After a Stanley Cup Final appearance in year one, Alain Vigneault has guided the New York Rangers to some strong regular seasons yet the same number of playoff exits. Is this the guy us fans can count on to bring us a Cup?
Alain Vigneault has been coaching since he was 25-years-old, a year after his playing career ended with the St. Louis Blues. A career minor leaguer, AV spent 41 games across two seasons with the Blues as a stay at home defenceman.
Immediately following his playing career, AV caught a big break to become a head coach in the QMJHL, the same Major Junior league Sidney Crosby came from. After some successful seasons there, he was able to latch on as an assistant for the then expansion team, the Ottawa Senators.
Older Sens fans will remember those days as some dark times and after three seasons; the entire assistant coaching staff was let go. AV then bounced back and forth in the junior ranks until he was hired by the Montreal Canadiens where he was able to find some mild success, but was replaced by Michel Therrien.
After a stop in the AHL, Vigneault wound up in the NHL again with the Vancouver Canucks organization. This is the stop I’m sure AV will be most remembered for his time.
The common theme across the board for Vigneault has consisted of great regular seasons and nothing to show for it in the postseason. He led the Canucks to six(!) Northwest Division Titles in seven years, but postseason failures always seemed to haunt him. Back-to-back conference semifinal losses to the Chicago Blackhawks and a Stanley Cup final loss to the Boston Bruins were the peak of AV’s time in Vancouver. The following two seasons were first round exits and thus he was fired at the end of the ’12-’13 season.
The Rangers hired AV in the summer of the 2013-14 season to replace John Tortorella. A fresh face and new approach to coaching kids was exactly what the players needed.
Tortorella was brash and in the players face — as well as the media and the clip above is purely for your entertainment.
AV, however, brings a softer tone and lets the players do what they do best: play the game. Win or lose, he rarely goes into the locker room after a game. He knows that’s the players time and he respects that. You have to remember: the majority of these players are kids. Kids respond better when they are able to be themselves and have their own time, not when every waking moment is regimented.
Players are still very much so held to a standard, which is evaluated, by not only the coaching staff but also the leadership core that AV appoints.
Listen, I’m a coach, and no, I’m nowhere near an NHL coach, but there are some things that are consistent in coaching, so I guess I’m biased.
Do I believe AV is the right coach for this current New York Rangers team? No.
I don’t believe his style and acumen are the right fit for the current personnel.
Do I believe AV is a great hockey coach? Absolutely.
I think given the correct roster in today’s NHL, he can flourish and win a cup.
I can hear you pundits out there and after Game 2, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a fanbase call for a coach’s head like you all did. No, not even I, an AV fan can explain his player usage in Game 2. It’s head scratching to me. The only thing I can think of was a decision to go with veteran players who’ve been in situations like that before. However, I think the biggest fault to coaches everywhere is their inability to put their egos aside and adjust.
This is where see why AV is a great coach, his ability to adjust and not make the same mistakes he did in Game 2.
Update ice time for NYR defensemen: McDonagh 16:21, Skjei 15:17, Smith 14:07, Girardi 13:11, Staal 10:39, Holden 9:43.
— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) May 3, 2017
His adjustments paired with possible the strongest effort of the entire season goes to show his ability to maximize the players and also shows the respect he clearly commands from the players in the locker room, which means way more than what you folks on Twitter are moaning about.
Today’s NHL features some dynamic skaters who can truly disrupt breakouts and defensive players. It’s pretty clear that some of John Tortorella’s leftovers of high off the glass, shot blocking defensemen are still there. AV runs a style that is up-tempo and uses long stretch passes out of the zone.
Would anyone argue with me that AV could definitely take some of the credit in maximizing Ryan McDonagh’s potential? Did Brady Skjei walk into a much better situation for his talents than he would have with Torts?
Yes, he did.
So relax fans, the team is in good hands. I’m sure all of you who hit the panic button after Game 2 were also the ones yelling bloody murder when they were down 3-1 to the Penguins in the 2014 playoffs. Or the same fans who were up in arms when they were down to the Caps in the 2015 playoffs. With some retooling of the blueline and potentially some small changes up front, the Rangers can and will compete for the Stanley Cup in the years coming with AV behind the bench.
Besides, who would you want to replace AV with? Jack Capuano? No thanks, I’m full.
The better coaching candidates are already spoken for, and hiring a Lindy Ruff or Dan Bylsma would simply be a lateral move, no big upgrade. Claude Julien or Gerard Gallant would be great, but again, already spoken for.
So in my mind, this is a big offseason for Jeff Gorton and company to make things happen. Yes, Henrik Lundqvist‘s career is winding down and his prime years are arguably behind them. Is he still a top notch goaltender? Yes, he is, but the next 1-3 years are crucial. And to be quite honest with you all, I think the job AV has done with the roster he has been quite admirable. Dan Girardi, who’s been an absolute warrior for the Rangers is a massive overachiever who’s made his living as a shot blocking stay at home defenseman. But the evolution of the game and the forwards we see nowadays are far beyond Dan Girardi‘s skill set and physical capability. That’s not to Girardi’s fault, just the trends shifting in the NHL.
With the coach we have, one who we’ve seen that is willing to adapt, there is no reason the believe the Rangers cannot win a cup. Maybe not this year, but there is some young yet experienced talent on the roster, that makes the future seem bright.