Quinn Anxious, Excited For Rangers To Hit The Ice

Chatting with rookie Rangers coach David Quinn is as refreshing and stimulating as sipping a Mint Julep on a hot New York day.

Naturally, it’s so good, you want some more, so in sunny Manhattan, I savored my one-on-one chat with the Blueshirts’ new bench boss.

He’s fun, candid, excited and everything else that goes with an enthusiastic Rhode Islander, now the architect of a Rangers team in transition.

“So,” I asked him, “what are you feeling these Dog Days of August?”

He chuckled.

“I have two things on my mind,” Quinn shot back. “On the one hand I’m looking forward to the rookie camp, Traverse City, and eventually training camp.”

Then, a pause, and a bit of relaxed contentment: “On the other hand, I really don’t want to wish summer away. Really, I’m two things — anxious and excited.”

Now that David’s staff is in place and training camp plans have been blueprinted, he’s been in touch with his players.

“I’ve had a connection with a lot of guys on our roster,” he noted, “but the one I know best is Kevin Shattenkirk. I go ‘way back with Kevin; back to when I recruited him at Boston University.”

Just about every citizen in Rangerville knows that Shattenkirk is emerging from an injury-plagued season. Therefore, 2018-19 is a biggie for the defenseman and the new coach as well.

“Knowing Kevin the way I do makes it easier for me,” Quinn went on, “but I’ve had a connection in varying ways with many of the guys I have now. There’s Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey, Chris Kreider and Cody McLeod, to name a few.”

They all are part of a core assigned with the task of creating a rebound season, along with vibrant youngsters, some of whom have David chomping at the bit.

Names roll of his tongue with ease.

“For starters, there’s (Filip) Chytil and (Lias) Andersson who each can make an impact. There’s a bunch more of young kids — (Libor) Hajek, (Brett) Howden and (Neal) Pionk.

“They know that we’ve got a whole new ball game here and they’re all going to have opportunities ’cause they’re all good players.”

He could have added gifted goalie Igor Shesterkin, and defensemen Ryan Lindgren, Tony DeAngelo and Yegor Rykov.

As The Hockey News noted, “The mission was to sell older assets and restock with prospects. Good idea!”

Likewise, the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis interviewed Rangers assistant general manager Chris Drury not long ago, and the former NHL ace added to the optimism.

“Internally,” Drury told Cyrgalis, “I know we’re excited at where we’re at. You can have all the picks and make the trades but you have to pick the right guys.

“In hindsight, getting some feedback around the league, I think, organizationally, we’re excited about who we got.”

Meanwhile, Ryan McDonagh’s emigration to Tampa Bay has created a captain’s vacancy which the coach has deposited in the round file marked NO RUSH.

It’s no secret that having a “C” on the jersey does not automatically produce leadership in the Mark Messier mold, nor Ryan Callahan for that matter.

In bygone years, the captaincy was more a burden than a blessing to Blueshirts Hall of Fame defensemen Harry Howell and Brian Leetch.

Some observers will tell you that the “C” on McDonagh’s uniform was not necessarily the panacea for his puck progress.

“For me,” Quinn explained, “the captaincy question is on the back-burner. I want to wait until the team is assembled. I want to get a chance to see what these guys look like on the ice and in action.

“This much is certain; you can’t force a thing like making a captain. I believe in letting the team decide if it should have one.”

David mentioned that such coaches as Ben Smith and Jack Parker influenced his style. What’s more he had a kind word for his new rival, John Hynes, the Devils bench boss.

As it happens Quinn and Hynes — not to mention Lou Lamoriello — all speak the same native language developed in New England.

“Yeah, we’re all from Rhode Island.”

At that point, Pal David was intrigued when I delivered some important music news about his state. There were two pre-Alaska-Hawaii Rhode Island hit tunes:

1. “Poor Little Rhode Island, Smallest Of The Forty-Eight” and 2. “Rhode Island Is Famous For You.” I changed the latter to “Rhode Island Is Famous For Lou” and Sir Lamoriello liked that.

Getting back to hockey, Quinn and I wondered what effect the Vegas Golden Knights miracle season would have on his players.

“Look,” he reminded me, “there’s so much parity in the league right now. As for Vegas, a lot of people have forgotten that they started the season with about seven first-rounders and a lot of second-rounders.”

Besides, Dave doesn’t coach the Knights, his club is called Rangers and they present a challenge to someone making the leap from the collegiate coaching ranks to what we like to call The Show.

He also knows that Rangers fans rank among the most passionate and dedicated in the sporting world. Which prompted me to ask him how The Blueshirt Faithful have reacted to him when they meet the new mentor on the street.

“So far, everybody loves me.”

Then, another pause and the perfect squelch:

“At least to my face!”