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Rangers coach Quinn sends bold message by benching Shattenkirk, Hayes

Struggling veterans among those being held accountable for slow start

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- David Quinn is letting it be known early in his first season as New York Rangers coach that his bar is set high, and he isn't willing to settle and wait for players to start reaching it.

The Rangers have lost their first three games, all in regulation. Quinn, the 52-year-old in his first season as an NHL coach, is already holding players accountable, especially veterans, by taking away ice time and letting his voice be heard loud and clear in practices.

Quinn made defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk a healthy scratch when the Rangers play the San Jose Sharks at Madison Square Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; MSG, NBCSCA, NHL.TV). He has already benched Shattenkirk and center Kevin Hayes for long stretches in games and made forward Vladislav Namestnikov a healthy scratch for New York's 3-1 loss at the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.

Video: NYR@BUF: Hutton clutches Hayes' nice drive

In addition, Quinn doesn't hesitate to stop drills in practice if he doesn't like what he's seeing.

He did it Wednesday, when the Rangers were working on the power play but passing the puck around the perimeter, passing up opportunities to find shooting lanes. Quinn got in the middle of zone and loudly said, "Shoot the [darn] thing. This isn't a beauty contest. Get pucks to the net."

"I'm not doing it to be the big, tough coach," Quinn said. "It's more like, 'Listen, if we're going to have the success we're capable of having, this is the bar and this is what's expected.' Holding people accountable is a coach's No. 1 responsibility.

"This is how I've done it my whole life. It's not like I'm coming in here changing the way I've coached. This is just how I've done it."

What is interesting in the cases of Hayes and Shattenkirk is that Quinn is doing it to players with whom he has previous relationships.

Quinn was an assistant at Boston University when Shattenkirk was a player for the Terriers. He also coached him in the American Hockey League and was a guest at Shattenkirk's wedding during the offseason.

Hayes and Quinn know each other through hockey and family connections in Boston.

Is Quinn making an example of them because he knows them and their personalities?

Shattenkirk says no.

"Really, it's more wanting to see me compete more, just be a little harder to play against," Shattenkirk said. "I know it's a very vague term, but when it comes down to it I could probably just be harder on my one-on-ones, lean into guys a little bit more, be a bit meaner. I know I'm not an overly physical guy, but I can definitely play with a mean streak. I need to get that back in my game because it does drive me."

Quinn's belief in Shattenkirk is unwavering. However, it's also clear to him that Shattenkirk is struggling, perhaps largely because he's still trying to rediscover his game after missing the final 36 games of last season following left knee surgery.

Shattenkirk has zero points and is minus-4 this season. His struggles came to a head against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, when Quinn dressed seven defensemen and limited Shattenkirk to 7:29 of ice time, none in the final 8:29, of an 8-5 loss at PNC Arena.

"I trust what he's doing," Shattenkirk said.

He's also not surprised that Quinn is doing it, to him, Hayes or anyone else.

Hayes and Shattenkirk each talked about Quinn's ability to communicate with players and hold them accountable immediately after the Rangers announced him as the new coach May 24. There's tangible proof of it now, but Hayes said it's been going on since training camp began.

"No one is really safe," said Hayes, who was benched for 11:25 straight in the second period and the final 6:49 of the third in Buffalo on Saturday. "Everyone has to play well to get their ice time here. It's a fresh face and he has his way of doing things. I think what he does is great. He doesn't let guys have days off."

Quinn, though, is respectful of the tightrope he's walking between holding his players accountable and having veterans turn on him for going too far. That's why he insists on having open lines of communication between coaches and players.

Hayes and Shattenkirk said they initially didn't know why they were being benched in the games last weekend. But following the games they each had separate meetings with Quinn, with assistant Lindy Ruff in on the meeting with Shattenkirk.

Their voices were heard. There were no blurry lines after those meetings, each said.

"When you do stuff like that there's got to be clarity and there's got to be explanations," Quinn said. "At the end of the day, accountability and performance are what this is all about. That's coaching, in my opinion, holding people accountable but also understanding people have built up a bank account too. You don't just bench guys for every mistake, but to me the piece to it that is non-negotiable is effort. If the mistakes are made because of the lack of all-out effort then I don't care what your bank account is, you'll be held accountable."

"It's about consistent effort and raising the bar."

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