The 2021-22 Rangers convened officially as a group for the first time Wednesday night, after the players spent the day going through medical exams. That is when they were greeted by their incoming coach, Gerard Gallant, hired this summer to replace David Quinn.
But there would have been no florid speeches from Gallant, no waxing grand about the wonder of a trip up the Canyon of Heroes.
Not from this 58-year-old who has made previous stops with Columbus, Florida and Vegas. Not at this time, at least.
“[Expectations] won’t be laid out there, that will be done in meeting rooms,” Gallant said at an afternoon press briefing. “It’ll be a ‘Welcome to camp,’ and a few expectations, but very brief.
“Our expectations are, we think we’re a good hockey team, we think we’re an improved team. You don’t make the playoffs in the next six months, you start with [Thursday, which] is the first day of getting ready to play good hockey. We’re like any team. We expect to make the playoffs, that’s what our goal is, but you just don’t say it.
“Talk is cheap. You’ve got to get ready to work hard and play hard and get ready for every day.”
Gallant would not be pinned down on specifics before the 2021-22 Blueshirts hit the ice for the first time on Thursday. This is a group new to him, and he is a coach new to the group. There will be trial and error. Nothing has been etched in stone, though if you want to use a chisel to inscribe “Ryan Lindgren-Adam Fox” on a nearby rock as the team’s first defense pair, you’re probably safe.
A look at the issues Gallant, general manager Chris Drury and the Rangers will confront during camp:
What is the team’s vaccination status?
By policy, the Rangers do not offer information on that topic, but our best information is that there is 100 percent compliance among players with a chance to be on the opening roster and who might play in an exhibition game at the Garden. That does not imply that there either is or is not 100 percent vaccination compliance among the 53 players on the training camp roster. That remains unknown.
What is the status of pending free agent Mika Zibanejad’s contract talks?
A well-placed source reports that, though dialog between the parties is ongoing, there is nothing imminent regarding a contract extension for the first-line center. Our best information is that the Zibanejad camp has not issued a deadline for getting this done.
Will the club name a captain for the upcoming season?
Appropriating one of former coach Alain Vigneault’s signature phrases, Gallant on Wednesday said, “If I were a betting man, I’d think we’re going to have a captain by Day 1 [of the season].”
Will Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin continue to skate on separate lines, as they have for the past two seasons, or will they be united to form an unmistakable power unit?
“It’s too early to say that, it really is. I want to see them [both ways], definitely,” Gallant said, before perhaps dropping a hint. “I don’t want one line that’s going to stack up and the other lines aren’t going to be strong. I think we can put together some line combinations and everything will work out [well], but I’m not set on any one line, now.”
Will the Rangers stack left wings Panarin, Chris Kreider and Alexis Lafreniere or will one move to the right side? If so, wouldn’t Lafreniere make the most sense?
“As long as he likes it over there, he’ll get an opportunity to play over there, maybe,” Gallant said about the prospect of No. 13 switching sides. “We’ve talked about [moving one] as a staff, but we haven’t put a whole lot of thought into it.
“To be honest with you, most players like to play their off-side, especially skilled players like we’re talking about, so if they play some games on the right side during training camp and feel comfortable, maybe they’ll stay over there.”
Is Gallant married to the concept of having one lefty and one righty on each defense pair? Could, say, lefty Zac Jones beat out righty Nils Lundkvist for the right-side spot on the third tandem?
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Gallant said. “It’s whatever they’re comfortable with. It’s not a big, big deal to me.”
Will the coaching change bring a dramatic change in the team’s systems?
Much as Gallant told The Post at the end of August, on Wednesday he said: “Let’s be honest, everybody has their systems and there’s not a big difference in NHL teams. A lot of us do the same things. It’s about executing them and believing in your systems and getting 23 guys to buy in.
“The biggest thing that I talk about is, make sure we’re the hardest working team in the league. The skill and talent is great, but if you don’t have the work ethic to go with it, you’re not going to go a long way.”