Where will the old coaching carousel take Alain Vigneault next?
Screencap via Youtube/CanucksVid
During the season, in the midst of a Canucks skid that saw them topple out of their usual cushy pole position in the Northwest Division, I put together a detailed Pros and Cons list breaking down Alain Vigneault’s coaching. I predicted in the conclusion that Vigneault would "pretty much have a new job before shappers, CDCers and Vancouver Province hockey writers were even finished celebrating."
Well the ad hoc parade on Robson has died down, and Alain Vigneault remains in the wind. What’s next for the winningest bench boss in franchise history? We’ll look at it further after the jump.
The Stars Job
The general sense of it is that the Dallas Stars would prefer to go with a veteran coach, though as TSN reported the Stars are also interviewing the likes of Dallas Eakins and Willie Desjardins about their coaching vacancy:
TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger reported on Thursday that the Stars have already spoken to veteran bench boss Lindy Ruff about their head coaching vacancy and TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie added that they will also be speaking to former Vancouver Canucks head coach, Alain Vigneault.
McKenzie also tweeted that the Stars will be interviewing Willie Desjardins, who has been coaching the organization’s AHL affiliate, and will check in on Dallas Eakins, the current head coach of the Toronto Marlies.
Newly minted Dallas Stars General Manager have some history with Alain Vigneault from their playing days, which could work in the lozenge sucking zone start fetishist’s favour, as Mike Heika points out:
Nill played with Vigneault while both were in the Blues organization back in the early ‘80s, and the two also were a part of the Ottawa Senators in the early ‘90s, when Nill was a scout and Vigneault was an assistant coach.
“I think that’s always going to play a role in any hiring you do,’’ said Nill. “You’re always going to be more comfortable with someone you know.’’
Dallas would make a lot of sense for Alain Vigneault, in some ways. "AV" could bury Vernon Fiddler in the defensive end, rely on steady two-way pieces in Stephane Robidas, Brenden Dillon and Aaron Rome along the backend, and watch Jamie Benn light it up on his top-line. There are a lot of young players in Dallas, sure, and trusting young players isn’t one of Vigneault’s strong suits. But many of them (like Cody Eakin) are of an energy player mold that Vigneault has found endearing in young players (like Ryan Kesler, for example) in the past.
The New York Job
Of course the other option is the New York Rangers, who recently fired enigmatic, widely loathed, defensive whiz John Tortorella. The Rangers have reportedly requested, and were granted permission, to talk to Vigenault per TSN. It seems weird that a team would have to ask the Canucks to talk to Vigneault, but as Jim Nill told Mike Heika (in the Vigneault piece we linked to and quoted above), it’s standard practice for an organization to reach out to another franchise any time they’re hoping to interview a coach under contract with that club – even if the club recently showed that coach the door.
Would Vigneault be a good fit with the Rangers? Jesse Spector thinks so, for a variety of reasons related to optimal player deployment and onomastics:
The better move for New York (than hiring Lindy Ruff) would be to bring in Alain Vigneault, especially if the former Vancouver Canucks coach applies some of the Northwest Division giants’ zone-matching principles. By maximizing the offensive opportunities for Nash and Stepan, and by using Boyle in the mold of Manny Malhotra (which is something Tortorella occasionally did, and it was where Boyle was at his best), the Rangers would be able to get the most out of a hybrid roster by accentuating their strengths and minimizing their weaknesses.
How good of a fit is Vigneault? He already has gotten to the Stanley Cup Finals with a star American two-way forward named Ryan (Kesler; he’d have Callahan in New York) and an Olympic gold medal-winning goaltender whose last name starts with "Lu" (Luongo/Lundqvist).
For what it’s worth, and it isn’t worth much since Lindy Ruff is the bookmakers leading candidate for the Canucks job that he reportedly isn’t even being seriously considered for, Bovada has priced out the odds that Vigneault gets the job at Madison Square Garden at 7/2 odds.
At the moment it seems that Vigneault’s stiffest competition for the Rangers job might not even be Lindy Ruff, but rather could be Mark Messier (which is hilarious). ESPN’s Johnette Howard outlined why Messier might be considered over experienced types like Vigneault and Ruff, mostly concluding that unlike those two hiring Messier would "change the zeitgeist" on the Rangers bench "on a dime":
Glen Sather has no way of knowing if Mark Messier, whom he has asked to coach the Rangers before, would be a terrific NHL coach. But the part that is a sure thing is Sather can certainly predict the splash the hiring would make, and the resonance it might have with the Rangers’ returning players who felt worn out — even buggy-whipped at times — by just-fired coach John Tortorella. And that might be reason enough for Sather to bypass the safer coaching candidates who are already interviewing elsewhere.
So where will Vigneault end up, really? I’d bet he’s angling hard for the New York job, where actually he could do a world of good prolonging Rick Nash’s scoring peak and properly utilizing an ace shutdown pair in Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonaugh. I also think New York is more likely to come up with the big offer that it may require to lure Vigneault out of taking the option to spend a paid year off recharging his batteries.
Regarldess, I’d expect we’ll see Vigneault coaching in the National Hockey League next season, whether he’s behind the bench in the Big Apple or in Big D.