New Rangers coach David Quinn has been itching to get his rookie season started for a while now. And the time is finally here. Players officially reported to the MSG Training Center Thursday for physicals and they’ll hit the ice Friday as training camp begins for the 2018-19 season.
“I feel like summer ended about a month ago, so I’ve been looking forward to getting going again on the ice,’’ Quinn told reporters at his camp opening press briefing Thursday.
Quinn was introduced by the Rangers as the new head coach on May 24, little more than a month after his predecessor, Alain Vigneault, was fired on the final day of the season. Vigneault had coached the team for five seasons, and guided the Rangers to a Stanley Cup finals, a President’s Trophy, and a couple of Eastern Conference finals, but when the Rangers decided it was time to blow up the current iteration of the team and rebuild, his time was up.
Enter Quinn, who had been the coach at Boston University for the last five years, where he won 105 games and two regular season Hockey East titles and made it to the NCAA Championship Game in 2015. Rangers GM Jeff Gorton wanted fresh ideas, and he wooed Quinn with a reported five-year, $12 million contract to come and groom the young roster.
Quinn spent much of the summer traveling around to spend time with his players and get to know them, including flying to Sweden where he met with several of the club’s Swedish players, including goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and forwards Mika Zibanejad and Jesper Fast.
“Well, I think for me, it was an opportunity, not only with Henrik, but for every other player I got a chance to meet with, just to kind of start a relationship and find out what makes people tick, what their mindset was,’’ Quinn said. “We were certainly talking with each guy about moving forward; talking to each player about what they can do to make the situation better. We want to move past last year, no matter what the situation is. That’s kind of how we approach it. No matter what team I’m coaching, I always want to move forward.’’
Moving forward may be harder than it sounds. Last season’s team finished 34-39-9, for 77 points, a long way from making the playoffs. And after several veterans – including captain Ryan McDonagh, and scoring forwards Rick Nash, Michael Grabner and J.T. Miller – were shipped out at the trade deadline Gorton didn’t do much to add to the roster over the summer – though he did trade for veteran defenseman Adam McQuaid on Tuesday.
So with a roster that isn’t much different from the group that finished last season, Quinn wasn’t about to get too specific when asked about his expectations for this season.
“As the coach, we want to win every hockey game,’’ he said. “We want to come to the rink every day and be the best team we can possibly be. Our job is to make every player better on a daily basis. And if you do that, you’ll be better collectively, and the winning and losing takes care of itself.
“We think we’ve got some guys, returning players, that maybe didn’t have great years last year – when you have a career, sometimes you’re going to have a down year – and I know we’ve got a bunch of guys that feel like they’re going to have better years this year.’’