Don’t expect a huge change with Vigneault on board

June 18, 2013, by
Don't expect a huge difference in performance under Vigneault.

Don’t expect a huge difference in performance under Vigneault.

With Alain Vigneault on board, the Rangers are likely going to be changing their styles of play. But with that style change comes understanding what that change will bring. This is something we’ve covered a few times here, but it’s worth digging deeper into the puck possession metrics to see how exactly the Rangers will be differing in styles of play, and how effective AV’s more conservative style is at driving puck possession.

Make no mistake, there are very few coaches as aggressive as John Tortorella. The Rangers sat at the top of the league in GF% (goals for percentage, GF/[GF+GA]), CF%, and SF% this past season, which was likely the most efficient on-ice performance of any Torts-coached Ranger team. They may not have been pretty, they may have been maddeningly inconsistent, but they were efficient in puck possession as a team. Vigneault’s Canucks, however, were not in the top-10 in these categories this past season.

But it is unfair to really rate Vigneault –or Tortorella for that matter– with just one lockout-shortened season of stats. So let’s look at the last three years for these coaches:

2013 57.3% 50.9% 53.6% 51.5% 54.0% 49.1%
2011-2012 53.2% 54.2% 47.7% 52.7% 50.1% 50.0%
2010-2011 52.3% 56.8% 49.1% 52.3% 49.9% 51.5%

From the table, you can see a direct trend upward for Tortorella as his players began buying into the system. For Vigneault, you can see a direct trend downward. On the surface it looks bad, but there are probably more factors at play here. For the Canucks, it’s tough to drive possession when half your defense is injured at any given time. Also, they lacked quality depth players that could drive puck possession (see: Hagelin, Carl).

However there’s more to puck possession than just measuring CF% and SF%. There’s also face off location; the ability to force teams to take face offs in their defensive zone. This illustrates the ability to get the puck out of the defensive zone and begin the attack. This is a secondary aspect of puck possession that is often overlooked.

2013 34.9% 32.5%
2011-2012 29.4% 31.7%
2010-2011 31.3% 32.4%

This is where things get interesting. AV’s Canucks hovered around 32% for the three year average, while Torts’ Rangers had a whopping 5% jump in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, up from 30%. Those first two years Torts relied on a low-zone collapse, it wasn’t until he started mixing in a strong-side overload in 2013 that the Rangers started being more effective in the defensive zone. Vancouver, who routinely played the strong side overload in the defensive zone, was much more consistent.

So what does all this tell us?

It means that Alain Vigneault will not bring sweeping changes to the Rangers in regards to puck possession. He may get more out of this club on the powerplay. He may get them to block less shots. He may get them to play a less-exhausting 1-2-2 forecheck. But one thing he will not do is turn the Rangers into a dominant puck possession force. What you saw last year during the last month of the season was the Rangers at their best, and barring any significant roster turnover, that is what their best will be, Torts or Vigneault.

What does Vigneault bring then? He brings a different voice in the locker room. He may bring them a better powerplay (he will certainly get them to move more). He will bring a more conservative approach to the forecheck.  Maybe a new voice is what this team needs to be more consistent. That we won’t know until a few months into the 2013-2014 season. But if you’re expecting a completely dominant team because of a coaching change, you’re in for some major disappointment.

Categories : Analysis, Coaching


  1. agentsmith says:

    I have two theories.

    1. John Tortorella sponsors this site.

    2. maybe the “suit” is really john tortorella (just a stab at it)?

    • The Suit says:

      “The numbers don’t lie, they just don’t agree with you.”

    • Centerman21 says:

      It just goes to show that most fans don’t really know why the didnt like Torts or why they wanted him out of here. He was better at the things than Vineault that they cite as reasons the Rangers couldn’t score. These numbers surprise me and I was a huge supporter of Torts and his methods. I thought they could be a little more aggressive when the puck was at the points but you see here that for a North/South team Torts Rangers were a better Possesion team than Alain Vineault and his Canucks. Oh well I can hear the fans screaming for his head now. I hope they’re happy!

    • Dave says:

      You are aware I wrote this, right?

  2. J says:

    Power play is two words.

    • Justin says:

      Hey Dave, don’t worry about putting high-quality statistical analysis in your posts anymore. Just make sure they are 100% grammatically correct. And I believe in hockey, the usage of Powerplay is a term of art that allows for incorrect conventional usage.

  3. Steven Cifuentes says:

    It is great to try to let numbers tell a story but how it spells out on the ice is what matters. I would love to see how many of those offensize zone faceoffs were the result of players just throwing a weak shot on net, with nobody in front that a goalie can easily cover.

    The only number that matters is that Torts lost the room and had to go.

  4. Walt says:


    Nice write up!

    As for the charts, grammer, etc. who gives a hoot?

    Torts is gone, a new voice in the locker room is all I needed to hear, and my day was made.

    Now all Slats needs to do is get us another true scorer, some quality bottom six players, and we are off and running. Powerplay, power play, what difference does it make, as long as it works??

    • VinceR says:

      That’s “all” Slats needs to do? How does he go about that? Who is available and how do we make it work on the acquisition?

      Not trying to call you out Walt, but it’s just that you are making a very tall order (that may not evenbe feasible at this time) sound like a snap of the fingers.

      • Centerman21 says:

        It sure is a tall order. The Rangers brass has to 1st resign the core players that matter and there might not be much room left against the upper limit to be aggressive in Free Agency. The fact that the cap is down may keep the big market teams away from the bidding but these 5 or 6 players may get a big pay day. It’s all gonna come down to who gets bought out and do they fit the Rangers need. We are likely stuck with most of our bottom 6 players under contract for next year. No one will want our scraps and there’s not enough cap room to just simply replace them with Free Agents.

      • Walt says:

        How hard is it to get a Clarkson, and a Lapierre, that would do the trick. Dump BR, skate the kids, Kreider, Miller, Lindberg, and resign our RFA. All this is a pipe dream right?? Get real my friend.

        • Justin says:

          It could be very difficult to get Clarkson if he is looking for $5m+ over an extended period…

        • VinceR says:

          Where did I call it a pipe dream? As Justin states Clarkson will probably be too pricey. Lapierre is a good fit and makes sense, but that is one guy. Where is the true scorer and multiple bottom line guys you mention Slats has to go out and get?

          If you were including Lindberg (still unknown), Kreider, and Miller (I’m optimistic, but they still have to prove themselves) then that makes the statement make sense. It sounded like you wanted Slats to fetch a true scorer and multiple quality bottom six players. I didn’t see a solution that made it work, but I guess that means I have to get real for asking.

          • HARLEMBLUES says:

            Are we really built to win now? Hell no.Our goalie is ready to win now.This team wouldn’t be ready until Kreider,Miller,McD,Lindberg and Fasth are ready.DEPTH.Lets’ get work.

          • Walt says:

            I was trying to make a point, Clarkson is the only question mark, will we pay for his services?

            Lapierre is very doable, and because he has worked well with AV, it should be easy enough.

            The young kids are in the organization, where is the problem there?

            The pipe dream was a pointed question, maybe phrased wrong, but again very doable without busting the budget.

            Oh, and if Clowe is re-signed, we have a roster that could compete with anyone, even if I’m against that move.

  5. Rockdog says:

    Nice job, Dave. One of the things I love about BSB is the use of statistical analysis to provide a deeper understanding of the game.

  6. Erixon20 says:

    Good article. But we should all expect a huge change in how AV manages ice time, which was my main problem with Torts. Not just how AV starts his guys (forwards) in situations most advantageous to their skill set, but how he plays everybody…no one less than 10, no one more than 20. These days, successful coaches do this. Torts did not, and I believe he would have had more success if he did. In theory, this can wear down the OTHER team. Note: If you are carrying a true enforcer, obviously he will get less than 10 minutes.

    • The Suit says:

      Alain played 5 guys over 20 mins in the playoffs and 5 guys under 10 mins. Just isn’t realistic to expect that kind of icetime distribution.

      • Erixon20 says:

        Maybe the ideal situation is not possible, but icetime will be distributed better by anyone other than Torts. Babcock and Quenville play all their guys and don’t routinely staple a scapegoat to the bench. And the guys on Chi and Det that get 10-15 minutes are hardly household names…but by playoff time they are looking pretty good.

        • Bobby G says:

          Babcock and Queneville have to luxury of having a deeper squad than Torts did. I firmly believe that if we had the depth that other elite teams had, Torts would distribute the ice time more evenly.

          • Erixon20 says:

            Chicago has Frolik, Kruger, Handzus, Ben Smith…are those guys really that much of an upgrade? Torts would give them each 6 mins and bench Bolland for the stupid penalty. The Torts style gets the most out of his players for sure…until there’s nothing left.

            • Bobby G says:

              Well Frolik has 7 points in 20 playoff games, Kruger has 4 points in 20 playoff games but 13 in 47 regular season games, Handzus 10 points in 20 playoff games. I would argue that is a significant upgrade over the likes of Asham, Boyle, Dorsett, etc in the scoring department. You could argue that Chicago’s players perform better because they are given more opportunity, but I still believe it is because they have higher quality 4th liners.

              • Erixon20 says:

                It is a bit of a “chicken or the egg” argument, but I believe Chicago’s guys would have less ice and therefore less points if Torts was running their bench. And our guys, Boyle, Asham, Pyatt, Dorsett would have been better (Boyle and Asham had more goals than Nash in the playoffs) had they seen the ice more. Not to mention how our guys, although les skilled, are a lot more physical and could have been able to wear down the depleted and inexperienced Boston D corps. Probably wouldn’t have beaten the Bs, but it could have been a series at least.

          • HARLEMBLUES says:

            He had trust issues Bobby G.

      • Ray says:

        Maybe so, but by keeping his stars well rested during the year (and avoiding building any unnecessary stamina), he had his team well prepared for their long playoff run this year.

  7. Centerman21 says:

    I think AV will get more from our bottom 6 players. Pyatt played well in Phoenix with a 1-2-2 Forecheck and was Torts game really fit for Boyle? I’d say no and AV system may be better for him since he’s not that fast and not great skating with the puck through the neutral zone. Maybe less is more for Boyle in the middle zone. Maybe for a La Pierre this may be a good situation for him. He’s pretty big and his physicality may be welcomed in NY. I Would like to see Clowe come back and complete the 3rd line. He may get us 15-20 goals and be that net front presence. The Rangers surrender a 2 round pick if they sign him or if they get past the second round of the playoffs. Otherwise it’s a 5th if neither happens. Sign him to a 2 year 4-5 mil contract. Unless he just wants a 1 year to show he’s healthy again. My point is Sather gave up a lot to let him walk or sign else where in NYR division.

  8. Mikeyyy says:

    Your just saying that because your a torts fan. Really. New coach, changes are coming. Instead you rather they do just as bad so you can say it wasn’t torts fault.

    • Spozo says:

      Devils advocate…… They make it to the ecf next year and get eliminated in game 6. That would be doing just as bad as Tortz last year. Do you want him fired then?

    • Dave says:

      Did you even read the post? Or did you just read the title and assume?

  9. Justin says:

    I do love all the people coming here telling the writers what Vigneault is going to do when they’ve probably never watched more than five Vancouver Canucks game or can tell an X from an O.

  10. supermaz says:

    Bottom line….
    Torts is a selfish, impulsive, impatient ass. It was time to go.