Rangers' early playoff exit shouldn't fall on Gerard Gallant alone

Gerard Gallant
Gerard Gallant / Wendell Cruz - USA TODAY Sports

So now we know that Gerard Gallant is the first casualty of this disappointing Rangers finish after Turk and the Blueshirts “mutually agreed to part ways” on Saturday, according to both parties.

Quite a press release-y way to put it, eh?

We won’t know for a while if it’s the right move. Maybe at this time next year, the Rangers, under a new voice, will be rampaging through the Stanley Cup Playoffs and it will be plain for all to see that two seasons for Gallant were enough.

Until that becomes reality, though, here’s one question: Will firing Gallant make the incumbents on the roster believe that the coach was the problem and that everything is A-OK on the blueline, in the corners and at the opponent’s goal mouth?

Because let’s not pretend that the seven-game loss to the Devils in the first round is all on Gallant. The Rangers dominated the first two games to build a 2-0 lead and then bungled it, getting outworked and outplayed for long stretches as New Jersey clawed its way back, winning three straight.

The Rangers won Game 6, staving off elimination. But they garnered no momentum in pushing back from the brink. They were outplayed again in Game 7, a meager 4-0 effort that spun the Rangers into a tangle of hard questions in what can be a cold NHL offseason.

The players, all handsomely-paid professionals, must take some responsibility for this dud, too. So many of the Rangers’ big names – Artemi Panarin, for one – did not play well in the series. Did Gallant not do enough to motivate them? Should pros, from the stars to the grinders, require such prodding?

If you want to quibble with Gallant’s moves or say he was out-coached by Lindy Ruff, who, in desperation, inserted a rookie goalie for Game 3 and Akira Schmid flourished, perhaps that’s fair. The speedy Devils are still playing, after all, and the Rangers are planning vacations.

But don’t forget that Gallant was the one who said they needed to pour more pucks on Schmid, the 22-year-old Switzerland native, only to watch as the Rangers put on the kind of East-West passing display that drives their fans nuts and played right into the disruptive Devils’ hands. And don’t forget, either, that Gallant was the one who noted that more forechecking probably would’ve helped the Rangers.

Which brings us to a trade deadline to remember. Did the Rangers add the right ingredients? Kudos to them for daring to make deals for Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane. But would they have been better served for the playoffs by adding more toughness, a sharp edge? We’ll never know the answer, not now.

Gallant answered questions at the Rangers’ break-up day last week, just days before he was no longer part of the organization. He was mad that speculation had arisen about his job status and he had a point. He compiled a 99-46-19 record in two seasons as the Rangers coach and led them to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, a surprising, entertaining run that few saw coming.

This year, though, the Rangers’ felt the weight of lofty expectations. A first-round loss was a disaster, especially after the trade deadline moves. Multiple media reports have suggested that discussions with players during the Rangers’ exit interviews last week helped lead to the move.

So for now, Gallant is the scapegoat for a season gone sour at the end.

Will he be the only one? And is a new voice enough to get the Rangers their first Stanley Cup Championship since 1994?