Why Alain Vigneault Is the Smart Choice for New York Rangers Head Coach

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor IJune 11, 2013

According to Katie Strang of ESPN New York, today Alain Vigneault interviewed for the New York Rangers head coach position. 

Whenever a coach is fired it makes sense to make a change. The Rangers have interest in Lindy Ruff, but he is another gruff and vociferous coach whose message could wear thin on a group that just ousted a head coach.

Dallas Eakins was another option, but he was just hired by the Edmonton Oilers

The Rangers have stated that they want to have a bench boss in place before the NHL draft later this month, and here are reasons why Vigneault is the smart choice to become the Rangers' 34th head coach.


1. Vigneault is a proven winner.

Vigneault has been one of the NHL's most successful coaches in recent memory, and he has a proven track record. In 540 games with the Canucks, Vigneault posted a record of 313-170-57.

He also won a Jack Adams Award and led the Canucks to two Presidents' trophies and six division titles. Since Vigneault's name has been brought up as a potential replacement for Tortorella, critics and fans have cited the Canucks' poor postseason performances. 

Despite the Canucks' recent playoff woes, Vigneault was not the problem. If there is anyone to blame for the Canucks' playoff failures it is general manager Mike Gillis. 

Gillis horrendously botched the Roberto Luongo situation, and Gillis did not adequately build the Canucks for a playoff run this year. If Gillis handled the Luongo situation properly the Canucks would have been a stronger team that could have adequately competed during the playoffs.

Every NHL coach has a shelf life, and Vigneault's time simply was up with the Canucks. Vigneault may not have the Cup ring that Tortorella had, but he still has had a great deal of success.


2. Vigneault is a modern coach.

Thomas Drance from Canucks Army had a solid analysis of Vigneault once he was relieved of his duties. Drance is the managing editor of Canucks Army, and he also writes for The Sporting News. One of the pros named by Drance was Vigneault's modern strategies.

Under Tortorella, the Rangers played a system that emphasized defense and shot blocking, and they were criticized for playing a pre-2005 lockout style of hockey. Tortorella is a stubborn coach, and maybe one of the reasons the Rangers were not effective was because of their playing style, and with Vigneault that would change.

Drance stated:

Alain Vigneault's deployment patterns - from his disciplined massaging of matchups to his innovative use of "zone matching" - are massive positives that he brings to the table as the Canucks' head coach.

Beyond that, his in-house tracking of micro-stats and, more importantly, his use of that data to inform deployment decisions, give him a big edge over at least half of the other head coaches in the league.

After reading those paragraphs, you immediately get a sense that Vigneault is an intelligent coach and he is stylistically different than Tortorella. When you consider that the Rangers no longer wanted to play for Tortorella and his style of play, it only would make sense for them to bring in someone like Vigneault.

As a modern coach, Vigneault will likely have more than one assistant coach, and that could help on the power play. Here is how the Canucks' power play ranked during the last four seasons.

Year Power-play Efficiency NHL Rank
12-13 15.8 percent 22nd
11-12 19.8 percent 4th
10-11 24.3 percent 1st
09-10 20.9 percent 6th


3. He knows how to handle young talent and develop players.

Vigneault spent ten years as a coach in the QMJHL and he led the 1987–88 Hull Olympiques to a championship. Vigneault's knowledge at the Junior level is very important, and his experience in that area will allow him to relate to young players.

There was an incident with Cody Hodgson a few years back, but it is another situation that can be pinned on Mike Gillis.

The Rangers have a number of young prospects and players in their system, and having someone like Vigneault will be beneficial. He understands what it is like to spend time with youngsters riding buses from city to city, so he won't have players re-called and sent down haphazardly.

One of the criticisms of Tortorella in 2012-13 was his handling of Chris Kreider, and a coach like Vigneault probably would have handled things differently. 

Drance also had this to say about the Vigneault when it comes to developing players.

The list of players who've come up and become quality NHLers under Alain Vigneault's tutelage includes: Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, Jannik Hansen, Mason Raymond, Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa and Cory Schneider.

The players listed currently are in important roles with the Canucks, and Vigneault behind the bench would be great for players like Derick Brassard, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and other players who are still developing.


4. He can handle the media.

It is clear that Tortorella and the media did not have a great relationship. In New York the media is tough, but the media in Vancouver is a lot tougher on a sport that is revered with devotion. If Vigneault could handle himself in Vancouver he will have no problem dealing with the spotlight in Broadway.

Every coach is bound to have flare-ups, but having Vigneault at the podium would be more pleasant than having Tortorella.

Things didn't work out with Tortorella, and the Rangers are heading in a different direction. Hiring a head coach soon is very important, and Vigneault is the man for the job.

However, Glen Sather will be very busy once he hires a coach because he will have to tailor the team to the coach's style. The Rangers currently have a ton of players left that embody Tortorella's personality, and once a head coach is named, don't be surprised if the Rangers shake things up.


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