Alain Vigneault was brought into New York to transition the Rangers from a team that stays at home and plays hard defense, to a team that plays a transition style, and thus far he’s done a stellar job. The Canadian bench boss has been great in his career racking up 547 wins, which at the moment, is good for 16th in NHL coaching history.
He’s currently in his third season in New York, and the Rangers recent struggles have been the toughest test that Vigneault has faced as a member of the organization. Fans have started to question the coach more frequently, but once he gets this team back on track, something tells me that the doubters will fade away.
The Rangers biggest issue through their stretch has been their inability to both play consistently, and squeeze the maximum amount of execution out of their best players; Vigneault said as much to the media.
#NYR HC Alain Vigneault: “I need to make sure that I get this group here to play to their full potential and we have not done that.”
— Sean Hartnett (@HartnettHockey) January 25, 2016
All of the Rangers issues, the penalty-kill (23rd in the NHL), the power-play (19th in the NHL), and every other deficiency that the team has faced has been a result of good players simply not being able to correct issues. Rick Nash hasn’t been getting pucks to the back of the net, Dan Girardi hasn’t been the shut-down force he usually is, and Dan Boyle has seen his game slip. Now you can blame Vigneault and the coaching staff; it is partly on them, but the execution has to also come from the players. All parties involved have had tremendous success in the past, but clearly the players and the staff have to do a better job of getting on the same page with philosophy, and then find a way to translate the plan to the ice.
During the hard times, fans have criticized the coaches roster decisions more frequently, and it’s really the first time that I’ve seen such frustration since Vigneault’s first season in New York, where the team started (2-6-0). The team would get on track and end up making it to the Stanley Cup Finals. He’s seen the worry in New York before and rebounded, this time it will be a bit harder, because expectations are higher.
One thing that I find impressive about Vigneault is his ability to stay cool even when the team looks sloppy. He did have the post-game against Ottawa where he was visibly angry and walked away from the media, but we don’t see him have those John Tortorella style meltdowns. The Ottawa game was one of their worst outings of the season, and when it was clear that he was aggravated, he walked away rather than saying something he might regret.
Back in 2013 before Vigneault was fired from the Canucks, the team captain Henrik Sedin stuck up for the bench boss and told the Vancouver Sun, “AV has helped us grow as players and, I think, as leaders as well. So I have nothing but good things to say. He’s had our attention from Day One until the last game. That’s never been a problem. He’s been nothing but good to us”
When Vigneault walked away from the media scrum, I saw some of that leadership. It would have been easy for him to get negative and start really dissecting the game but he didn’t; he made it clear he was angry, and left it at that.
I think Vigneault is a terrific coach, he’s calm, but still demands excellence, and does a good job of getting his guys to play a hard effective system without making enemies. Look at Tanner Glass, he’s a veteran grinder, who didn’t make the team out of the gate, the organization was able to keep Glass as a force of positive energy in the minors, get him to adjust his game, and now he’s a key part of the Rangers fourth-line again. Situations like that can sometimes spiral out of control, but you have to tip your cap to the coach for handling it with grace. It also doesn’t hurt to have 125 wins with the club in less than three seasons.
Another bonus for Vigneault, is that he has some personality, and he can appreciate comedy.
(Vernon Fiddler was mocking Vigneault’s defenseman Kevin Bieksa.)