For a while it looked as if the New York Rangers were going to have the same exact coaching staff from last season’s Eastern Conference Championship team for this upcoming 2014-15 NHL season, but that was just not meant to be. The other day it was announced that the Rangers’ third assistant coach, or the “eye in the sky” in the press box, Dan Lacroix has left the Rangers to go back behind the bench, as an assistant to head coach Michel Therrien of the Montreal Canadiens.
What is actually pretty funny about this is that during last season’s Eastern Conference Finals between the Rangers and Canadiens, while Lacroix was a member of the Rangers coaching staff, Lacroix and other Rangers personnel were yelled at and criticized to the media by Therrien for viewing one of the Canadiens’ practices, even though it is perfectly legal but according to Therrien it breaks some “gentlemen’s agreement.” Obviously this is just water under the bridge as Therrien feels comfortable to have Lacroix alongside him on the bench next season.
Now back to the Rangers, head coach Alain Vigneault and GM Glen Sather will have to look for a third assistant coach, another “eye in the sky,” for next season and one candidate that has been brought up, I find to be very intriguing. This being Adam Oates, who was recently let go from his head coaching job with the Washington Capitals.
Oates was head coach of the Capitals for two seasons, leading them to a first place finish in their division, overall third seed in the Eastern Conference, in his first season. Although his first year would end with a disappointing Game 7 loss to the Rangers in the 1st round of the playoffs, it looked as if Oates was going to be a good fit in Washington.
Last year however was a complete disaster for Oates. Finishing fifth in the Metropolitan Division, missing the playoffs completely. and rumored disputes with Capitals’ superstar forward Alexander Ovechkin, the writing was quickly written on the wall that Oates and the Capitals will not have a future together.
Now before Oates was the head coach of the Capitals, he was one of the assistant coaches for the 2011-12 Eastern Conference Champion New Jersey Devils, who defeated the Rangers that season in the Eastern Conference Finals. So Oates may not have had a good first run as a head coach but we know he can be a very good assistant.
What is also intriguing about Oates, besides his name and his past assistant coaching experience, is the fact that he models himself after Vigneault.
According to the Washington Post, in an interview with radio station TSN 1260 in Edmonton, “Oates was also asked about the balance between being a hard-line coach and a players’ coach. “I’d like to think I’m in the middle,” he said. “I would say that if you look at [Rangers Coach Alain Vigneault] right now, I’d like to put myself in that category. AV, a guy who you can watch him, he’s very calm; he’s obviously in control. He teaches; he talks. You don’t have to raise your voice to get your point across. And I think the athletes nowadays are different from when I played, where coaches were harder. You’re talking about guys with long-term contracts now. The power struggle’s a hair different.”
All in all, with Oates past experience as a player, head coach, and assistant coach, plus wanting to model himself after Vigneault, who better to learn under than Vigneault himself?
Also let us not forget that Oates has a great mind for the power play. Assistant coach Scott Arniel may have improved the Rangers’ power play last season from the season before, but with the Rangers’ struggle on the power play down the stretch, Oates should be able to help Arniel get the Rangers’ power play back to where it was at the beginning of last season and even improve upon it further.