Rangers head coach rumors: Sheldon Keefe, John Tortorella

New York Rangers GM Jeff Gorton's desire for a new head coach may range in terms of experience.
Sheldon Keefe. (Photo: Getty Images)

New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton is already getting the search for his team's next head coach underway just days after ending Alain Vigneault's five-year run with the franchise. 

 

On Monday, he disclosed what he was looking for in a new man behind the bench. 

 

Put an emphasis on the word "new."

 

"Fresh is a good word," Gorton said (h/t NHL.com). "I think we're looking for somebody that can help us get back to an identity we want to get to."

 

That doesn't bode well for assistant coach Lindy Ruff, who saw his fellow assistants Scott Arniel and Darryl Williams fired on Monday. Gorton is expected to meet with Ruff before a decision on his future is made. However, the former Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars head coach, who spent a total of 19 years behind the bench, was an immediate favorite to take over for Vigneault. 

"I would expect we'd talk to somewhere between five and 10 [candidates]," Gorton said. "We'll look anywhere, whether it's AHL, NHL, wherever we can find the best possible coach going forward."

Enter Sheldon Keefe, the current head coach of the AHL's Toronto Marlies who plenty of Rangers fans have been pining after.

The 37-year-old is as fresh as they come, abandoning a playing career that was largely spent in the minors in between brief stints with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

His first head coaching gig provided Keefe with his first title, winning the Canadian Junior Hockey League championship with the Pembroke Lumber Kings in 2007. 

He moved up to the Ontario Hockey League in 2012, taking over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and made the playoffs in each of three years with the club before joining the Marlies. 

This season has seen Keefe lead the Marlies to the AHL's best record (51-18-0) with three games left to play thanks to the league's top defense, allowing just 162 goals. 

It could mean a long spell in the AHL postseason, meaning that Gorton would have to wait until mid-June in order to hire Keefe should he win the Calder Trophy. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum sits a very familiar name around Madison Square Garden, one that might not be received as well as Keefe, per say. 

But Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports that if the Columbus Blue Jackets fire John Tortorella, "a reunion would intrigue the Rangers."

Tortorella spent five years as Rangers head coach from 2008-2013, leading the Rangers to the postseason four times. However, he was never able to advance past the Eastern Conference Finals. 

 
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