The New York Rangers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Ottawa Senators. It is now time to usher in a new era of Rangers hockey. That means bringing in a new coach.
In 2013, the New York Rangers fired their Head Coach who had recently signed a contract extension. They hired a new coach, and that new coach brought them to the Stanley Cup Final in his first year with the team. The move proved the team needed a new voice, a new system, and a change to push them over the hump.
The coach that was fired was John Tortorella, and his replacement was Alain Vigneault. It’s now time for the Rangers to repeat history, but with Alain Vigneault receiving the boot this time. Oh, and Scott Arniel must join Vigneault out the door. Here’s why.
Failure to Adapt
Alain Vigneault’s greatest weakness is his failure to adapt. Vigneault put Nick Holden and Marc Staal on the ice late in Game Two against the Montreal Canadiens. New York blew the lead. In Game Two against the Ottawa Senators, Vigneault failed to place his best defensemen on the ice once again.
The Rangers blew the lead once again.
Finally, in Game Five, Alain Vigneault allowed Tanner Glass to play in a one goal game with under two minutes remaining. Marc Staal was on the ice as well.
The Rangers blew the lead.
Sure, that’s breaking down only one time Vigneault failed to adapt. However, the times piled up throughout the regular season and post-season.
Despite playing like a sixth pair defenseman, Nick Holden racked up important minutes until the last few games of the season. Holden played more time on the power-play than Jimmy Vesey in an elimination game.
When the Rangers needed an offensive spark, Vigneault refused to turn to Adam Clendening. Instead, the coach plugged Kevin Klein into the lineup.
On the power-play, Vigneault and Arniel watched the team struggle without making changes. Derek Stepan remained in the Alexander Ovechkin spot despite his slow decision making process. Brady Skjei found himself stapled to the second unit despite being the top set-up man.
The power-play was slow and gradual without change, and opponents recognized that. They learned how to stop it, but New York never adapted. That’s on Vigneault and Arniel.
Failure to Trust the Youth
One of the greatest weaknesses Alain Vigneault displayed in his time as Vancouver Canucks coach was a failure to trust the youth. New York is now a youthful team, with players like Pavel Buchnevich and Brady Skjei making up the future of the franchise.
Buchnevich was a press-box regular in the post-season, and Brady Skjei couldn’t get any ice time late in games. New York fell because Vigneault was too stubborn to trust his talented youngsters with important ice time. Instead, Vigneault opted to play his guys, riding or dying with the players he knew what he was getting out of.
That’s not how things must work, though.
Even if Jeff Gorton purges New York’s roster of all of Alain Vigneault’s favorite veterans, we know what the coach is capable of. Alain Vigneault chose Tanner Glass over Pavel Buchnevich for post-season playing time. Vigneault opted for Kevin Klein over Adam Clendening when he wanted a spark from his defense.
Dan Girardi and Marc Staal received key minutes throughout the regular season and post-season. Tanner Glass was on the ice up a goal with fewer than two minutes remaining in Game Five of the second round of the post-season. Read that sentence again and try to explain why the Rangers would not fire Vigneault.
Alain Vigneault latches on to specific players and never lets go. He will find those players on any given roster, and it’s detrimental to the team’s success. The kids must play, and the 18th man must be the 18th man.
A New Voice
New York failed to come out of the gate firing far too often this season and post-season. In an elimination Game Six, the Rangers fell down early to the Ottawa Senators. New York looked out of sorts, coughing up the puck regularly.
Throughout the season, New York looked like a team that needed a change. They needed to be pushed. However, the series against the Senators was the final straw. New York was the better team, boasted a better roster, yet could not win the series.
Several players were passengers throughout the post-season. Kevin Hayes looked awful in a defensive role not fit for him. J.T. Miller could not overcome playing on a line with Tanner Glass more often than not. We could go on and on listing Rangers that under-performed, but the point is clear.
New York did not play their best hockey when it mattered most. Some of that blame lies on the players, but plenty of it goes to the coach. It’s a coaches job to get the most out of his players. Alain Vigneault failed to do that.
As the Rangers look to make a run with an improved roster next season, it’s essential that the players have a coach they wish to listen to. It no longer appears like that coach is Vigneault. Any worries about his contract extension should be thrown out the window, as some team will pick him up before he becomes too costly for New York.
The time is now to recognize the issues at hand. Scott Arniel and Alain Vigneault must be the scapegoats for a season that ended too soon.