Gerard Gallant confronts win-now challenge as Rangers coach

Gerard Gallant is taking over a young team with potential as coach of the New York Rangers, just like his three previous stops.

Unlike Columbus, Florida and expansion Vegas, Gallant will be expected to win quickly, if not right away. The 57-year-old is embracing those high expectations in a big market, even if he insists he will handle this situation the same as his previous jobs.

“It’s a team that’s ready to take off, go to the next level and I’ll prepare the same way,” Gallant said Tuesday. “I feel very comfortable about what happened in the past, in the past six years with Florida and in Vegas and I’ll bring that forward to the New York Rangers and get to know their players, get to know their personnel. I think that’s really important, and I think that’s one of my strong points.”

Gallant was a target for new president and general manager Chris Drury because he was won pretty much everywhere. He won the Memorial Cup in 2011 as the top Canadian junior team, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League titles in 2011 and 2012, and most recently coached Canada to the gold medal at the world championships after an 0-3 start.

Gallant’s best coaching job came in 2017-18 with Vegas, when the Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Final in their first season with a roster built out of an expansion draft. That earned him the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year.

After a first-round playoff exit in 2019 and some struggles the next season, Gallant was fired. It was even less time than his three seasons with the Panthers and one full season and parts of two others with the Blue Jackets.

“I still have a hard time going back and looking at it and saying, ‘Why did I get fired?’” Gallant said of Florida and Vegas, in particular. “I think I did a great job in both of those organizations. Things happen. It’s out of my hands.”

Gallant wants New York to be “the hardest working team in the league.” That philosophy and Gallant’s experience undoubtedly was a selling point to Drury when choosing a successor for first-time NHL coach David Quinn.

“I was looking to find a coach who had a proven track record and success at several levels,” Drury said. “‘Turk’ checked all these boxes.”

Owner James Dolan didn’t fire president John Davidson and GM Jeff Gorton and Drury didn’t send Quinn packing to keep the Rangers rebuild on a gradual track. Gallant will be expected to deliver.

“My goal and our hope is that we’re a playoff team next year,” Drury said. “It is a mandate? I don’t believe so. But I want everyone to come back and know that that’s where we want to be and with the talent on this team where we should be.”

The talent is certainly there and on paper exceeds what Gallant inherited in Vegas. Norris Trophy finalist defenseman Adam Fox, star winger Artemi Panarin, top-line center Mika Zibanejad, 2020 No. 1 pick Alexis Lafrenière, 2019 No. 2 pick Kaapo Kakko and goaltender of the present and future Igor Shesterkin make up a coach’s dream of a core.

Gallant’s task is to mold that group into a contender, first for the playoffs, then the franchise’s first Stanley Cup since 1994.

“I know we’re going to take a big step, and hopefully it’s a real big step,” Gallant said. “We’ll see what happens once training camp starts, but I know one thing is we’ve got an excellent roster there and we’re going to get down to work right away and make it the best it can be.”

Scroll Down For:

    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports

    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

    caufield surgery
    David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports

    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

    matty beniers
    Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.