When Bryan Trottier was hired as the 30th head coach in New York Rangers history on June 6, he spoke of hard work, sacrifice and accountability. Three months later and only a few days before his first Training Camp as the Blueshirt bench boss, his focus hasn’t changed. Trottier recently met with Rangers fans at a Coach’s Forum at Madison Square Garden and discussed game preparation, systems, prospect development, team chemistry and many aspects of his New York blueprint for the 2002-03 season. ____________________
How would you compare the Training Camp preparation of players in the NHL today vs. the preparation of players in your day as a player? “In those days there wasn’t really much of an off-ice training program, so you kind of went through the summer doing what you normally would do. Those 25 days of Training Camp back in 1975 were real tough because everyone who came to camp wasn’t in such great shape. Now the players report to camp in ‘tip-top’ shape. A bunch of them have personal trainers and regular workout schedules. The players come into camp now with a tremendous focus and a purpose.”
What are your plans with this team for Training Camp? “Training Camp will be a great opportunity for the players to show their stuff. As a new coaching staff, we’re going to come in and tell the guys that everyone is starting on the same level. There are roster spots open so try to make the most of it. Competition for roster spots within the organization is healthy. The young guys have to push the veterans for these spots. It’s a very healthy situation.”
What type of system do you plan to play? “It will be an aggressive system. We want to make sure that we’re playing most of the night in the other team’s zone. I don’t want to give away the whole strategy behind what we’re looking to do but from a standpoint of the type of hockey we’re looking to play, there is nothing like being aggressive. You don’t want to bridle people and say ‘we’re going to trap.’ There are certainly trap situations where you have to be more controlled, but we’re looking to really control the play. If we can put a lot of pressure on the other team to cough up the puck, to me, that’s the kind of hockey that’s going to be exciting for the players. The players that I have spoken to over the summer have said that in their opinion, they are not that far away. They said that they are really committed and that we need a little more discipline in our own zone.”
“We can’t be giving up 20+ chances in our own zone per night. You have to hold their feet to the fire. It all comes down to accountability and I’m going to make them accountable. Some nights you’ll let them run and other nights you have to bridle them in. I’ve been on that end and have played for some really tough coaches and you grow to really like it. Whether it’s a superstar player or a fourth-line guy, each player comes to the rink with the feeling that they are going to contribute. You can’t demand respect but you can command it. You also need a little bit of luck in this game and I’ve always believed the harder you work, the luckier you get.”
“Coming to a new organization with a new system, we’re going to apply ourselves in the defensive zone and the offensive zone, but we’re going to make darn sure that when we’re playing in the neutral zone, we’re also applying pressure. All of these things are system things. We’re excited and I really think the players will be too.”
Do you know what the defensive pairings will be this season? “That will all work itself out. We’re going to try a lot of different pairings in Training Camp. We have some solid veterans who have some great experience but we also have some young guys who are ready to make a push. We’re excited. Jim Schoenfeld comes with a pretty solid background in the defensive area of the game. We’ll be taking a lot of time to work on quick breakouts and getting the puck out of the zone. There are times where you have to shoot the puck off the glass or boards to get out of the zone under pressure but we want to try to play a puck control game. It’s exciting to find lanes and make plays and have players get into a position to make themselves available to receive a pass. Not just expect the puck to find them. We will be working on all of these things on a day-to-day basis.
On the recent Development Camp in Calgary … “The Camp was fantastic. The players went through everything from light skills to goal scoring skills to forechecking and backchecking aspects of the game. They went through everything. Five weeks is a long time and (Rangers VP of Player Development) Tom Renney was fantastic. He gets an A+ for organization. He really brought these kids along from Day One to the very end. I was really impressed with the days that we (the coaching staff) spent there.”
What can be done to improve the special teams this season? “Nobody in the organization is happy with the penalty-kill and some of it is just application of simple things like ‘stick to the puck’ and deflecting pucks, which cuts down on the amount of scoring chances you give up each game. If you’re not committed out there to putting your shin pads or your ankles in the way of the puck, you’re not going to be out there. Those are the little things that become so important because you can really frustrate a team on the power play.”
“On the power play, you need five guys working hard out there for it to be effective. Utilizing our defenseman on the point is key. Leetch, Poti, Malakhov. They have to be used because they can defend as well. You don’t want to be giving up shorthanded chances on the power play. Without a doubt, we can certainly sure that up. We need to create a lot of traffic in front and get the players moving out there.”
On team chemistry … “I think the strength of a club and the strength of the character of a club are its leaders. You need very strong and tough character people. Focus is very important. Effort is very important. I believe we have these people."