Peter Laviolette’s introduction to Rangers is essentially what it lacks in the sizzles

It didn’t take long before an explosion of ’80s Broadway nostalgia swept Peter Laviolette’s inaugural press conference.

Sitting behind the MSG Training Center tribune on Tuesday, the new Rangers coach admitted he doesn’t think about his brief cameo as an NHL player very often. He scored 12 games for the Blues during the 1988-89 season, and that was it. Eleven years as a minor league player and 25 as a coach, he said, best reflect his career.

But Lafollette’s wife and children tried to locate the No. 39 shirt – with his name printed on the back and “Rangers” diagonally on the front – on eBay when the Blueshirts hired him last week. They couldn’t find it. Laviolette joked that his popularity was driving sales.

“They misled me a bit about only playing 12 games, but I told them they couldn’t find the shirt not because I was only here for a minute,” said Laviolette. “He’s just a big ask after being named head coach of the New York Rangers.”

Then, afterward, Drury flashed an updated version of that jersey—apparently a fresh No. 39—as the couple posed for photos.

“Here it is,” joked Lafollette. “No wonder I couldn’t find her.”

It wasn’t an exciting lead, but it might be exactly what Rangers needed after a disappointing end to Gerard Gallant’s tenure which was, paradoxically, successful but disappointing. Laviolette didn’t elicit a meme like Adam Gase’s eyes in 2019 or an aura of mystery as when the Yankees hired Aaron Boone for his first managerial job in 2017.

The rest was about the details, solutions to the Rangers’ pressing concerns and how Lafollette has a blueprint for leading the Blueshirts to their first Stanley Cup since 1994.

Laviolite is a known quantity. Rangers know exactly what they’ve accomplished. Where he needs to take the privilege. How will he guide them there. And if he takes the blueshirt to Hockey Summit, this Broadway nostalgia will have significantly more resonance.

No. 39 may indeed be required.

So add Laviolette to the pool of coaches—Robert Salih, Brian Dabul, Boone, Buck Showalter, Tom Thibodeau, Jack Vaughn, and even Lindy Ruff and Lynn Lambert—looking to bring New York’s “big four” area teams their first sports title since the Giants after the 2011 season.

These press conferences are all about first impressions, and LaViolette is an expert in making them. He thanked the Rangers for taking his wife, Christine, and three children to the front, and thanked the four family members for navigating practice stops with the minor league teams, Islanders, Hurricanes, Flyers, Predators and Capitals — with all three. Babies born at different points throughout that journey.

“Twenty-five years of training,” Laviolette said. “Lots of moves. Yet they still come.”

This wasn’t the Yankee Stadium press conference in 2017, where Boone’s first question revolved around whether he could be as honest and critical with the players at the club as he was on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” broadcast.

It wasn’t a prelude to Tom Thibodeau in 2020, when the former Knicks assistant called it his “dream job” and team president Leon Rose’s reluctance to schedule a postseason return.

This wasn’t the football press conference in 2021 and ’22, when the Jets and Giants, respectively, needed an organizational reset.

It was about a coach with a solid system who knows the situation he’s in.

“This is where my NHL journey began,” Laviolette said. Here, in New York. So for me to come back here, for me to tell you it means a lot to me, it wouldn’t really reflect how proud and how humbled I am to be given this opportunity…to come back to New York City and be able to coach this team, the New York Rangers.”

Laviolette understood the history and traditions that come with coaching an Original Six team. But it’s also important to address the recent trajectory of the enterprise as well. There is a restless fan base and increased pressure that comes with training the blues. The Stanley Cup remains the prerequisite and the most important.

This isn’t a rebuild, and Laviolette—for better or for worse—is really around the clock. If he notices the fallout from Gallant, where it wasn’t enough to become the franchise’s first coach to surpass 100 points in his first two seasons, he’ll know there’s no room for error.

This is the boundary between a Broadway thriller and a Broadway tragedy.

back page today

Read more:

⚾ Yankees pass Mariners thanks to gem Gerrit Cole

How can Rangers hiring Peter Laviolette help Alexis Lafreniere and Capo Kaku

⚾ Sherman: How the Mets can approach the trade deadline as unlikely sellers

🏀 Marquis Noel is out to prove once again that his height is not an issue as the NBA draft approaches

Ace return in Houston

With the way their season has turned out, the Mets need all Justin Verlander to be an old starter. They need him to turn back the clock – and do so again and again – to salvage a stuttering start to the 2023 campaign.

The Mets’ return to Houston this week provides a reminder of why the franchise tried so hard — and paid so much — to secure Verlander in the offseason, when he signed a two-year, $86 million deal. They know, deep down, that he can still be an ace his age because he was on the biggest stage in sport last year, with champagne, beer, caps and T-shirts celebrating the World Championship title.

So if this three-game series was a stretch for Verlander to look back on the past, they needed him to channel that into his start against Houston on Tuesday night.

Instead, Verlander allowed four runs in seven innings against the Astros — including a two-run homer to Alex Bregman — and took the loss.

Just one day earlier, Verlander had given her the ring ceremony. He’s back in Houston, where he won world championships in 2017 and ’22, and he’s been enjoying it.

But on Tuesday night, he had a chance to take on his former teammates and help the Mets try to win back-to-back games for only the second time in June — the latest development in what has become such a disorienting season at Queens.

Verlander, now 40, certainly had a factor in that. It has shown potential that any two-time Cy Young winner can be expected to shine. He has also shown signs of being an aging pitcher.

Against the Astros on Tuesday, it was more of the same. He struck out five, walked none but could not get the Astros off the scoreboard.

If nothing else, perhaps a trip to Houston could be a glimmer of hope for the Mets, as Verlander has someone with two World Series wins against the Phillies in the season following Tommy John surgery.

“I feel like I was a little bit more present on this trip, and I intentionally was,” MLB Network’s Verlander said at Minute Maid Park after the Astros won a crucial Game 6. Tommy John, just the perspective he gave me. I really tried to enjoy these moments. … If only I could grab a pen and paper and write a story about my rehab process and how that rehab turned out, here it is. It’s just perfect. “

Although the Mets have some must-haves, they are nowhere near that point in a World Series. But with every reminder, every opportunity to start a big winning streak, is important at this point. The next few weeks will tell if an early-season trip to Houston did just that.

If they can write the rest of the season, that will start too.

Misery loves company

If there were a list that ranks the MLB teams that have been underwhelmed this season, the Mets would probably reside near the top.

As it should, with payroll of about $344 million and a 34-39 record after Tuesday night’s 4-2 loss to the Astros.

Underneath the Mets, however, the Mariners, who opened a three-game series against the Yankees on Tuesday night, could be up for a 3-1 loss.

It was only last season when Seattle acquired Louis Castillo from the Reds at the trade deadline and was about to upset the Astros in the postseason, but their comeback to a stunning finish in 2022 didn’t build on that.

Seattle finished Tuesday night at 35-36 and nine games back from the Rangers in the West. They do not have a regular lineup higher than 0.278.

Castillo certainly contributed to compiling a 2.73 ERA that ranks 10th in the league, but MVP of the Year Julio Rodriguez’s average is down more than 40 points. And after leading catcher with 27 last year, Cal Raleigh has just nine and sits five behind the Royals’ Salvador Perez in the lead.

Manager Scott Service criticized the Mariners’ “lack of focus” and “mistakes at critical times” on June 11, according to The Seattle Times. They’ve since won four of the six games they entered the series against the Yankees, but Seattle still trails the Rangers, Astros, and Angels in a surprisingly competitive AL West.

And if Servais needed another example, Teoscar Hernandez made one in the first half of Tuesday’s game. Anthony Rizzo lofted a deep fly ball that Hernandez tracked toward the wall, but bounced off his glove — allowing Jiliber Torres to score as fumbled Rizzo advanced to second with an RBI double.

It will be hard to top the Mets hovering near . 500 with roster creation Steve Cohen and Billy Eppler. It would be hard to disappoint more than the Phillies in the first two months of the season before their final shredder. Same with the Dodgers, who have had injury after injury. Or the Padres, whose star-studded lineup ranks 22nd in rushing.

But sailors belong to this discourse.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top