Vigneault oblivious and defiant until the very end
Not my fault!
That’s basically been Alain Vigneault’s mantra since he became the head coach of the Rangers in the fall of 2013. Other warning signs were there from his reluctance or unwillingness to use younger players over less skilled veterans that dated all the way back to Montreal. Or his absolute stubborn refusal to make adjustments to his system or game plans.
Overshadowed in the euphoria of his first season, where the Rangers made it to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1994, was the team’s horrendous start. New York started the season going 1-4 in the first 5 games while giving up a whopping 25 goals.
It was early on when the “not my fault” mantra came out. After an embarrassing 9-2 loss against San Jose, Vigneault said, “Right now, I don’t have an explanation…I have to believe, even though I don’t know this team real well, that there are some strong leaders, leaders that are obviously not pleased with how we performed tonight, and don’t want to see this happen again.”
In that same presser he was asked if maybe his system was the issue. He deflected and basically laid it at his player’s feet for not being able to execute. This was the first of what would be his M.O. for the remainder of his tenure in New York.
The struggle continued for half the season as they grasped at what the coach wanted, going 20-20-2 until the team finally clicked. In the second half the Rangers surged into the playoffs with a 25-11-4 record and made an improbable run to the Finals. Let’s not forget, they had to overcome a 3-1 deficit against the Penguins in round 2. The legit question to ask there was how they managed to get into that hole in the first place.
New York finally succumbed to the more physical LA Kings in 5 games. Lack of physicality is another staple of almost all of AV’s teams to boot. The joy of the run coupled with the agony of defeat left us all chomping for another shot that never came.
Unaccountable in defeat
Since the Rangers fell to the Lightning in 2015 in the Eastern Conference Final, Vigneault’s system, coaching style, and laid off approach to the dressing room started to have negative results on the ice.
The coach should have been fired last season after mishandling what should’ve been an easy second round win against the Ottawa Senators. Instead of riding the hot hands of Brendan Smith and Brady Skjei in the final minutes, he rolled out his “trusted” veteran duo of Marc Staal and Nick Holden to disastrous results…3 times.
After another blown late lead, AV once again blamed his players. “Maybe the guys didn’t know the goaltender was coming. But there was less than two minutes, they’re down by a goal, so [they] should expect it. But maybe the guys got caught there not knowing that the goalie was out.” If that wasn’t bad enough his excuses were even worse like, “You try to implement them. Some nights it works, some nights it doesn’t.”
Defiant to the End
In what many beat reports called a “passionate plea” and “defense” of his coaching abilities, Vigneault ranted after the final debacle of this season. He made excuses for everything under the sun and even laid things at management’s feet with, “At the end of the day a coach coaches what is in front of you and that is what we have tried to do and that is what we will continue to try to do.”
Well that must’ve got Gorton’s ire up. I mean he traded for a #1 center in Eric Staal that the coach used as a 3rd line winger, but hey, you coach what’s in front of you.
Finally when asked if he was coming back, he said, “without a doubt”! He even said the strength of the Rangers was their coaching staff. Nope! Not Henrik Lundqvist who made them competitive on most nights. Nope, it was him and his coaching staff.
If you think those comments went unnoticed, then you must think that coaches get fired at 11:30 at night all the time.
This should have happened last summer. It didn’t and the Rangers paid for it big time. Still, it brought the Rangers to this pivotal moment to rebuild. A move that can only work with a new face, a new voice, and a new direction.
Let the rebuild continue.