FullTilt FlashBack: Who Is Alain Vigneault?

Alain Vigneault NYR (Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

Alain Vigneault NYR (Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

“Ice and Easy” chimed one headline. “Warm and Fuzzy” was uttered by a sports radio host. Yes Ranger fans, Alain Vigneault is the antithesis of John Tortorella when it comes to personality. However, Glen Sather’s charge that AV “loves offense” and other media assumptions that he will help develop our young prospects are off.

This is not to say AV will not be a smashing success in NY, because I believe he will be. Although my perspective on what success means comes down to WINS during the regular season and playoffs, with hopefully a very large silver shiny thing in the end. Others want their cake and the rest of the bakery too! If you are expecting the Rangers to become a top 5 scoring team and develop young rookies like JT Miller, Christian Thomas, etc… YOU’RE WRONG!

Let’s start with this question, if AV is so awesome, why did he get fired? For this we should head to Vancouver. Let’s start with a piece written by Daniel Wagner for the Vancouver Sun. He writes:

“What is surprising, however, is that one of the big reasons he’s being touted as an upgrade is because he’s an offensive coach. In fact, Glen Sather specifically said that Vigneault “loves the offensive game” in the press conference introducing the new head coach. That will come as a shock to Vigneault’s biggest detractors in Vancouver, who bemoaned his tendency to lapse into boring, defensive hockey at the drop of a hat.”

Whoa! Did Glen sell us a bridge or something? I warned you in my interview with Jason Ward (former Canadien and Ranger) that “he is more defensive minded”. FTR decided to dig and review the hardest evidence out there…STATS!  Since 2009 AV’s Canucks averaged 3.09 goals per game, while yielding only 2.46! That is pretty damn good. However, we need something to compare and contrast in order to pass judgment.

First, I pulled up the numbers for Tort’s Rangers since 2009. As expected, Torts did score less but also gave up fewer. The Rangers averaged 2.75 goals a game and gave up 2.43. Nothing wrong with these numbers either. However, will the .34 goal difference really make us the Pittsburgh Penguins? Of course not! But it sure will be nice to have a few more goals during the year.

Let’s talk about the Penguins, in fact lets look at the Capitals and Blackhawks too! Over the same span the Pens average goals for is 3.20, Hawks 3.17 and Caps 3.10. Are those coaches more offensive minded? Maybe, but I look at it as “Damn it’s nice to have Crosby, Malkin, Kane, Toews, Ovechkin and Backstrom!”

Does all that offense mean wins? Sure it does! Since 2009 those teams are averaging over 40 wins a piece! Let’s look at the flip side and see what a more defensive approach yields. I present to you the Boston Bruins, who have won a Cup since 2009 and are playing against the Hawks in the Finals. Their average goals for is a paltry 2.89 but have only yielded a measly 2.40 goals per game. They too average 40 wins a year. To that I say “Damn it’s nice to have Chara, Marchand and Lucic!”

Let me now attack this perception that once he takes the reins, Chris Kreider and every young player will be ALL-STARS! This is a fallacy. Jason Ward revealed that AV doesn’t like to play rookies. His evidence was first hand because his first pro year was under AV. I know what you are saying, “He’s just one example!” Good enough. Let’s go back to Vancouver and find out more. Thomas Drance of CanucksArmy.com writes:

This is sort of a mixed bag, frankly, because there have been young players who Alain Vigneault trusted to take on a big role (Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows etc.). But there have also been several young players who have gotten the short end of the stick, bounced around the lineup with limited rhyme or reason, while being arguably misused (Cody Hodgson, Zack Kassian and Jordan Schroeder, for example).

Let’s take Zack Kassian, pretty much the crown jewel of Vancouver’s anemic youth movement. He performed well with the twins early on this season, but he’s since seen time mostly on the fourth line or on the third line alongside Maxim Lapierre and David Booth (neither of whom has much offensive value).

Kassian’s possession numbers are good, but he’s had limited power-play time and been unlucky by the bounces this season. He’s also spent a few games on the fourth-line playing his off-wing. Vigneault is trying to win games with a short-handed team this season, but it would be nice to see a player of Kassian’s ilk given a predictable role on a nightly basis.

So why am I writing all this? The answer is simple, I want Alain Vigneault to be successful in New York. Those in the media and us as fans need to temper our expectations. We should look to the past for what the future may hold. That past shows AV will breathe new life in to this team. He will open up the game just a little more and not sacrifice to much defense in order to do so. He will also develop young talent, as long as that talent is ready and fits his plans. Our only expectations should be that  AV will give the Rangers the best chance to win and hopefully obtain the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup.

*This article was originally published 6/23/13

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Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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