Breaking down Alain Vigneault’s even strength system

(Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News)

(Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News)

This is definitely going to be an interesting season covering NYR’s x’s and o’s, as coaching changes always bring about new looks and different styles of play. And while I was indeed a pro-Torts guy, I’m looking forward to seeing what AV and his staff have up their sleeves.

Today we’re just going to cover even strength play, since I know these tactic posts can get a little lengthy and I always prefer brevity over anything robust. Next week I’ll focus on the power play and the kill.

With that said, make no mistake. Although AV isn’t completely overhauling the way they play, there are some key differences. It’s going to take a while for everything to come together, so…hold fast.

Offensive Zone Strategy

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Three things AV should implement that Torts didn’t

Photo: AP

Photo: AP

By now, most of our regular readers are aware I was a big supporter of John Tortorella and the team concept he constructed for the New York Rangers. To say the least, I was very disappointed with Glen Sather’s decision to fire him.

Although I had an up close perspective of John that most did not, I still disagreed with some of his decisions/strategies. And while AV isn’t the type of coach I really identify with, there are few tactics AV could implement to win me over.

Below are three things AV should change about the Torts-era Rangers.

Give McDonagh a more offensive role

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Expect AV to bring in his type of players

Hedberg could have a shot at winning the backup role (Photo: AP)

Hedberg could have a shot at winning the backup role (Photo: AP)

This past offseason Glen Sather kept this roster pretty much intact in hopes that Alain Vineault and his new coaching staff would be the difference makers to get this team over the hump. With that said, any time a team changes coaches there’s always going to be some roster turnover that follows.

At this point we don’t know what system AV has in store for the Rangers, though Nash vaguely remarked “defense first” which obviously can mean a lot of different things and Girardi mentioned “four man rushes, same as Torts”. However, we do know that AV has a starkly different personality than Torts and will certainly bring a different approach to dealing with his players one-on-one. More often than not, it’s personalities and TOI that generally cause players and coaches to gel or jive, not the x’s and o’s. After all, most players at this level can adapt to different systems and formations.

So turnover is inevitable. And to think that every current Ranger is going to fit is a bit naive.

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This year, it’s put up or shut up time for certain Rangers players

Every summer since I’ve started blogging and writing down my hockey opinions in internet ink, I always try to use the downtime to reconnect with old friends still in the Show, read up on new systems and tactics, or dive into books illustrating important points in hockey history. What can I say? The game is in my blood.

For obvious reasons, this summer in particular I’ve spent a lot of time watching a bunch of tape on the Canucks (more about that closer to puck drop). However, I’ve also used this time to read up on Herb Brooks and how he used a ‘tough love approach’ to mentally prepare those young heroes of 1980. If you saw the movie Miracle, you probably already know what I’m taking about.

A lot of what I’ve read kind of reminds me of where the Rangers are at this stage in their development.

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The worst GM in the NHL award

For several years running we’ve been nominating certain individuals as the “worst GM in the NHL,” as defined by team performance, bad trades and lackluster free agent signings. Last season’s award went to Scott Howson, who has since been fired by Columbus.

Going a bit further back, 2011′s award went to Paul Holmgren, who still holds his post in Philadelphia…for now. 2010′s award went to Darryl Sutter, who was fired shortly thereafter by the Flames. Past nominees include Brian Burke (fired by Toronto), Pierre Gauthier (fired by Montreal) and Garth Snow, among others.

So while these posts are meant to be fun and get us through the dog says of summer, in reality, the nominations really haven’t been too far off.

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Getting the most out of Brad Richards

Progression to the mean is fun.

Like it or not, they need him.

It’s no secret. I was very vocal about using our last compliance buyout on Brad Richards this summer. Rather than run the risk of injury and getting stuck with his cap hit —for what will seem like perpetuity if he does get injured— the Rangers decided to give him one last shot at glory.

While I’m disappointed in the decision, I assure you I won’t put a target on his back this year just because the org disagreed with me. After all, my name isn’t Scotty. What’s done is done, and now the org needs to shift gears and figure out what exactly is the best way to get the most of Richards.

Whether or not you think he will rebound this year likely depends on several variables. A) Are you an optimistic person? B) Do you trust or are you very comfortable with advanced stats? C) Do you believe Alain Vigneault and his systems will be an antidote.

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August heat starting to get to hockey bloggers

bruce-eric-kaplan-i-m-so-miserable-i-don-t-know-what-to-do-hey-i-know-we-could-put-o-new-yorker-cartoon

You know the dogs days of hockey’s offseason are here when bloggers start grasping for proverbial straws with odd trade proposals and anxiety over the 2014 UFA list.  This week I’ve already read three posts that made me want to delete my hockey bookmarks until at least preseason and it’s only Tuesday.

If you haven’t been following the latest happenings on Twitterd, a Flames blog has been kicking the tires on trading for Marc Staal, who they referred to as a “decent asset” and believe could be had for “pennies on the dollar.” Our friends at Bleacher Report think MZA could be one of the best players in the NHL if only he were bigger! For the record, sources say The Zoltar machine at Playland is still out-of-order. Bummer. I was looking forward to seeing MZA go toe-to-toe with Crosby and Ovie next season.

Anyway, last but not least, Brooksie is bemoaning Sather’s reluctance to re-sign Lundqvist and Cally to new deals, you know because July is right around the corner. Yup, it’s officially August.

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Scouting our ‘Metropolitan Division’ rivals’ offseason moves – take 2

In case you were wondering, last week I kinda had a post recapping our new division rivals’ offseason moves. I emphasize the word “kinda” because I only finished about half of it before it got published. Little scheduling SNAFU. Whoops.

Let’s try this again shall we?

The Rangers only major acquisition of the offseason was the hiring of new coach Alain Vigneault. Barring any late-summer trades, the Rangers will mostly rely on a new voice in the locker room to be the key difference maker this coming season. However, a few of our new ‘Metropolitan Division’ rivals made some very interesting moves this summer. Some of them voluntary, others not so much (sup Kovy?).

Here’s a look at which teams in our new division should improve, which teams appear to have taken a step back and which teams will likely to duplicate last year’s efforts.

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Master Plan: New York Rangers roster in 2013 & beyond

Does AV mean a changing of roles for the players?

Does AV mean a changing of roles for the players?

For several off-seasons running, I’ve been creating these “master plans” that talk about the future rosters of the Rangers. The purpose of these posts is to really come full circle on all of the topics and rumors we’ve been covering over the course of the season. During prior offseasons, creating these plans was pretty easy for me as John Tortorella frequently talked about the Rangers “team concept”. Based on his vision, I just filled in the blanks.

With his team template in mind, these posts were generally unified by three main ingredients for success — roster balance, strong skating ability, and making an effort in all three zones. As trade deadlines and free agency periods came and went, my plans always revolved around the idea that the Rangers should stick to those three ingredients when evaluating their own team and what’s available on the marketplace.

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Re-configuring the Rangers power play

Spot the righty (AP Photo/Kathy Willens).

Spot the righty (AP Photo/Kathy Willens).

With the exception of a few depth signings, it appears Glen Sather will keep the Rangers roster mostly intact for the 2013-14 season. Rather than take a shot at Jarome Iginla, Derek Roy, or Daniel Alfredsson (all of whom signed one year deals), the organization has instead decided to keep Brad Richards around for at least one more season. Barring a trade, it looks as though AV will have to work with what he’s got.

Getting the Rangers back to being one of the best 5-on-5 hockey teams shouldn’t be an issue for this staff. Even if there hadn’t been a coaching change, the underlying numbers suggest even-strength goals scored should theoretically rebound. The Rangers after all were one of the better puck possession teams in the league last season. However, as we’ve learned since the ’05 lockout, solid 5-on-5 hockey can only get you so far.

Ultimately, Alain Vigneault and assistant coach Scott Arniel will have to reconfigure the power play and get the boys clicking at an acceptable rate if we want to go the distance.

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