As Vanbiesbrouck puts it, though. "What good is size if you don't use it? I know a lot of 6'4" guys who don't have half Tony's heart."
Will Granato's abrasive style catch up with him? "You know what they say: Live by the sword,..." says New Jersey defenseman Ken Daneyko. "You can't really fight a guy that small without looking stupid, so a lot of guys will leave him alone. But one of these days someone's going to snap on him. Tomas Sandstrom was one of the dirtiest players in the league until [the Flyers' Dave] Brown cross-checked him. Now he's clean as a whistle."
Granato is nowhere near the stick expert Sandstrom is, but he is no choirboy, either. And Daneyko's message is lost on him. "My style of play has always been head-on," he says. "You can't back down from a guy just because he's big and strong."
Unlike Granato, Leetch did not have the luxury of sneaking up on the NHL. As the Olympics wound down last February, Bergeron publicly counted the hours until Leetch would be joining the Rangers. "It would be nice to give him a week or two off. but we need him right away." Bergeron said. The Olympic flame had scarcely been extinguished when the Ranger coach had Leetch in a Ranger sweater.
The antidote for depression is work, which is why Leetch was happy to keep playing after the sorry finish in the Olympics. "It was tough after Calgary," he says. "It was over so quick, and we hadn't come close to what we'd wanted to do. It was good for me to go right to New York. That way I didn't have time to sit back and dwell on the Olympics."
After the Rangers missed the playoffs, because they had two fewer wins than New Jersey, Leetch's disappointment was muted: "I felt worse for the guys who had been there all year." He had 14 points in his 17 games with the Rangers and answered a question that had come up during the Olympics. The U.S. team had finished a sorry seventh, mainly because its defense was in constant disarray. Everyone knew Leetch could rush the puck, but could he play NHL-caliber defense?
Though slightly unsteady at first, he adjusted well. "I'm not going to outmuscle too many people," he says, "so I do what I can to angle them, slow them down, knock the puck off their stick, anything I can to throw them off."
His interminable season over at last, Leetch settled down for a long summer's nap on Cape Cod, where he shared a house with some old Boston College chums. "For the first month," says Leetch. "I just slept."
In camp last September, the presence of former Canadiens star Guy Lafleur deflected much of the media attention Leetch would have received. "I was grateful for that," he admits. "I'm not good at being a very high-profile guy. It was nice just to be Brian Leetch for a while."
Ever since his high school days (he scored 40 goals in 28 games in his senior year at Avon Old Farms, a tony Connecticut prep school) Leetch has been burdened with the Coffey and Orr comparisons, but he has tried to shrug the matter off. "I expect a lot out of myself, but I don't apply so much pressure that I'm tight out there," he says. "The game is still fun for me."