With 899 career NHL games on the blue-line for an assortment of teams and a Stanley Cup to his name, J.J.j Daigneault certainly knows what it takes to be a successful defenseman in the NHL. And he brought that knowledge to the Connecticut Whale when he was hired as the defense coach. Daigneault was with the Rangers' organization the last six seasons, and in that time the Wolfpack/Whale have pumped out a number of defensemen who have contributed at the NHL level. Guys like Dan Girardi and Stu Bickel who were undrafted and were attempting to merely stick around in the AHL eventually became NHL regulars, Girardi of course turning into an All-Star defenseman. While players like Michael Sauer and Michael Del Zotto, whom many were skeptical could become relevant at the NHL level despite their talent, eventually figured their games out and have become quality NHL defensemen. Ryan McDonagh also spent some time with the Whale. According to The Hartford Courant's Paul Doyle, all of these guys have credited J.J. with some degree of their success. Prospects Dylan McIlrath and Blake Parlett have gone out of their way to credit J.J. Daigneault with helping them learn and improve. When I talked to Parlett last season, he told me this about Daigneault:
"J.J is a really good coach. I think the reason he has had so much success with young players is because he wants/lets guys play their games. If you’re an offensive defensemen he wants you to make plays and create offense, if you’re a shut down defensemen he wants you to play physical, make it hard to play against you. He is always willing to work extra with guys after practice on whatever they need to improve on."
It's no secret that the Rangers have one of the best young defensive corps in the NHL. And while Glen Sather and especially the scouting staff deserve much credit for finding these players, it's hard not to believe that J.J. Daigneault has been instrumental helping the Ryan McDonagh's and Michael Del Zotto's reach their potential while pushing the Dan Girardi's and Stu Bickel's far above theirs. Brandon Prust was a part of this team's identity, is a quality teammate and player, and will be missed. I don't mean to undermine the contributions of Prust, but ultimately we've watched these character, energy guys - Matthew Barnaby, Jed Ortmeyer, and Sean Avery are a few that come to mind - leave before. Someone new always fills those shoes. I do trust that Jeff Beaukeboom will do a good job replacing J.J.; is there a single better person in the world to mentor Dylan McIlrath? But when looking at the number of defensemen that have contributed in big ways after spending some time with J.J. Daigneault, it's hard not to think that his departure could prevent us from developing defensemen at the incredible rate that we had been during his six years with the team. And that, in my opinion, is a far greater loss than any individual bottom-six forward will ever be.
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Daigneault certainly made a mark in the system and will be missed, but Beuk played more than 800 NHL games and has 4 Cups to his name. I think he'll do a fine job as a replacement. I'd also like to see them look to Mr. Leetch once in a while, particularly for their offensive-minded defense but I think Sather might have to beg for that to happen.
@gravey94 To play Devil's advocate, Wayne Gretzky is arguably the best hockey player of all time but was a pretty awful coach for the Phoenix Coyotes. Being a good hockey player does not automatically equate to being a good coach. That being said, I think Beukeboom is a solid replacement. I'm not sure if coaching is in Leetch's heart.
Yes, but you said above "With 899 career NHL games on the blue-line for an assortment of teams and a Stanley Cup to his name, J.J Daigneault certainly knows what it takes to be a successful defenseman in the NHL." How is what I said about Beuk any different?
And I don't think Gretzky is arguably the best hockey player of all time. There simply is no arguing that he is by far the best ;-)
@gravey94 Well, experience of course helps. I'm not denying that. But that alone was not what made Daigneault a good coach. The point is merely that, while experience and success as a player can only help, there is much more to being an effective coach.
@Herman_NYRBlog @gravey94 -- oh, you beat me to it, Adam (and welcome aboard, by the way). Just the point I was going to make: playing and coaching are two completely different skills and a good player does not necessarily make a good teacher or coach.
Meanwhile, I'm glad to have Beuk with the organization and I'm rooting for him as ever.
Fans love Beuk, but know him more for his presence on the ice. I said it before and I'll say it again... Daigneault's are some big shoes to fill.
I agree Adam. This is going to be a huge loss. Although I really like the organization's move to replace JJ with Beuk.
@KevinDeLury Not only will Beuk show McIlrath the ropes, but the other D in the system, too. Hopefully they absorb his hard-nosed style.