Archive for Coaching

alain vigneault

Photo: Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

For years now, the Rangers have tailored their system around quality over quantity. It was a little maddening watching the Rangers get out-shot on a game by game basis, but it worked. The Rangers had the skill to back it up, and their high SH% was no fluke. This drove regular season success, and helped them to a Stanley Cup Final and Conference Final.

Fast forward to this season, and it all seems to be coming apart. While most of this was expected on the defensive end, it’s the lack of goals that does come as a little bit of a surprise. The Rangers are still talented up front, but it seems to come in spurts. Lately, those spurts have been Rick Nash or bust. And there is a very clear reason for that as well. The system is not designed to handle a combination of injuries and lack of depth.

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Jan
08

Midseason Report Card: The coaches

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alain vigneault

Photo: Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Note: West coast games stink. I was asleep long before the game ended. I figure this post will suffice, given the bizarre roster choices made last night.

The Rangers have hit the midseason point of the year, and have a perfectly timed bye week to celebrate. I say it is perfectly times because it gives us a chance to do all the report cards before the Rangers play another game. Rob did the top-six forwards on Saturday, and it’s my turn to cover coaching.

The Rangers have four key coaches: Scott Arniel (powerplay/forwards), Lindy Ruff (PK/defense), Benoit Allaire (goalies), and Alain Vigneault (head honcho and decision maker). I promise to be as impartial as possible.

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lindy ruff

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.

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Oct
26

The past and present: comparing coaches

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I miss you, Torts

There’s a reason that there has been so much chatter around Alain Vigneault, questioning his ability to coach the team for success. Forgetting the obvious issues on the ice, an important theme to remember with sports, especially in a large market, is recency bias. What have you done for me lately?

If your response is “take the team to the Stanley Cup Final,” well, I have some potentially upsetting news for you: it’s 2017. The team lost it all in June, 2014. In the past three years, the Rangers have made it to the Eastern Conference Finals (2015), the first round (2016), and the second round (last May), in exactly that order. It’s been a while since the team has made it very far, and the talent continues to wither under some confusing management.

When Vigneault joined the team mid-2013, it was a refreshing change of pace from the gritty, physical John Tortorella-era Rangers. Unfortunately, at this rate, is Vigneault really much different from what Tortorella became with the Rangers?

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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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