Alain Vigneault: Credit Where it’s Due
On the heels of the Tampa Bay romping, a certain coaching decision has not been discussed. One common opinion from Rangers fans is Alain Vigneault’s inability to move on from his safe and trusted options in favor of a possible better-fit. There may be more than meets the surface with these decisions, but for us fans, there appears to be a ceiling that certain players are unable to pass through. Conversely, once crossing over this ceiling, it takes an abundance of wrong doing in order to lose that role.
Alain Vigneault developed a strong amount of support for Jesper Fast over the last few years. We have seen “Quickie” play a variety of roles, from a 4th line penalty kill specialist to a top-6 winger. Fast earned this support due to the lack of mistakes that come with his game, allowing AV to be confident in him wherever he is deployed. However, Fast is not a goal scorer, and seeing his inability to capitalize when in the mix of the top-9 can be frustrating, especially when forwards down the ranks do have that sought out scoring touch.
After the slew of injuries that plagued the Rangers to start the year, Fast was promoted from the fourth line to a wing-spot next to Hayes and Miller. While there, Hayes and Miller continued to shine with little to show for it on the nightly box-score. In previous seasons, Vigneault may have continued to force Fast into that role, despite a possible disconnect between him and his line mates. But that was not the case Sunday night, as Alain made a necessary adjustment and bumped the trusted Jesper for a newcomer.
Enter Michael Grabner. Sunday night we saw a relatively untrusted option get his chance. Michael Grabner had shown glimpses of his goal scoring ability earlier in his career and showcased that talent against the Lightning. Hayes and Miller are both playing some of the best hockey they have since joining the Rangers. They have utilized their size, speed, and skill to create scoring chance for themselves and the rest of the line. By adding possibly the team’s fastest forward to their side, the Rangers produced four goals in two spectacular periods of hockey.
Moving a goal-scoring winger to this line was needed, and Grabner proved why. Alain Vigneault made the right call and moved out of his comfort zone which paid off tremendously, something that has not been praised as much as it should be. This is the work of a good coach. Recognizing the skill of each player on the roster and deploying where they fit best. Nothing against Fast, because he does bring a lot to this team, but goal scoring is just not his forte. Hayes and Miller needed someone else on their line and AV did just that.
The Right Decisions
The forward group that Jeff Gorton put together has immense talent. The youthful combination of skill, speed, and size is something that organizations across the league covet. Under the proper management Alain Vigneault has unlocked a team that averages 3.9 goals per game, good for first in the league.
Rangers newcomers are not the only ones making strides in the right direction this year, so is the coach. The next big test? Evaluating the current lineup and deciding what adjustments are to be made when Chris Kreider makes his return.
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