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Vigneault Vs. Tortorella: Head To Head

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As we lurch toward the Olympic break, it is a good time to consider the accomplishments, of the two coaches who swapped teams to start the season, John Tortorella of the Vancouver Canucks and Alain Vigneault of the New York Rangers. First of all, Vigneault will never be suspended in a million years. Imagining him rushing to the opponent’s dressing room to confront the coach, is like trying to envision the New York Islanders having more fans than the Rangers; it is never going to happen. Mild-mannered and personable, Vigneault exudes respect for the players, the media, and the fans. He seems to have the proper perspective and knows that he is coaching a sport which is something that is a privilege and should be, above all, fun. When he and the Rangers looked up at the Yankee Stadium frieze they did so with the appreciation of someone in a good dream, pinching themselves to see if it is real. It took a while, but his team now seems approaching its potential and is looking at least as competitive as it did under Tortorella. Some players are also playing their best hockey: Marc Staal, Chris Kreider, Ryan McDonagh, and Matts Zuccarello to name a few. Tortorella’s Canucks, as of this morning, have the same number of points as the Rangers with the Rangers enjoying a game in hand. Given the early season spot the Rangers gave them, it is clear that the 2 teams are headed in different directions. Their recent mirror image records bear this out: the Canucks are 3-7 in their last 10, the Rangers are 7-3. Tortorella claims to be embarrassed by his suspension and its cause; he also notes that the team needs to be changed. Sounds like a ship foundering in the rocky and cold northwest waters. There are still another 25 games or so left in the season, and much can change again. Yet, sitting in second place, the Rangers continue to look at a higher prize. They now seem to have eclipsed the performance of the Canucks and this can be counted as one source of satisfaction this season. The Rangers are better now under their new coach and somehow with the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler, all potent scorers, the Canuck power play looks more like last year’s Rangers, at 29th (!) in the league at 13.6%. The Rangers are currently 10th at 19.8% in that department. It is also interesting to note that Tortorella brought with him the power play coach he employed with the Rangers, Mike Sullivan. This raises my last point. If one continues to do the same things over and over again without success, then one’s ability to think clearly comes into question.  Hiring the same underperforming coaches, repeatedly going off on the press, players and other coaches, repeatedly being suspended, and penalized for it costing money, calls into question just how well attached that noggin is on Tortorella’s head. It is now much easier to ask these questions as the two teams who swapped coaches are now heading in different directions.

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