NHL - US Sports: Can David Quinn succeed with San Jose Sharks?
After missing out on the playoffs for a third straight season, the San Jose Sharks recently hired former New York Rangers coach David Quinn to replace Bob Boughner.
Quinn went 96-87-25 with the Rangers, and never managed to qualify for the playoffs, so what will be different in San Jose and can he succeed in his second stint as an NHL bench boss?
Quinn was thrust into a difficult situation in New York, with a group of veterans set in their ways, and a large number of youngsters who weren't then ready to meet the lofty expectations of the storied Original Six franchise.
Tasked with meshing the old and the new, Quinn struggled to get New York's experienced statesmen to buy into his defensive, hard-nosed philosophy, while also facing criticism of how he handled the team's high-profile prospects, particularly Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko and Filip Chytil.
Though the task at hand is similar in San Jose, the fit feels better with a set of veterans desperate for a fresh start after missing the playoffs three seasons straight.
The Rangers were just one season removed from the playoffs when Quinn was hired and as of a year previous had enjoyed seven straight deep runs into the post-season.
San Jose will likely have more patience than the Rangers and better support Quinn in his style of working with and developing younger players.
General Manager Mike Grier was hired in July and believes Quinn will be better because of his Rangers experience, saying in a press conference that coaches are generally better in their second job and beyond.
The new GM's hypothesis generally checks out when looking at the 16 current NHL coaches who have run at least two teams in the league.
Twelve of the coaches had better regular season success in their second job, and several have gone on to become Stanley Cup Champions.
Better than the sum of their parts
The Sharks aren't a team blessed with superstars and so there will likely be a general acceptance that, if they want to get back into the playoff mix, they are going to have to be better than the sum of their parts.
For this, Quinn appears a smart hire as he is a coach who constantly reminds his players of the finer points of the game and sets up his team up to be defensively and structurally sound.
Demanding his players be physical, work hard, go to the net, block shots etc, Quinn's philosophy of how his team should play at a minimum should set a solid platform for which the Sharks can improve results and build from.
One of Quinn's main tasks will be to breathe new life into an aging roster which has flattered to deceive in recent seasons.
Going 32-37-13 last season, only two teams scored less goals than the Sharks (214), who had just three players reach the 20-goal mark. They were also 21st in goals allowed.
Despite issues with certain members of the Rangers, others flourished, including Mike Zibanejad - who scored a career best 41 goals under Quinn's leadership.
Players who could benefit from the coaching change include defence pair Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, as well as forwards Kevin Labanc and Logan Couture, who have all lost their way in recent years.
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Working with youngsters
Fairly or unfairly, Quinn was slammed publicly for penalising Rangers trio Lafreniere, Kakko and Chytil too quickly and cutting down their ice time.
It's a view not supported by Grier, who also believes even the highest-profile prospects should be expected to earn their minutes and time on the powerplay, suggesting he thought Quinn handled the job well and kept everyone accountable.
In fact, to the contrary, several rookies thrived under Quinn, including defenceman Adam Fox who won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best blue-liner at 22 years of age, Ryan Lindgren, K'Andre Miller and the recent Vezina Trophy winner as goalie of the year Igor Shesterkin.
The task at hand should be slightly easier in San Jose too, in a more relaxed market and less fanfare, which should offer a good breeding ground for the likes of William Eklund, Thomas Bordeleau, Filip Bystedt and Ryan Merkley.
In addition to several exciting youngsters, Quinn has been handed more depth than the Sharks have had for many years.
This off-season alone they have added Steven Lorentz, Luke Kunin, Nico Sturm, Oskar Lindblom, Markus Nutivaara and Matt Benning.
The pieces all appear to be in place for the Sharks to return to competitiveness and while it may take time, the hiring of Quinn by Grier certainly has a lot of logic to it.