Screencap via Sharks.nhl.com
If you’ve missed it, Alain Vigneault is in the process of finalizing a deal to begin coaching the New York Rangers. Vigneault reportedly turned down an exceedingly lucrative offer from Jim Nill to coach the Dallas Stars in order to meet with Rangers owner Jimmy Dolan and work out the final details on his new contract. Meanwhile rumours circulate that Mark Messier may yet join Vigneault staff as an assistant, and also that the Canucks might hire the man Vigneault is suceeding.
Amidst the hubub, I have a few spare thoughts on Vigneault’s new position in New York. Click past the jump to read them.
- It’s a Saturday and I’ve been travelling all day, so we’ll do this in point form. First of all, I’ll be curious to see what sort of term Vigneault gets on his deal. Remember, Vigneault has two years remaining on his deal with the Canucks, and that’s money that he’ll be forfeitting if he takes the Rangers job. Meanwhile he turned down a lucrative offer with the Stars. So yeah, expect the commitment from Dolan and the Rangers to be significant, and in the four-to-five year range. If you’re struggling to understand why on Earth Vigneault would agree to let a possible replacement in Messier apprentice under him, remember, it’s all about the benjamins.
- During Vigneault’s Canucks tenure, he was often reluctant to trust young players in big roles if they had any sort of two-way deficiencies in their game. I’m curious to see what that’ll mean for Rangers roster players like Michael Del Zotto and Derrick Brassard in particular. Meanwhile I’d wager that Carl Hagelin, Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett will quickly ingratiate themselves as Vigneault favorites. The jury is out on how Vigneault will react and deploy talented youngsters like J.T. Miller, Christian Thomas and Chris Kreider…
- Vigneault’s Canucks teams struggled to score early in his tenure, before morphing into offensive juggernauts for a three year stretch from 2009-10 to 2011-12. The Rangers were an anemic offensive club this past season, and were particularly awful on the power-play. Like inexcusably bad considering the talent on the roster (sound familiar?). Fixing New York’s five-on-four play will be a critical challenge in Vigneault’s first season with the club, and I’d expect the Rangers to bring in some sort of power-play specialist to help out. I hear Newell Brown’s available.
- Brian Boyle is the prototype for an "Alain Vigneault third line centre." I truly expect some Eastern Conference coaches are about to have their lunch handed to them in matchup battles next season.
- It was time for the Canucks to change coaches, frankly, but if the Rangers end up with Vigneault and the Canucks end up with Tortorella – I know which club I’ll consider as having "won" that particular exchange.
- Rick Nash is reaching that stage in his career where he’s likely to incur some diminishing returns going forward (actually it’s a process that I’d argue has already begun). While Vigneault had a good deal of success prolonging the offensive peak years for the Sedin twins, I’m not sure it’ll be so easy for him to do with Rick Nash. First of all, Nash is more reliant on his physical tools (his speed-size combo in particular) than the twins are. Secondly, Vigneault’s "optimized zone matching" strategies are something that John Tortorella already used in New York the past couple of seasons. In some ways, I tend to think Vigneault will have fewer buttons to push in New York with Nash, then he did in Vancouver in the twins.
- Vigneault spent seven years in Vancouver having his win-loss record bolstered by the second best starting goaltender in the league in Roberto Luongo. Now he’ll go coach the Rangers who employ Henrik Lundqvist (the single best starting goaltender in the league). Vigneault is to National Hockey League goaltenders what Phil Jackson is to transcendant talent in the National Basketball Association. Minus the rings.
- After having defended Vigneault for years as a quality coach (a position I still hold), and the right man for the job in Vancouver (a position I no longer hold), I was dismayed by his defensive deployments in the postseason. I’d argue that an Alex Edler-Kevin Bieksa pairing was a loser combination for a second pairing from the get-go. But compounding that error, in the club’s first round series against San Jose, Vigneault leaned on them more heavily than he leaned on Jason Garrison and Dan Hamhuis, a pairing that was dominant over the latter half of the regular season. I’ll be very curious to see if he "messes with success" when it comes to the Dan Girardi – Ryan McDonaugh pairing in New York, the way he did with the Kevin Bieksa-Dan Hamhuis twosome in Vancouver…
- While Vigneault wasn’t snapped up off the market quite as briskly as I’d anticipated he would be, he ultimately had options and turned down one lucrative offer from the Stars, in favour of another from the Rangers. So in a job market where only three clubs had vacancies, two of them were hot for Vigneault, and the third was the club that had just fired him. We can now see how general managers around the league graded Vigneault’s performance with the Canucks, and while Vancouver’s club never raised a championship banner during Vigneault tenure, it appears those in the industry admired the work Vigneault did. So did we. I’ll bet he has a good deal of success in New York.
- Finally, presumably Alain Vigneault will face the media when he’s introduced as New York’s bench boss. It’ll be the first time Vigneault will have fielded questions from the media since the Canucks were swept by the Sharks almost two months ago. I hope he touts his accountability.