One of the most controversial head coaches in sports is without a job, as the New York Rangers have fired John Tortorella. He led the team to four playoff appearances in five seasons, but the Rangers second-round loss to the Boston Bruins this year wasn’t enough to save his job.
With Tortorella gone, one of the most coveted head coaching positions is now open. Who are the top candidates to lead New York next season?
With over 15 years of experience as an NHL head coach, Ruff will be one of the leading candidates to replace Tortorella. Before being fired by the Buffalo Sabres this past season, Ruff had taken the club to three Conference Finals and one Stanley Cup in his long tenure. Ruff spent parts of three seasons as a player with the Rangers in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. According to John Vogl of The Buffalo News, Ruff wants to coach in the Big Apple.
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In Vigneault, the Rangers have a chance to hire a coach that has had an incredible amount of regular season success, of late. The head coach led the Vancouver Canucks to five straight first-place finishes in the Northwest Division, before being fired a week ago. Vigneault’s teams underachieved in the last two playoffs, though, losing in the first round both times and being swept in 2013.
His current team isn’t looking to get rid of him, but Tippett could end up atop the Rangers’ wish list. The contract of the Phoenix Coyotes head coach expires at the end of June, and he could be looking to go elsewhere. Coyotes general manager Don Maloney has stated that he wants Tippett back, but the coach could look to find success on a bigger stage. He led Phoenix to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in three of his four seasons with the club, before missing the postseason this year.
Messier may be a longshot candidate, considering he has never coached a game in the NHL, but he might have an outside chance of landing the gig. He knows the team as well as any candidate after becoming New York’s special assistant to president and general manager Glen Sather in 2009. The Hall of Famer was, however, the head coach for Team Canada at the 2010 Deutschland Cup and 2010 Spengler Cup.