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  • Writer's pictureMark Rosenman

The Legacy of Jean Guy Talbot: A Ranger's Reflection

In the realm of New York Rangers history, the name Jean Guy Talbot resonates with a mix of nostalgia and a tinge of regret. Today, we remember the former Rangers coach not just for his contributions to the team but also for the challenges he faced during his tenure. Sadly, Talbot passed away yesterday at the age of 91, but his impact on the Rangers and his unique perspective on the 1979 season, gleaned from an interview conducted in 2018 for the book "Before 94: The Story of the 1979 New York Rangers," by Mark Rosenman and Howie Karpin offers insights into a pivotal period in the team's history.

A seasoned figure in hockey, Talbot brought a wealth of experience to the Rangers. Raised in the Canadiens system, he imbibed the old-school philosophy that possession was the key to victory. His one season as head coach in 1979 saw a blend of seasoned players and promising young talent, including Duguay, Deblois, Farrish, McEwen, Dave Maloney, and Greschner. Despite the challenges of a turbulent locker room and key injuries, Talbot guided the team to the playoffs after a three-season drought, achieving a significant milestone.

The Coaching Conundrum:

Talbot, in reflecting on his coaching decisions, acknowledged the difficulty of bringing together a team with internal discord. "I could not bring them together as a team, Phil and Rod Did not get along, it was a bad locker room at times lots of yelling and screaming, then Murdochs injury hurt us as well as he was well on his way to a 30 goal season. We had lots of young guys in the lineup as well,guys like  Duguay,  Deblois, Farrish,  McEwen,, Dave Maloney, and Greshner, but we made the playoffs for the first time in 3 seasons, and that was the goal."

John Davidson's Absence in Game One:

One decision that sparked intrigue was Talbot's choice not to dress John Davidson for game one of the playoffs."I had JD in the minors and in ST Louis, I just felt it would have been unfair to start him in game 1, he was so inexperienced at the time, so I went with Wayne Thomas, after the first game we had a meeting with the Goalies and John (ferguson) and we went with Jd who had a tremendous game in Game 2, and we lost in the 3rd game, But I still think it was right to start Wayne Thomas in the first game .."

JD's Post-Season Performance:

Talbot expressed pride in John Davidson's growth and success after their time together. "Like I said I had JD in the minors and in ST Louis and he was a very good Goalie, and worked Hard, he earned everything he got, look at what he has accomplished since then as well, just a quality guy."

Distractions in the Playoffs:

The specter of Scotty Bowman and Fred Shero being considered as potential replacements during the playoffs did not escape Talbot's attention. He acknowledged the inevitable distractions that come with coaching, "It comes with the territory, look what just happened with Alain Vigneault, look at all the success he has had, he took a team to the finals, and made the playoffs every year and the one year he didn't he was fired, I made the playoffs for the first time in 3 years and I was fired, it just part of the job. I was old school I was brought up in the Canadians system and we were taught that possession was the key to winning the game, if you had the puck for 46 minutes and the other  team had it for 14 you should win, so if there wasn't something set up in the zone take it out and start over, I wasn't a fan of the Philadelphia style that was starting of dump and chase, so I think maybe  that's why I was fired."

Post-Coach Reflection:

Although Talbot didn't closely follow the Rangers in the season following his departure, he expressed pride in the success of many players he had coached during their formative years. His reflections, shared in a 2018 interview for the book "Before 94: The Story of the 1979 New York Rangers," shed light on a complex coaching journey and leave an indelible mark on Rangers history.

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