If Vigneault is fired, why not Marc Crawford

It has been said that every professional sports General Manager keeps a list of 5-7 names he would look to speak with for each front office/coaching position handy in his desk in case that day comes. If Larry Brooks is right, that day may come soon for the New York Rangers.

There is considerable chatter circulating within the industry that Tuesday night’s match at the Garden against Vegas could determine the fate of coach Alain Vigneault” – Larry Brooks NY Post

As was first brought up here on Full Tilt on Oct 11, there is considerable dissent among the Rangers leadership and the mood has soured between players and coach. This is not an indictment of Alain Vigneault, rather it is proof of the life cycle of an NHL coach.

On our Center Ice Podcast, Craig Custance discussed just how deep AV’s competitiveness goes. In 2011, when the Canucks played the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals, then-Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault and then-Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien, who were very close and had played together in the past and kept in very close contact; Julien told Custance “by the end of the series that relationship was strained and I’m not sure it’s ever been the same.” This just goes to show the intensity of Alain Vigneault and how much he wants to win. The point simply is, Alain Vigneault is not a bad coach. He’s a very good coach and one of the better hockey minds there is in the game. However, every coach’s cycle comes to an end at some point and it seems more likely than not that his cycle has come to an end.

Brooks’ article brings up a few questions, that then lead to answers, which provide more questions; each of which brought me to the conclusion of where I see this team turning. If chatter coming out from the Rangers organization is stating that Alain Vigneault’s days are numbered, why not rip the band-aid off immediately. Brooks even asserts the same.

If an organization is unsure the coach is the right guy, then he is the wrong guy. Going game by game only postpones the inevitable. It leaves too much undone. Leaves too much opportunity for excuse-making and rationalizations. If this is just the matter of when, then sooner the better for everyone’s benefit. – NY Post

The question beckons, why wait from Saturday until Tuesday and waste valuable practice time if you’re only delaying the inevitable? You can pull the plug and insert Lindy Ruff so he can begin to prepare the team; unless you’re looking outside the organization in which case, time would make sense.

In 2014, when the Rangers hired Alain Vigneault, there were a few names floated around that were serious candidates for the head coaching job. Lindy Ruff was one of them, Mark Messier was another. Marc Crawford was “interested” and pointed out that he’s coached Messier and Brad Richards and worked with Sather in the past during that process. As we all know Alain Vigneault was given the job, and it was the right call at the time. He led the team to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance, a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals, as well as a Presidents Trophy. 

Coming back to the replacement now three years later, Lindy Ruff is on the bench with Alain Vigneault, Mark Messier isn’t walking through that door, and I don’t see (although it’d be great) Daryl Sutter packing up his life on the west coast to come east and coach a team.

In comes New York Rangers brass: Schoenfeld, Leger, Father & Risebrough all arriving at the game between Monday’s matchup between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators. Now here’s where deductive reasoning comes in. It’s very rare to have senior staff at one game, and that one game is between Montreal and Ottawa. However, the Rangers were just in Montreal two days ago, so if they were there to talk to Montreal about a trade, logic would dictate they could’ve gotten that done when the team was in Montreal. What if they were there to discuss a trade with Ottawa’s GM?

Well, that answers that. If it’s so rare for Rangers top executives to attend a game, and that team’s GM isn’t there, then there probably isn’t a trade being discussed between the two teams. Which leads to the guy on Ottawa’s bench, Marc Crawford, as the most logical reason for Sather & Co. to be in town. Probably to speak with him in person and go over what he could expect if he was to take over the Rangers. Going back to the list I mentioned before, since 2014, Marc Crawford has only grown his impressive résumé. Since then, he was able to recruit Auston Mathews to come play for him in the Swiss League, as well as having success as an associate coach in Ottawa. Crawford’s name was mentioned as a possibility for every head coaching vacancy this past offseason, meaning he’s nearing the point where he can take his time and pick his next destination, if he so chooses. In this case, it makes perfect sense for Rangers brass to make the trip up north to sit down with Crawford to discuss a unique mid-season move to take over in New York.

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Taking over wouldn’t be something new to Marc Crawford. During the 1998-99 NHL season, Marc Crawford took over for Mike Keenan in Vancouver midseason, after four successful seasons with the Colorado Avalanche which consisted of a Stanley Cup. After Vancouver, Crawford coached briefly in LA and then again in Dallas. That was when Crawford decided to further his résumé and began a four-year stint in the Swiss league with ZSC Lions, former Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein’s current team, where he won a Swiss Cup. three Swiss League regular season titles and a Swiss League Championship. Crawford has grown as a head coach and learned many styles of coaching in his time, having taken in the style of the 90’s and being successful; coaching in the Swiss League has also added to his arsenal and he’s become quite fond of analytics as well, something that a faction of Ranger fans lay up at night worrying about.

“I have always been at the forefront of analytics.

We utilize statistics for zone time, zone exits, zone entries, scoring chances, momentum swings and of coarse, shots, hits, giveaways, takeaways, and goals.

I have long been a proponent of using the info to develop your practices, to utilize your match ups and to aid in the development of your line combos and D pairings.

I am constantly looking for the edge and I do believe that interpreting the data is of more importance than collecting it.” – Marc Crawford

Piecing it all together, Crawford makes the most sense for the New York Rangers who have a veteran core, but a lot of youth that needs to be developed, something he was successful at in Vancouver and Internationally. If the Rangers are looking for a clean slate, Marc Crawford may just provide just that.