In his time with the New York Rangers, Alain Vigneault has been a source of controversy. His decisions with young players specifically has caused an uproar within the Rangers fanbase. For the sake of his job, he can’t make those same mistakes this year.
Coaching is a big part of any team in any league. The New York Rangers learned this the hard way as their coaching was a large reason why they lost in the second round of the playoffs. S
hortly after, the Rangers made a big splash behind the bench when they hired Lindy Ruff as an assistant coach. Was this done to light a fire under Alain Vigneault? Maybe so.
One thing is for sure; the Rangers hired him because there is a chance that Vigneault can be fired any time during this season.
Vigneault joined the Rangers as head coach in the Summer of 2013. In his first year with the Rangers, he took them to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1994. For players and fans, we all, unfortunately, know how that went. However, despite losing in the final, many believed that the Rangers were destined to return to the final and win it all.
It all looked great the next year as the Rangers went on to win the President’s Trophy for the first time since 1994. Just one win away from the final, they were shutout on home ice, losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games. From then on it went downhill.
The height of the Rangers consistent success was in the 2014-2015 season. Since then, they have had decent regular seasons, but brutal playoff failures. Just two years since going to the final, they lost in five games to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. The year after (this year) they lost in the second round to the underdog Ottawa Senators in brutal fashion.
The real conflict about Vigneault became evident when it came down to how his young players were utilized. We have seen recently many instances in which AV benched young and agile forwards and defenseman to play more experienced and banged up veterans.
Most notably, this took place in the Ottawa series in which Brady Skjei and his two goals could not make up for the fact Marc Staal was more deserving of ice time. Ultimately, that decision did not pay off, and it just was the beginning of the Rangers postseason demise.
Henrik Lundqvist isn’t getting any younger. If another year goes by without the Rangers winning a cup with Hank, the window will continue to close rapidly. Given that Rangers management has assembled a phenomenal defense and has become younger up-front, it would be a crying shame if this year was not the championship year. For Alain Vigneault, he would likely be the scapegoat of Rangers players and fans alike.
Luckily, this is easily avoidable. All Vigneault essentially has to do is play younger players and rookies and give them a chance to shine in the NHL. Since we may be seeing rookies make up a good portion of the bottom six, it is crucial that they get the playing time they need to develop.
While this can get accomplished without much difficulty, AV might go back to his old ways. Doing this would most likely cost the Rangers points in a tough division and maybe could drop them out of playoff contention. Should instances like these occur, it is all very likely we could be seeing the last of AV behind the Rangers bench.
Should the decision to fire Alain Vigneault become necessary, the Rangers have an excellent backup. Coming from the Dallas Stars is Lindy Ruff. Ruff served as the longest tenured head coach of the Buffalo Sabres before making a move to the Stars. With the Stars, Ruff worked closely with young players who have developed into big time NHL names.
The Rangers hired him as a replacement to Jeff Beukeboom who now works in the front office. Also, Ruff’s experience with rookies makes him a coveted prize amongst the organization. Ruff, a defensive minded coach, should work well with a revamped Rangers defense and Lundqvist. Unlike many assistant coaches, Ruff also will surely be a big voice in the locker room.
Anytime coaches change mid-season it shakes up the locker room too much for comfort. Hopefully, Vigneault paired with great hockey minds like Lindy Ruff will guide the Rangers right to the Stanley Cup.