Whether you use the word toughness or the ever-popular hockey term grit, there is without a doubt that the 2020-21 version of the New York Rangers needs a team to display some physicality and do it in an intelligent matter.
This was very evident when the Rangers were swept out of last year’s playoffs by the Hurricanes, as the Blueshirts were easily manhandled by the Canes. It was not like they did not try, they just were not sure how to play physically in the proper manner. This was evidenced by Chris Kreider‘s comments after the Rangers were eliminated.
“We thought the playoffs were a blood sport, and we were going to go out there and run around and hit, instead of playing the puck possession style that we play,” he said. “A big part of that is on me. Obviously, we needed to snap out of that sooner. I need to acknowledge that. I should have done whatever I could to get us back on the right track.”
During training camp 2021, head coach David Quinn knows that his team will have to play physically smarter in order to improve upon the gains they made last season.
“We need more of an in-your-face, staying-on-top-of-people, defensive-conscious approach to having success,” Quinn told the media following Tuesday’s practice. “It just can’t be one guy on a line.”
This means not only the defense but the forwards must be better on defense, starting with forechecking. Something that is easier said than done with a group of skilled players, but who think offense first.
For the forwards, it might be a bit tougher as the Rangers saw one of their more grittier players last season leave to take up a new residence in Carolina.
Quinn also added about the physicality, “we don’t need just one or two guys to do it, we need everybody to do it”
Possibly inspired by the NFL who are now in their playoffs, Quinn has asked that his team have a mentality that is more similar to a football player.
“In football, every yard, every inch matters,” Quinn said. “And I think in hockey, sometimes people say, ‘I’m close to this guy, I’ll let someone else do.’ And to me, we have to get out of that mentality. We have to get out of that mentality to make the next step as an organization.”