Gorton Looking For New Voice, Fresh Start for Rangers

By Matthew Blittner
Special Contributor to MSGNetworks.com

Nothing lasts forever.

That’s especially true about the tenure of NHL coaches.

John Giannone goes 1-on-1 with Jeff Gorton and finds out why the Rangers GM decided to part ways with Alain Vigneault, what he's looking for in a new coach and how he wants to improve the team for next season.

On Saturday night — not even six hours after the Rangers5-0 loss to the Flyers — the team relieved Alain Vigneault of his coaching duties.

[Fischler: Why Vigneault Got The Hook]

The house cleaning continued Sunday, as management also let go associate coach Scott Arniel and assistant coach Darryl Williams.

There is uncertainty regarding the continued employment of Lindy Ruff and Benoit Allaire. Nobody — and I mean nobody — expects Allaire to leave so long as Henrik Lundqvist is on the team.

But Ruff is another story. Normally, when the head coach goes, so does the rest of the staff. However, it appears Lindy will be sticking around; at least for the immediate future.

“We’re looking for a highly qualified individual,” said General Manager Jeff Gorton at Monday morning’s press conference. “We’ll probably interview between five to ten guys. Fresh is a good word, we’re looking for someone who can get us moving in the right direction.”

Gorton later added, “at this point, we’re not ruling anybody out. We have some guys in mind already and some guys we’d like to ask. But we’re not going to rule out anybody at this time.”

Jeff Gorton explains the reason why the team parted way with coach Alain Vigneault and how he's approaching the search for the new coach.

In regards to Ruff, Gorton later admitted he’d yet to speak to him and that he plans on getting a feel for where Lindy’s at during tomorrow’s team meetings.

One thing that’s of the utmost importance in finding a new coach is his ability to develop the young Blueshirts prospects and players.

“With our youth, the new coach should probably be a hands-on guy,” said the Rangers’ GM. “We have a lot of young guys on the team. We called up a number of players from the American Hockey League.”

For those wondering if the team’s loss to the Flyers was a catalyst for Vigneault’s firing; it wasn’t.

“Once we hit the trade deadline we started to evaluate where we had to go as a team and the decision to let A.V. go was made in the last few days,” Gorton told the media.

“This was about general change. Alain has been a terrific coach in the league and over the past five years with the Rangers. But after five years we felt it was time for a change. The players and organization need a new voice.”

[Blittner: What’s Next For The Blueshirts]

So, if after five years, it’s time for a new coach, the question becomes when will the Rangers have a new coach?

“We’re not going to put a deadline on anything,” said Gorton.

While not having a deadline is a little curious, it’s possible Gorton is just playing things close to the vest.

However, he also said, “it’s not that important to have a coach in place by the draft.” So buckle up Rangers’ fans, you could be in for a long coaching search.

In case you’re thinking about how the Rangers’ coaching search will impact the team’s free agency plans, here’s what the GM himself had to say:

“We’d be foolish to rule anything out. We’ll look at every scenario. But the key is going out and getting players that will have a long-term impact on the team. We’re not looking for one-year guys.”

Essentially Gorton didn’t want to divulge any of his plans. Meanwhile, as far as the team’s rebuild is concerned, it appears that’s still the Blueshirts’ goal.

Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton talks about how the team will approach the offseason and the search for a new captain.

And whatever you do don’t ask the General Manager about Ilya Kovalchuk. The soon-to-be 35-year-old Russian winger’s future has been a hot topic around the league. Just don’t expect Gorton to join in on the gossip.

“I can’t talk about a player who’s under contract with another team,” said Gorton. Going back to his previous comment about “getting players that will have a long-term impact on the team,” it doesn’t appear Kovalchuk is a fit with the Rangers.

However, the team’s young players are almost certain to factor into the Blueshirts’ blueprint.

“I would say Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil showed well,” Gorton proudly told the media. “They have a bright future.”

Watch Jeff Gorton's full press conference, as he met with the media to discuss the departure of coach Alain Vigneault, what's next for the Rangers and much more.

Hopefully that “bright future” starts next year.

Henrik Lundqvist has been very adamant about how the Rangers need to win and make the playoffs next season. “The goal has to be set early,” Lundqvist told reporters after the team’s season finale.

His GM is perfectly fine with that sentiment. “What Henrik said is true,” Gorton said Monday morning. “He’s the ultimate competitor. We should be about winning. This is a very proud organization and we want our players to understand that.”

They say goals start at the top and roll their way down. Gorton wants his players to be on the same page. But before that can happen, the GM wants to sit down with each of his players and get a feel for their thoughts.

“I’m looking forward to hearing from our players about the last couple months,” said Gorton.

And with that, the Rangers’ GM effectively began phase one of what is sure to be a multiphase game plan for the rest of the offseason.