Top-flight NCAA coach could be outside-the-box Rangers pick
It’s not as if David Quinn is frequently circulating his résumé, and it’s not as if the Rangers are knocking down the door of Boston University’s head coach to replace Alain Vigneault as they continue their rebuild while searching for new voice behind the bench.
But if Blueshirts assistant general manager and B.U. alumnus Chris Drury comes calling, let’s just say that Quinn is going to pick up the phone for the sake of mutual interest.
“It just makes sense,” said former B.U. standout defenseman Colby Cohen, hero of the 2009 national championship game the Terriers won when Quinn was an assistant under the legendary Jack Parker and Kevin Shattenkirk, another Ranger and Cohen’s best friend, patrolled their blue line.
“I think [Quinn] would be a great fit,” said the admittedly biased Cohen. “He’s such a smart guy that he’ll understand how to deal with players making millions of dollars. But players will respect him and buy into his ways.”
Cohen’s comparison for Quinn was another B.U. product, Mike Sullivan, a former Rangers assistant under John Tortorella who went on to win the past two Stanley Cups with the Penguins, and is vying for a third this spring. What that means is that Quinn is a disciplinarian and every player is held accountable.
“There were times when I wanted to kill Quinny and he wanted to kill me as a player,” Cohen said. “But he pretty much taught me how to play defense.”
The question is how good the fit might be. Cohen spoke glowingly about Quinn’s “swagger,” which is needed when taking such a high-profile job. There are going to be a lot of young, inexperienced players on the Rangers next season, and general manager Jeff Gorton is going to have to figure out what type of person he wants to lead them.
“He’s a details coach,” Cohen said. “All players at that level can do the major things, but they have to do all the little things to be successful.”
It was that same way when Quinn was younger, growing up in Cranston, R.I., alongside former Islanders coach Jack Capuano. The two left that hard-scrabble town as teenagers to play hockey at Kent School in leafy Connecticut. From there, Capuano went to play at Maine while Quinn went off to B.U., graduating in 1987. And don’t mention the 1995 national championship game to Capuano, when B.U. beat Maine, 6-2.
“We had some battles, obviously in our college days,” Capuano said, “but he’s got the bragging rights.”
Soon, Quinn’s playing career would be over, getting one season in the AHL and another in the IHL before succumbing to what’s known as “Christmas disease,” a form of hemophilia. He took an assistant’s job at Northeastern in 1994, and by 2004 — after stops at Nebraska-Omaha and junior-level Team USA teams — he went back to B.U. to be an assistant under Parker.By 2009, he was coaching B.U.’s defense — with some work on the power play — for a team that had a handful of future NHL players, notably including Shattenkirk, Matt Gilroy, Eric Gryba, Chris Higgins, Nick Bonino and Colin Wilson. The Terriers went on a miraculous run in the NCAA Tournament that culminated in the championship game against Miami (Ohio), when they scored two goals in the final 59.5 seconds of regulation and Cohen scored a fluttering game-winner in overtime.
“We had a lot of really talented players, and he got us all on the same page — which isn’t easy,” said Cohen, who after a brief pro career is now a color commentator for broadcasts on CBS Sports and Westwood One radio, among other outlets. “We had a lot of big personalities, and we all bought in.”
The Rangers have a lot of questions when considering what they want in a new head coach. They have to strike a balance between the development of young players and actually winning — and don’t tell the likes of Henrik Lundqvist that it’s going to take a few years.
Quinn wouldn’t just leave his alma mater for any job, but if the Rangers found that he was their man? It might be too inviting to stay.
“I think everybody at some point, if you look around some of the colleges, if they’ve been there a while, they want a challenge,” Capuano said. “They want to see if they can reach the pinnacle, the best league in the world, which is the NHL.”