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Schoenfeld Optimistic for 2004-05 Pack Season

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers


Entering his second season as Hartford Wolf Pack General Manager, Jim Schoenfeld recently sat down with newyorkrangers.com during the Pack's week-long Training Camp at the MSG Training Center to share his thoughts on Camp, his transition from Coach to GM, his outlook on the 2004-05 American Hockey League season and more.

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On the first week of Wolf Pack Training Camp ...
"I've been thrilled with this Camp so far. I think the level of intensity was high from the first minute it started and it hasn't lowered at all. Whether it's been the practice drills or the off-ice workouts or the scrimmages, we've had a real good effort from every participant and that brings out the best in everybody."

How this Camp differs from others he has been involved with in the past ...
"The only difference, if you came in here and didn't know the names or faces of an NHL camp or the names and faces of the players here, all you would really see is that there is a little drop off in the skill level. The only other difference is that these players are all vying for a position in Hartford, rather than for a position in New York. But outside of that, you really can't tell a difference between the two."

How the NHL work stoppage will affect the American Hockey League season ...
"This should be the strongest the American Hockey League has ever been as far as the pool of talent that will be playing. We think it's great from our point of view and the Rangers organization because there are some definite holes to fill once the NHL season does start up. This will give us an even truer indication of who would be best suited to fill those roles. And Charlotte is going to have a very good team as well this year in the East Coast Hockey League."

On making the transition from coaching to the General Manager's role ...
"It has gone better than I ever thought it would. I really didn't know what to expect. I asked for the position not knowing what I was in store for and if the first year is any indication of what managing is like, I'm going to really enjoy it. But, of course, we had a tremendous year last season. We were only one goal from being in the Calder Cup Finals and we set some new American Hockey League records. (Jason) LaBarbera and our team established a new mark for shutouts. It was a pretty easy year to be a manager because winning makes everything fun.

There was a pretty good learning curve for me when I took this position. I had to learn to do a lot of the logistic work that goes along with the business side of the team. I handled a lot of the day-to-day details, which gave me a good understanding of how things worked. But it is different. It's similar to the jump you make from playing to coaching. Many people think it's a natural transition, but it's very different. And from coaching to managing is very different too. For me, it's been a very stimulating year."

On the synergy between the Rangers and Wolf Pack coaching staffs ...
"The coaches all got together weeks ago to have a brainstorming session. Tom Renney is the head coach of the Rangers, so he is the head coach of the organization, so it was a good exchange of ideas and Tom would then make the final decision on what the organization is going to follow through with. Tom is not only good at extracting ideas but listening to different ways to do things. He's open to suggestions, so I think every coach, if you asked them, would feel that they were a part of the decision-making process of how the New York Rangers organization is going to play. I think that because of that, they are all going to buy into it and we're all going to work very hard to implement it - all the way from New York down to Charlotte."

On the upcoming 2004-05 Wolf Pack season ...
"We're very optimistic. We never lose sight of the fact that in Hartford - and you have to remind the coaches sometimes because they get into the day-to-day aspects of the job - the primary job is to develop players for the New York Rangers and try to do that in a winning environment. Last year, we blended the two very well but we still can't lose sight of the fact that our first job is to develop players. We'd like to accomplish both together.

We feel that we have some players, who were first-year guys last year, who we feel will make a bigger and better contribution this year. Certainly the return of guys like (Fedor) Tyutin and (Jed) Ortmeyer, (Bryce) Lampman, (Jozef) Balej - guys who would have possibly been in New York right now - makes us a stronger team. But then again, the entire American Hockey League is going to be stronger and better. (Jason) LaBarbera looks like he has picked up right where he left off. Our goaltenders have a terrific goalie coach in Benoit Allaire and he's really working on their mental aspect of the game and will only help them become even better.

We're optimistic and really think that we're going to be strong out of the gate and really be locked in for a good year. The other thing that drives that home is how difficult some of the (player) decisions are going to be as far as who stays in Hartford and who goes to Charlotte. For example, we're looking at it right now and we have six guys who could be AHL right wingers and we can only keep four and really only three will play very much. So, we have some hard decisions ahead of us. But that's certainly better than the flip-side of the coin when you don't have enough players to fill the roles on your team."
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