rangers rests largely on the organization’s ability to identify and develop young defensemen. General manager Jeff Gorton and his personnel department are responsible for the first part of the equation. If Libor Hajek, Ryan Lindgren, Yegor Rykov, Neal Pionk and John Gilmour are the wrong guys, then the road back to contention will be a long and winding one. And that is the road merely to playoff contention.

If management has correctly identified these defensemen as prospects, then the responsibility falls on the coaching staff to teach and develop them, individually and within a team structure designed to suppress shots and chances. That applies to Brady Skjei and Tony DeAngelo as much as the previously cited blueliners.

Stevens, with experience as an assistant with the Devils and the Wild, is the ultimate teacher. Remember, he was taught himself by the best: Larry Robinson. But Stevens is also a student of the game. He is a stickler for detail. No one understands more about the importance of preparation and of work ethic. The man is the embodiment of winning hockey culture, an individual who commands the respect of any room he walks into, from the moment he walks into it.

Scott StevensAP

There is no slam-dunk hire here for the Rangers. The absence of an obvious alternative was a primary reason management did not move out Alain Vigneault in October. It is not 1978, when Fred Shero was there to be taken (at the cost of a first-rounder, by the way) or 1993, when Mike Keenan was an automatic.

Gorton is being open-minded here, willing to consider hiring a coach out of college — Denver’s Jim Montgomery is believed the most advanced candidate out of that subsection — even if there only have been four men ever to go from the NCAA to the NHL, with the Flyers’ Dave Hakstol the first to make the jump since Badger Bob Johnson went from Wisconsin to Calgary in 1982.

Stevens, who is brilliant breaking down the game in his role on the NHL Network, left the Wild last summer after one (very successful) season on Bruce Boudreau’s staff because he missed his family, which had remained in New Jersey. Maybe Stevens isn’t up for such an all-consuming job.

But Gorton should find out. The Rangers are looking for a leader. They are looking for a teacher. If they look across the Hudson, they will find both of them in one.

A year after going low on Alex Ovechkin in round one of the playoffs, the Maple Leafs’ Nazem Kadri went low on Rick Nash, right at No. 61’s knee, and somehow escaped without a penalty for the malicious deed in Game 1 in Boston on Thursday.

The Leafs center did not escape without punishment for his reckless run at Tommy Wingels later in the match, earning every minute of the three-game suspension he received for his leaping headshot. Not a good start for Toronto or for Kadri, but a very good start for George Parros and the NHL disciplinary committee.

Ilya KovalchukGetty Images

We will stipulate that Mike Babcock knows his team a little bit better than Slap Shots does, but the Toronto coach honestly thinks he has a better chance with Tomas Plekanec as fourth-line center rather than Dominic Moore?


It’s only one game in, of course, but here is a reminder that the Capitals, in the Alex Ovechkin Era, have lost seven series while holding home-ice advantage over the past 10 years. That includes three in the first round and four in the second round.


I overlooked it because it happened toward the end of what had been a miserable and traumatic season, but the Rangers, having just 17 able-bodied players on site and ready to go in New Jersey for Game 80 following a pregame mishap, symbolized the lack of attention and slippage in detail that marked too much of the year, and that must be corrected.

At this point, the Rangers need Ilya Kovalchuk more than Kovalchuk needs the Rangers. And certainly neither side can commit to the other until the Blueshirts have a coach in place.

Not that Kovalchuk, who comes off the voluntary retired list and thus becomes an unrestricted free agent as of his 35th birthday on Sunday, can’t afford to wait.


Michael Grabner’s largely unproductive stint with the Devils — two goals on 36 shots for a 5.6 shooting percentage in 21 games following his 52 goals on 293 shots for 17.7 in 135 games as a Ranger — probably will thin the field attempting to sign the Austrian Express as a free agent and thus make a Broadway encore a more feasible proposition.

Though it is safe to figure on Grabner doubling his current $1.65 million salary, the question is whether the Blueshirts would be willing to go three of four years for the winger, who will turn 31 during training camp.

One last rivalry game ends in same misery for the Rangers

One last rivalry game ends in same misery for the Rangers

It’ll have to wait until next season — if it happens at all.

The Rangers have still not won a regular-season game in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, dropping their sixth straight to the Islanders, 2-1, on Thursday night.

The Islanders (34-37-10) had won the first five matches in Brooklyn between these two as urban rivals starting in 2015-16, and they have beaten the Rangers (34-38-9) in 10 of the previous 11 contests over that span. The Isles have been approved to build a new arena at Belmont Park, but for at least the next two seasons, they are going to split home games between Barclays Center and the renovated Coliseum — and there’s no guarantee where the games against the Rangers will be.

This also could very well have been John Tavares’ last home game as an Islander, as the captain could become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. The Isles have one more game left this season, Saturday in Detroit.

The third period started with the Islanders leading, 2-1, and the Rangers had a great chance to tie it up when they got a four-minute power play on a Shane Prince high stick. But Tavares made a good play to draw a penalty on Rangers winger Ryan Spooner midway through, and the Islanders held onto their one-goal lead.

The Rangers got on the board first, when Kevin Hayes beat Rangers-killer Jaroslav Halak for a power-play goal at 4:25 of the first period. But the Islanders were able to tie it at 4:55 of the second, when a long Thomas Hickey shot found its way through traffic and behind Ondrej Pavelec.

A score from second-year forward Anthony Beauvillier at 7:27 of the second gave the Islanders that 2-1 lead going into the third.

Photos: Blues lose to Hawks in final regular season home game

Photos: Blues lose to Hawks in final regular season home game

Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, Dan Girardi win in return to MSG

Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, Dan Girardi win in return to MSG

Hundreds of times these venerable defensemen entered the Garden, made their way toward the Rangers’ dressing room and prepared to sacrifice their bodies. On Friday, they returned and needed assistance finding the visitors’ room.

“Walking in here, I really didn’t know where to go to be honest with you,” Dan Girardi said. “I really was trying to figure out my way in the dressing room just now. It really is a weird feeling.”

In what was the Rangers’ final home game of the season, longtime pair Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, along with J.T. Miller, made their first return to the Garden with the Lightning since departing New York, a poetic end to the home slate for the rebuilding Rangers as they say goodbye to their past. Miller had a goal and assist and Girardi scored in the Rangers’ 7-3 loss.

The trio all started Friday for Tampa, were on the ice right before puck drop when a video tribute played featuring some of each player’s signature moments as a Ranger, saluted the crowd when it gave them an ovation once it ended.

They’re chasing the Stanley Cup now with Tampa Bay alongside ex-Rangers Anton Stralman and Ryan Callahan, who preceded McDonagh as Rangers captain. First they had to experience the gamut of emotions that come with this return — in particular Girardi and McDonagh, who served as the Rangers’ top pair for so long and are paired again.

In what was the Rangers' final home game of the season, longtime pair Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, along with J.T. Miller, made their first return to the Garden.

In what was the Rangers’ final home game of the season, longtime pair Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, along with J.T. Miller, made their first return to the Garden.

(Elsa/Getty Images)

“It was pretty surreal,” McDonagh said of his first Lightning shift with Girardi. “Not even a year ago, but it feels a lot longer obviously with the new season and everything that’s been going on with the team. It felt like old times, not to put it in that fashion. But it was great, great to be on the ice with him again and continue to do the same things we did for those years here in New York.”

McDonagh saw returning relatively soon after the Feb. 26 blockbuster trade as a positive. Different for Girardi, who was bought out last summer and had to wait all season.

“(Girardi) said as soon as the trade went down that we could’ve ruined his tribute day back here at MSG,” McDonagh said. “But it’s been fun knowing for the both of us, and J.T. as well, that we’re all kind of going through this together.”

The two defensemen went to Starbucks, walked to the arena and were greeted by Rangers fans who thanked them for what they did as Rangers. They would leave the building later hoping to achieve what they didn’t as Rangers despite deep playoff runs.

The trio of former Rangers are now chasing the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay alongside ex-Rangers Anton Stralman and Ryan Callahan.

The trio of former Rangers are now chasing the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay alongside ex-Rangers Anton Stralman and Ryan Callahan.

(Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

But will they have moved on?

“That’s hard. It’s hard to say when you finally move on, I guess,” McDonagh said. “You ask anybody about me, I care so much about the guys that I’m in the room with. I think most importantly I want the guys on my team in Tampa to know that I’m all in with them and I’m for sure gonna give it my all every game.”

***

Henrik Lundqvist was voted by fans as the winner of this year’s Steven McDonald Extra Effort award, given annually to the player “who goes above and beyond the normal call of duty.” … Filip Chytil scored his first NHL goal. 

Send a Letter to the Editor

Join the Conversation:
facebook
Tweet