Seemingly everyone knew that Alain Vigneault’s job with the New York Rangers wasn’t safe. Everyone except Vigneault, that is.
You cannot deny the fact that Vigneault was under immense pressure this season. The Rangers have had nothing but success during his tenure. After a disappointing end to the Rangers postseason run though, he had to be close to perfect in order to earn a return.
It became clear that his decision making was starting to hurt the team. Players like Nick Holden and Dan Boyle were seeing ice time that they had no business seeing.
While this was going on players like Keith Yandle and Eric Staal were misused on a consistent basis. Yandle never saw time on the power play, that was where he was supposed to help this team. Staal was buried on the third line after being a top-line player his entire career.
Not only was this a problem, but his usage of young players was something that would be questioned on a nightly basis. Sure, players like Chris Kreider and Ryan McDonagh had excelled under Vigneault, but this wasn’t the case for other rookies.
Players like J.T. Miller and Pavel Buchnevich always seemed to be in the doghouse, often relegated to minimal minutes on the fourth line. Now, Miller is playing on Tampa Bay’s top line. Brady Skjei had some success under Vigneault but regressed badly this season.
All of these issues were right in front of Vigneault. It was his responsibility to deal with them, to make sure they didn’t become problems. He failed.
He consistently left players on the ice that had proven they couldn’t handle big-time pressure. Look no further than in the playoffs a season ago against Ottawa. The Rangers had blown several two-goal leads late in games.
Holding onto late-game leads weren’t the only problem. This season, the Rangers found themselves trailing early in periods way too often. As obvious as this was, Vigneault did nothing to try and change things. If he did, then clearly he had lost his team.
Nobody was buying what Vigneault was selling.
The Rangers publically announced that the team was heading in a new direction this season. A direction that would see a significant amount of young talent in the near future.
If Vigneault had shown the organization anything, it was that he wasn’t the man to be in charge of coaching a team that needed and wanted to develop its young talent. He simply didn’t trust his young players in big spots, and the ice time showed it.
Even with all of the evidence against Vigneault, he still believed he was the man for the job. He said so himself in his final postgame interview following the Rangers 5-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday afternoon.
Alain Vigneault, gave a 4-minute defense of himself in the postgame briefing and said he expects to return as Rangers coach. "Yes, yes. Without a doubt,'' he said.
— Colin Stephenson (@ColinASteph) April 7, 2018
Let’s be clear, no one thought Vigneault would be gone following this season, even with the team missing the playoffs for the first time in seven years. He had signed a two-year contract extension in the 2016-17 season, after all.
But he cracked under the pressure. Once things derailed this year, there was no saving this team.
Or his job.