Line changes always grab the attention of fans, but for the players, it’s just part of the game plan. How has Alain Vigneault done as of late in terms of mixing and matching New York Rangers players?
Alain Vigneault has been known to not hesitate when it comes to making a lineup change when his team is not playing up to his standards, and that’s just part of his plan.
AV’s most recent mixing and matching did not bode well with the fanbase as he moved popular winger Pavel Buchnevich from the team’s top line to the fourth line. It seems like Vigneault is always picking on the 22-year-old forward, but in reality, it’s all apart of Vigneault’s attempt to develop the kid.
The AV blender: 61-93-36; 20-51-26; 40-13-10; 28-34-89
— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) December 27, 2017
When things were going well for Buchnevich, he saw ice time with the team’s best players in Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. But Buch has been struggling with the puck as of late and the head coach feels it is time for the second year player to play a lesser role.
The thing to like out of all of these moves is the fact that Vigneault isn’t just sticking with his veterans like he’s done in the past. Players like Kevin Shattenkirk who haven’t had the greatest months are starting to see less ice time. Now, Shattenkirk will be seeing a smaller role with his demotion to the team’s third defensive pair.
Vigneault started tinkering with Shattenkirk’s pairing with Brady Skjei against the New Jersey Devils last Thursday when Shatty was a minus one. He suffered through several giveaways in that game which carried over into the Blueshirts’ final game before the Christmas Break. By sheltering Shattenkirk’s minutes, those giveaways might not be as noticeable as before.
Mika Zibanejad was the latest of the AV’s in-game demotions against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Mika played just 36 seconds in the third period that night and was one of the players AV signaled out in his post-game press conference.
More AV on lines: "If someone is off, I’m not going to hesitate to make a switch.” We saw him do it Saturday. #NYR
— Matt Calamia (@MattCalamia) December 27, 2017
Zibanejad’s benching was surprising considering he has been the team’s best player all season long. He was playing in his third game since returning from his concussion so fans were worried that his concussion came back. That wasn’t the case. This time, Vigneault wanted to send a message, and he did.
We have seen Vigneault make moves like this throughout the five years he has been with the organization. Sometimes the moves work and other times they don’t. The thing that we have to remember here is that Vigneault is with the team more than us from the outside are. He knows which players go well together and when it is time to break them up.
These moves are adjustments in an effort to cut down on the ridiculous amount of turnovers the team has committed. AV feels the system he has in place works and it just comes down to a matter of execution for the results to show. The results haven’t been there and Vigneault is clearly looking for a better effort defensively with these moves.
If the moves work, Vigneault will be praised for making the proper adjustments. If they fail, he’ll be criticized yet again. There is a silver lining if the moves don’t work, he can always change them again even if it was a mistake changing them in the first place.
And round and round we go when analyzing the great game of hockey at the NHL level.