The allure of David Quinn, when the Rangers hired him away from Boston University to be their head coach in the summer of 2018, was that the organization saw him as the perfect guy to mold and guide their young roster as the team began its rebuild.
A year after Quinn was hired, the tenor of the rebuild shifted, as GM Jeff Gorton began to acquire pieces for the present, rather than the future — pieces like defensemen Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba, and free agent forward Artemi Panarin. The effort was given a turbo boost by the Rangers’ winning the NHL draft lottery in both 2019 and 2020, which landed them Kaapo Kakko with the No. 2 pick overall in ’19 and Alexis Lafreniere with the No. 1 overall last October.
With an improved roster, though, the expectations will change for Quinn, now entering his third season as the Rangers’ coach. And with the 2020-21 season set to open Thursday against the Islanders at the Garden, it seems fair to ask: Is the 54-year-old Quinn still the man to continue to lead the way in the next stage?
MSG Networks Rangers analyst Joe Micheletti thinks so.
"Well, I'm biased,’’ Micheletti said Tuesday, as the Rangers enjoyed a day off from practice. "I think he's a heck of a coach. I think he's a bright guy [and] his enthusiasm is there. I think he's got the whole package.’’
Working with the youngest roster in the league last season, Quinn managed a 37-28-5 record, which was good enough to get the Rangers into the NHL’s 24-team August restart in the Toronto bubble. Along the way, he handled the introduction of goalie Igor Shesterkin to the team, and the subsequent easing out of franchise icon Henrik Lundqvist. His reward is an even younger roster than last year — subtracting the 38-year-old Lundqvist and adding the 19-year-old Lafreniere and 20-year-old defenseman K’Andre Miller.
Micheletti thinks Quinn’s personality is perfect for the job.
"There's been some difficult decisions he's made with player personnel, and you know what, he goes right to the player,’’ Micheletti said. "He doesn't leave the player wondering why. [With him it’s] 'Here's what you need to do to play. Here's what I expect.'’’
Micheletti pointed to the way Quinn has helped center Mika Zibanejad grow his game in the two seasons he’s coached him. Zibanejad put up career highs in goals and points in Quinn’s first year, and bettered them in his second.
"You look at the last two seasons Mika's had, and they're the best in his career,’’ Micheletti said. "He's turning into one of the best players in the game. And that's not by accident. Because he had that talent before, but David was able to get him to get one more switch.’’
Notes & quotes: The Rangers announced their official roster and taxi squad Tuesday. Twenty-two players are on the official roster, 18 of them holdovers from last season and four newcomers: Lafreniere, Miller, defenseman Jack Johnson and forward Kevin Rooney. Six players were placed on the taxi squad: G Keith Kinkaid and D Anthony Bitetto, Long Islanders both, D Libor Hajek and forward Colin Blackwell, and prospects Morgan Barron and Matthew Robertson. Eighteen players were assigned to AHL Hartford, including Queens native, RW Anthony Greco.