AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
Although the New York Rangers’ lines are in a state of flux due to injuries, we have seen enough games thus far to get a fair barometer on how Alain Vigneault will deploy his lines throughout the season. Earlier this month, prior to the start of the season, I took a guess at how AV would deploy his lines. The only thing that we knew for sure at that point was that the fourth line would get buried with defensive zone starts. That part at least remains true.
Before we get into it, we should note that J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, Chris Mueller, and Ryan Malone haven’t really played enough for the zone start percentages to be a true barometer of where AV has been starting them. However, the latter three have spent most of their time on the fourth line, with Miller getting most of his time on the third line (one game on the fourth line). The numbers for these players may be skewed a bit.
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Sometimes opportunity is about timing. Anthony Duclair, JT Miller and Kevin Hayes have made the Rangers at the right time because in Alain Vigneault they have the right coach to develop them into full time – and hopefully long term – Rangers.
Vigneault won over a lot of the fan base last year by staying patient amid early troubles, by being the Anti-Torts in allowing players to develop chemistry together and also by being able to acknowledge ‘hot hands’ and give players a platform to perform when their form deserved extra playing time (example: Cam Talbot taking over midseason for a short period).
There’s every chance Anthony Duclair goes back to junior this year and if he does, it will have been the right decision. If he sticks, he’ll have earned it. The Rangers Head Coach has earned everyone’s trust and whatever he decides will likely be the best course of action. Alain Vigneault has proven he’s confident in his younger players if they earn his trust and the even ice time distribution in the St Louis game (every forward had at least 11 minutes ice time) suggests Vigneault will continue to work the kids in to meaningful positions and give them a chance of growth.
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In a bit of old news (sorry for being late on this one), the Rangers have hired ex-Vancouver Assistant Coach Daryl Williams to join Alain Vigenault’s coaching staff. Williams will replace the now departed Dan Lacroix, and will likely be AV’s “eye in the sky.”
The Montreal Canadiens have hired Rangers Assistant Coach Dan Lacroix to their coaching staff. Lacroix joined the Rangers last summer, watching games from the press box to give coach Alain Vigneault the “eye in the sky” view.
Lacroix’s depature leaves Scott Arniel, Ulf Samuelsson, and Benoit Allaire as the coaching staff under AV.
It appears that Rangers assistant coaches are in high demand. Just hours after the Hurricanes asked to speak to Ulf Samuelsson about their head coaching vacancy, John Shannon reported that the Canucks asked to speak to Scott Arniel. Shannon also noted that the Penguins asked to speak to Samuelsson.
Per Darren Dreger, the Carolina Hurricanes have asked permission of the Rangers to speak with assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson about their head coaching vacancy. Samuelsson has long been rumored to be on the list of candidates for multiple open positions, but teams were waiting for the Stanley Cup Final to end before speaking with him. It is likely Ulfie will land himself a head coaching job sooner rather than later.
Back by popular demand, we’ve decided to kick start our annual player, coaching, and management report cards. As always, these grades aren’t just based on stats, but also the execution of each personnel or player’s respective role within the organization. Obviously there’s some subjectivity here, but that’s what makes this interesting and conversational.
Before I get started on AV and company, let me first say that grading coaching specifically is not easy. Many of the greatest coaches in this game have been fired multiple times over, and it’s never because they lost their ability to do what they do. More often than not, those decisions typically come down to politics.
So how does one evaluate a coaching staff?
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Lundqvist has been in the top-six for games played by a goalie in all but one of the last eight seasons
Though much has changed with the New York Rangers over the last 12 months, one thing remains the same: the team goes as Henrik Lundqvist goes.
During the early part of the season when the Blueshirts were regularly getting crushed by Western Conference foes, The King was not himself. And not coincidentally, during the second half of the year when the club came together, Lundqvist returned to his usual Vezina form. Now Lundqvist has raised his game again, to an otherworldly level that no other netminder alive can approach, and suddenly the team is on the cusp of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Lundqvist’s talent, focus and desire are obviously keys to his success and have never been in question. But how much of his recent run is due to coach Alain Vigneault’s insistence on giving his backups – first Martin Biron, then Cam Talbot – a larger workload this season?
Lundqvist has shouldered an absurdly high workload in recent years, especially now that he’s no longer a young pup. Including playoffs, he’s started 597 games and logged 32,945 minutes over the last eight seasons and has finished in the top-six in games played for a goalie in all but one of those years. (Lundqvist played a staggering 3,331 minutes in the condensed lockout-shortened season, and played 5,005, 4,353, 4,204, 4,533, 4,913, 4,746 minutes in his previous six seasons, respectively).
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Smiles for Miles. (Photo: Jason Payne, PNG)
Picture it: it’s a beautiful late spring day in New York City, sundress weather, lunchtime in Midtown with tons of people relaxing in the middle of another work day. All of a sudden, you get a text. Then another. And another, followed by NHL alerts. Your coach has just been fired after a slaughter of an exit from the Eastern Conference Semi’s in five games.
If you’re a diehard Rangers fan, you respond in one of two ways: joyous applause or incredulous anger and questioning. If you’re this girl, it’s the second. Of all the things that came out of my mouth while walking to grab lunch that day, some examples are: How could they do this? Why is Sather’s job safe but no coach can get a break? Who the [expletive] will replace him? They’re gonna hire some scrub and the Rangers’ talent is gonna go to waste. I adored John’s passion and fire, and I thought his gritty style of coaching was #therightway. Maybe because my greatest coaches have been like that, maybe cause hockey just seems so hard.
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Photo: Getty Images
When Alain Vigneault had some choice comments for J.T. Miller following his demotion back to the AHL, after being given a golden opportunity to take a critical role for the Rangers, many fans called for AV’s head. The arguments thrown out had nothing to do with his successes as the coach this year, but that he has “never liked kids and refuses to play the kids.” It’s a silly argument actually.
Let’s use AV’s recent history –his stint with the Canucks– as the barometer for playing the kids. He started there as the head coach in 2006-2007. Since the 2004-2005 season never happened, I think it’s fair to start with the 2003 draft as our cutoff for our little experiment, seeing how many kids were drafted by and played for the Canucks under AV. Technically, I can use the 2001 draft since Kevin Bieksa (5th round of 2001 draft) didn’t play his first full season until 2006-2007. But, let’s use 2003 as the cutoff.
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