VIGNEAULT READY TO MAKE AN IMPACT
Added by Ryan Heine on June 27, 2013.
The New York Rangers introduced Alain Vigneault as their new head coach at press conference last friday. Vigneault, the 35th coach in team history, takes over after spending the past seven seasons as the head coach of the Vancouver Canucks. He led the Canucks to six division titles, two Presidents’ Trophies, and a trip to the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. Vigneault’s offensive-minded coaching style and overall positive demeanor contrast with ex-Rangers coach John Tortorella’s attitude greatly. Ironically enough, Tortorella was hired to become Vancouver’s head coach on Tuesday.
(Photo Credit: Mike Stobe, Getty Images)
It is clear that with Vigneault comes with a new attitude to the Rangers organization. That was on display at the coach’s introductory press conference last Friday, as the amiable Vigneault laughed and smiled with reporters at Radio City Music Hall. When asked about his plans for assistant coaches, Vigneault explained that it does not all come down to X’s and O’s.
“I want guys that are upbeat and positive,” Vigneault said. “And that’s my job as the head coach, to create that positive environment where guys are coming in, and they want to come to the rink, they want to work and they want to get better.” Vigneault will bring a new change of atmosphere to the Rangers from Tortorella’s overtly strict regime where he was known for putting struggling players in the doghouse.
Vigneault takes over a team that is expected to start its 2013-14 campaign looking very similar to how it did in lockout-shortened 2013. With restricted free agents Ryan McDonagh, Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan, and Mats Zuccarello all expected to re-sign, the core of the team should remain intact.
The Rangers hope that physical defenseman and team leader Marc Staal can return to action by the beginning of the season after taking a puck to the eye in March. Staal played in just one game after the injury, and although his eye is never expected to make a full recovery, he hopes to return to an elite level. His presence was sorely missed on the blue line at the end of the season, especially in the second round of the playoffs when the physical Boston Bruins knocked the Rangers out in five games.
Staal battles a player along the boards. (photo courtesy of Reuters)
Outside of Staal’s health, the biggest question mark appears to be Brad Richards, who the Rangers signed to a lucrative nine-year, $60 million dollar contract in 2011. The 33-year old Richards put up 34 points in 46 games for New York this year. Although those stats are decent, they gave Richards the fewest points per game of his career. Anyone who watched the team play this past year knows that Richards looked uncomfortable all season long. He played nowhere near what a $6.6 million per year player would play.
The question now for the Rangers is will they attempt to buy out or trade Richards, or will they give him another chance with offense-friendly Vigneault? That remains to be seen. What we do know is that the majority of a team that many people picked to win the 2013 Stanley Cup is back with a proven, upbeat coach. With star Henrik Lundqvist in goal, the team can afford to play a more adventurous, creative and risky style of hockey.
With the likes of Nash, Callahan, Girardi, Staal, and Lundvist all hitting the prime years of their careers, it is time to make it happen. If the Rangers can make a deal or two to bolster their depth on the blue line, they should be one of the top teams in the league. After that, it will be up to Alain Vigneault to find what has been so elusive for the Blueshirts in recent years, offensive consistency.