Archive for Coaching

Oct
19

A Plea for Stability

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Please pair this man with Shattenkirk!

The New York Rangers are officially in an early-season crisis, with just three points earned from their first seven games.  While many are pointing to a similar start in 2013-2014 as reason to keep calm, there’s enough statistical precedent to be concerned.

When a team finds itself in a downward spiral like this, there is never just one singular problem, but a combination of factors.  In addition to the intangibles (lack of confidence, bad luck) the Rangers have not managed their personnel well to this point.  There are curious lineup choices across the board, exacerbated by the nightly shuffling of players in and out of, and up and down the lineup.

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Happy Friday, BSB community!  I started writing this as a “thoughts” post, since it’s tough to do actual analysis at this stage of the season, with the sample size being so small.  My first thought started with Alain Vigneault, and just never really left that topic, so I guess this post is about the head coach now.  So, maybe it still is a “thoughts” post, just a “thoughts about Alain Vigneault” post.  Sorry about that.  I hope you enjoy.

This season has a very small sample size of data to this point, but for the head coach, we have four seasons worth of data to draw from.  I think, and I’m going into speculation mode here, that we ended up feeling a little bait and switched from what our initial expectations of what his coaching philosophies were.  Remember when Torts was let go and we were sold on Vigneault based on his “progressive” approach to data and matchups?  He tried to leverage zone starts and seemed to be more open-minded to data-driven deployment, so we all felt that we were getting a “Moneyball”-type coach who would maximize the information available to try to gain an edge.

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Categories : Coaching, Musings
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alain vigneault

The Rangers seemed to turn a major corner this summer, recognizing a need to be more mobile on the blue line and acting to fix that need. Off went Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein, in came Kevin Shattenkirk and Brendan Smith. Marc Staal was moved to the third pairing. Nick Holden seemed to be the odd man out.

These moves came one year after the club made the same types of changes up front. Skill, speed, and youth seemed to take charge at forward, and the results were a fast paced offense that could almost score at will. On paper this season, the Rangers could be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

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lindy ruff

It’s been a bit of a wild offseason for the Rangers, but one of the less talked about moves was a change behind the bench. Jeff Beukeboom fell on the sword for the poor defensive play, and was replaced by Lindy Ruff. Ruff has been a head coach in the NHL since 1997, mostly with the Sabres before a stint with the Stars.

Ruff is an interesting hire. When he was in Dallas, he ran very similar systems to Alain Vigneault. Specifically, his Stars teams were big on a 1-2-2 forecheck with a hybrid zone/man defensive zone coverage. Special teams play isn’t all that unique anymore, but it’s worth noting that his penalty killing style was also aggressive, like AV.

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lindy ruff

Per Larry Brooks, the Rangers will be replacing Jeff Beukeboom on the bench with Lindy Ruff. It looks like Beuk may be taking the fall for the defensive woes of the Rangers last year. It’s tough to say if that’s fair or not, given the personnel, but there was a major problem on the blue line that needed to be addressed.

Ruff is another old school guy that has a connection with Alain Vigneault and Chris Drury. He was rumored to be connected to the Rangers in the offseason, and this confirms it.

There’s no telling how Ruff will manage the defense as an assistant coach. I don’t believe this is a move to threaten AV, though.

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Earlier this week, the Rangers extended head coach Alain Vigneault’s contract another two years through the 2019-2020 season. The timing was a bit odd, as AV still had another full year on his initial deal and was fresh off a pretty embarrassing playoff defeat last season. But it’s tough to argue with AV’s success with the Rangers. He sports a 175-97-23, good for a .632 win percentage.

AV is a very smart coach. His systems on the ice generate solid offense. There’s a reason why he is as successful as he is. It’s not just dumb luck. But he is not a perfect coach. His flaws not only overshadow his successes, but follow him from team to team.

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Photo: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Per Larry Brooks, the Rangers have given head coach Alain Vigneault a two year extension. Vigneault, whose contract was set to expire after next season, is being rewarded for a pair of Conference Finals appearances, one Stanley Cup Finals appearance, and one President’s Trophy.

AV came under fire last year for his deployment of his so-called favorites, but has taken a step in the right direction this season. He is not the perfect coach, as anyone who watches his defense deployments will tell you, but he’s a solid hockey mind. He certainly has offensive strengths, even if he lacks defensive evaluation.

Vigneault has a solid record with the Rangers, at 175-97-23, good for a .632 win percentage. By the time the season is over, he will be fourth in franchise history in coaching wins. Love him or hate him, he’s had a good run.

Categories : Coaching
Comments (110)
Jan
17

Midseason report cards: Alain Vigneault

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BILL KOSTROUN / AP

It seems like ages ago that New York and Vancouver took part in a Coach Swap, something each team needed. Long tenures are tricky because coaching flaws can begin to show. If the coach isn’t willing to adapt, their future with that team looks murky.

It’s how they create reputations and the reason that so many get hired, as is evidenced by that Rangers wife-swapped squad; tired of the aggression and hard-nose, “gritty” hockey, the Rangers opted to hire the offense-minded Vigneault who had come very close to Stanley Cup glory in the Northwest.

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Dec
03

Being honest about Alain Vigneault

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Please reconsider your defensive options, AV

Please reconsider your defensive options, AV

The Rangers are slipping. It’s no secret to anyone who’s watched the team these past couple of weeks. Poor defensive play and a lack of execution on the rush –and some teams figuring out how to stymie the Rangers’ game plan– mean that the team has either barely squeaked by when they’ve won games (Philly) or gotten totally hammered (Buffalo). Situations like this are always multifaceted in that there’s never one main issue with the team that, if fixed, would suddenly make them Stanley Cup contenders, but one issue that needs to be discussed at this point is the coaching.

Let me be clear: I am not advocating for the firing of Alain Vigneault. What I am suggesting however is that it’s time to be frank about his time as the New York Rangers head coach and take the good with the bad. Yes, he has gotten the team within a few games of a Stanley Cup, but coaches can’t only be evaluated on their achievements, they also need to be evaluated on their shortcomings.

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Categories : Coaching
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Photo: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

One of the many questions heading into the season was how Alain Vigneault would deploy his players. There were a bunch of new players, and even with four skill lines, AV still has a tendency to have his one “shutdown” line. Couple that with an aging and relatively poor defense group, and you have a lot of questions.

But in the early going, few players seem to be struggling. Sure you can name a few, but not many. In addition, there are the guys you assume will be used in defensive roles, like Dan Girardi, and the guys you assume will be deployed in an offensive role, like Adam Clendening.

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Comments (40)