Alain Vigneault: Skilled Motivator, Hockey Genius or Both?
“Alain Vigneault has had success throughout his career and his coaching style is a perfect fit for the Rangers,” GM Glen Sather said when AV was hired June 21st, 2013. “We feel very fortunate to have him leading this team, as we continue to pursue our ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup.”
Alain Vigneault has proven he has a brilliant mind for the game of hockey. He has coached several excellent Canucks teams and led the Rangers to the Stanley Cup finals in his first year as head coach. Vigneault, however, doesn’t get enough credit for his ability to motivate his players.
Vigneault’s most recent project was Benoit Pouliot. Last season Pouliot signed a one year deal with the Rangers for $1.3 million, according to Capgeek. After the one year stint with coach Alain Vigneault, Pouliot found himself accepting a five year deal worth 20 million dollars.
Vigneault told Pat Leonard of the Daily News about helping Pouliot develop his game. “he hasn’t shown it yet here , either (his ability). I’ve had this conversation with Ben. I’ve had this conversation with a few players in my career. You only get so many kicks at the can here, and you only get so many teams.”
Vigneault talked to Pouliot when he started the year slow with the Rangers. After this discusion Pouliot had a new look to his game. Pouliot went on to become a key part of the Rangers Cup run on a line with Mats Zuccarello, and Derick Brassard.
Vigneault compared Pouliot’s situation to a talk he had in the past with Chris Higgins in Vancouver.
“The guy that comes to mind for me right now is Chris Higgins. Like I remember when I had Chris, when he walked in my office, he had just gone through four teams. It was his fourth team in a year and a month or two. I said, “Chris, this is it, son.’ We talked about what he needed to do on the ice, what he needed to do off the ice, and he figured it out. For whatever reason, I caught him at the right time, and at that time with his maturity, he figured it out, and he’s become, in my opinion, one of the best, most dependable two-way players that I’ve seen in a long time.” Higgins is still a productive depth winger with the Canucks, for the last five seasons.
Vigneault took a slightly different approach this season when trying to wake the Rangers from a funk. He criticized the core Rangers defenders and they responded well.
Vigneault told Dan Martin of the New York Post “He hasn’t been the Marc Staal I saw last year when we were winning games. I can say the same thing of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi and the rest of the group.” The Rangers have gone 4-1-1 since the comment made by Vigneault. The message wasn’t typical of Vigneault, but that is what made it strong.
Vigneault’s style is cool, calm, and collected. You almost never see him yelling on the bench and when guys struggle you don’t hear him talk to the media much about it. Look at Mike Kostka. After the game against the Islanders, where Kostka was in the middle of a ton of bad plays; Vigneault down played the mistakes, and backed his player. “mistakes are going to happen in a game. You can’t not play a player who makes a mistake, it’s a game of mistakes. You need to give them an opportunity to play through them and have them find a way to contribute and bounce back. In this case it didn’t go the way that Mike anticipated and that is it.” On Saturday Kostka rewarded Vigneault by playing a very solid game when the Rangers were missing two defensemen.
Players listen to Vigneault and trust him, because when he says something about the game they know he means it and it serves the player’s best interest. He has a way of getting through to players who have struggled to find roles, that ability allows him to maximize his team’s potential.
The fact that he won’t turn his back on them in a game when they’ve made a mistake is key also. That feeling of knowing one mistake won’t staple your rear end to the bench can only instill confidence in a player.
When you couple his knowledge of the game, his coaching tactics and his leadership qualities, it’s no wonder the Rangers have found early success under Alain Vigneault.
Below is a video of Vigneault having some fun during a game.