Confessions of a Former AV Hater

May 20, 2014, by
Smiles for Miles. (Photo: Jason Payne , PNG)

Smiles for Miles. (Photo: Jason Payne, PNG)

Picture it: it’s a beautiful late spring day in New York City, sundress weather, lunchtime in Midtown with tons of people relaxing in the middle of another work day. All of a sudden, you get a text. Then another. And another, followed by NHL alerts. Your coach has just been fired after a slaughter of an exit from the Eastern Conference Semi’s in five games.

If you’re a diehard Rangers fan, you respond in one of two ways: joyous applause or incredulous anger and questioning. If you’re this girl, it’s the second. Of all the things that came out of my mouth while walking to grab lunch that day, some examples are: How could they do this? Why is Sather’s job safe but no coach can get a break? Who the [expletive] will replace him? They’re gonna hire some scrub and the Rangers’ talent is gonna go to waste. I adored John’s passion and fire, and I thought his gritty style of coaching was #therightway. Maybe because my greatest coaches have been like that, maybe cause hockey just seems so hard.

Naturally the next few days are hard, and naturally (for me) with the hiring of Alain Vigneault came the irrational hate. I asked why they would go to the opposite of Tortorella, who, in five seasons with the Rangers, brought them to the playoffs four times. I wondered which Ranger hated him so much and had enough pull to get him fired. I wondered how bad the locker room really was and how physically exhausted the boys were to feel suck relief. I wondered if Brad Richards was too busy fishing to be working out for next season or if he’d be bought out.

Then the regular season arrived. Excited at the prospect of something new, yet still salty at the loss of (what I still believe to be) the most entertaining coach of all time (save for Bobby Valentine and his disguise, but that’s a whole other story), the slaughter faced was not fun. I cried for Torts. I wept at the indifference AV showed in his pressers. He didn’t seem to care, the team didn’t seem to care, so why should the fans care? But we did, cause we’re suckers, and cause we love the sport.

As the season wore on, I started to grow fond of AV’s casual swagger, smirking in pressers and teasing the media. I wondered if this is what it was like to have a positive relationship with the mercurial New York media. I was fortunate enough to sit behind the Rangers bench for their final home game this season, and I analyzed AV more than I watched the game for the first period. He rarely loses his cool, but it is obvious he’s locked in and behind his players. They want to listen to him, and he wants to guide them in a calm manner. I felt safe there, and started doubting why I ever disliked him.

Playoffs have turned that ‘like’ into ‘adoration’ and ‘love.’ As a fairly new Rangers fan (my first season obsessively watching the team was 2008-09), I’d never seen such cohesive team play. Since Pittsburgh game 5, it seems as though the team is playing telepathically. They see each other, they understand where the passes will go, and perhaps most importantly, they see how their efforts will play out. They are cool, calm and collected in interviews, never getting too high on themselves, knowing they’ve still got a ways to go before hoisting glory. I fully believe that this quiet confidence has been instilled in them in a huge way by their head coach.

Their faith in enduring the storms of the playoffs – Montreal opened last night exactly as we’d expect them to – and in playing their game in a humble fashion is impeccable. We don’t have a crystal ball, but it’s hard to imagine anybody doesn’t feel incredible about this team right now. I could watch AV’s presser after the team attended Martin St. Louis’ mother’s funeral a thousand times on loop. He understands respect, he understands relationships, he understands patience, and hopefully he will understand what it’s like to be the ultimate winner in the NHL as the New York Rangers head coach.

"Confessions of a Former AV Hater", 5 out of 5 based on 33 ratings.
Categories : Coaching


  1. MBN says:

    You go girl!!

    Very nice post. Gives one a warm, fuzzy feeling.

  2. Dave says:

    Nice to see another convert. Welcome to the dark side.

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      Dave is the AV of BSB. Cool, calm and collected.

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      I don’t think it has a whole lot to do with the team overall but there seems to be a decent sized French connection in Rangerland. Quite a few of the players are from Quebec or Montreal or nearby provinces like Gatineau or Laval. AV is from there so maybe it’s part of Pouliots resurgence. Brassard has had a magnificent playoffs. Marty is a leader on the team. I’d venture a guess and say Benoit Allair is from QC or nearby. It’s a good thing because role players are all contributing. As well as the guys expected to score.

  3. Rangers Fan in Boston says:

    I, too was miffed when Tortorella was fired, really because I thought he deserved another season based on what he had done with the team since he got there, not so much because I loved his style.

    I understood why the Rangers made the move at the time however, and did agree that he had gotten stale with the current roster (as much as I hated hearing that some players badmouthing a current coach to the GM), the dissention pretty apparent from those covering the team.

    However it’s clear to me this current team is a nice mix of the two coaches, taking the attributes that Tort’s brought – physical and mental toughness, discipline and team mentality and taking that next step with a coach that is breath of fresh air for what had to be a voice that became stifling. AV’s composure and calm demeanor I think has been a big reason for the Pitt comeback and he has pushed ALL the right buttons so far.

    Now it’s up to his team to make him (and Sather) look like a genius.

  4. Jessica says:

    Being from Seattle I’ve watched plenty of Canucks games and I can’t stand them so when the Rangers hired him I was beyond pissed but am enjoying eating crows now.Lol great hire after all

  5. se2karr says:

    Great job Becky! There is definitely something very special going on and I think it starts with him. I was also crushed when they fired Torts and again when they traded Callahan. But AV and MSL have certainly made a difference this post season….

  6. Hatrick Swayze says:

    My emotional gambit from the time of Tort’s fire:

    Pissed. Very pissed. –> Actually, his d zone collapse and personnel management did bother me, maybe we need another guy at the helm –> AV seems like the right guy for the job, lets do it –> Ummmm, no. This guy kind of sucks (right around the time we relinquised 2 3rd period leads for the first time in a long long time) –> Wait…actually I think I like where this is headed. I was right the first time. –> Yeah, this guy is just killing it right now. Go Rangers!

    • Scully says:

      This is relatively accurate to how I was feeling as well. Especially the whole “I love Torts, but man that D zone collapsing was killing me” part.

  7. prole30 says:

    That was a fabulous team Torts built two years ago. He lacked a sixth D and last year he lacked Staal. I was skeptical of AV until they came back against the Pens; otherwise there was no gain. I’m on the bandwagon now too. AV made two great moves to right the team. He dumped Biron for Talbot and forced out Del Zotto for Klein, who was Sather’s choice of course. St. Louis just happened along. AV built a team with a different style from Torts but it’s just going to get better in years to come as in Vancouver. There he never had the quality fourth line he has here.

    • Gary says:

      You know when I first became impressed w/ AV? It was after that $hit start they had and the guy never flinched. He gave the team confidence and then as they rolled into December started giving ME confidence.

      I really like the guy. I was not pissed when Torts got gassed, but I really did like the teams he had put together and his home grown identity thing. The thing w/ Torts is he started to get embarrassing and the b/s with calling out Hags was not smart. He seemed in over his head.

      AV is a 180 from Torts and I think the team benefits because the vestiges of Torts’ team (Boyle, McD, Girardi, etc.) still bring the jam and AV’s team lets it go full throttle.

  8. Andres says:

    I can totally picture the sundress weather lol but seriously, great write up! Although I loved torts passion, I was happy torts was he got the boot. It was time he had lost the locker room with his antics and I’m sure management was sick of it as well. AV is clicking all the right buttons right now and we are rolling. NBCnetwork nailed it on the head last night in giving credit to sather whose gambles (firing torts and hiring AV, keeping Richards, and trading our beloved captain cally) have put us in this position. LETS GO NYR

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      Fair fair point.

      I remember Suit joking some time ago when the comments section was comparing Sather to Shero basically saying Shero is successful because he isn’t afraid to make bigger trades… i.e. Neal and Kunitz as opposed to Sather’s smaller deals like trading for Wolski.

      It definitely made me chuckle. Fast forward to this year and it looks like Sather heeded some of Suit’s advice… looking at the MSL trade mainly, but also the coaching change, and Del Zotto deal.

      It looks like Sather, too, is no mouse. And these days he is a mouse with a house. Funny how things turn

      • Jeff P says:

        Sather traded for Nash and St. Louis and traded away Gaborik. How much bigger can you get?

  9. Chris F says:

    I, too, was staunchly in the Torts camp. Loved his passion, loved the tough approach to the game, and the player accountability. You played what you earned. He turned a resurgent, but still depressed organization into the talk of the League. The Black and Blueshirts! And, quite frankly, I never gave a damn if some beat-writing got his feelings hurt. Stop asking stupid questions and maybe you’ll get better answers; that’s how I always saw it. Torts was, and is, an incredibly intelligent coach who sometimes governs too much on emotion, but when he sat down and was forthright (e.g. Behind the Bench w/Torts on MSG, or his interviews with Don La Greca on ESPN NY), the man had a lot of wisdom to bestow.

    Needless to say, I was incredibly pissed when they fired him. He had brought them to the Conference Finals, where they flamed out due roster inadequacies, not coaching inadequacies. They were then overwhelmed in the 2nd round, but again because of roster inadequacies and injuries.

    I still think Torts could have done something special with THIS roster we have today. But, for what it’s worth, AV has been brilliant this post-season, and really, I can’t say anything bad about the guy. He’s getting done.

    Go Rangers!

    • Becky says:

      It’s fun to see a Ranger take a bad penalty and play the “lolol he won’t see the ice” game. Instinctively, it’s hard to get over the fact that people make mistakes and they shouldn’t ride the pine for it, Torts-style.

    • Rumble says:

      Torts, player accountability? He played favorites, and had an ever shifting, inconsistent accountability system. Plus, all the jack ass comments like “we don’t work on the power play” and “hagelin sucks on the power play” 7x and all the others too numerous to quote. Oh, and sparying the fans with water during the PLAYOFFS! Come on, the guy was a A**hole. If there were any doubt, he played the same stunts in Vancouver and looked what happened. Gone.

  10. Ray says:

    I am another who didn’t want AV. I thought the team would be less fun to watch (wrong). I thought he’d never do anything like use Nash to kill penalties. Now, with Nash, MSL, Zuke, Rangers have a deadly PK. Please note that Tortorella didn’t really see Zuccarello as an NHL player, kind of a big error.

  11. SalMerc says:

    To me, the biggest difference between AV and Torts is the calm (almost fatherly) demeanor AV has. His way may not work for every team, but he seems to be just what the doctor ordered as a change from Torts. All teams that win have great coaches and all that lose have horrible coaches. NOT! There needs to be a balance and chemistry to any coach/team relationship and AV’s ways seem to fit the bill right now.

    If they open up next year 5-15-2, then off with his head, lol.

  12. The Suit says:

    A great coach and mentor of mine once told me that it’s not about results, it’s about the process. Sadly that’s not how fans, the media, or even management evaluates coaches, but that is how coaches often reflect on themselves, so that is what I often incorporate into my thinking.

    I enjoyed Tortorella’s process and now I’m learning AVs. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different and that’s ok. No matter what happens this postseason, I’m enjoying the ride. Hope you all are too.

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      Solid insight there.

      You read my comment above, Suit? Do you recall the whole convo about Shero, Sather, mice and all?

      • The Suit says:

        I wrote that Sather should buy out Richards or risk being a mouse – something I still believe BTW. We’ll see what happens.

        As for Shero, I do think he made some good, aggressive moves to surround Crosby and Malkin with more talent. Fortunately for us he forgot to mafia drop Fleury into the Hudson.

        • Hatrick Swayze says:

          Agree on the buyout. Richards is damaged goods at even strength with very sheltered minutes. Certainly our weakest pivot with a very dangerous contract. No reason to keep him.

          And agree on Shero sentiment. His top 6 was pretty dangerous with Kunitz, Neal and Jokinen behind their 2 superstars and think Sutter was a terrific 3C there. A good chunk of the rest of the bottom 6 though was lacking. Not enough of a blend of sandpaper and guys who keep both their teammates and opposition honest.

          Anyways….not trying to derail your comment above. Good stuff.

        • Dave says:

          He also forgot that a hockey team has four lines and six capable defensemen.

    • Becky says:

      The acceptance phase is so wonderful. Glad you feel it.

    • Chris F says:

      Hell yes, we’re enjoying the ride! As pumped as I was in 2012, and as amazing as that storyline run was (Triple OT victory; Richards tying the game w/6.6 secs left, etc), this ride so far has been incredible, and I think, for once, the hopes are higher.

      I can’t think of any year in memory in which I was more excited. I was only 8 in ’94, and while those are my first real memories of Rangers hockey, as I clearly recall my dad and older brothers going absolutely bonkers, I was still a little young to fully appreciate it.

      This yea makes all the waiting seem worth it… so far. So, yea, the ride’s been fun!

    • Walt says:

      As a fellow Pisano of Tort’s, I loved him at first, but his act wore thin. AV comes along, with his process, seems cool under pressure, and it appears that this team has taken on his personality, and ran with it.

      Look, no matter what happends, we will have people defend Torts, and now defend AV. There have been changes to this team, personnel, roles for players, Nash, Zucc as examples, new blood MSL, Kline, D Moore, the developement of J Moore. Bottom line, the pieces are falling into place, and it appears that AV knows how to work with puzzles!!!

  13. Paul says:

    That was an excellent read.
    I def. had a similar roller coaster of emotions following Tort’s exit and AV’s hiring.

  14. matt says:

    Great post, and an honest one…more honest than most fans will be/are.

    I loved Torts’ style and obviously his post game pressers were amazing, but that style only lasts so long if you don’t win it all. We saw it first hand hamper Kreider a bit. One mistake and he was banished. I think while Torts whipped those guys into shape and changed the mindset, he also had some players looking over their shoulder too much.

    As for AV, he’s so even keeled that the players know that 1 mistake won’t bury them for the next few games. I believe he hold his guys accountable, but it’s done in a different manner.

  15. RangersFan4Life says:

    Great post!

  16. JoeS. says:

    nice post Becky!
    I was one who wanted Torts gone, so my attitude on that fine spring day was elation. i appreciate what he did, but did not believe he could get to the next step with this team. However, I have been following the Rangers for 45 years, obviously inclusive of 1994, and I can’t remember a team that played so cohesively. They are clicking on all cylinders in all aspects of the game. very impressive. This is all, no doubt, due to the leadership abilities of AV. The team is calmly going about their business…and that is the business of winning hockey games! We want the CUP!!!!

    • Becky says:

      The hunger is there and they know it won’t come easy. It’s so much fun to watch 🙂

  17. Bort says:

    Every coach is amazing when their team is winning and incompetent and useless when their team is losing. They certainly have an impact, but I think circumstance and luck have a pretty big part to play.

    Although given these circumstances I’m happy we have AV. I think Torts wouldn’t have meshed well with all the emotion and chaos of the last round between being down 3, and the MSL situation. I still think Torts could have done great things with our current lineup, but no complaints about AV.

  18. mikeyyy says:

    I liked torts when he joined. But his act wore thin.

    He had the personnel. He just drove them into the dirt. Then ran the bus over them.

    Yes he brought accountability to an extent. But his style had a ceiling. Thank god Sather saw that.

    Tossing hags, zucc, kredier, mdz, gabby, dubi, and as under the bus in his quote process was the final straws for me.

    It wasn’t until Av that zucc and kreider started to cone into their own. And dubi went on to be defacto captain of cbj, as well as a shutdown player on Cindy. Gabby leads the league in goals in la and might well see us again in the finals.

    A testament to our roster is that with more offensive weapons in Vancouver he couldn’t even get to the post season.

    Good riddance to good rubbish. It took some time for Av to get going but you can tell the players have respect for him.

    Av works on respect and maturity. Torts worked on fear and immaturity.

  19. Chuck A says:

    All this article lacks is a little champagne…

  20. HARLEMBLUES says:

    Subban tries to engage Boyle at the end of the period and AV tells Boyle to keep moving.AV style.

  21. Bloomer says:

    Nice write up Becky pretty well sums up the feelings of the Torts crowd and the indifference towards AV. But,this series isn’t over folks not by a longshot. I expect to see major pushback by the Habs in game 3 and AV better have his troops prepared.

  22. flatbush says:

    Becky- great write up and hitting all the points and feelings. Torts took over a team that was soft with little accountability, that was their identity. He brought along young guys and made the team work hard. He coached to the strengths and talent of what he had, made the rangers respected. AV is a different personality and like Torts coaches to the strengths and talents of his team. The foundation of playing hard, sacrificing your body was already there and his cool approach is what the doctor ordered right now. Both guys deserve the respect and praise and must take the hit when things go south. Thats the way it is! The MSG and media spinners is what I dislike the most: portraying torts as the guy who made the rangers lose and AV as the savior makes good stories but its bull. Right now the stars, moons and planets are in the rangers house. I hope it stays there. In 1994 everything came together and we had a guy named Keenan behind the bench but it always comes down to the players.