Alain Vigneault's Calm Working Wonders for Rangers After Tortorella's Anxiety

Adrian DaterNHL National ColumnistMay 30, 2014

Bill Kostroun/AP Images

In a recent article by the New York Times' Ben Shpigel about New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault, one of his former players with Montreal in the 1990s, Jeff Hackett, made a great observation.

While coaches who have lasted as long as Vigneault have turned all gray or look otherwise like they've aged 50 years in only 20, Vigneault looks pretty much the same. The hair is still dark, the complexion mostly line-free.

He looks good for a man of 53. Especially for one who has coached more than 10 years in two Canadian markets—Montreal and Vancouver—and now one in the biggest city in America.

His only concession to stress seems to be his constant gum-chewing. A stick of gum in Vigneault's mouth gets the equivalent workout of a Cirque Du Soleil performer.

Based on the results of Thursday night, it is now clear: What the New York Rangers needed most from their coach was peace through strength. They needed a firm, but calm hand.

The Rangers had a firm hand with their previous coach alright in John Tortorella. They also had a coach who resembled Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny

Whether it was Tortorella's profanity over some players' performances in press conferences, his paranoid, loose-cannon behavior at times actually on the bench, his hang-dog looks after tough goals against or his sideshow sessions of sarcasm and outright bullying with the media, there clearly was disorder in the Tort Court with his teams.

The result was ironic considering Tortorella's methods, as the thing he prized the most was a sense of order.

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 05:  Head coach John Tortorella of the New York Rangers yells at the referee during the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on April 5, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Penguins defeated the Rangers 2-
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Mind you, Tortorella has something Vigneault doesn't as a coach: a Stanley Cup.

But while Vigneault has ascended in recent years, Tortorella's career looks like it's in free-fall after a disastrous one season guiding Vancouver—Vigneault's former team.

The two traded teams, and look what happened. The Rangers are going to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1994. In doing so, indicates that Vigneault became only the 10th coach in NHL history to take two teams to the SCF.

Even those who played on Vigneault's first NHL teams in Montreal could sense he'd have a good future in the NHL, although his record with the Habs was 109-118-35, with a 4-6 playoff mark.

As former Montreal defenseman Eric Weinrich told Shpigel, "Those years he was there, he probably went through more than some coaches will in their whole career."

Vigneault went on to coach seven years in Vancouver, having a winning season in every one, with a trip to the Cup final in 2011. One more win, one more after taking a 3-2 series lead, and Vigneault would have had his name on the same Cup as Tortorella does with his 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning.

Taking this Rangers team to the final figures to deservedly gain Vigneault more and more attention for the masterwork he's put forth.

This was a team that was beset with injuries all year, that had to trade its captain at the deadline and was down 3-1 to a powerful Pittsburgh team in Round 2. Here it is, on the biggest hockey stage of all in the biggest city in the world.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 29:  Alain Vigneault of the New York Rangers speaks at a post game press conference after defeating the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden
Scott Levy/Getty Images

Vigneault adjusted his defense around constantly, finding weaknesses with other teams' top stars and exploiting them for all they were worth.

The way he devised a plan to hound Sidney Crosby in the second round, led by Marc Staal, probably should be required video material for future coaches in similar situations.

We heard a lot about Thomas Vanek coming into this series, but did we hear much about the Habs' hired gun in the Eastern Conference Final? Nope, not much, thanks to Vigneault's relentless forechecking schemes and bees-on-honey attack of the puck once it crossed the New York blue line.

Tortorella's favored method of defense seemed to just sag back in the zone and block all the shots. Hey, that worked at times, thanks to great goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist.

Under Vigneault, however, the Rangers don't have to work as hard in their own zoneprimarily because they are too often getting control of the puck in the other two zones and trying to do something with it offensively.

After Game 6 of the ECF, a 1-0 Rangers win thanks to Dominic Moore's goal, Arpon Basu of reported that Vigneault said the following:

Hard to argue with that. It was a 1-0 blowout. The Habs never got a sniff on Lundqvist, save for a couple of decent forays.

The Rangers are playing for the Stanley Cup. The Canucks, well, they're looking for a coach. It turned out that that "boring old A.V. system" seemed to work OK in the Big Apple.

This sad tweet from a Canucks fan sums it up pretty well:


Adrian Dater has covered the NHL for The Denver Post since 1995. Follow him on Twitter @Adater