With the San Jose Sharks about to take on the New York Rangers on Thursday night, Sharks head coach David Quinn will face his old team for the first time.
It brings the thought of what might have been if the 2019-20 season hadn’t paused because of COVID-19 in Mar. 2020.
“We were one of the best teams in the NHL from Jan. 6 on,” Quinn, who coached the Rangers from 2018 to 2021, told San Jose Hockey Now.
From their 5-3 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Jan. 7 to the stoppage in March, the Blueshirts had a record of 18-10-1. They were third in the Eastern Conference in points during that stretch.
“I’ve been fortunate to be on teams where we’ve got swagger,” Quinn recalled. “And that was one of those teams.”
When the season stopped, the Rangers were in 11th place in the East but just two points from a wild card spot.
“We were ready to grab a playoff spot,” Ryan Lindgren said.
Instead, the Rangers, like the rest of the NHL, took a three-month break. New York was a surging team in March, but now, they were cannon fodder.
Matched up against the Carolina Hurricanes in a best-of-five play-in round, the Rangers were swept.
“We just didn’t have much experience to play a [five]-game series, [three] games, and it’s over,” Adam Fox, then 21, noted of a young Rangers side. “Carolina was a team that ramped up at the Deadline. We traded away a piece or two at the Deadline. It’s not easy when you’re sellers at the deadline and the team’s [trying to] win a Cup.”
Mika Zibanejad, who was enjoying a breakout campaign with 41 goals in 57 games, acknowledged, “We had that momentum right before it hit and right before that break. I think it was hard to get it back.”
The Rangers, however, appeared to be a team on the rise entering the 2020-21 season, adding No. 1 overall pick Alexis Lafreniere over the summer to an already-potent group that included Zibanejad, Fox, Chris Kreider, and others.
However, the Rangers got off to a slow start and were then derailed by complete chaos.
In three days in early May, the Rangers were eliminated from playoff contention, the Washington Capitals’ Tom Wilson sucker punched Pavel Buchnevich and body-slammed Artemi Panarin’s head in a game, the Rangers complained on social media about the NHL’s decision to not punish Wilson, and owner James Dolan fired president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton.
The writing was on the wall for Quinn, a Gorton hire. New GM Chris Drury let Quinn go at the end of the season.
But maybe history would be different, and these San Jose Sharks would be visiting a Quinn-helmed Rangers, if the 2019-20 squad had entered the playoffs on fire.
“But as my father once said to me, nobody cares,” Quinn said, laughing, about this alternate history. “So nobody cares.”
Quinn is still looking for his first win as the new bench boss of the 0-5-0 San Jose Sharks.
Funny enough, Quinn’s first NHL victory as a head coach was against the Sharks on Oct. 11, 2018.
How cool would it be if Quinn’s first New York Rangers win was against the San Jose Sharks, and his first Sharks win was against the Rangers?
“I don’t care if we beat the Westchester Rangers,” he quipped, “I just want to freaking win.”
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