Following Sunday morning's New York Rangers Dog Walk charity event at Riverside Park, head coach John Tortorella held a Question and Answer session with the fans on hand. After speaking about raising funds and awareness for local dog shelters and the Westchester Humane Society, Tortorella got down to the business of answering serious (and not so serious) questions from the fans.
Here was the Q&A, hosted by MSG Network's Dave Maloney:
Question: I want to know when you win the Cup with the Rangers, where's the next tattoo gonna' go?
John Tortorella: My right ankle. I have one (Stanley Cup tattoo) on my left, and I'll put another one on my right ankle!
Question: Can you tell us some of the guys you are looking to from hartford that you are keeing an eye on?
John Tortorella: That's a question we'll have to answer after our camp gets going. Most of these players, from a National Hockey League coach's view, we don't know much about. But we stripped them clean last year as far as the kids we took out of Hartford. They come up and it's seamless how they play in the National Hockey League. We have a really good coaching staff a really good organization down there. But I can't give you an honest judgement until we see these players in camp and in some exhibition games.
Question: Who is the team that is going to be the biggest surprise this year?
John Tortorella: I don't know. You have to understand as a coach of a team we kind of live under a rock. we're just concerned with our club and I really don't spend too much time looking at the other teams until we start playing them. I can tell you this, as it was last year, it is a hard division and there are some really good organizations in it. And it's a really good test for us because we look at our division at one of the best, if not THE best, in the league as far as the consistency and the hardness that is needed to be played.
Question: I was just wondering about (Chris) Kreider. Is he going to be playing a lot this season?
John Tortorella: I don't know. I do know Jeff Gorton is here, he's our (assistant general manager) and he wants to put him on the first line right away! I think Chris Kreider is good and made a tremendous impact on our team in the playoffs. Obviously you have a player like him and a player like (Carl Hagelin) with the amount of speed and quickness they bring to your club, which makes me think he's going to be a big part of our organization. How much he plays, like I tell all of our players when they complain to me about not playing enough, it's up to him. He needs to show he is deserving of his minutes; but i think he's going to be a really big part of our club.
Question: (from a very little boy!) Do you think you'll pick up any new goaltenders next year or just keep (Henrik) Lundqvist and (Martin) Biron?
John Tortorella: You want me to trade Hank out of here?! (laughter) No, we're pretty happy with our goaltending situation. Obviously w ehave the reigning Vezina Trophy winner in Hank, and what can you say about him? The thing I love about Hank is that he's probably one of the greatest competitors I've seen. If you guys could see whast he does to prepare to play a hockey game, let alone the amount he plays during the regular season, it's shocking. And the reason why we win our conference last year is because of Marty Biron. When you play your backup goaltender---and I think we played him 20+ games---it's not just to rest your number one guy, it's also to win hockey games. And Marty's wins when he was playing propelled us to win the conference, and obviously it gave us a tremendous advantage in those Game Sevens playing on home ice.
Question: If Lundqvist was a dog, what kind of dog would he be?
John Tortorella: There's no question, he's a pit bull!
Question: Any thoughts as to who Rick Nash's linemates will be?
John Tortorella: It's pretty obvious we'll try him with Brad (Richards). I'm not sure who the other winger is going to be, and I do not like to divulge too much information right now, but we're definitely going to try and work Brad and Nash together, especially with having (Marian Gaborik) hurt and out early in the year. I think it'll work. I'm really anxious to see them play together.
Question: How is the team's mindset going into the season after the disappointing Game 6 loss (in the Eastern Conference Finals)?
John Tortorella: I'm very fortunate to be around this group of guys, and their youth and just the way they've come together. It's one of the tightest groups I have ever been involved in with a hockey club. So their mindset will be dead-on, I'm sure.
Question: Who do you think the team to beat is this season?
John Tortorella: New York Rangers (big cheers!). I don't know the other teams well enough, But I'm really excited about getting back with our group and to go about our business.
Question: After (Michael) Sauer's concussion, is he doing better and will we see him at the beginning of the season?
John Tortorella: I don't think you'll see Michael. Michael has not responded that well, I'll be quite honest, and I do not think you'll se ehim at the beginning of the season. That's a big hole for us. Michael played very well for us, and we certainly missed him during the playoff run. I think it's going to be a little bit of time before Michael resumes his career.
Question: Do you approach the season any differently as a top contender for the Cup, and do you use that as any motivation for your players?
John Tortorella: Quite honestly I have correspnded with the players. Listen a couple of years ago we talked about taking some steps, instead of being that 7th, 8th, and 9th (place) team just fighting to get in (to the playoffs) and then going out in the first round, we started trying to take our steps. This year, honestly, we were trying to get into that 4th, 5th (seed). We exceeded that, ended winning our conference and going to the (Eastern) Conference Finals. Having said that, you can't look by anything. We still have a lot of things to learn as a hockey club, and we're still a very young hockey team. But I think they understand to take thiongs one day at a time. That's so important. I have full trust in these guys that they are ready to answer the bell here.
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