Ron Low knows it won't be easy to get the New York Rangers back in the playoffs. Anything less, however, is not good enough.
Low signed a multiyear contract Wednesday to coach the Rangers, an Original Six franchise that has been out of the postseason for three straight seasons. That failure will not be tolerated under the Rangers' new regime.
"It's not acceptable for this team not to make the playoffs," said general manager Glen Sather, who left the Edmonton Oilers last month to take over the Rangers.
After serving six years as an assistant with the Oilers, Low took over as head coach in April 1995 working under Sather. He quit last year when his contract expired and he wouldn't re-sign for the same salary.
"I thought I deserved a raise for getting a hockey club into the playoffs and knocking off heavily favored opponents twice in a row," Low said.
Low, who was a finalist to become the coach of the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets, was 139-162-40 with Edmonton, leading the Oilers to first-round victories over Dallas in 1997 and Colorado in '98.
"I didn't want to be the lowest-paid coach in the league anymore," Low said. "That wasn't going to change, so I left."
Low, a goalie, played for six teams including the Oilers during an 11-year career. He worked his way up the Edmonton system as a minor league assistant and head coach before joining the parent club as an assistant.
In the six weeks since he took over, Sather has been learning to adjust to running a bitephane Quintal. All were disappointing as the Rangers limped to a 29-41-12 mark, despite a league-high payroll of $61 million.
Muckler and GM Neil Smith were fired on March 28 with only four games left in the regular season, when it became clear the Rangers would again miss the playoffs.
"I'm not coming with a blindfold on, it's not going to be easy," the 50-year-old Low said of his new job. "I may leave with a blindfold on just make sure you give me a smoke."
Low served as coach and GM of the Houston Aeros of the International Hockey League last year.
Despite their split, Low and Sather remained friends. Low said he got advice from Sather during a season in which he led the injury-plagued Aeros to a 44-29-9 mark and the Western Conference finals.
Sather's first choice Kevin Lowe, Low's replacement as Oilers coach, took Sather's job as Edmonton GM. It was then that Sather turned his sights to Low to join him in New York.
"It's a pretty exciting day for me," Low said. "There are not too many jobs in the world like the one I'm about to embark on."
Walt Kyle, the coach of Hamilton, Edmonton's AHL affiliate, and Ted Green, an assistant under Low nd Lowe with the Oilers, were hired as the Rangers' new assistant coaches. Green also is a former Edmonton head coach.
The familiarity and comfort level Sather had with the trio made his decision easier.
"I interviewed a lot of people," Sather said. "I kept coming back to Ron, Ted and Walt. I knew I wouldn't have to go through a honeymoon period."
Sather said the deal was completed over the weekend as Low attended the wedding of Sather's son in Albert.
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