There’s a reason that there has been so much chatter around Alain Vigneault, questioning his ability to coach the team for success. Forgetting the obvious issues on the ice, an important theme to remember with sports, especially in a large market, is recency bias. What have you done for me lately?
If your response is “take the team to the Stanley Cup Final,” well, I have some potentially upsetting news for you: it’s 2017. The team lost it all in June, 2014. In the past three years, the Rangers have made it to the Eastern Conference Finals (2015), the first round (2016), and the second round (last May), in exactly that order. It’s been a while since the team has made it very far, and the talent continues to wither under some confusing management.
When Vigneault joined the team mid-2013, it was a refreshing change of pace from the gritty, physical John Tortorella-era Rangers. Unfortunately, at this rate, is Vigneault really much different from what Tortorella became with the Rangers?
A famous (or infamous?) Tortorella incident was having Stu Bickel famously play 3:24 in a triple overtime win against the Capitals in 2012. He was known for benching players as soon as they made an error, stubborn to a fault and not giving anyone much of a leash. This was generally agreed upon by both fans and media to be a negative trait of the coach.
Interestingly enough, Vigneault is channeling his inner 2012 Torts in his treatment of players. For some (Filip Chytil, Tony DeAngelo), it shows in a lack of playing time. This mistrust of young players is detrimental on so many levels, and perhaps most importantly, it proves to your youth that you have no faith in them. The way to learn any system is to practice, practice, practice. It isn’t to sit on a bench, or in a press box, watching the semblance of a game.
Another Tortorella gaffe was his inability to adjust with the game. Torts always ran a tough game, and in the time of #fancystats, he refused to move to a speed game. This is evident in his overuse of Dan Girardi, and in his distaste of Chris Kreider. Eventually, it was his lack of adjustments got him sacked in favor of a coach willing to play the speed game.
Oddly enough, this lack of adjustment is what has turned much of the fans and media away from AV. Though willing to play the speed game, possession stats are of no interest to Alain, looking instead at the logic in his own head. The players over the past three seasons who have been subpar in the eyes of the coach, in no particular order:
- James Sheppard, benched in favor of Tanner Glass in Game 7 of the 2015 ECF, despite scoring in Game 6 and the team’s need for an additional center in that game.
- Emerson Etem, key return in the Carl Hagelin trade.
- Tony DeAngelo, centerpiece of the Derek Stepan trade, will be playing for Hartford for Stepan’s return tonight.
- Adam Clendening, who will also return tonight, was benched for several players, but consistently Kevin Klein whose deterioration was obvious to everyone.’
- Pavel Buchnevich, playing on the fourth line. Fourth line. Despite having success in the top-six with Kreider and Mika Zibanejad. Despite clearly not being a fourth line player. 57.1 CF%.
Eventually, either Vigneault will adjust the way Tortorella has with Columbus, or he’ll get fired the way Tortorella did with New York and Vancouver. But is it too late now? Weigh in below.