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.
This brought up a major question: Is Ruff here to put AV on the hot seat? If so, how hot is AV’s seat and when will Ruff take over?
It’s tough to gauge whether Ruff was brought in to put pressure on AV, but it’s worth noting that AV reportedly pushed for Ruff’s hire. It could be a simple case of bringing on an experienced coach who plays the same system to help what is likely going to be a young blue line with at least one rookie and one sophomore.
However it cannot be ignored that AV has taken a lot of fire for his lineup choices. Jeff Gorton has effectively taken away his toys (Glass, Girardi, likely one of Staal/Holden soon too), so now it’s on AV to adjust and dress some kids who he may not feel comfortable with yet. But remember, comfortable doesn’t always mean good. Comfortable can sometimes mean complacent.
If AV cannot make the necessary adjustments, if he continues to rely on ineffective players in big roles, if he continues to give big acquisitions minimal minutes, then he could very well be on the hot seat. We will discover a lot about AV in October, specifically with his deployment of Kevin Shattenkirk and Anthony DeAngelo. If Shatty gets the Yandle treatment and DeAngelo the Clendening treatment, then AV isn’t long for New York.
All this said, I don’t get the impression that AV is on the hot seat. He just signed a contract extension, and in all fairness, overachieved with last year’s roster (of course they under achieved in the playoffs, but we beat that to death already). For the haters, you’re stuck with him. I personally am intrigued by what he does with the defense. Terrified. But intrigued.