The decision of New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather to fire John Tortorella on Wednesday altered the landscape in the NHL coaching market. Not only did the amount of openings go from two to three, but one of them now is for an Original Six franchise located in the biggest market in the United States.
Sather gave the Rangers a vacancy to match the Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks, and all three have several worthy candidates to consider. Sather said his hope is to have a new coach in place by June 30, the day of the NHL Draft in Newark, N.J.
Here are seven candidates Sather is likely considering, and why each could work in New York:
The question with Ruff as it pertains to the Rangers is how far does Sather want to stray from a guy like Tortorella? Ruff, the former coach of the Buffalo Sabres, is not a softie. He can be tough on players. He can be tough on the media. That is very similar to Tortorella.
CHANGE IN NEW YORK
Rangers fire John TortorellaBy Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer
Rangers general manager Glen Sather announced Wednesday that John Tortorella had been fired four days after his team was eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. READ MORE ›
However, Ruff is a veteran coach who has been to the Stanley Cup Final and has 571 regular-season victories after coaching 14-plus seasons in Buffalo. His teams have made it to the Stanley Cup Playoffs eight times, including four trips to the Eastern Conference Finals.
He was enough of a players' coach that the players in Buffalo were crushed when he was fired on Feb. 20.
Ruff also has a small history with the Rangers. He ended his NHL playing career by suiting up in 83 games with them.
But the other question with Ruff is, will he be available? The Canucks or Stars may look to scoop him up before the Rangers do.
Vigneault would be a change from Tortorella, both in demeanor and systems.
He is known as more of a players' coach. His teams in Vancouver were built around offense and strong goaltending -- perhaps the kind of approach the Rangers need, especially if they don't want to waste any more of Henrik Lundqvist's prime years.
The Canucks struggled this season in goals (2.54 per game, 19th in the NHL) and power play (15.8 percent, 22nd in the NHL), but they were among the highest-scoring teams in the League in each of the previous three seasons. Vancouver led the NHL in goals (3.15) and power play (24.3 percent) in 2010-11. They were second in the NHL with 3.27 goals per game in 2009-10.
Like Ruff (and Tortorella), Vigneault has taken a team to the Stanley Cup Final -- he got the Canucks to Game 7 in 2011. Vigneault has 422 wins in 806 games behind the bench, including a 313-170-57 record in Vancouver.
The other problem is that Tippett's contract with Phoenix doesn't expire until June 30, which is the day of the NHL Draft. Sather said he'd like to have a new coach in place by the draft, but that is clearly not set in stone -- especially if Tippett expresses an interest in coming to New York and chooses not to re-up with the Coyotes.
It would be shocking if Maloney, a former assistant GM to Sather in New York, did not get a call from his old boss to inquire on Tippett's availability at least for an interview. Maloney has not been granting teams the opportunity to meet with Tippett because he wants to retain him.
So though this may be a long shot, it is one to consider for Sather and the Rangers. Tippett has coached the budget-strapped Coyotes for the past four seasons and had them in the playoffs in each of his first three in the desert. They went to the Western Conference Finals last season and have never had a winning percentage of less than .531 under Tippett.
Tippett also took the Dallas Stars to the Western Conference Finals in 2008.
It's likely Crawford would be an option only if Ruff, Vigneault and Tippett are not available or turn down the Rangers. However, Crawford has a fairly impressive resume for Sather to consider.
He has coached 1,151 regular-season games in the NHL and has 549 victories. His teams have made the playoffs eight times, and he won the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996.
Crawford last coached in the NHL in 2010-11, his second and final season with the Stars. He hasn't been to the playoffs since 2003-04, when he was in Vancouver. He spent the past season in Switzerland coaching the ZSC Lions.
If Sather is at all concerned about how his new coach will get along with the media, he'll likely have no issue with Crawford, who has worked for TSN and CBC during his time away from the bench.
Sather might be taking a risk with Eakins, who may be considered the best coach in the American Hockey League but is still green when it comes to the NHL. However, risk might be just what the Rangers need to take in order to have a total refresh.
Eakins has never coached in the NHL, but he's 46 years old and has spent the past four seasons as coach of the Toronto Marlies. He led them to the Calder Cup Final last season and an 87-47-8 record the past two seasons.
Although he's been only a minor-league coach, Eakins and the Marlies have gotten enough publicity in Toronto that he should know how to handle a big market like New York by now.
Eakins could be the right guy to develop some of the Rangers' young players, including Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller. He might also be able to coax more offense out of Carl Hagelin and defensemen Ryan McDonagh, John Moore and Michael Del Zotto.
Maurice spent the past season coaching in Russia but has since returned to his home in Ohio and is ready to return to the NHL. He's pretty much the exact opposite of Tortorella in his demeanor in that he is calm and appreciates dealing with the media.
He has interviewed with Sather for a prior opening in New York and is close with former Rangers star Adam Graves, now a well-respected member of the team's hockey operations department.
Maurice has coached 1,084 games behind an NHL bench, including 920 with the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes franchise. Maurice also coached two full seasons in Toronto, but did not make the playoffs. His teams in Carolina made the playoffs four times, including the Stanley Cup Final in 2002 and the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009.
A former coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning (like Tortorella), Boucher is young, energetic and is probably curious about what he can do with a world-class goalie playing behind his unique systems, including a 1-3-1 forecheck.
Boucher couldn't get the Lightning going after taking them to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011. They had bad goaltending and a subpar defense that couldn't make up for the amount of offense Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis create. He was fired with roughly one month left in the 2012-13 regular season.
Lundqvist would likely be able to make his systems look good again. When the Lighting got solid goaltending from Dwayne Roloson in 2010-11, they scored 2.94 goals per game and had a power play that was better than 20 percent. The Rangers never had offensive numbers like that under Tortorella.
Rangers center Derick Brassard played under Boucher in the QMJHL.