Rangers coach David Quinn met with the media on Thursday as training camp for the 2018-19 season gets underway. The SNY Rangers Blog has a transcript of his comments while nhl.com has a few video snippets posted. As on-ice testing for the players is today, I wanted to give my take on a few of his comments that I found interesting.
On knowing the players and creating trust, "I've been fortunate to be around the last few months so I've been able to get together with a bunch of the guys so there is a familiarity with a bunch of them. It will take some time once we get on the ice and I get a clearer picture of what everyone is capable of doing, strengths and weaknesses, guys are always getting better and every year brings on a new challenge."
"It's about creating trust and when the player knows you care about them, they will trust you. That will take some time and that falls on me as a coach to create that bond and trust with the player no matter how old he is."
To me, this is one of the biggest keys for Quinn as he steps into the role. Watching video and meeting with players is great, but he has to quickly learn his team and make decisions. With practice Saturday and Sunday, then games on Monday, Quinn will get a quick initial chance to start making judgments. I would expect, as usual, the battles for the last few spots up front and on the blueline to go right down to the end of camp. But with a mostly new staff, that group will need to get up to speed quickly and be comfortable making decisions with not a ton of information present.
Trust - when the decision was made to move on from coach Alain Vigneault, one possible driver might have been the degradation in trust between player and coach, fan and coach and organization and coach. Rebuilding or establishing that trust is a key. That's not to say that Quinn will coddle or kowtow to the players, far from it based upon what we have read about and seen from him. But establishing that connection between him and the players, which is aided by his Boston connections to some of the squad already, will certainly help as New York moves on from the 2017-18 season.
On the captaincy, "that takes care of itself, a captain emerges from a group, especially when there is a coaching change and there is a lot of dynamics when you have a new team and a bunch of changes and I think the captaincy will take care of itself one way or the other."
Maybe Mats Zuccarello (doubtful because he is on the last year of his deal) or Chris Kreider (possible) are awarded the captaincy, but I have a feeling, as I believe most do, that we will see a handful of players wear the A with a few stalwarts donning the letter on their jersey. If CK20 plays as he did when he returned from injury last year and is a leader in the locker room, he could get the C during the season. But as Quinn seemed to point out, don't expect one to be named immediately.
On the tone he wants to set, "we want to talk about getting better on a daily basis. We want to be a fast, physical, relentless hockey team and you can't play that way unless you practice that way. We have to do this together, this is a we thing and that is the message we have been telling the players since we got together and individually but we will reiterate that collectively."
This quote is in line with what Quinn said when he was hired. In addition, as Larry Brooks pointed out, the word practice is key. Repetition, drilling until you get it right, working over and over, but smartly, to learn the system so it's second nature and can be applied immediately without thinking. If New York can play that way, we should see a fun product on the ice, even during a rebuilding season.
On trying to connect with today's kind of player, "it's our responsibility to find out what makes a guy tick and at the end of the day our job is to get each player to play to the best of his ability. One way may work with one particular player and not with another and that is our responsibility as coaches to figure out what it takes to get a player to play to the best of his ability."
On competition for spots, "nothing like competition, spots are open and good play will reward further play. Our guys get evaluated every day and those who play well will be rewarded."
Having a younger coach fresh out of college should help here, since he was connecting with younger players while at BU. Hearing those who play well will be rewarded is nice, but lets' see what happens if the final d-man spot comes down to Neal Pionk and Tony DeAngelo. If Pionk plays well and deserves a spot but DeAngelo would be lost via waivers if he was sent down, will procedural moves outweigh play?
On Henrik's mindset, "he is in a great mindset. He wants to be part of the next wave and a chance to win the Stanley Cup here and is in incredible shape, incredible competitor and one of the best in the business and we are fortunate to have him."
This sounds good in September. Let's see what happens come January if the team is struggling. Will Lundqvist still be willing to stay around and/or will he be rocking the boat? This is one of the key and fascinating questions coming into the system. we know the type of competitor Lundqvist is, can he go through another season like last year without asking for migration out of town despite his expressed love for NY?
Can you play your style with the players here, "it's our job to make these guys embrace our system and what we want to do defensively, not only defensively but in all three-zones. It's about creating a mentality in all three zones, five-man gaps ."
Get the player to play the system. Creating a mentality. Help the player embrace the system. But Quinn also has to be adaptive where necessary while keeping the framework of the system in place. His coaching in college should help here as well, since he had to adapt to the players that were in the system while also maintain the fabric of the system for all.
On Kevin Shattenkirk, "he's in a great spot physically and mentally and last year a lot of his problems were attributed to his health. I think he feels great health-wise, he looks great, best shape that I've ever seen him in. I know he is eager to get going, that is for sure."
We sure hope so because 'Kirk has to be a leader. He needs to be the PP QB and play a lot better in his zone. The hope is that much of his struggles were injury-related. If not, then the remaining three years of his deal could end up a bit of an albatross. I am actually expecting a rebound and big season from Shattenkirk, regardless of who he is paired.
On expectations for this season, "as a coach, we want to win every hockey game. We want to come to the rink everyday, be the best team we can be. Our job is to make players better on a daily basis and if you do that you will be better collectively and winning and losing takes care of itself. We think we have returning players that maybe didn't have great years last year, when you have a career sometimes you have a down year and we have a bunch of guys that feel they are going to be better this year. Our job is, to simplify it, be the best team we can possibly be and get better daily."
"Make the players better daily." That should always be the goal for the coach and the player. This goal was far from accomplished the last few seasons. With a young team and growth the main goal for this year, getting better daily is a major focus of this season. Hopefully the drills and practices accomplish this endeavor, which will go a lot way to determining how long the rebuild/retool will take.
On where young players should be, "that is a case by case situation. I think that some guys might be mentally prepared to play maybe not as many minutes, some guys might not be, that is a case by case situation. Every player is different and you may put a player down in Hartford because he is going to play more minutes or it might be more beneficial for him to stay here and experience NHL life."
This is where the evaluation will be key. Determining who breaks camp and their roles may be job one for Quinn and his staff. The last sentence sure sounds like if a player will only get minimal minutes in NY, he could be sent down, unless the team believes that player will benefit more from remaining around the team and learning on the fly. A balancing act will be required here and glad Quinn realizes there is no blanket response or manner of handling.