On Monday afternoon, Brett Howden was at the Garden describing what Rangers fans could expect from the 2018-19 Blueshirts, and he mentioned some familiar words. "You can expect to see a really fast, skilled team, a team that is relentless," the Rangers' rookie center said, "that's not going to give up on anything."
Later in the evening, the rookie head coach, David Quinn, took the stage at the Beacon Theatre and stamped what he hopes is the headline on his Rangers team: "Fast, physical and relentless."
Anytime, anyplace, David Quinn's Rangers are relentless about being relentless. And unapologetic about it, too.
"Those things are a choice," Quinn said. "Those things are nonnegotiable if you're going to have a successful team."
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The new bench boss has spent the better part of training camp conveying that message to his charges, as well as the importance of communicating with one another - which must have made the coach feel right at home at the Beacon communicating with a crowd of Blueshirts season-ticket holders at the RangersTown Hall, touching on everything from the team's nascent identity to its outlook on its most prized prospects to its nutrition habits.
It was an opportunity for Rangers fans to meet the new coach in person - and also for the new coach to meet RangersTown. ("I booked 13 road trips to come see you this year!" one season-ticket holder let Quinn know.)
But amid the buildup for Thursday night's Garden match with Nashville - the opener on a season that should in large part be about bringing young players along - Quinn, General Manager Jeff Gorton and team President Glen Sather were asked by another season-ticket holder how to manage outside expectations while forging a culture in which losing is not taken as acceptable.
"We all know how people think we're going to do," Quinn responded. "Our guys believe in themselves, they believe in each other. We've told our team, this is a 'We' thing. We think in our room that we have a chance to do something people think we're not capable of doing."
"You have to hate to lose," Gorton added. He later quipped, "(Quinn) hasn't lost a game yet, so we're happy."
The games that count begin on Thursday, and the fact that Quinn will be there behind the Rangers bench is something that seemed implausible to the three men on stage no more than five months ago. Gorton, who has known Quinn by their estimations for some 30 years, recalled how his initial talks with the then-coach at Boston University were very brief, because he never thought Quinn would want to leave his alma mater. But Gorton took another swing at it when the two ran into one another at the World Championships, after Quinn's Terriers saw their season end one win shy of the Frozen Four, mounting an effort that included calls to Quinn around 4 in the morning, "begging him," Gorton said, "to take the job."
"There was no begging. This was the Rangers, there was no begging," Quinn said. Whatever it was, Gorton eventually wore him down.
"There's not a second that has gone by that I have looked back and said, "Geez, did I do the right thing?'" Quinn said. "I just can't wait to get started Thursday night."
Or can he? Both Gorton and Sather said Quinn was brought to the Blueshirts in large part for his ability to teach players, and the coach seems to be wrestling with his excitement to start his Rangers career and his desire for more of those teaching moments. In other words, he could be the only man in the NHL - or at least the only man in the Beacon Theatre - who wants more preseason.
"I really liked our work ethic (in the preseason), and how coachable they were. It's a really good group of guys," Quinn said. "What I didn't like about the preseason was it wasn't long enough. I wish we had more games, because there's so many things you're trying to implement with these guys.
"But there's nothing I can do about that. We're going to be ready Thursday."
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