People argue that ‘acts’ such as those employed by John Tortorella eventually wear thin. Abrasive managers such as the former Rangers head coach usually outstay their welcomes. With the pending arrival of Alain Vigneault the Rangers will still have a man with pedigree and a coach with a completely different approach to the game – both tactically and personality wise – than Tortorella. Will it work?
Looking at the Rangers roster, and the personalities scattered throughout it, it’s difficult not to expect better production next season, at least better than what was provided in the abbreviated 2012-13 campaign. If Brad Richards is kept he surely cannot be worse, Michael Del Zotto, Carl Hagelin, and even Ryan Callahan could offer more consistency offensively while Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, and Derick Brassard will be expected to help carry the offense, something that wasn’t asked of them this season.
Rick Nash will likely respond better to a man that looks to put him in offensive opportunities at every opportunity. It’s reasonable to expect Nash to become the Sedin (take your pick) of the Rangers; deployed to a league leading level of offensive zone starts. Then there is the aforementioned Brad Richards, Chris Kreider, and even Derek Stepan, who would all surely benefit from the open space and more offensive nature of Vigneault’s systems and line changing ways. Chris Kreider is certainly better going straight ahead than he is wandering almost lost into corners digging out pucks.
Despite the potential match between Vigneault’s approach and the Rangers’ individual personalities, caution must be noted. The players– at least judging by their on ice efforts – clearly didn’t tune out John Tortorella, they played for their coach to the end. And in theory at least, Tortorella’s system promoted aggressive forechecking and puck pursuit.
Was it Tortorella’s systems or the lack of talent implementing them? If the answer is indeed talent then it’s not a foregone conclusion Vigneault will succeed. Known for rolling four lines, Vigneault’s system likely demands more natural talent than Tortorella’s, even if the incoming coach is known for putting the right players in the right situations to maximize skill sets.
With significant parts of the lineup to re-sign (Stepan, Hagelin, McDonagh, Zuccarello), the Rangers don’t necessarily have the money to go and get Vigneault four lines worth of talent. With the injuries to Callahan, Hagelin and Del Zotto, Vigneault may also be robbed of quite a bit of talent in the short term so resources will be stretched even further. Will Vigneault entrust Chris Kreider, JT Miller or an Oscar Lindberg type rookie with the ice time they need? Vigneault’s first training camp will be very telling on numerous fronts.
Vigneault’s arrival will bring the Rangers a much needed change of direction. The team grew stale offensively, and if Vigneault really can put his skill players in position to maximize their talent the Rangers should score more and ease the burden on Henrik Lundqvist. That said, the Rangers don’t benefit from the blind chemistry the Sedin twins had, nor do they (currently) boast the depth the Canucks have had in recent memory.
Vigneault could be the cure-all for the Rangers as they look to contend, but for fans, it’s worth approaching the new season with an air of caution. Even with a strong core, some promising young talent, and a deep pocketed owner, Vigneault will have plenty of work ahead if he’s to take the Rangers beyond what John Tortorella was able to do.