AnalysisCoachingState of the Rangers

Alain Vigneault Still Looms

Being a Rangers fan over the last few weeks has proven to be a strange existence. A lot of what we’re experiencing has the feel of Seinfeld’s Bizarro World: scoreboard-watching for repercussions on the draft lottery (as opposed to the playoffs), knowing that wins – while often fun – are not the best medicine, and still getting strangely upset at the Blueshirts’ glaring deficiencies while knowing that they’re an objectively bad team at present.

One key thing that remains is the presence of Alain Vigneault.  Indeed, there has been a lot more speculation about AV’s future than one would expect given the situation the organization is in.  A lot of people have pointed to Jeff Gorton’s non-committal comments last month as a sure sign that Vigneault would be fired at season’s end, but other than that, there seems to be a somewhat strong possibility that he may stay.  As Bob McKenzie noted on Wednesday night on NBCSN, the coach’s contract runs through the 2019-20 season at an estimated $4 million per year.  The Rangers would likely have to fork over a lot of that cash up front if they were to let him go.

And then there are comments like the Vigneault made yesterday, when asked why Alexandar Georgiev would be getting a third consecutive start:

Is it perhaps silly (or paranoid) to read too much into this quote?  Probably.  But just the thought of Alain Vigneault factoring into the future of the Rangers is enough to turn a good portion of the Rangers fanbase apoplectic.  Vigneault’s track record with young players is spotty at best, and given that the Rangers are about to commit to youth for the foreseeable future, it’s fair to question whether Vigneault is the right coach to steer the team through its rebuild.

What really sticks out for me when I look at this season is the thing that never happened: what if the Rangers fired Vigneault, as they were apparently very close to doing in October?  Would a new coach have optimized the lineup (i.e., not played Nick Holden on the first pair)?  Would the team have played somewhat better defensively?  Without delving too deeply into all of the external factors (injuries to Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Kreider, of course, would’ve had adverse effects on the team regardless of the head coach), it’s fair to wonder.

And then Rob Luker, who’s always posting interesting stat-based factoids on Twitter (if you don’t follow him, get on it) posted this a few days ago:

I tend to agree with Rob’s conclusion here (and it’s not just because we share a name).  Even after all of the trades, the Rangers have been able to create enough offense to hang with even the best teams in the NHL.  As always, it’s the defense that’s the issue. There are now three full seasons of evidence proving that Alain Vigneault is either unwilling or unable to fix it.

The $64,000 question is whether or not the Rangers realize that. If they do – and if they pick the right coach as his replacement – (both very big ifs), the rebuild may not need to be a long and painful one.

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  • IMHO – a bold move to tear the club down (trade McD…mon dieu!) will be succeeded by a less bolder move to fire the coaching staff.

    • If they decided to keep AV around and he agreed to revert to the way he had the Rangers playing during his first season in NY, I wouldn’t mind. Seems like they turned more pucks over in the neutral zone and played more aggressively up high in the Dzone where teams really can’t hurt you. That forced more odd man rushes and the Rangers were up around 52% CF% as a team that year. It was all downhill from there.

      If I remember correctly, AV said he would start out with a simple strategy year 1 when he was first hired. Then go to a more complex system each season from there but all he did was get worse possession numbers and had the Rangers chasing the puck most of the game. Bad idea for long term success.

  • First thing that needs to be sorted out is what to do with Marc Staal . Would he still stay with the Rangers if he was told he will be slotted as the 7th D man and be watching from up stairs on most nights. Because if AV is still the Coach you know who he will have on the ice PK and last minute of games .Staal was a very good Dman for us but unfortunately ,he can not see the puck at his feet any more and is getting very slow in his on ice reads

    • Were you saying the same thing about Girardi last year? Bc you’ll watch him win a cup on Tampa’s second pair this year, and we are paying for it.

      • Sorry my friend, his contribution is minimal at best!!!!!! He is surrounded by an all star cast, and he’s there for people to skate around, like a traffic cone……….

      • TB plays a low zone collapse which suits Girardi’s strengths. AV would be smart to flip his Dzone coverage and play zone Low and man up high. Force turnovers at the points like they used to do and limit time defending.

  • Eh, they’re 18th of 31 in goals scored. I don’t care how many they were expected to score, only how many they actually did score. I get that the numbers probably fell off after the injuries and trades but you’re claiming that :

    Even after all of the trades, the Rangers have been able to create enough offense to hang with even the best teams in the NHL

    The numbers for actual goals scored don’t bear that out.

    Yes, the defense is a mess and the coaching staff is part of that problem (a big part). But to claim that the Rangers had enough offense to really compete this year is laughable. They were obviously weak at center and clearly lacked (and still do) elite goal-scoring talent.

    None of what I wrote should be construed as special pleading for AV. I think its time for a new voice behind the bench but I hardly think that even a different coach would have made this year’s team (even without the injuries) an legitimate Cup Contender. As far as a new coach “killing the offense” its not clear to me that there’s that much to kill.

    • We’ve lacked an elite goal scorer for quite some time now. Sure we got a couple of good years out of Gaborik and Nash in terms of elite scoring, but basically our teams have scored by committee. Depth is the answer, 4 lines where your 4th line can chip in anywhere from 25-35 goals in a season. Come playoff time 1st and 2nd lines tend to get “nullified” overall, it’s your depth and playing as mistake free as possible that carries teams through — that, plus a little bit of luck and avoiding major injuries.

  • Just the thought that the organization is even considering keeping him as our coach next season makes me ill!!!!!

    What does it take for the two mental midgets, Sather & Dolan to figure out that AV is bad news, especially with the soon to be influx of young kids???????? I just can’t take another season of watching the Pillsbury dough boy behind the bench, chewing like a cow, please say it ain’t so!!!!!!!!

    • Hello Walt,
      Sather and dolan have had almost 20 years together and HAVE NOT figured it out yet……WHAT makes you think they will now???????
      Update on JT Miller……7 games …..5 goals…. 9 points……
      5 years from now we will look back on this idiotic trade and remember it in the same vain as the middleton, ridley, strallman[FA] trades/transactions….
      NOTHING will change for the positive until these three clowns are gone!!!!
      Make that 4 if gorton had anything to do with the trade…..

      • Sather once said that he’d win us cups, plural mind you, if he had NY Rangers money to work with. Still waiting dip shit.

        Dolan is nothing other than a brain dead drunk, who’s only claim to fame is being his daddy’s boy.

        AV is as stubborn as a mule, can’t figure out how to adjust to anything in game situations, always trying to put square pegs in round holes. I wonder if he’s figured it out with the hole having hair on it???? He plays his favorites, sits kids for breathing, dumb as a stump in my book. I had better stop here before I really let loose and tell it like it is, and upset many of his supporters!!

        JG is a smart GM, and if given the opportunity to run the show without the other clowns getting involved, will do a good job, I believe. Time will tell, and in a few months we all will know the answer to the question, “Will Clarabelle return” !!!!!!!

        • I’m not sure I’m actually defending AV here, but when I’m watching the game, they’ve lost AV’s approach to everything.

          The D doesn’t overload, they don’t chase above the dots as much(tough to unlearn bad habits.)

          When they get the puck, they look for controlled zone exits before the stretch pass rather than the other way around. Even the stretch passes are more like long dump ins rather than springing breakaways.

          So you wind up with more controlled entries, much more cycling deep, more actual possession even if it’s not showing up in CF. Really need to see an aggregate shot location against chart before and after Feb 8 to see what’s going on.

          • Reen

            Management must have jumped on his tail, and demanded these changes from his in season norm!!!! I still want to see his tail run out of town, like yesterday……..

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