Should the Rangers fire Alain Vigneault?April 28, 2016, by
For those of you who have been following Blue Seat Blogs for several years, or perhaps follow me on Twitter @thehockeysuit (shameless plug), know that I’m an eternal centrist. I try to see multiple sides of an argument no matter how extreme. Since the Rangers laid an egg to Pittsburgh – and probably even before that – fans have been asking whether or not the hourglass has run out on AV. The reactions to this question have been obviously polarizing.
Rather than give you my opinion and back it up with pretty gifs, or advanced stats, etc., I’ll share with you what the thought process likely is inside the walls of 2 Penn Plaza under different scenarios. From there, you all can form your own opinion on what the Rangers front office will likely do with AV. As always, please feel free to sound off in the comments.
From my experience working in sports, there’s generally three different philosophies/personality types among executives or owners when it comes to the hiring and firing of coaches and other personnel.
1. Results Driven Types
The first type of executives/owners are the purely ‘results driven’ guys. These types of individuals are pretty straightforward. You have a job as long as you’re getting results. And by results, I mean you are hitting your goals or are on pace to hit your goals that you set out at the beginning of the season.
These types tend to be very involved in daily operations. Coaching positions at these organizations are usually a revolving door. Meaning at most, every few years there’s a new guy in place. At the other end of the spectrum, you can have multiple coaches in one season.
The New York Knicks are a pretty good example of the former, having had six coaches in the past ten years. Palermo, a soccer team in the Italian Serie A, is an extreme example of the latter. So far this season Palermo has had, wait for it…nine coaches! Literally guys are getting sacked every few games. Crazy Sicilians.
What does this mean for AV?
Despite James Dolan’s micromanagement of the Knicks, his approach for the Rangers has historically been the extreme opposite. Most insiders know that Dolan isn’t the biggest hockey fan and has trusted Sather to manage the Rangers as he wishes.
Of course, Sather has moved on to a ‘Presidential’ role (which in sports is code for consultative responsibilities) and no one knows how much Dolan will micromanage Jeff Gorton. If he is to become more involved in the Rangers operations, then AV likely won’t get fired this summer. However, if we have another disappointing season, then Dolan will probably force Gorton to force AV out the door.
2. My Guys
The next type of executive generally exists with owners who are less in the weeds and have some level of autonomy. These guys tend to be a little territorial and old school, meaning they don’t want to oversee coaches or staff whom they didn’t hire. They only want to work with ‘their guys’.
Brian Burke is a good example. He has hired David Nonis three times, having worked together in Vancouver, Anaheim, and Toronto. These executives try to come off as strategic and plan for the long-term, but they tend to be just as results driven as the owners in section #1 of this post. They will generally hire coaches and staff they can control that will buy into their plan.
What does this mean for AV?
The question is, was AV Sather’s first choice or was he Jeff Gorton’s choice, or somewhere in between? We simply don’t know. Assuming AV was Gorton’s choice then he will probably give him the benefit of the doubt and let him coach through the end of his contract (two more years I believe).
In the meantime, you have to assume Gorton has bought into AV’s process of wishing to see high tempo, man-on-man hockey. In order for this vision to succeed, Gorton won’t ask AV to alter his system to be congruent with the roster. Instead, he will try to find the right pieces for this system to be successful.
The outcome in this scenario is Gorton doing whatever he can to remove Dan Girardi and/or Marc Staal from the roster. Neither has been able to execute AV’s system consistently over the past three seasons and both are on the downside of their careers. For this to work, the blueline has to get upgraded to incorporate defensemen who can stick with their checks and get the puck up ice.
3. Long-term Planners
Last, but not least are the long-term planning types. These executives and owners are what everyone in this business wants to work for. They come in, develop a plan, hire experts, and let them do their jobs over the course of several years. Short-term results don’t matter.
I can tell you from experience, these types of leaders are rare. It takes a lot of balls and conviction to see things through when you’re not getting immediate results and taking hits at the gate.
Good examples of these types are Sandy Alderson (the current GM of the Mets) and Jerry Reese (the current GM of the NY Football Giants). First, both have been in their positions for a long time. Second, they stuck with coaches – who the media and respective fan bases wanted to run out of town – not because these coaches are “their guys” but because they believe they can maximize the rosters they’ve carefully constructed.
What does this mean for AV?
If Gorton believes in this roster, he will want to oversee a coach that will tailor a system to the assets in place. Whether or not AV is that guy depends less on Gorton’s temperament and more on AV’s willingness to adapt. Right now, his system does not fit the current roster, which has been documented many times on this site.
If Gorton can’t offload Girardi, Staal, or other high cap real estate (e.g., Nash) for assets, then you have to start thinking about a coaching change. You can’t expect this defense to turn back the clocks or to continue to rely on a 35-year-old Lundqvist to steal you four rounds of playoff hockey. That’s just not a sustainable strategy.
Ultimately, a new coach with a different philosophy is certainly not the answer to everything, but having someone who can at least mask our weaknesses and amplify our strengths could be a welcomed addition.
What do you guys think? Which type of executive would you be in this situation? Would you give AV another year, two years?
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