Friday, April 24, 2009

Jim Schoenfeld has the longest job description in professional hockey.

He is the New York Rangers’ assistant general manager and interim assistant coach and general manager of the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack.

“It doesn’t give me much time to get into trouble, so that’s good,” he said after the Rangers’ morning skate Wednesday.

Schoenfeld is one of the few connections between the Rangers and the Washington Capitals in the teams’ Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, which continues Friday with Game 5 at Verizon Center. The Rangers hold a 3-1 lead.

Schoenfeld coached nearly four full seasons in Washington (1993-97), compiling a 113-102-34 record with three playoff appearances. A year after his departure, the Caps advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. Before this series, the last time Washington and the Rangers met in the postseason (1994), Schoenfeld was the Caps’ coach and the Rangers were on their way to breaking a 54-year Cup drought.

Reminiscing about his time with the Caps, Schoenfeld cited friendships established with David Poile, Dick Patrick, Tod Button and Keith Allain, as well as coaching Dale Hunter.

“Dale Hunter, to me, was a coach’s dream,” Schoenfeld said. “You talk about a complete player - he was a blend of skill, toughness [and] courage, and he was the type of player who put it on the line for his teammates. … There were a lot of character people there, and I loved working with David Poile.”

With the Rangers’ Connecticut-based farm club, Schoenfeld developed several Rangers players and coached against future Caps players Brooks Laich, Alexander Semin and Eric Fehr.

“It’s interesting to watch players develop and see that they really have a shot and see that they do make it,” he said. “Others, you think they might not make it but through sheer effort do and others you thought were locks but didn’t pay the price. For me, it’s always nice to see the hard worker rewarded with a slot on the big club.”

Schoenfeld has been with the Rangers since 2002. He returned to the NHL bench Feb. 23 when John Tortorella replaced Tom Renney. Tortorella served as a Schoenfeld assistant with the Phoenix Coyotes.

“It’s great when you win; it’s misery when you lose,” Schoenfeld said. “That hasn’t changed, no matter what bench you’re on. The best part about coaching is maybe having a positive influence on a player’s performance - and the worst part, by far, is losing.”

Said Tortorella: “Schoeny has done a great job with some of the kids when he coached in Hartford. He’s had a number of different job titles within the organization, but some of the kids that he developed, he gave them a great foundation.”

Tortorella credits Schoenfeld for working with Ryan Callahan; defenseman Marc Staal said Schoenfeld has helped his game since getting behind the bench.

“He’s been great for us,” Staal said. “He teaches you a lot of little things in the defensive zone about playing the position and getting down to block passes. He’s obviously played a lot, so it’s good to work with somebody who has that kind of experience.”

Schoenfeld appeared in 719 NHL games before beginning a coaching career that took him to Buffalo, Rochester, N.Y., New Jersey, Washington, Phoenix, Hartford and New York. He doesn’t seem to be in pursuit of another NHL head coaching job, though.

“I sort of fall into things,” he said. “I’ve never been a guy to plan anything. Work seems to find me. When it does, I try to do the job as well as I can do it, and if people are happy with that, great. And if it leads to something else, then you make your assessment.

“I’m happy doing what I’m doing. … We’re all blessed to even be in the game. There are a lot of good guys on the outside looking in.”

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