By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
On the eve of his first training camp as head coach of the Rangers, John Tortorella told reporters on Friday that Jim Schoenfeld, the Rangers’ Assistant General Manager, Player Personnel, and General Manager of the Hartford Wolf Pack, will also serve as an assistant coach with the team this season. Schoenfeld joins Mike Sullivan as assistants to Tortorella, while the team’s other assistant coach, Benoit Allaire will continue to work with the goaltenders.
|Jim Schoenfeld smiles while working behind the bench during a game last season. This season, he will be working everywhere else as an assistant coach. |
When Tortorella assumed the Rangers’ head coaching duties last February, Schoenfeld joined him on the ice for practices and on the bench during games, while continuing in his front-office role. Both men believed at the time that Schoenfeld would relinquish his assistant coaching duties once the 2008-09 season was over.
However, after bringing Sullivan, his long-time assistant in Tampa Bay, into the Rangers’ fold this summer, Tortorella said he talked to Schoenfeld about the possibility of continuing in his dual role as both a team executive, working with President and General Manager Glen Sather, and assistant coach.
“I first wanted to make sure it was OK with Glen and Jimmy,” said Tortorella. “I thought (Schoenfeld) did such a great job last year in some of his individual teaching and his relationships with the players.”
Schoenfeld agreed to serve as an assistant coach this year as long as that would not interfere with his managerial duties. As such, Sather signed off on a plan that will see Schoenfeld fulfill all the duties of an assistant coach, but he will not be behind the bench with Tortorella and Sullivan during games.
“That plan allows Jimmy to handle his duties as assistant general manager, where he’s got lots of other things to do during the games,” said Tortorella. “I prefer two coaches behind the bench anyway. Sully will change the defensemen, and I will handle the forwards.”
In addition to his management experience, Schoenfeld has served 10 years as an NHL head coach, having guided the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals, and Phoenix Coyotes to a combined .509 career winning percentage.
In fact, Tortorella served as an assistant under Schoenfeld with Phoenix in the late 1990s.
“Schoeny cares and has a heart as big as the building,” Tortorella said in explaining why Schoenfeld was willing to handle two big roles for the Rangers this year.
As he did last season, Schoenfeld -- a former All-Star NHL defenseman, himself -- will spend the majority of his time working with the blueliners in practice, and will also be in charge of the team’s penalty killing unit.
Tortorella stressed, however, that each of the coaches will work with all of the players and in all aspects of the game.
“I just believe that we all do it together,” said Tortorella. “The only thing Jimmy will be minus from is the bench.”
Tortorella and his coaching staff will open up training camp at the MSG Training Center on Saturday morning. The Rangers first pre-season contest takes place on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden against the Boston Bruins.