New York Rangers defenseman Neal Pionk (44) celebrates his first career NHL goal against the Buffalo Sabres on March 24, 2018, at Madison Square Garden.

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Hartnett: David Quinn Brings Yet Another New Approach To Rangers

New Coach Wants In-Your-Face Style Of Hockey

Sean Hartnett
June 05, 2018 - 11:13 am
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Two weeks have passed since the Rangers announced the hiring of David Quinn as the 35th coach in team history. The appointment of Quinn is a departure from the typical modus operandi of the Blueshirts, who previously sought highly experienced coaches with substantive track records of playoff success.

Predecessors John Tortorella and Alain Vigneault arrived at Madison Square Garden with major accomplishments on their respective résumés. Tortorella took charge in the middle of the 2008-09 season following Tom Renney’s ouster and immediately instilled an atmosphere of tough love and blunt honesty.

Tortorella’s methods initially moved the franchise closer to its Stanley Cup championship goal. In the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, an Adam Henrique Game 6 overtime series winner denied the Rangers the opportunity of hosting a showdown Game 7 against the Devils at Madison Square Garden – the kind of setting where franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist shines his brightest.

As the years passed, Tortorella’s combustible personality and defensively obsessive leanings became tiresome and stale. In the summer of 2013, Vigneault was tabbed as Tortorella’s replacement and ushered in a sea change of difference following Tortorella’s vice grip on the locker room.

MORE: Hartnett: Five Prospects Rangers Could Target At No. 9

Vigneault quickly reconnected the tissue of a team that had become frayed during the final combative months of Tortorella’s reign. Players were given the responsibility to police themselves, and Vigneault’s uptempo, out-chancing tactics breathed fresh life into the Blueshirts machine.

The 2014 trade deadline acquisition of Martin St. Louis added playoff pedigree to a Rangers team that was unmistakably in win-now mode. After losing to the Los Angeles Kings in five games in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, the Rangers identified veteran blue liner Dan Boyle to provide a lift offensively and on the power play. The win-now dial was further set to the max when point-producing defenseman Keith Yandle was acquired at the 2015 trade deadline in a package that sent two early-round picks, Anthony Duclair and John Moore, to the Arizona Coyotes.

Vigneault’s teams certainly possessed playoff mettle, as the Rangers became the first team in league history to overcome 3-1 series deficits in consecutive seasons. Despite the progression of Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello, the Blueshirts were eliminated in a tightly contested home Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Like Tortorella, Vigneault leaned too heavily on his principles and became ill-fitting to the Rangers’ plans. Logically, the veteran-trusting Vigneault was removed from the equation at the point that win-now swiftly shifted to youthful overhaul.

Tortorella and Vigneault each came tantalizingly close to attaining the ultimate prize for a franchise that hasn’t gotten its mitts on Lord Stanley since the curse-breaking season of 1994. In 2018, the organizational direction has been reset, and win-now has been wiped clean from the dry-erase board.

The 2018-19 Rangers will be geared toward patient development. There won’t be any shortcuts taken on the ice or any quick-fix desperation deals struck by the front office.

Quinn enters an entirely different scenario than the "We’re close, can you take us to the next level?" mission statement handed to Tortorella and Vigneault. Trimmed of McDonagh, Stepan, Rick Nash and Dan Girardi and potentially set to cast aside more familiar faces at the 2018 draft in the pursuit of draft positioning and a youth-focused rebuild, the roster Quinn commands on opening night will be almost unrecognizable from two seasons ago.

Quinn demonstrated a knack of developing some of the NHL’s top young talents during a five-year spell coaching the Boston University Terriers. His ability to form bonds with his players, striking a tough-but-fair approach, paid big dividends. Quinn helped lay the groundwork for the success that Jack Eichel, Clayton Keller and Charlie McAvoy are enjoying as NHL rising stars. 2018 draft prospect Brady Tkachuk could be the next Terrier to attain NHL stardom.

Now, Quinn’s task will be getting the most out of the Rangers’ youngsters -- including Pavel Buchnevich, Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, Neal Pionk and Tony DeAngelo. More promising kids will soon emerge from the Hartford-to-New York, AHL-to-NHL pipeline. The Rangers currently own three first-round draft picks in the 2018 draft at Nos. 9, 26 and 28 overall. In total, the Blueshirts possess seven picks through the first three rounds.

General manager Jeff Gorton noted that Quinn achieves "success while simultaneously teaching the game and helping his players develop on and off the ice.”

Being able to implement his principles at the collegiate level is a positive sign. Whether he can translate that success to the NHL level remains to be seen. Quinn is preaching an in-your-face brand of hockey and a focus of maximizing the talents at his disposal.

“I describe my coaching style as fair and demanding,” he told the Rangers’ official website in an open letter to fans. “We want to be in the opposition's faces and make them uncomfortable every shift. We want them to know when they see the Rangers on the schedule, it's going to be a long night. We're going to be a team that's built around defense, and not only in our own zone. We're going to play with the puck, and the minute we don't have it, we're going to work to get it back. Whether in our zone, their zone or the neutral zone, our job is to make things as difficult as they can be for the 20 guys in the other uniform.

"To Rangers fans, I want you to know that I'm going to do the best job that I can to put the best team on the ice. We're going to give you an honest effort night after night. We're going to be committed to making every individual better on a daily basis, which in turn will lead to making our team better.”

New team, new style, new coach. Everything is new again at the Garden. Fans begged for up-and-coming prospects to get their fare share of ice time under Vigneault. Now with Quinn at the helm, Rangers fans will be eager to see if his fresh approach sparks long-term benefits.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey​