There are three constants working in the sports business. One, always wear a suit (preferably a well tailored one) to the arena on game day. Two, have thick skin. Three, get results or get out. The latter isn’t something I particularly agree with and those of you familiar with my work here or @thehockeysuit (shameless plug) know that I am process driven and not results driven. Regardless, the fact remains the same. You have to hit your goals in this industry or you go the way of Ned Stark.
All of which brings us to today’s topic – Alain Vigneault.
Last year I wrote a post not so creatively titled “Should the Rangers fire Alain Vigneault?” Sentiment was mixed. Some threw eggs at me for even raising the question. Last go round I took a more neutral stance, offering:
I’ve never liked AV, even in Vancouver, and he wasn’t my pick for coach. Nonetheless, we are where we are and there isn’t anyone available worth hiring. I’d give him another year and at least one better defenseman. If he can’t get us past the second round, see ya.
This time around I am going to take a more definitive stance. The Rangers should fire Vigneault. Not because we didn’t get past the second round or because of the results-driven culture of this industry, but because the process here is broken and that’s on AV and no one else.
What process am I talking aboot?
1. Bench Management
Watching AV manage his bench is eerily familiar to how Tom Renney went about his business. He rides or dies on the backs of his veterans. Under Renney, guys like Callahan and Staal rode pine in big moments while Redden, Rozi, and Gomez got the golden opportunities.
With AV, Brady Skjei, who has been one of our best defensemen since February, watched the 2nd half of third periods and OTs from the bench while Girardi was sent over the boards again and again.
Oscar Lindberg also brought playoff hockey to the table. He was hitting, forechecking, winning board battles, scoring timely goals, etc. How do you only play him under 10 minutes a game? He’s not Stu Bickel.
2. Lack of Accountability
When your power play is clicking at a 7% clip, you should probably bestow icetime to guys who are actually earning it. Derek Stepan had some horrendous games this postseason. Yet, he was rewarded with over a half hour of PP TOI where he contributed a whopping three shots on goal, 3 giveaways, a 42% Face-off %, and one assist.
Go compare those numbers to Mark Letestu, the Oilers 3rd line center. Night and day.
3. Flawed D-Zone System
The Rangers struggles with man-on-man defense since AV got here are well documented on this site. I’ve beaten to death over the years that this squad is not equipped to play that style. Four seasons in and we’re still watching opposing forwards burn our defense and rip by our F3s in the neutral zone.
I’m not advocating for parking the bus, we’re not built for that any more, but watching Hank stand on his head at age 35 isn’t a sustainable strategy. The way the Rangers play hockey we have to score 3-4 goals to even have a chance. That may work in the regular season, but not come May when everyone is gassed.
4. Coaching Candidates
Last year I said there wasn’t anyone worth hiring. This year, not so. If you want pedigree, Dan Byslma and Darryl Sutter have both won Cups in the modern NHL. Paul MacLean, a Jack Adam finalist and Mike Babcock disciple, never had much in the way of resources in Ottawa, but consistently had them playing puck possession hockey, if you care about that sort of thing.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have Jack Capuano, who somehow managed to steer the worst franchise in the NHL to three postseasons with some really green talent. There are numerous AHL coaches getting looked at for vacancies in Buffalo, Florida, and LA before Stevens got hired. And of course there’s always Mark Messier ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
In the end, AV likely won’t get fired. He’s a good coach and he’s gotten results everywhere he’s been. But in my humble opinion, just because he’s a good coach doesn’t necessarily make him the right coach for this roster moving forward. If it were up to me, I’d move on.