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2020-21 Rangers

Jeff Gorton and John Davidson on K’Andre Miller, Henrik Lundqvist and more

John Davidson and Jeff Gorton met with the media on Saturday and said (NYR, NYR):

  • Jeff Gorton on how does season impacts the rebuild timeline, “It’s obviously a different time, going back to the bubble and now playing a short season. Every team is the same, we are all in the same situation and we have a great opportunity to play a 56-game season in a division that is going to be difficult and it will be good for our players to play and we’ll evaluate them everyday and try to get better, but as far as the letter and where we are at and the timeline, I think we have been pretty consistent with our approach with that, trying to get better everyday, seeing what we will have on the ice, try to win our next game and move this thing forward. Hopefully the timeline is quicker than later but lets see what happens when we get back on the ice.”

  • John Davidson on goals for this season, “you get thrown curveballs and we have all been thrown a big curve ball since March, but I applaud our group, coaching staff, training staff, they have been in constant touch with all the players in the organization, we’ve added players to the organization and trying to do the best you can, in that sense, keep them motivated, keep them working, having the understanding that camp is going to come one day and, sure enough, here it is and be ready. We feel quite confident about our club in that respect. As we get into the season, it’s different, no question. Some of the junior leagues aren’t playing yet, the AHL will start in Feb, there will be a taxi squad. We have to constantly have communication through our management and coaching staff as to who is going where, who is playing, who is not. From what I have seen to this point, and talked to our staff about, a lot of the young players were so young, and now they have gotten a little older and they’ve changed. You saw Kakko come to the bubble in Toronto and play the way that he played and now he shows up after a solid summer of working out, he’ll be bigger and stronger, you look for things like that, always look for things to hang your hat on when you go through a build like we are and to see older players leave, older players to be better than they were last year, see young players mature, new players come in. We are excited about K’Andre Miller with the way he played prior to the bubble and in talking to a lot of the people who have seen K’Andre work this summer, there is a maturity aspect there that is going in the proper direction. I personally, firmly, believe we are in a good spot with the way we approach this season with young people. We are in a great division, very tough division, and that is going to be a great experience for our players.”
  • John Davidson on Henrik Lundqvist, “I can say that, on behalf of the organization, we were absolutely shocked and we’ve had constant communication from a number of people within the organization. Hank’s a Ranger, always will be a Ranger. We are there for him anytime he needs help to do anything, period. I know he has the surgery ahead of him, we wish him well. He’s going to be just fine, and obviously, down the road, he’s a Ranger. Anything he needs, we wish him well. There is a lot of love for that man in this organization and he has been dealt something here that he will deal with and we wish him the best for sure.”
  • Jeff Gorton on if anybody is unavailable to skate on the first day, “they are all here, we have three players that will be unable to be on the ice on Monday, they are listed as day-to-day, it’s Mika Zibanejad, Justin Richards and Keith Kinkaid.”
  • Jeff Gorton on K’Andre Miller making the team, “I think he has a great chance. We are all excited about what he has been showing, his commitment this offseason has been great, he has been here a long time training, working, skating. We are excited to see how he looks. It’s been pretty well publicized how he looked prior to us leaving for the bubble, for him to have the offseason he’s had and now come to a big league camp, albeit short, we are excited to see him with NHL players. He’s got a great chance and we are looking forward to seeing him.”
  • What kind of team will have an advantage in a short season, “We will have to play the games to know whether a veteran team or young team will have an advantage here. I think it’s going to be tight, we are playing the same teams over and over, the rivalries are going to be difficult and fun for everybody and we will learn a lot about our players and the rest of the division too. Our guys are really excited to play hockey and get back on the ice and no matter the division and who the teams are, guys want to play. They’ve been waiting on something good to happen here and now that they are back, everyone here is excited about our team, playing hockey and where we go next.”
  • Is this roster equipped to compete in the division, “we will find out. It’s a tough division, some teams that have won Stanley Cups recently and a lot of good players in the division. We will find out. We feel really good about our group. If you look at last year’s team, the bubble was one thing, but prior to, in the last three months our team was trending in the right direction, a lot of our young players were improving, we have seen a lot of good things. We have some young players that, hopefully, will push. I think we are deeper, some organizational depth that I think we’ve improved on, our goaltending situation is good. I’m comfortable that our team is moving in the right direction and that we will be a competitive team and we will see where it takes us.”
  • Jeff Gorton on Vitali Kravtsov staying in Russia, “he’s playing really well and we made a decision to commit to having him finishing the season over there and we watch just about every one of his games, every one of his shifts, talked a lot to the team over there and we just feel like he is trending in the right direction. There season isn’t that much longer, the opportunity to play some playoff games and building on what he is doing and once it is over we will bring him over here and go from there. Really happy with where he is at and where he is going and excited to get him back over here when his season is done.”
  • Jeff Gorton on taxi squads, “I think you will see that the 23-man roster, teams might be playing with less than that because of the luxury of the taxi squad. Each team is probably a little bit different with who they can get through waivers. Having flexibility is always good and we have some bonuses to work around and I don’t anticipate that being an issue, but we certainly have to be mindful of it.”
  • Jeff Gorton on potential player moves, “for us, I would say that once the AHL gets going and they are playing out of Hartford, there will be a couple of days quarantine, so we will have to deal with those issues, some teams have their own AHL teams in their own backyard, so they probably don’t have as many issues, but as far as movement and trades, I think it will probably be affected, probably won’t be able to deal with all 31-teams the same way, you have to be mindful of how urgent you want that player. Is it a hockey deal where a guy comes in to help your team and do you want to wait the eight days or is it a future deal. All those things that will come under consideration when we are making moves.”
  • Jeff Gorton on Mika not being on the ice Monday, “I think that right now we will just list them as day to day and hopefully none of it is long-term and we can get them back on the ice as soon as possible.”
  • John Davidson on if playoffs are the barometer for success, “it’s a goal, for sure, that is what you set your sights on to get into the big dance. If we do that that will be very good for the organization for a number of different reasons, it means you are in the battle all the way through. This is going to be an exciting battle, 56-games, every game means something. Barometer, yes, for sure, that is a goal, we have to have goals in place. We have a very hungry team, very hungry coaching staff and there is no question that it’s a goal. I personally feel that when you get into the build situation, that you need to hang your hat on something when you finish the season, as you move forward to become a champion. If this club, in this division, makes the playoffs, it will be a big thing for us, it would be an accomplishment, a good thing for us. Going through the entire battle of getting to the playoffs will be really advantageous for our young players.”
  • John Davidson on player development, “our group hasn’t stopped since the pandemic started. Tuomo Ruutu is actually an assistant coach with Finland at the World Juniors, so he is having a great time with his club looking at all the young kids there. They are constantly in touch with all the players we have in the organization, ones that were drafted this year, that have been here in the past. On them, ‘what are you doing, how are you doing, when are you doing it, are you ready, are you this, are you that.’ We can’t let it stop. Our management group with Jeff and Chris Drury, we are in constant touch with all of our scouts on the pro side, they’ve set up programs to be ready when the league starts up, how they are going to scout the different divisions. When the AHL starts, how they are going to do that. With the amateur scouting, it’s interesting because there aren’t a lot of games being played and when there is, some countries allow some fans, not many, some don’t allow at all. You are constantly striving to find video to look at these guys. I give both sides a lot of credit for trying to be creative, finding ways to not sit back and say there is nothing going on until we start playing. They have done the opposite, they are researching and doing what they can. This is the world of the known, this is what it is, but you have to try as an organization to push people and I haven’t had to do a lot of it because they are pushing themselves. I think we are in a good spot for that.”
  • Jeff Gorton on maybe moving LWs to RW, “A lot of our wingers, we feel are versatile and can play both sides. I’ll leave it to David. It’s a luxury that we have some good wingers that are highly talented and can do things and play both sides. I don’t know if Panarin is going to switch sides, he is pretty comfortable and pretty effective over there, but the rest of the guys are pretty versatile.”
  • Jeff Gorton on Alexis Lafreniere, “obviously it’s huge. To finally be close and get him on the ice is huge. I know he is very excited and working hard and getting comfortable with his teammates.”