When the New York Rangers decided to replace John Tortorella as head coach with Alain Vigneault, the goal was to replace him with a coach who would win. When Mark Messier was approached about the job he thought about it and agreed to take it then he was told “nah, just kidding”. I understand this is old news but humor me for a few minutes.
Vigneault’s playing career started in 1977 and ended in 1984. He tallied 42 NHL games between 81 and 83. He had a blistering two goals for seven points and 82 penalties in minutes. What part of these numbers gives him a base to create an offense centered system? He’s coached NHL teams to the Stanley Cup Final twice. He coached Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin in their primes and only got Vancouver to the Final once. Is he a nice guy? Sure. Is he a likable coach? Sure. Does that get the job done? Not if you want a championship. He lacks the ability to motivate his players when needed and doesn’t know how to put pressure on the jugular. There is one thing Vigneault does well; he destroys top class goal tenders.
Under Vigneault, Roberto Luongo saw his number of starts decrease, his save percentage started bouncing like a rolling puck, and his confidence went down the tubes. Cory Schneider emerged as the golden boy in Vancouver and “Bobby Lu” finally said enough is enough and demanded a trade. Somehow or another Schneider got moved and Luongo was openly upset to be stuck in Vancouver. The day Luongo was traded to Florida twitter exploded and while much of Vancouver was sad to see him go, he was beyond excited to return to where he began. Now he is sixth in the league with 19 wins in 35 starts and three shutouts. At 36 years old, Luongo has three years of experience on Henrik Lundqvist but also has a matching 19-12-4 record. The difference is goals allowed; 75 for Luongo and 87 for Lundqvist.
Last season Rangers’ fans started to notice Cam Talbot emerging. Even before Lundqvist took a puck to the throat Talbot made more game appearances than most backups before him. Moving Talbot to the Edmonton Oilers was surprising to many Rangers’ fans but a necessity none the less. Most people chalked it up to Talbot wanting to be a starter somewhere. This was a safe cover the the front office to avoid a situation like the Luongo/Schneider incident in Vancouver. Hopefully Vigneault doesn’t completely ruin Lundqvist before it’s too late. Hopefully Lundqvist’s goal tending coach, Benoit Allaire can keep Lundqvist’s head in the game. If things continue the way they are, life could get very ugly very fast in New York.