Exclusive: MSG Network’s Joe Micheletti talks upcoming New York Rangers season
When it comes to discussing the New York Rangers, who better to speak with than Joe Micheletti.
Micheletti has been covering the Blueshirts for MSG Networks since September of 2006, after he spent eight years in the same capacity covering the New York Islanders. He’s also a former NHL defenseman that played 158 career games split between the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Rockies.
Simply put, he knows hockey and what makes the Rangers tick.
We caught up with Joe to discuss training camp and the outlook for the 2023-24 Rangers campaign.
“This is a really good team led by their goaltending,” Micheletti told Forever Blueshirts. “The disappointment they had after losing out in the first round will motivate them even more to get back to where they were two years ago. A lot of the players expect to get to the Stanley Cup Final and that would be a very successful season.”
Joe Micheletti on Peter Laviolette
Peter Laviolette was all smiles on Wednesday as the team officially opened the doors to training camp. We asked Joe Micheletti what he believes the Rangers are getting in their new head coach.
“Peter’s had great success in his career,” Micheletti began.
Indeed, the 58 year-old has been very successful in his 21 year coaching career that includes three trips to the Stanley Cup Final all with different teams. He also has a championship ring on his finger earned with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 to prove it.
“When you look at all the stops he’s made, he’s had success wherever he’s been,” Micheletti notes. “One of his strengths is that all of his teams always play hard and with effort. He loves uptempo skating and a little grease and nastiness with his teams. But he’s smart enough to coach to the strength of his personnel.
“That’s the mark of a good coach.”
Joe Micheletti on Alexis Lafreniere
Of course, the most newsworthy tidbit to come out yesterday, was Alexis Lafreniere set to open camp switching from his natural left wing position to the right side.
Will the move spark the 2020 first overall pick in the draft to a breakout season?
“I think with Lafreniere, he’s at an age where he’s been around long enough and at some point, you have to look for when the next step is going to be taken,” Micheletti answered. “I thought it would be last year, but he along with a group of some players took a step back in the playoffs. What the kid has shown is that he can score even strength goals with limited minutes. So that tells you something about him.”
Forever Blueshirts recently chronicled the limited amount of opportunities Lafreniere has had versus other recent first overall picks. Statistically, he’s averaged the least amount of ice time (14:25) by first overall picks between 2010-2020 which is due in large part to a lack of power play time.
“It’s a two-edged sword because you want these talented kids to also get some special minutes like power play time,” Micheletti admits. “How Peter spreads those minutes will have to be earned. And whoever gets those added minutes will propel them to the next level.”
Lafreniere will be competing for those power play minutes with fellow ‘kids’ Kaapo Kakko and Filip Chytil. Both those players took significant steps last season and it will be a “tremendous battle” as Joe put it.
The 21 year-old Lafreniere is entering his fourth NHL campaign and everyone hopes he elevates his play. In 2022-23, he registered 16 goals and 23 assists for 39 points in 81 games but the Rangers need more from him this upcoming season.
Joe Micheletti on roster battles
Although many believe the Rangers roster is set, there’s still the possibility for some different line combinations and defense pairings.
“Who knows what Peter is exactly going to do,” Micheletti explained. “What he knows is that he’s got talent on this team, and there’s not much room on, especially on defense.”
The most talked about roster battle is for the last starting spot on defense, which youngster Zac Jones has been vying for over the last few seasons. His stiffest competition will likely come from veteran Erik Gustafsson, who signed a one-year deal with the Rangers in July.
“There’s no question that Jones has tremendous talent,” Micheletti said. “He’s put on weight and gained experience over the last couple of years, so he’ll get a good shot. Same for (Matthew) Robertson and some of the new additions.”
Jones, 22, played 16 games for the Rangers last year, registering 1 goal and 1 assist for 2 points. After his demotion to the Hartford Wolf Pack, he immediately became their top defenseman finishing the season with 31 points in 56 matches.
At the end of the day, Joe believes highly in this Rangers team and their new head coach. However, it will come down to each individual player to find that “greatness” Laviolette spoke about to open camp.
Forever Blueshirts thanks Joe Micheletti and MSG Networks for being gracious with their time and having Joe shed more light on what’s expected to be another exciting New York Rangers season.
Note: Interview was conducted by Steven Pappas
Rangers first live game on MSG+
Sunday’s game against the Boston Bruins (9/24 @ 5PM ET) will also be the first live Rangers game available on MSG+, MSG Network’s new state-of-the art streaming product. Fans will be able to buy the single game if they want for $9.99, or subscribe to MSG+ on a direct-to-consumer basis by purchasing monthly ($29.99) and annual ($309.99) subscriptions.
Also note that MSG+ and its full complement of programming is available at no additional charge to subscribers of participating pay television providers of MSG Networks, replacing MSG GO as the company’s authenticated streaming service. (Basically, if you live in NY area and have cable or satellite it comes free with your subscription.)
MSG+ is available on iOS, Android, web (www.msgplus.tv) and is coming soon to Samsung Smart TV, Apple TV and Android TV, with additional devices expected in the future.