Alain Vigneault: Different style = loads of success

204

Hee’s my column on Alain Vigneault:

By Rick Carpiniello

Alain Vigneault doesn’t bristle often, at least not publicly. If a question is one he doesn’t care to answer directly, he will do it with a smile or a joke.

For example, when one of the many video replay rulings went against the Rangers this season, instead of complaining about it — and possibly facing a reprimand from the NHL office — Vigneault said he has “a friend who says, ‘They make it up as they go along.’ ” The coach emphasized that it was the “friend” who says it.

But during these playoffs, Vigneault was asked a question he didn’t like, and he bristled. He was asked how much of a selling point his calm demeanor was when he applied for the Rangers’ coaching job last summer — coming in, as he did, to replace John Tortorella.

Their personalities could not be more different. Vigneault’s is breezy, Tortorella’s sandpapery. Vigneault is ice cream, Tortorella spicy garlic.

“It had nothing to do with following John,” Vigneault said, his voice declaring his annoyance. “This was about me being me and bringing what I believe is the right thing for this team. It has nothing to do with what happened before me.”

That’s been the tactic from Day One, when Vigneault had T-shirts printed that read: “Clean slate. Grab it.” He probably said 100 times this season, “I don’t know what happened, I wasn’t here,” when asked about last season or seasons before.

To be clear, though, Vigneault’s was the personality the Rangers needed after the fiery coach before him wore out his welcome and they traded places (Tortorella went to Vancouver for one rocky season before being fired again). Still, that personality wouldn’t matter a lick if Vigneault couldn’t coach, couldn’t win.

The last coach who won big-time in New York was Mike Keenan, and he was as prickly as Tortorella, maybe even more so behind the locker room doors and on the practice rink. He won. Then he booked, before the players revolted.

Just as Keenan replaced nice guy Roger Neilson and was followed by nice guy Colin Campbell, Tortorella followed nice guy Tom Renney and was replaced by Vigneault.

That might be too simple a comparison, though. Vigneault isn’t just the players’ buddy. “AV” can mean business: He pushes buttons, kicks some tails, uses the doghouse, plays mental games — all the stuff good coaches do.

“He certainly lets you know if it’s not good enough, and he will give you positive reinforcement when it’s going well,” defenseman Marc Staal said. “It’s a tough thing as a coach to know that sometimes. But with us, he’s been great.”

“Yeah, he gets worked up,” said forward Brad Richards, one of the clean-slate grabbers after a nightmarish 2013 during which his relationship with Tortorella crumbled. “He’s a human being, and he’s a coach. Coaches have to do things sometimes to get things going. But his worked up is different than other people’s worked up.

“I think you’ve just got to be around it and be behind closed doors, and you’ll know when he wants a little more of a practice or a little more preparation or whatever he’s doing. He still sets the tone when you see him that day, if things need to be changed or need to be worked on.”

Vigneault sent Chris Kreider to the minors to start the season. He scratched two other forwards, Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot, early in the season. He challenged goalie Henrik Lundqvist, during the worst regular season of his career, by repeatedly playing first-year backup Cam Talbot. He criticized rookie forward J.T. Miller’s commitment. He said, during the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins, that Ryan McDonagh wasn’t playing well enough.

So, it certainly hasn’t been all rosy. But all of those players — other than Miller, whose chance will come next season — responded in a big way.

Patience pays off

The style of play under Vigneault is starkly different — a game of speed and transition and depth, of having defensemen activated in the offensive zone, and playing a man-to-man system in the defensive zone. Tortorella wanted to play that way at first, saw that he didn’t have the skill or the depth, and went a different way. And, to be fair, the depth Tortorella had — the Rangers’ fourth line of Dominic Moore centering Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett would have been his third line — wasn’t what it is now.

Most questioned, though, whether the Rangers had the skill to play AV’s way.

Turns out they did. Turns out he was the right man with the right plan.

“I personally just like how calm he is,” Lundqvist said. “Obviously, he changed a lot the way we play, so it was a big change early on in training camp and the first couple months for us to adjust and for me to adjust. It was a little different game. But he was very patient and calm and understood the process for us to get there. It’s going to take awhile to get there.

“But obviously having Tortorella for almost five years and having that coaching style and then AV comes in, they’re opposites. As a player, you learn from both, and I enjoy both. But it’s refreshing when you see a new coaching style that you haven’t had before, and the way he handles pressure situations. That’s been impressive to see, I think. The heat you felt early on and not getting the results and now getting in the playoffs, he’s pretty consistent with the way he talks to us, good or bad.”

It wasn’t easy. Vigneault was saddled with a cockamamie schedule that included a needless portion of training camp in Banff, Alberta, a needlessly long western preseason, followed by a quick trip home and then a nine-game, season-opening road trip. The new coach and his clean slate of players learning a new system started 2-6.

But the man’s personality, being who he is and nothing more, eventually worked.

True to himself

Vigneault’s humility is rooted in an early-career failure. The Quebec native was fired after 3 1/2 seasons as Montreal Canadiens coach.

“I was six years in between NHL jobs,” Vigneault said. “Got fired from the Habs, and my next coaching job was in Montreal coaching the junior team. Instead of being in front of 21,000 people, I was in front of 1,000 people coaching my team. But at that time, I had bills to pay, I had a family to make sure I was providing for, and that was the only place I could work. That’s where I always felt that working was honorable, and I went to work there. Did a couple more years of junior, and I was fortunate to land a job in the American (Hockey) League. Then from there, I was fortunate enough to get a second chance at coaching in this league.”

As coach of the Vancouver Canucks for seven seasons, Vigneault had a .632 winning percentage, won six division titles and back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies and reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2011, losing in seven games to Boston after leading the series 3-2.

He won just one of his final 10 playoff games with Vancouver and found the unemployment line shortly before Tortorella did. Not for long.

People wondered if any bum off the street couldn’t have coached the Canucks with all that talent, wondered if he could possibly succeed with what the Rangers had instead.

Vigneault answered the second part in the affirmative. He left the leading to the players in the locker room, before and after captain Ryan Callahan’s departure. He left it to Richards, Lundqvist, Staal, Dan Girardi, McDonagh, Moore, Boyle and others, and then to Martin St. Louis, who was obtained for Callahan.

Vigneault said what he’s learned, what has helped him to be so successful, is simple: “Be yourself and stick with what you believe in,” he said. “If at one point you’re shown the door, at least you did it your way.

“I was seven years in a Canadian market, and in the other Canadian markets at that time, 20 coaches went through. It’s a tough environment to coach. I did it my way, and I’ve come here to New York in another great hockey market, and I’m doing it my way.”

The guy before Vigneault did it his way, too. Just don’t ask the coach of the Stanley Cup finalist Rangers about that. He wasn’t here.

************************************

Alain Vigneault

Age: 53.

Coaching experience: 12 NHL seasons (four with Montreal, seven with Vancouver, one with the Rangers).

Career NHL record: 467-319-35-67 (45-31-6 with the Rangers); 49-49 in the Stanley Cup playoffs (12-8 this season).

Highlights: Led the Canucks to the Presidents’ Trophy (awarded to the team with the most points during the regular season) in 2010-11 and 2011-12; Canucks won their division title in six of his seven seasons; coaching in his second Stanley Cup Final (the Canucks lost the 2011 final in seven games to Boston); reached Eastern Conference final in his first season with Montreal; won Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year in 2006-07 and was runner-up twice.

Etc.: Four of the last six coaches who have taken the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final did so in their first season: Frank Boucher (1940), Fred Shero (1979), Mike Keenan (1994) and Vigneault (2014).

Playing career: Skated in 42 NHL games as a defenseman for St. Louis; scored his first of two NHL goals at Madison Square Garden; once fought Mark Messier.

**********************************

Schedule

(Best of seven)

Game 1: Wednesday at Los Angeles, 8 p.m., NBC

Game 2: Saturday at Los Angeles, 7 p.m., NBC

Game 3: Monday at Rangers, 8 p.m., NBC Sports Network

Game 4: Wed., June 11, at Rangers, 8 p.m., NBC Sports Network

Game 5: x-Fri., June 13, at Los Angeles, 8 p.m., NBC

Game 6: x-Mon., June 16, at Rangers, 8 p.m., NBC

Game 7: x-Wed., June 18, at Los Angeles, 8 p.m., NBC

x—if necessary

Photo by USA Today.

Twitter: @RangersReport.

 

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204 Comments

  1. ZzZz NYR ZzZz© on

    If it’s 2-2 after 4, Eric will have had 17 heart attacks.

    Ummm Heart attacks are for fans WHOM actually think we are gonna win. He thinks were gonna lose BIGTIME , why would he nervous or upset? He’s already wrote us off . I don’t buy it!!

  2. Greg, how has promoting Rangers hockey in mid-Canadian provinces been working out? :)

  3. Greg

    Read the post as a whole. I said kings in 5 or rangers in 7. If we lose its because we lose first 2 on road. If we can split I believe we win cup.

    At 2-2 we win cup at 3-1 down were done in 5.

    So get a split we win cup

  4. So the NHL responded to my Better Business Bureau complaint by sending me the exact same e-mail I got a few days ago. Maybe you get it. Maybe you don’t.

    Jackwagons!

  5. Luc Robataille went into the dirt / mud last night at 8PM.

    Rangers in 6.

    It’s Booked.

  6. Good afternoon all and greetings from NY Carp!! Been super busy lately so just lurking…but here we go!

    Must win!!!!!!!!

    Was covering a court case today and I swear the Rangers came up and the judge mentioned he was a Hawks fan. Some people in the gallery (surely not moi!) booed him…he took it with humor and assured us Blackhawks nation was routing for us..

    Great stuff carp….keep it coming!!!

  7. Just got my $63 jerseys in the mail, they are pretty Falking sweet! Everyone like theirs?

  8. Hockey rumor

    Kadri phaneuf and leafs number one pick to Florida for 1st overall pick in draft and Ed jovanivski.

  9. That’s one of those proposals that looks lopsided one way now and will end up looking lopsided the other way in 3-4 years.

  10. They said everyone should know by tomorrow if it’s canceled. If you get nothing you will probably get a tracking number early next week

  11. NHL Shop should give us $10 vouchers just for having to listen to all this whining.

  12. Stranger Nation on

    AV is the biggest difference between this team and last years. My hat goes off to him for the miraculous job he has done as coach of this team.

    Completely overhauled the way this team had been playing with success. Wasn’t afraid to give direct feedback.

    Sather’s best move in four years

  13. The Rangers are playing game 1 of the SCF tonight.

    Give it a rest with the sweaters.

    $63 or $200, it’s probably not the end of the world for most of you, dollar wise.

    Bite the effing Bullet.

    Sheesh.

  14. I got e-mail rejections….And may I just say, Mr. D., it’s not whining, just legitimate frustration over not been honored by a business on an offered deal. I can’t afford to spend $200 to bolster my collection, so I was pretty disappointed. And “oops, we messed up” doesn’t hold much water with me.

    There, done on that subject…except to triple dang wicky :)

  15. I have a lot more sympathy for the poor stiff who probably lost his minimum wage job due to his silly mistake than I do for the cheap bastards living the good life crying about how the “man stuck it to them” over $137

    #give.the. Sweater. guy. His. Job. back.

  16. a wicky…Papa, I hope whoever hit the button did not lose his job!! But nor am I cheap bastard living the good life crying about how the “man stuck it to them” over $137

    I’m just bummed, OK? Can I be bummed? Now move on….it’s finals time!!!!

  17. I reported them to the Better Business Bureau, ORR. All I got was the same email again saying they will try their darndest to get me a jersey but their stock is SO limited!

  18. I’m with Papa. It was a mistake, people don’t always need to be punished for mistakes.

  19. Rob in Beantown on

    That 2013 calendar with Anisimov was out of date before it was even printed.

  20. Carp, love the article(s) and all the good stuff coming out of Lohud recently. Great work. These guys must killing your golf game.

    Hockey in June.

    Beauty.

  21. Ha!!!!! Thanks Manny!!!! Hmmm. Think I’ll go with the drawstring bag, then save my other riches for later….

    The 2012 Believe shirt should be offered for a buck, and the hair ribbons should be prucha’d

  22. At least you have a wood stove and fireplace. I get heat by burning tiny piles of shedded cat hair

  23. I’m normally a “survive the first ten minutes on the road” kind of guy- but somehow, tonight, I think the Rangers really have to get after it immediately- make the Kings feel like this is game 8 of the Blackhawk series.

  24. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Lucic – “I’m on my way to NHL HQ where we’ll all get on the handshake line”

  25. We should open a restaurant where all the lingo is Bonehead speak. Instead of “86 the Shrimp!” we would yell “Prucha the Shrimp!”

  26. Mama,

    not aimed at you specifically, more a general expression from an anxious fan awaiting the drop of the puck who often displays ignorance spiced with a slightly agitated and limited POV. And please pardon my offensive language. How dare I?

    Now…..Let’s Go Rangers!

  27. Any news on the Asham scratching, Gravy? You don’t need to hash out the obvious as breaking news.

  28. Quack it whack, worse than Lack, don’t smoke crack, drink some Jack, lift with knees, not your back, ransack, get on track, got a knack, black on black give me a heart attack, hit the sack, Carp’s no hack, Paulina’s rack, your breath’s nasty here’s a Tic Tac.

    Boy.

  29. ZzZz NYR ZzZz© on

    Eric ; Gotcha !! so ya think we have a chance…nice!! The see ya later in Oct sure got me going . I do believe we don’t need to win the first two games but in reality I can’t see us not taking the first game. LAK are a team that don’t mind being down in the game or the series. If we take a few games at the start , it still could be a very bumpy road.

  30. Amonte&
    Weight&
    Turcotte&
    Marchant

    Would be a fun t-shirt just to see who gets it.

  31. I don’t think it’s streaming on the NBC Sports APP, ilb. I will have WiFi on the plane. That’s how I can listen. Is there a way that I’m not thinking of?

  32. Holy crap! This game is *FREE* on GameCenter Live!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  33. ZzZz NYR ZzZz© on

    Gravy

    Greg, how has promoting Rangers hockey in mid-Canadian provinces been working out? :)
    ——————————————————–

    It’s been going well!!! In Saskatchewan we don’t have any NHL teams so converting everyone is easy . My brother is still all Oilers but deep down he loves the Rangers . Ive had a few peeps liking the Habs over us but then again a whole bunch hate MTL arrogance and are cheering on us !!

    The other day I rode back from the store on my bike and this jeep was blocking my way . As I went around him I saw a Flyers tire cover on the back. I stuck out my arm and gave a big thumbs DOWN!!! The Jeep’s buddy in the passenger must have thought I was gripping at thier Jeep blocking me but in reality I was bashing the FLYERS!!! The guy gave me the finger as they drove away.

  34. It will be hard to tell if there are Kings fans on the plane since they are all bandwagon and probably don’t even watch the games. Just read the headlines and tweet with Justin Bieber.

  35. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Greg – the finger represents the average flyer IQ. That Dude was merely sharing with you his lack of genius.

  36. No, it’s a legit hockey market, according to EJ Sporadic. Lol.

    I hate the Kings.

  37. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Gravy is a rhyming fool, not a tool, Don’t be cruel, George Boole, have a duel, between a dual, shooting pool, Rejean Houle, to cool, for school, Dave Newell, cotton or wool, scary ghoul

    Boyeeeeeeeeeeee

  38. Blueshirtfan77 on

    What a terrific piece of work! Love hearing about AV and the positive effect he’s had on this club. They have been an exciting team to watch which wasn’t always the case under Torts.

    Anyone remember him coming back from that brutal road trip to start the season and saying he wasn’t sure if they “had the right personnel” to play his style? Right from the start I thought he knew how to get guys going…

  39. No harm, Papa. You get a dispensation each series. Plus, Luc is taking a dirt nap, so it’s all good.

  40. ZzZz NYR ZzZz© on

    washing the lucky shirt is is is ….unacceptable!!!

    E3 , That’s exactly what I thought!! HAHa!!

  41. Manny will be tied down and escorted by the SWAT upon arrival to Florida. That is if the Rangers only score once. If they score more than that, the crew may have shoot him right there.

  42. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Just got my email saying no brassard jersey for me. However, this is actually a good thing as the bad luck for me in not getting a sweater is actually good luck for the Ranger, particularly Brassard in game 1 tonight, and the series in general. I’m taking one for the team and now the Cup is ours…book it

    *Dead bodies get discounted jerseys*

  43. Rangers go up by four goals, they would have to make an emergency landing.

  44. I like it, E3. That’s exactly how I would interpret those events.

    LGR !!!

  45. Look at this goofball Bettman pulling his folded speech out of his jacket. Tomfool!

  46. Did you see the size of the typeface on those pages? And yet he was still stuttering and “umm”ing!

  47. King Eddie Eddie Eddie VI on

    Orr – I agree re: Mike Johnson – he’s a total tool

    The only good thing about him is when he’s on wit Kathryn Tappen….then it’s

    Tappen/Johnson

  48. King Eddie Eddie Eddie VI on

    Latona / Orr : me thinks Buttplug has a low grade Parkinson’s

  49. Za'rat (TheOtherGuysGreed) Jones on

    Are we gonna still POZY our collective derrières off? Or are we gonna abandon those sexy boys in LA?

    Yay Rangers!

  50. King Eddie Eddie Eddie VI on

    POZY POZY POZY

    Let’s go sexy rangers
    Let’s go sexy rangers

  51. Balcony Bob on

    When the Rangers win the Cup, it will be the third in my lifetime..

    However, since I was 3 months old when they won in 1940, I’m a little fuzzy on the details.

    All those years of “1940” chants, I thought they were commemorating my birthday.

  52. King Eddie Eddie Eddie VI on

    As a serious fan, this is my 4th final. After this series: 2 wins, 2 losses.

    Let’s go rangers.

  53. Anybody got a website I can stream the game…..overseas. Sky TV not carrying the game

  54. inthearmsofbrianboyle on

    Once Dugay dropped his jacket I lost focus.

    He is very *off*-Broadway

  55. On MSG they showed a clip of Duguay on Broadway in rock of ages. Wore a rangers mesh t shirt under a jacket. They came back to the studio and Fotiu and Greshner were just shaking their heads. As were ORR and myself.

  56. “Will be blogging during stoppages need to stay focused

    June 4th, 2014 at 6:34 PM”

    Eric, we still have over an hour till puck drop. BREATHE. LOL.

  57. AV’s experience with the west has got to be an edge. He’ll have a good game plan, I think, hope.

  58. I think the Boyle line is going to have to be on the ice whenever Kopi and Gaby together are on the ice…no?

    I don’t think we want Stepan going against Kopitar….

  59. Pacing around the house aimlessly waiting for some cup hockey…..LGR!!!!!!!!!!! We are long overdue for a road win in finals in pacific time zone!!!!!!!! WHY NOT US!!!!!!!

  60. Papa, I know….just venting….

    manny…hahahah!!!!

    OK, I am really nervous so here’s my deal tonight…

    Must keep eye on aim for prize….I figure it worked back in the stone age (when I was 6), so may as well keep up the tradition….will post when can for an oh baby or hartnell! but otherwise….LGR!!!

  61. Stranger Nation on

    Buttman – what happens when a Labor Attorney becomes commissioner of the NHL; labor unrest and owner focused policies

  62. Stranger Nation on

    Realizing this is for the Cup and all, but feeling like we are playing with house money. time to shock the world and us!

    WHY NOT US??

    MAKE SOME NOISE!!!!!

  63. Stranger Nation on

    An area of concern is the defensive play of our centers. Wouldn’t be surprised to see D Moops and Boiler split up in the series to alleviate the pivot defensive responsibilities.

    Kings are stacked in the middle.

  64. Stranger, you can’t be *distracted* by such things now. You have to *focus* and keep your *composure*.

  65. Za'rat (TheOtherGuysGreed) Jones on

    POZY POZY POZY!
    No Negyz!!!!!

    Remember to always

    Cheer! Cheer! Cheer!
    Never Boo! Boo! Boo!

  66. Stranger Nation on

    Whoa…Stanley Cup Hattie
    Load up the Battie
    Roll a big Fattie
    Who’s your Daddy

  67. To be honest, for all the media hype, except for here I’ve been trying to avoid most stuff….gets my heart and head to palpitating reading all the opinions and such…..

  68. Stranger Nation on

    See Rub a Dubb a Dub
    three men in a tub
    composure and poise
    time to make some noise
    Fatigued or not
    Momentum is what we got
    Dethroning the Kings
    is one of my favorite things

  69. a lot of the players say ‘assistant’ for
    ‘alternate.’ At least they used to. Alternate, of course, is the correct appellation.

  70. Onecupin74yearsandcounting on

    I hope Carper doesn’t have a last minute “new post”
    but I wish the NYR to change the past .. and go on a Dynastic Roll, heck its been 89 years ..if not expect my RATH AND RESENTMENT “

  71. We’ll take all the Kings and Queens
    Down to the guillotines
    And shorten them a little bit.

  72. Onecupin74yearsandcounting on

    Anyway let’s put our hands to screen and shout NEW YORK RANGERS ON 3 ONE TWO THREE NEW YORK RANGERS :)

  73. oh my….we need GO TIME!!!! if there are tech probs….no, no, only positive vibin

  74. Onecupin74yearsandcounting on

    Latona . how much money would it take for you to marry Trout face ?

  75. Dumb asking McDonuts that. What’s he supposed to say? Some of these guys could use a blanket party.

  76. Cant believe this moment is actually here. Shock the world so to speak. LETS GO RANGERS

  77. Stranger Nation on

    Where was the overhead shot on NBC in NY – was that outside the Garden?

  78. Onecup – I posted not too long ago that I once walked into MSG with Al. He stumbled up the steps and I chuckled. He responded by shooting me a ghoulish look! I don’t think he would be marrying me anytime soon.. but to answer your question, a lot.

  79. Rangers win Game 1 i dont ever want to see Biron and Carter on MSG again. Both said Kings win

  80. I can not believe it is a STANLEY CUP FINAL GAME NIGHT and the NY Rangers are playing. PINCH ME!

    Where is the “It’s Go Time” thread??

    Butterflies … BIG TIME!

  81. Stranger Nation on

    With game on NBC we will miss all the local ad flavor.
    Stacy’s mom with the awesome sauce at Bay ridge honda

  82. Pretty even, Draxen. Surprisingly.

    1:1

    Subject to change. Probably spiking at puck drop.

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