Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato has quite a copious family, as he’s the oldest of six children and has four of his own.
He’s enjoyed every second of the quality time that he’s had with his relatives this summer, even attending a couple of family reunions on him and his wife Linda’s sides. Granato has also cherished spending time with his kids, as his three oldest are all college-aged and out of the house during the season.
“That’s the nice thing about the hockey season being the same time as the school year,” he said. “You get a few months off where you’re able to do some special things with some of your family that you don’t get to see much during the season.”
But Granato’s summer hasn't been all rest and relaxation. He’s balanced leisure with work duties, as he and the rest of the Penguins coaching staff – who have all recently signed contract extensions – have been looking for ways to improve in all aspects.
“We did a lot of stuff on our own as the offseason went on," he said. "We just re-evaluated what went on last year and then did some preparation for this year. We’re still watching a lot of video and just trying to keep sharp, seeing if we can learn some things over the summer that will help us during the year.
“I think we’re all rested as coaches. We’re all charged up to get back.”
Granato, who works primarily with the team’s forwards and oversees the NHL’s top-ranked penalty kill, stressed the importance of hopefully having a healthy group entering this coming season.
“It’s nice as a coach when you can look forward to training camp and hopefully getting your full squad in the lineup,” he said.
And while having everyone be injury-free is key, Granato also mentioned the way other players in the lineup stepped up in the face of adversity – citing that character as a storyline to watch throughout the season.
“I think our leadership was something that really stepped forward last year with fighting through the injuries,” he said. “Our leaders and our veteran players really kept things together. … I think we can build on that, and I think we made some additions over the summer that are going to help us.”
He called the Penguins’ moves over the summer “smart,” adding “I think the guys we re-signed that were set to be unrestricted free agents was big, as was signing a restricted free agent like Tyler Kennedy
. Getting those guys back and in place will be really important. It’s going to be an exciting year for all of us.”
Granato is excited about the depth of the team entering training camp, especially on defense. He’s also looking forward to the continued emergence of several younger players who should build on last season’s performances.
“There should be some competition for jobs,” he said. “I think we’ve got a really solid group that we’re looking forward to working with and hopefully having a great year.”
But Granato knows that the players and coaches aren’t the only ones anxious for Oct. 6 to come around.
“I know the fans in Pittsburgh can’t wait till the puck drops,” he smiled. “It’s going to be a very entertaining year.”BROTHERLY LOVE
Granato couldn't say enough about how happy he was for his younger brother Don, who was named head coach of the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) on Monday.
"It’s very exciting for me to see him back behind the bench," Tony said of Don, who spent the 2010-11 season as a scout with Vancouver. "The development program is a phenomenal program that’s done a great job of producing players and really elevating the level of play for the Americans. I think it’s a great fit. He’s going to do really well there."RELATED: Don Granato, Brother of Pens Assistant Coach Tony Granato, Named USNTDP Head Coach >>
So do the brothers share coaching tips?
"He gives me more than I give him," Granato said of Don. "He’s someone that I’ve relied on a lot. He’s coached a lot longer than I have. I remember especially when I started getting into coaching when I retired, he had been into it for quite a few years. I would say he’s my mentor. I talk to him quite a bit about new ideas and we throw different things at each other."