TARRYTOWN — Much was made about Peter Laviolette’s introductory press conference as the new head coach of the New York Rangers.
Arguably the most important takeaway from the busy day for the Blueshirts was that the long-time coach openly stated that he wanted to give the Rangers’ young core of talented players a chance to get solid ice time.
“Those young players do need an opportunity to grow. They have to be — not given (anything) — but given an opportunity to grow… Everyone wants to feel that responsibility… Those conversations will be had,” Laviolette said Tuesday.
It’s a far cry from the Rangers’ previous coaches over the last few seasons. Young players like Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere, and Braden Schneider were shunted into the third and fourth lines for more experienced veterans as the team entered the contender circle for a Stanley Cup Championship. It reached a point where many of the team’s recent top draft choices were being benched in favor of veterans who were seen as more reliable for what the head coach was looking for.
Through Laviolette’s 21-year experience, though, a balance between young and old players is paramount for championship teams.
“Teams in the past that I’ve found success with, they’ve had that balance and blend. Looking back at Carolina… the same in Nashville…that blend, I think, there’s always a balance and I think that personnel is here to find success,” Laviolette explained.
Players like Kakko and Lafreniere should be expected to see an increase in play-time next season, but that doesn’t mean everything will be handed to them as former top picks. They’ll have to match their skill with the system that Laviolette wants to run.
Luckily, Laviolette’s system should get the most out of those same youngsters.
“There has to be a clear-cut plan on what we’re doing… For me, it’s always been a little more of an aggressive approach. Defense is always a priority… For me, it’s about the attack. It’s about pressuring. It’s about puck pursuit..” Laviolette stated.
If the Rangers are going to be successful next season, that balance of getting the most of their veterans and young players will be the key. If Laviolette can unlock the potential and skill of some of the team’s younger talent, he will already have shown his chops to be the right man for the job.
And in the words of the former Stanley Cup-winning coach: “Let’s go to work.”