As Vigneault grips tighter, dissension grows in the Rangers locker room?

Things are not well in the Rangers locker room. As Alain Vigneault continues to remain stubborn, play favorites, and fails to accept responsibility for some of the team’s shortcomings, player dissension in the room grows.Note: this article is based off an unconfirmed source and my interpretation of what is happening. This is just a blog and we have no sources within the team.

It’s Been Brewing and Only Getting Worse

FTNYR has learned through a unconfirmed source with knowledge of the situation, that some have actually expressed their concerns all the way up to owner, James Dolan. Veterans and team leaders like, Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash, and Marc Staal may have all felt the need to speak up. To be fair, it wasn’t all anti-Vigneault talk, some of it was about their dissatisfaction with the team’s decision to trade Derek Stepan. However, his management style and treatment of players was likely brought up.

Younger players aren’t big fans either. They like AV about as much as he likes them. J.T. Miller is a prime example of a player that’s had enough of being benched and bounced around the lineup. He’s especially frustrated with being held to a different level of accountability as some of the vets. What shouldn’t be lost is how he has remained professional throughout, but he’s not a happy. This pattern seems to be continuing with Anthony DeAngelo. The young blue liner was the only roster player acquired in the Derek Stepan trade and has been benched and scratched in favor of veteran d-man, Steven Kampfer.

Photo: Paul J. Bereswill

It seems many of the players have grown tired of how he handles things, including some of his comments to management and the media. I brought this up all the way back in his first season in New York, where after an October romping by San Jose he ripped the players for not being able to learn his system. To AV’s credit, he did take blame last year for the Rangers woeful special teams. Still that was likely the only time in 4 seasons he’s done that. He certainly didn’t take any responsibility for his roster management and on ice deployments in the Rangers collapse versus Ottawa in the playoffs.

Now here we are and things don’t seem to be getting better. After just 4 games the Rangers seem unprepared to play games. This was an issue last season as well. The opposition has scored first and early in every game this year so far. That includes the shutout win versus Montreal, where the Canadiens had 2 goals disallowed in the first period before the Rangers scored late.

The question begs to be asked, has AV lost the room? It may seem ridiculous to say after just 4 games, but this has been stemming since last year.

In last night’s post game the captain, Ryan McDonagh made a noteworthy comment. He was discussing the poor starts and said, “That’s on myself, the other leaders, and the older guys in here have got to find a way to get this group going from the start.” Make of it what you will, but it could also be taken as the players don’t feel that direction will be coming from their coach anytime soon.

The Organization is Backing AV

On January 30th, 2017 of last season, the Rangers extended Alain Vigneault for 2 more years. GM, Jeff Gorton did not want him going into this season as a lame duck coach. As far as the players speaking to Dolan, let’s just say while he may be sympathetic, he appears firmly in AV’s corner.

“My relationships with the people here — from Jeff, who is my immediate boss, to my staff, to [owner] Jim Dolan, who I get along with him real well — it was a pretty easy decision as far as, you’re a coach, you want to have a chance, and you have a first-class organization, so we take the offer.” – NY POST

It also seems AV is using that leverage and leaning on the players more this season, as their struggles continue. FTNYR has also learned that AV is demanding the players stay in the City overnight before a home game. While that’s common practice for the playoffs, it is new for the regular season. This has many of the players who live in the suburbs with their wives and children very upset.

Is this punishment for poor play to start the year, or for taking their complaints all the way up to ownership? We can only speculate, but being this iron fisted so early in a season does make one wonder.

Lastly, for those who think Lindy Ruff was brought in as a potential replacement for Vigneault, think again. Reports made it seem that assistant coach, Scott Arneil casually broached the subject with his former teammate to come to NY. The truth is, Alain Vigneault was the key figure in getting him over. Arneil doesn’t ask Ruff without AV’s blessing first, it’s that simple.

The Situation is Worth Keeping An Eye On

A dejected McDonagh (NYR TV)

Winning cures many things. If the Rangers can find a way to right themselves, this story will die down or may be flat out false. However, if the issues run as deep as they appear to, when will something happen?

Look at last night as a prime example. Steven Kampfer got more ice time than Brady Skjei. Yes, you read that right even if it was by 1 second. While Skjei made a costly opening turnover, Kampfer made an even more egregious error on the second Blues goal. Yet, somehow, Kampfer got brief PP time and Skjei received none. Just what message was AV trying to send there? It is simply beyond confusing. Not to mention benching Brendan Smith and Anthony DeAngelo who are both far better players than Nick Holden and Steven Kampfer to begin with.

Should this spiral continue, and based on what we’ve learned so far, the first move would likely be a trade. That could have a “shot in the arm” effect, but unless it is a leadership changing move, it may not have longterm impact.

Just how far will the Rangers organization allow this to go on? What’s the threshold on losses or timeframe of poor play before a coaching change is made? These are all fair questions and only time will tell.