David Quinn and Brendan Smith have a relationship that dates back more than a decade, to when the then-Boston University
assistant coach was personally trying to recruit the defenseman out of Toronto, who as a 16-year-old was deciding a) whether to
go the OHL route or college route to the pros; and then, b) which school to attend.
“I don’t think I’ve ever told Quinny this, but BU was probably my second choice,” Smith, who did just fine by going to Wisconsin,
“Yeah, I think that’s what all the recruits say,” Quinn, laughing, said later.
The pre-existing bond between the men, who assiduously checked in with one another when Smith played for
Grand Rapids and Quinn coached Lake Erie in the AHL, had to have been more than somewhat comforting
to No. 42 as he a p p r o a c h e d training camp and a shot at redemption. Yes? Well, maybe no.
“To the extent that we had familiarity with one another, Iguess, but it wasn’t a major factor as I approached this,”
Smith said. “To be honest, it wasn’t as much coach Quinn being here as the fact that any change would
have benefited me.”
There is no need to recite the particulars. Smith played as if an imposter wore his skates through much of 2017-18 that
included stretches of healthy scratches — beginning with Game 3 of the season — and an earned February demotion to the AHL.
The beauty, though, is that Smith put 2017-18 into his rear-view mirror the minute the season ended. His offseason work formed
the foundation off of which he clearly earned not only a roster spot, but a top-four assignment partnering with Kevin Shattenkirk
to start the season.
“I’m happy with my camp,” Smith said. “I’m not dwelling on what went on last year. That’s over. I have to admit there were a few times when I became discouraged and maybe second-guessed myself, but I leaned on my wife and she and my family were a
great support group for me.”
Smith’s skating, puck-moving ability and toughness are all assets the Rangers require on the blue line. They are the assets
he displayed in the 2017 playoffs following his deadline acquisition from the Red Wings that prompted the Blueshirts
to reward him with a four-year deal worth $4.35 million per.
“You know he’s out there. He’s very involved. When you’re involved to the level he is, you’re going to make mistakes.
I know a lot of people harp on that,” Quinn said. “The thing I like is that he’s made some mistakes, as everybody does,
and he’s moved on. Sometimes he can be his own worst critic and gets very down on himself. He’s self-critical. It’s
something that we’ve talked about.”
It is 2018-19. That is what counts for Smith, Quinn and the Rangers. Last year is gone.
“ E v e r y o n e here is motivated to be the best t e a m m a t e and player they can be,” Smith said. “For me,
there’s also the motivation to prove to not only everybody else, but myself, that I’m not only back to myself, but my best self,
where I can be a strong top-four, if not even better.”
Management and coaching staff are deciding whether to go with three full-time alternate captains or four (two at home,
two on the road). Marc Staal and Mats Zuccarello are the incumbent letter wearers. Jesper Fast, Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad,
Shattenkirk, Adam McQuaid and Brady Skjei are contenders.… Brandon Crawley (abdominal strain) practiced with
the club before he was assigned to AHL Hartford.… Blueshirts are off Monday. They will practice Tuesday morning in advance
of their alumni golf tournament that was rescheduled following a weather-related postponement a few days before camp