Of all the coaching changes in New York this summer, one is likely to affect Marc Staal more than the others — the hiring of Ulf Samuelsson as assistant coach.
“It’s going to be great learning from Ulf, and it will pay big dividends I think for all of our defensemen,” Staal told Blueshirts United. “He’s coached a long time and worked with a lot of different players. And obviously his vast experience in playing the game, and knowing what we go through on a day to day basis, will make him an important guy for all of this season.”
Samuelsson, 49, was hired in June to join Alain Vigneault’s staff. The former NHL defenseman has extensive assistant coaching experience — he was with the Coyotes from 2006-11, working under Wayne Gretzky for the first three years of his tenure, then Dave Tippett for the last two.
Last season, Samuelsson was the head coach of Modo of the Swedish Elite League, taking the club to a seventh-place finish in the regular season and a quarterfinal loss in the playoffs.
Samuelsson also has experience with the Rangers organization, having served as an assistant with AHL Hartford during the 2005-06 campaign. That year, he coached two key cogs of the current New York defense — Staal and Dan Girardi.
Staal, who joined the Wolf Pack for the playoffs after finishing up with OHL Sudbury, remembers the time well.
“Even in those couple of weeks he gave me some important tips,” said Staal, who was 19 at the time. “I think it’s going to be great to have him here now. He played in the NHL for so long and he knows what he is talking about and is a very good coach and a good guy.”