Following the dismissal of head coach John Tortorella, the New York Rangers will begin their search for a new bench boss. During his media availability on Wednesday afternoon, general manager Glen Sather opted to speak generally about the state of the team's power structure, with the exception of confirming his intent to remain as manager and president.
When asked about potential candidates to replace Tortorella, Sather merely stated the organization was going to find the right guy. This ambiguity has sparked a wealth of speculation about who that guy might be. Unsurprisingly, the assumed candidates also happen to be the marquee names of this summer's free agent class of coaches.
Alain Vigneault and Lindy Ruff were both employed as head coaches at the start of the 2013 season but failed to remain so at the end of it.
Ruff was relieved by the Buffalo Sabres 17 games into the year, ending a tenure that began in 1997. During his time in Buffalo, Ruff coached in 1,165 regular season games and accumulated a 571-432-84 (78 ties) record. He also coached in 101 postseason games, which included an appearance in the 1999 Stanley Cup Final. During his playing days, Ruff was a member of the Sabres before ending his career with the Rangers. In addition, Ruff's former teammate Jim Schoenfeld is New York's assistant general manager. Whether these ties impact Ruff's candidacy remains to be seen.
Vigneault is largely viewed as the most attractive free agent coach available. Despite the Vancouver Canucks failure in the 2013 playoffs, the team was a contender virtually every season under Vigneault. Leading the team to consecutive President's Trophies and a Stanley Cup appearance in 2011, Vigneault seems a likely target of the Rangers. When the Rangers were searching for a coach in 2002, Vigneault was apparently a candidate for the job, though he never had a chance to interview for the position.
Another candidate the Rangers might consider is Phoenix Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett. The situation surrounding Tippett is unique in that his contract ends on June 30, which will allow him to pursue any opportunity of his choosing. Given the uncertain future with the Phoenix franchise, it's largely believed that Tippett wants to see how the situation plays out before agreeing to terms with the team. From the outside, it appears as though Tippett wants to remain with Phoenix, as long as they remain in Phoenix.
However, other teams have been calling general manager Don Maloney asking to speak to Tippett. Maloney has denied these requests. In the event that Tippett becomes available, he will garner plenty of attention, which likely would include the Rangers. Tippett interviewed for the New York opening in 2002 before becoming the head coach of the Dallas Stars.
These likely aren't the only names the Rangers are considering for their next head coach, but they're certainly the names everyone assumes they're considering. According to Sather, he hopes to have a new coach in place prior to the NHL Draft on June 30.