Archive for Coaching
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.
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.
The 2017 season is right around the corner, and as the World Cup of Hockey begins we will finally have something new to talk about in regards to hockey. This comes right on time as I am absolutely drained of any ideas after this one for the near future.
While many of us are certainly intrigued at how the forward depth will shape up for the New York Rangers post training camp, many more fans are eager to see what move GM Jeff Gorton may have in play to fix up the defense. It has been a long anticipated move, combining the rumors on Kevin Shattenkirk, the “guaranteed” Rick Nash trade, young defensemen remaining unsigned, and that the Rangers seem to do their business in the shadows with moves nobody sees coming (I love you Brassard, stay golden). In any case, there are a lot of factors surrounding the Rangers, but sometimes there are management and advisory roles that need to be filled as well.
Per Larry Brooks, the Rangers are set to announce Jeff Beukeboom as assistant coach, replacing the recently departed Ulf Samuelsson. Samuelsson was in charge of the defense and penalty kill before departing for Carolina’s AHL team to be their head coach.
Beuk is beloved by many fans for his play in the 90s with the Rangers. He was one of the few big, tough, stay at home guys that could actually do more than drop the gloves. His style of play has been extinct in the NHL for years, though.
Beuk has been instrumental in the development of a lot of Rangers defense prospects, specifically Dylan McIlrath. It is assumed Beuk will take over the same that Samuelsson had before his departure.
Ulf Samuelsson will not be back with the Rangers next season. The Charlotte Checkers of the AHL, the Carolina Hurricanes’ affiliate, hired him as the head coach of their team. Samuelsson concentrated on the defense and penalty killing for the Ranges.
There is no word on his replacement yet. It is assumed that Jeff Beukeboom has the inside track, but anything can happen with coaches.
We keep hearing the comparisons between Evgeni Kuznetsov and Rangers prospect Pavel Buchnevich. Also how Buchnevich bested KHL numbers from a certain Vladimir Tarasenko – arguably the best young sniper in the NHL today. We also hear that expectations should be tempered for Buchnevich partly based on the period of adjustment required for the aforementioned rising stars – and rightly so. No one should expect Buchnevich to come in with no English, no exposure to the North American style of hockey and pot 30 goals as nice as that would be.
With all that said, not only can Buchnevich significantly help the Rangers on the ice – by adjusting quickly to the rigours of the NHL – but he can help Alain Vigneault and the perceived notion that he is a veteran-favouring coach who often ignores developing younger players for immediate gains.
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.
Alain Vigneault has made many, many puzzling decisions over the course of the first 49 games this season – from his insistence on giving top minutes to Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, to his refusal to give Keith Yandle the lion’s share of power play time, to repeatedly dressing Tanner Glass.
He’s not perfect – not by any stretch. And he’s not always right, but he’s earned a certain amount of latitude after bringing two clubs to the Stanley Cup Final in four seasons, winning a Jack Adams Award and leading his teams to eight straight playoff appearances including three President’s Trophies and five division crowns.
Say whatever you want about Vigneault – the man has had a great deal of success and is widely considered to be one of the top hockey coaches on the planet.
I have a confession to make. I haven’t really been watching much of the Rangers lately. A combination of a hectic work schedule and early deficits have conspired to dilute my commitment to watching this group. It’s tough to keep it locked to MSG when they are already down 4-1 six minutes into the second. Despite this, I have obviously read every wonderful article the BSB crew has churned out and scrolled through the ol’ Twitter feed to see the wreckage the morning after games. The weirdest part is my liquor cabinet hasn’t needed refilling as often. Strange.
What this little break has allowed me to do is take a step back and assess the big picture with this club. The only consistent thing this season has been inconsistency. They have been embarrassed by mediocre teams like the Flames and Oilers, but have put on clinics against talent-stacked squads in Tampa, Dallas and St. Louis. It’s maddening. What I have determined during my sabbatical is that the organization is facing a litany of crossroad decisions as the Rangers enter the back half of Henrik Lundqvist’s prime window.
It is often said in the sports business that the third season in a coach’s tenure is sometimes their most difficult. Players tend to tire from the same voice. A coach’s tendencies with x’s and o’s tend to become a little stagnant and predictable for the opposition. Players end up unhappy with their roles and can sometimes lose hope in gaining more responsibilities. The list goes on.
It is at this critical juncture, coaches need to find ways to make adjustments to their system and how they manage their bench.
The Rangers seem to be hitting that lull. Their scoring chance differential at even strength is a -128. That’s by far the worst differential this organization has had since they started tracking the stat 10 years ago. Whether this is due to players tiring of AV or not is anyone’s guess. Regardless, the roster is what it is and adjustments have not been made.