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The Rangers’ turnaround from a team that had gone four straight seasons without a playoff berth to handily punching their ticket to the Stanley Cup tournament in their first season under Gerard Gallant has thrust the head coach into the conversation for the Jack Adams Award.
A lot of the Rangers’ success this season has been credited to otherworldly goaltending, however, so the poll from the National Hockey League Broadcasters Association for the coach of the year may not sway in Gallant’s favor.
Still, Gallant doesn’t need an award to validate what he has done for the Rangers in the last 10 months.
“I think he’s just been consistent,” defenseman K’Andre Miller said of Gallant. “Coming in each day, holding us to a certain standard of trying to get better each day and tightening up those things that we need to improve on, to be that team that can win. He’s been really solid for us.
“I think everyone in that locker room believes that he’s a coach that holds us to a certain standard and guys have a lot of respect for that.”
Gallant hasn’t even finished his first season in New York, but he has already padded his résumé. He became the second head coach in Rangers history to win 50 games and the 15th to make the playoffs in his first season with the club.
Aside from the statistics and accomplishments, Gallant has helped foster the start of a new culture for the Rangers. A culture that encourages a short-term memory from game-to-game and allows players to compete without anything hanging over their heads. Gallant’s easygoing and old-school approach has paved the way for players such as Chris Kreider to do what makes them successful without thinking too much about it.
“The biggest thing about Turk, I think he just doesn’t restrict your game,” Frank Vatrano said. “He kind of lets you go out there and play. If you’re an offensive guy, he wants you to make plays. But within that structure, he also wants you to play smart. He holds you accountable if you make some mistakes, but he doesn’t restrict the way you play. He wants the offensive guys to make the plays and it’s great to have a coach like that.
“If you mess up, you know you messed up, but you’re going to have that confidence to go out there and still make plays.”
Goalie Igor Shesterkin got the starting nod Tuesday night against the Hurricanes.