It was this time last year when the Rangers seemed on the precipice of a great run. They had just made it to within two wins of the Stanley Cup finals, and there was a distinct identity that hadn’t existed in a long time.

Those Black-and-Blueshirts, led by franchise goalie Henrik Lundqvist and directed by stern coach John Tortorella, were here to stay. They were going to compete for a Stanley Cup every season, and were going to reengage the city in a hockey fever that hadn’t existed since 1994, the year they broke their 54-year championship drought.

But those days and that sentiment of hope is now entirely in flux. Last Wednesday, Tortorella was unceremoniously shown the door. Two days after losing to the Bruins in a five-game Eastern Conference semifinal, Lundqvist hedged on his desire to re-sign with the team once he becomes a free agent after this season.

So now it’s on general manager Glen Sather to make the biggest decision of recent memory. He has to decide on a new coach, someone he hopes can take his team over the hump and back to the glory land. The wrong decision, and all of the franchise building done over the past decade — the development of Lundqvist above all else — could go by the wayside.

So now there is one overhanging question that faces Sather as this decision hangs in the balance — should he choose with his head or his heart?

On Friday, it was confirmed two Blueshirts legends were interested in the coaching vacancy, with both Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky showing a desire to succeed Tortorella. Either hire would turn a glaring spotlight on the Rangers for next season, as the only thing most people find more compelling than the return of a legend is watching a crash.

Neither Messier nor Gretzky has enough coaching experience to find comfort in, but that might not be enough to dissuade Sather. Certainly, if owner James Dolan begins to wrestle some power away from his GM, emotion might be the overriding determinant.