In his most recent column, Larry Brooks noted that there “is chatter that Alain Vigneault may get canned after Tuesday’s game.” Addressing the rumor first – this appears to be just speculation on Brooks’ part. The general gist of his post –that if AV’s fate is based on one game, then it’s already too late– is spot on, though.
If AV is truly on a game-to-game rope, then the best thing to do is to rip the band-aid off and just get rid of him. I’m a firm believer that coaches have a shelf life, although I’m unsure what that shelf life is. Perhaps AV’s style only lasted three years with the Rangers. But at some point, the message and the messenger need to change.
That said, there’s no point in firing a coach if you don’t have a good replacement ready. The Rangers have a few options to them, although few are appetizing.
Ruff, the apparent front runner if AV is canned, was hired this summer as an assistant coach. Immediately rumors flew that Ruff would replace AV if fired, and he was there to put pressure on AV. I dismissed those rumors, but considering how AV has coached this season, I may have been wrong. AV is coaching for his job, and his lineup and in-game decisions show it.
Ruff, however, is no different from AV. He uses the same exact systems that AV does, or at least he did while in Dallas. Whether he’s identified that the team can’t play the overload/man defensive zone system anymore, we don’t know. But if AV is fired, I’d bet money that Ruff is his replacement.
Ruff’s first test, if all this comes to fruition, is getting the most out of Pavel Buchnevich and Filip Chytil, and guiding them towards their true talent potential. Can he be that guy? I honestly don’t know.
Arniel is the associate coach in New York, and usually that’s the coach that takes over. That said, Arniel doesn’t really seem like the front runner, even before Ruff was hired. That said, Arniel has head coaching experience and familiarity with the players. The latter bit may work against him though, as the need to change the message and messenger means changing out the supporting coaches as well.
Sutter won two Cups in Los Angeles before getting let go in April of this year. While in LA, Sutter ran systems similar to that of John Tortorella. His teams were known for good defense and good puck possession, something the Rangers sorely need. He also won a pair of Cups with an LA team that didn’t really have any elite talent outside of Anze Kopitar.
Sutter runs very disciplined systems, so I’m unsure how he’d do with kids that make mistakes on defense, but are supremely talented on offense (Buchnevich, Chytil, etc). That’s the wild card here. The next coach will need to guide these kids to their true potential, which could be elite talent.
The same questions for Ruff are the same questions for Sutter. If he can guide those two –and Lias Andersson/Sean Day– to their true potential, then he’s the guy for the job. I don’t know enough about him, though.
Bylsma was recently cut loose by Buffalo, but is no stranger to success. He won a Cup in Pittsburgh. However that roster had a ton of talent, and his most recent inability to guide the young talent in Buffalo can’t be ignored. His systems are pretty standard (2-1-2 forecheck, zone defense, normal special teams systems), so it’s not like the Rangers would have issues adopting those. That said, his teams weren’t really known for being defensive stalwarts. Part of that is talent, part of that is coaching. I’m not sold on Bylsma.
Nelson got a lot of attention for the Arizona coaching spot this summer before they settled on Rick Tocchet. Nelson just won a Calder Cup in the AHL, and is likely the next guy to make the jump to NHL coaching duties. He’s currently the head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit’s AHL club), and has 51 games of coaching experience in the NHL (Edmonton).
Nelson would be an off-the-board pick for the Rangers, and likely would only work if they clean house entirely. I can’t see them doing that in the middle of a season where they have/had playoff hopes. I know nothing about Nelson other than Elliotte Friedman mentioning him once and that he won the Calder Cup last year. He’s a name to note."Who are viable replacements for Alain Vigneault?",