I recently got to spend some time and ask questions to Ranger’s head coach Tom Renney, Assistant Coach Mike Pelino, and a few current and former Rangers’ players at the Ranger’s practice facility for their Summerfest 2007.
Here’s a synopsis of what I learned:
Coach Renney admits Lundqvist and Jagr carried the team at times the second half of the season. He also does claim the acquisition of Avery and the emergence of Callahan provided key spark for the Rangers. When asked about the timing of bringing Ryan Callahan up, Renney stated he did not regret the timing. He claims he always had his eye on Callahan in the minors. He also stated that unlike Nigel Dawes, Callahan’s conditioning was in very poor shape at the start of training camp, thus affecting his time spent in the minors.
According to Renney, goaltender Kevin Weekes “will not” return to the Rangers lineup next season. He believes backup Stephen Valiquette will see maybe 12-15 games. They do have confidence in his abilities to fill in when needed, but Lundqvist will “get the majority of the starts.”
Renney was asked about the possibility of Al Montoya being traded to Phoenix for the third pick in the draft. Remember new Coyotes GM Don Maloney just left the Rangers and has a very good relationship with them. They are also in need of a good goaltender. Renney was surprised by the question and at first seemed to state it was a strong possibility it could happen and then later tried to blow if off saying that he sees Montoya as a future Ranger. Do not be surprised if this trade happens at the draft, the Rangers are very excited about Lundqvist and they know they will be returning a strong team next season.
Renney admits they are in need of a second line center as well as another defenseman. Matt Cullen was not the second line center that they thought he would be, but do think they have now found his role on the third line and he will score there. They are interested and looking at available free agents such as Drury, Briere and others. The Ranger’s believe they have good chemistry, so look for them to add someone that also fits in with this team. As for the defense Renney says they will either add a defenseman that adds “sandpaper” grit or one that can “play the point” on the power play. He was impressed with Paul Mara’s play, claiming he didn’t do anything fancy, but did do things “right.”
When asked about youngster Marc Staal, Renney admits that Staal has a “very good chance of making the roster next season.” They think he’s a solid player. They have also been impressed with youngsters Girardi and Pock. Do not be surprised if one or more of the Rangers defensemen will be off their roster next season to make room for these young defensemen.
I will be very surprised if Nylander and Shanahan do not return to the Rangers. Shanahan has openly admitted he wants to play another season with the Rangers. Nylander is like the unofficial captain of the Rangers (He runs all the drills during warm-ups). Again, the Rangers are VERY excited about their chemistry- they think they have something special and they believe they can win the cup next season. They also believed they could have won it this season.
Renney believes the Rangers dented the Sabre’s morale/ confidence/ “wind in their sails” during the playoffs thus affecting their match up against the Senators. After the series, Lindy Ruff admitted to Renney the Ranger’s “scared the s**t” out of them. Renney believes the way the Rangers played Buffalo exposed some weaknesses and the Senators jumped all over it.
According to Renney, prospect Hugh Jessimen has made significant progress on his severe ankle injury. Renney does not see Jessimen making the team next season, but will continue to monitor his progress.
Assistant coach Mike Pelino admits the hit by Chris Simon on Ryan Hollweg took place at a key time. It sparked the team not only against a local rival in their home ice, but also sparked the team into the playoffs. It came around the same time that Jagr announced that the team needed to win something like 20 of the next 27 games to make the playoffs. That speech by Jagr really hit the Rangers hard and they committed themselves to winning those games.
When Colton Orr was asked about what it was like to knock out a player with one punch, he quietly played it down and said he “did not want to see anyone get hurt.”
See Gunther in action - check out this link on the event. That's Gunther, asking about Ryan Callahan. He also appears earlier in the footage with his brother.