2021-22 Rangers David Quinn

David Quinn on getting hired, fired, the rebuild, Kakko/Lafreniere and more

12/2/21 | David Quinn was on the Cam and Strick Podcast and said the following about the Rangers:

  • Were you ready when you got the job with the Rangers, “I knew I was ready just because I was very fortunate in my coaching career to coach a lot of different levels, a lot of different places, I’ve always been fortunate to coach high end players and at the end of the day we aren’t curing Covid or cancer, we are coaching hockey. You are dealing with people and before Hank Lundqvist is a 35-year old goalie he’s a 35-year old human being and I don’t think you can ever lose sight of that when you are coaching. I felt very prepared, I really did, whether it be coaching in the World Championships or head coach in the American league or assistant coach in the NHL or coaching high end players at BU, I just felt that all of those stops prepared me to be a head coach in the NHL and I was never overwhelmed by it or nervous at all. It’s hockey and if you can be respectful of your players and hold them accountable and let them know that every decision you make has their best interest at heart, they may not like it and at that moment they might be pissed at you, but when they put their head on the pillow at night they know that you care and that is my responsibility as a coach, to be fair and let your players know you care about them.”

  • How do you balance that, “that is the art of coaching, to be able to understand each player and how often you can talk to them, how often you can’t. Sometimes the silent treatment is the best form of coaching, sometimes no coaching is the best form of coaching and that is your responsibility as a coach, to know your players, understand how to push their buttons, when to back off. You go through that no matter what level you coach at, at the NHL, college, juniors, you have to have a feel for the room. It’s something that I think has been somewhat of a strength of mine and I’ll be better at it the next time I get a chance, if I do.”
  • On coaching players that you already have a relationship with like Shattenkirk, “It sucks. This is a guy that I’ve known since I was 15, recruited him to go to BU, coached him at BU, coached him in the AHL, get invited to his wedding before…..(audio cuts)…he was frustrated and it’s not easy. I couldn’t undo 15-years of a relationship that I had with Kevin Shattenkirk, you are just asking me to do something I’m not capable of doing and anyone that can do it, I tip my hat to them because it’s not easy. It’s someone who I, not that I don’t care about my players, it’s just a different level of relationship that I have with him and it wasn’t easy, it certainly wasn’t easy. Then he gets bought out and it makes it even more difficult and he and I certainly have had many conversations since then. That was a challenging part for me because I had relationships with more than a handful of players in NY when I got there.”
  • So you were invited to Shattenkirk’s wedding before you got the Ranger job, “Before I got the job I was invited to his wedding and then I get the Ranger job and I get the job and he and I are talking about it and I said ‘I’m not changing anything, I’m going to your wedding.’ I don’t give a shit that I’m your coach, I’ll be able to separate the personal side from the professional side of it and so I went to the wedding and we had the time of our lives.”
  • What happened to Shattenkirk in NY, “He was hurt, it was really that simple. Skating has never been his biggest strength, but he was always a good enough skater and compensated with his intelligence and anticipation, but he was hurt and tried to fight through it and I remember the season ended and we were talking about him and the injury was a big piece of it, we all talked about it and we talked about if he can get back to what he was and we all felt he could and as a head coach maybe they kept me out of the loop because they knew my relationship with him. At the end of the day you are involved in the preliminary discussion of what your roster is going to look like next year, but they made the decision to buy him out and that, to be quite honest with you, surprised me.”
  • How many jobs did you interview for before the Rangers, “I was as happy as a clam at BU, so I wasn’t looking to leave BU. It was a job I loved, in my world I was making huge money, I was used to being poor, you don’t get into coaching to make money and I had a great life at BU and loved my job and making great money. As I jokingly tell people, I was the Owner, President and GM, that is the beauty of coaching college hockey.”
  • Did you regret your decision to leave BU, “The day I got fired I regretted, I’m not going to lie to you (laugh). It’s a great life and you can get comfortable, but for me, it was the first job I had where I thought to myself I could retire here. The BU job was the first job in all the coaching jobs I had where I wasn’t hoping to go somewhere else. We had a lot of success, we were getting high end players, I’m living an hour where I grew up, coaching at the school I played at, a good situation. All the sudden I get the call from the Rangers and obviously I had a long relationship with Chris Drury, I had known Jeff Gorton a long time and I had had a conversation, one time, in my second year, after we lost the National Championship game, I talked with San Jose, I went deep in that process, but, and they didn’t offer me the job, but I was just content to be at BU, but when the New York Rangers call you it’s a little bit different and it was not an easy decision. I actually said no the first time, when they offered me the job, and then the next few days after that we were talking, myself and Jeff and Chris, about other candidates and then they circled back and when I said no the first time, I thought what did I do? I’m 50-years old, I’m never going to get a chance like this again and we circled back and upped the ante a little bit, but that isn’t why I said no the first time, but it ended up working out as a great negotiating ploy, but I thought, here I am, 52-years old, am I ever going to get a chance, and everyone is saying ‘you’ll get another chance,’ no, you don’t. It’s easy for people to say that to you and I just thought, how can I turn down the NY Rangers, I’m not going to do it twice and that is how that whole thing unfolded.”
  • On the Henrik Lundqvist situation, “I was in the middle of it all and I’m the one that has to look at Hank everyday. That is the one thing, when we were going through what we were going through in NY, it was a rebuild and Hank and I had plenty of conversations and he and I both signed up for it. They had such great success before that letter went out, Hank was a huge, huge part of it and when they sent the letter out to rebuild, Hank made the choice to stay and things were getting frustrating for him and me my first year, he and I would have those conversations and say ‘Hank, you signed up for it and so did I. You knew what was going to happen here.’ My first year was the year we ended up trading Zuccarello and Hayes at the deadline, that was really year two of the rebuild and it was a hard time for all of those guys that had been there and in particular Hank. The next year comes and we have Shesterkin in the minors and Hank gets off to a good start and Georgiev was playing well and then we bring Shesterkin in in January and now we have three goalies. Shesterkin’s game was just a little bit above Hank and Georgiev’s and he was kind of taking the ball and Hank and I would continue to talk about it. There is only so much you can say, but he handled it unbelievably. He could have made my life miserable and could have made things very difficult for all of us in NY and I have so much respect for him as a player and a guy, he’s a true Hall of Famer and he couldn’t have handled it with any more professionalism.”
  • On the rebuild, “I’d jokingly say to those guys that you sit in those meetings in the summer and ‘yea, it’s a rebuild’ and I’d say ‘let’s remember this in November when we are 5-9 and lost three in a row and everyone is pissed off. It sounds really good in a conference room in the summer and spring when the season is over, but when you are living the losing it sucks. It’s a balancing act for sure and I think we did a good job of it in NY, we were adding young players and rebuilding, but we were competitive. My second year, the year Covid hit, when Covid hit, from January on we were the third best team in the NHL and one point out of a playoff spot. We were surging and felt we had that ‘it’ thing going where we were going to make the playoffs. It’s a very difficult thing to do on the go, I thought the Rangers did as good a job of it as anybody could. We weren’t the bottom of the league, we were competitive. Even last year, with six games to go we were four points out of a playoff spot. It’s not easy for the guys living it like Hank and the guys who were there for a while, Marc Staal, it’s not easy because you are used to, at the trade deadline, adding people to go make a run at the Cup. At the NHL level, if you want to know where an organization is, what are they doing at the trade deadline? That gives you every indication of where an organization is at. My first year we trade Hayes and Zuccarello, my second year, even then, we traded Brady Skjei for a first round pick, so we were still in the process of putting ourselves in a position to kind of move forward and this was the year that everybody had circled to be the year that we are all in on making the playoffs and making a run.”
  • Did you know the Rangers lacked physicality when everything happened last year, “we talked about being harder to play against, we talked about it constantly, it was part of the process of building a team. When you are putting young players in the lineup, our third line last year was Chytil, Kakko and Lafreniere, it would have been a great line for me at BU. They are great players, but they are 20, 19, it’s a man’s league and that is our third line. Brett Howden and Fox wins the Norris, but these guys are kids, they are young. We had seven players 22 or younger every single night. It’s who we were as part of the process. The goal was that the next phase was to add hardness to the lineup and that was part of the plan.”
  • On the Tom Wilson incident, “the next day is when JD and Jeff got fired, it was a crazy 48-hours to the Wilson incident to the next morning that happening and people thought it was a reaction to that and it wasn’t. It was New York, that is just what it is. All eyes were on us and it was frustrating from my end of it because I don’t want Brendan Smith going out to fight Tom Wilson. I mean, Smitty is the balls, he’s a tough, hard nosed player, and he’ll forever be remembered for what he did with Tom Wilson the next game when he challenged him and fought him. Smitty is a tough kid, he wasn’t going to get hurt, I just wish I had someone at the same level as Wilson. He’s a tough kid and a hell of a player, we’d all want him, but you are right, he doesn’t need to do the extra circular stuff, he’s a good player and hard nosed player and would do himself a big favor if he didn’t do the flexing BS after the fact.”
  • What did you say to the team during all of this, “We talked about protecting each other and I’ve had that conversation with the team for three years. Even my first year, it was an exhibition game and something happened and I felt like we didn’t defend each other and I called them all in and brought everyone real tight and said ‘this doesn’t fucking happen here. We protect each other, stand up for each other and that should never happen to a NYR team, but when you are built a certain way or in the situation we are in you are going to be short of something and that is what we were short of, that is part of the building process. That game, the second game with Washington, was the day that JD and Jeff were let go and Dolan came in and we all met with the team at 5PM and it was a really crazy day going into that second night against Washington.”
  • Dolan addressed the team that night, “he wanted to talk about the fact that he just let JD and Jeff go and felt he owed the team an explanation for that. He talked about that and it’s what he should do. They were big moves and a lot of those guys have relationships with JD and Jeff, and Jim just wanted to go in there and talk to the team and let them know why he did what he did.”
  • What were you thinking after JD and Gorton were fired, “I wasn’t surprised and once that happened you kind of get a feel of things. That was a crazy year, there were so many things going on behind the scenes. That being said, in my conversations with the Rangers before I got let go, I asked one question ‘did we overachieve, underachieve or do what we should have done this year’ and the answer I got was that we probably overachieved a little bit and I said ‘then what the fuck are we talking about?’ But I certainly understand the ins and outs of it. It’s pro sports, it’s just the way it is. But I knew, once JD and Jeff were let go, I certainly sensed that there were going to be sweeping changes.”
  • On his relationship with Chris Drury, “It’s not easy. He and I have been very close for a long time, but he and I had a conversation the minute he got the job and I said ‘you are going to have to make a tough decision someday and whenever it is, I understand it.’ It’s pro sports, but it’s not easy for either one of us.”
  • How good is Panarin, “He’s a world class talent for sure. The thing I always tell people, he is so hockey strong, people have no idea how hockey strong he is. He’s 5-11, 185 pounds, his vision is off the charts, his hockey IQ is elite. He’s a great skater. He’s got that infectious personality, his teammates love him and he makes everyone around him better.”
  • On Panarin’s situation last season, “it was scary. He’s let people know that he hasn’t had the easy of upbringings and to my point earlier about coaching, everyone is different. He’s a 30-year old human before he’s a 30-year old hockey player. People think that just because you play pro sports you are invincible and you don’t suffer the same challenges that everybody in life faces and it’s not true. You see more and more of it with players talking about their mental health and athletes aren’t immune to that stuff. You have to keep that in mind when you are coaching players. He missed 10 games, which didn’t help us, but he’s an electrifying player and personality.”
  • On expectations with Kakko and Lafreniere, “I feel so bad for these guys, to a certain degree. You are the first and second pick overall and coming to a team that, when you go to a team that finishes in dead last and you don’t have a lot of high end players, and then you step in, you play him on the top two lines and they get all these minutes and opportunities because they are on a team that just isn’t as good. These two guys step into a situation where you have Panarin, Zibanejad, Kreider, Buchnevich, Strome, Jesper Fast, you got legit top-six forwards. It’s hard for you as a coach to put them up there and let them go, it’s not how it’s going to work because as much as, as a head coach you have to answer to management, you have a locker room to answer to. Those two guys are going to be great players, they really are, but it was unfair to them, the expectations, because they get drafted first and second overall, the situation they are going into wasn’t like the situation some of those other high end picks were going to. They were coming to a pretty good hockey team with some pretty good forwards. They were stepping into a situation that was much different than their peers.”
  • On Adam Fox, “He’s unbelievable, and I know he won the Norris Trophy and to say he’s not appreciated may sound crazy, but this guy defends, he’s tough, he is tough. When you go in to play the Islanders and you are the Rangers, that is hard, heavy game and this guy takes a beating and he keeps going back for puck after puck after puck and makes the plays he does with the puck. He’s a Norris Trophy winning defenseman. There is no BS to his game, no BS to his personality, he’s a star.”
  • On the players living in NY, “Listen, they are pros and that is where your leadership needs to step up and adapt to the NHL and manage their professional and social lives and make sure their social life doesn’t get in the way of their professional life. There is only so much you can do as as coach, they are pros. It’s not like in college where they are in the dorms and you can set curfews at home and you’ve got RAs that can tell you who is doing what, it’s a lot different, it’s pro hockey. That is the other aspect of it, Adam Fox, his rookie year, was 21-years old and played three years at Harvard and I’d be curious to know when the last rookie of the year in the NHL was 18 or 19 years old, I’d like to know that. If you look at the rookie of the years lately, it’s players two years removed from their draft, I would guess. It’s hard to be rookie of the year in your draft year unless you are Crosby or Ovechkin or McDavid. It’s hard, hard thing to do.”
  • He only wants to coach in the NHL.

Quinn spoke with Daren Millard on his podcast and said:


  • On how it’s been for him lately, “I think there is a lot that goes on when you get fired for the first time and you aren’t coaching hockey team for the first time in 28-years. You get the chance to sit back and reflect a little bit, can’t believe you aren’t coaching, there are a lot of emotions that go on when you are in the situation that I’m in and try to make the most of it and stay busy and stay sharp and in-tune to the game. The saving grace for me is the Olympic opportunity that I have and that has kept me busy, I’ve been doing some work with the Olympic team and helping put the team together and that has certainly kept me busy.”
  • Do you watch games every night, “oh yea, I watch games, watching players for the Olympics, but watching because you want to stay in-tune to what is going on in the league and if they call your number you want to be ready and knowledgeable and hit the ground running when you get your next opportunity.”
  • Do you watch struggling teams more than teams playing well, “probably teams that are doing well more than teams that aren’t doing well, but depending on the night and player I need to watch you get a little bit of both, but it leans more towards the teams that are doing well.”
  • How long did it take you to get over being fired, “you mean when will I get over it? (laugh) When you are a competitor and in our profession and you go through what I went through, there is definitely a level of anger, you’re frustrated and angry, but that is normal. The one thing that I will say, and I talked to a bunch of guys who have went through it, every coach that has coached in this league has been fired, you usually come back a better  coach and you do a lot of self reflecting and it’s something that I’ve done and want to continue to do because if I get another opportunity I want to make sure that I’m ready and better than I’ve ever been.”
  • Who have you leaned on for that, “I’ve leaned on a bunch of people, obviously people in the hockey world that I’m very close to, Ben Smith, Jack Parker, my wife Kerry has been huge for me, my mother, my sister, close friends, too. I’m trying to make the best of this free time.”
  • On doing all the “dirty work” during the rebuild, “when you get into those situations you kind of know what you are in for. I thought we did a good job for the most part while we were there, we all had kind of targeted this coming year as the year we were probably going to make a move, that being said, our second year, when the pandemic hit we were one point out of a playoff spot and probably the hottest team in the NHL, the second half of the season in 2020. Even last year, we lose Trouba and Kreider with six games to go and we are five points out of a playoff spot and going to play the Isles for two games and we’re 8 games over .500 in a very difficult division and the youngest team in the league, playing in a man’s division playing with the Islanders and Capitals and Bruins, those are hard, hard nights. I loved my time, it was an unbelievable experience, I learned an awful lot, I wish we had done a little bit better, but I think any coach feels that way, you are never satisfied unless you win the Stanley Cup. There is that old saying that you plant a tree, but you can’t sit under it and enjoy the shade. That is life in pro sports.”
  • Are you ready to coach again, “yes, absolutely, very much looking forward to hopefully getting that opportunity. I’ll have that opportunity in a different role with the Olympic team, I can’t wait to get back on the ice and be involved in a practice and be around a locker room and be around a hockey team.”