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Gorton Seeking 'Fresh' Start for Rangers As Coaching Search Begins

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

After Alain Vigneault spent five seasons behind the bench, Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton felt it was time for a change.

The organization removed Vigneault on Saturday after the final regular season game in Philadelphia. On Sunday, associate coach Scott Arniel and assistant coach Darryl Williams were also let go, while management will meet with Lindy Ruff to discuss his future.

"I think it's more general change," Gorton told reporters on Monday. "AV's been a terrific coach in the league, he's been a really good coach for the Rangers. He was here for five years. We've had success. AV will continue to be successful. You don't coach 1,000 games in this league unless you're a good coach. 

"I just think that after five years, we think it's time for a change," he added. "The players need a new voice and the organization needs a new coach as we go forward with our group. That's the decision we made."

Gorton said the search for Vigneault's successor has already begun, with several hopeful candidates having already reached out about the opening. Gorton said he expects he and his staff will interview between five and 10 candidates, though they can talk with more as the process evolves.

"Obviously we're going to look for highly qualified individuals," Gorton said of the interview process. "Where that person comes from, we'll look anywhere. Whether it's AHL, NHL, wherever we can find the best possible coach moving forward."

While he said any candidate for the position must have coaching experience at some level, the amount of experience is not something Gorton and his staff is putting a number on. New points of view are something Gorton appears to be looking for.

"I think fresh is a good word," Gorton said of possible candidates who aren't household names. "We're looking for someone who can help us get back to an identity we want to get to. We're looking to go through this process and hear some ideas from people that have some thoughts, with the personnel we have and the makeup of our team going forward, that they have some ideas to help us move forward with a young group."

In February, Gorton and President Glen Sather said the team would be shifting to younger, more skilled players. That led to the selloff of several players later that month that brought back several first-round picks and prospects. 

That is still the goal, but if there are moves to be made the help the team compete immediately, Gorton is all for it.

"We'd be foolish to rule anything out," Gorton said. "The league changes quickly. Players become available. I think that for us to sit here and say we're going to have 20 18-year-old players on our team is unrealistic. We'll look at everything. We'll look at every scenario."

Several young players, including last year's pair of first-round picks Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil, got their chance to audition on Broadway down the stretch.

Gorton said he was impressed by what he saw, but that both need to put in strong summers to be ready for training camp in September.

"I would say that they both showed well," Gorton said of the two teenagers. "There's obvious talent there. They're both different as we've discussed. We liked what we saw. They're both going to need a big summer and a big training camp and we'll let it play itself out to see where they'll be next year. It's good. They both have a bright future. I don' think anybody can debate that. It's really up to them to tell us when they're ready. We'll be able to see that on the ice."

The change behind the bench was made, but now the work begins in earnest for Gorton and company who are going into the search with an open-mind on who is best to lead the Blueshirts into this next chapter.  

"I don't want to rule out anybody," he said. "I think we need to get through this sit-down as a group here and figure out exactly what we want to do and who we want to look at and what's the criteria. I don't want to rule anybody out or stop anybody from reaching out that thinks they have a chance to be the coach."

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