When the New
York Rangers skated off the ice at Rexall Place in Vancouver last night (or
this morning for East Coast fans), it wasn’t just the two points and convincing
victory that fans could reflect on. It was also a look back at nearly a full
season of opposite coaching styles, by two men who once shared the same home
benches at Madison Square Garden.
Coach John Tortorella and Rangers Head Coach Alain Vigneault could not be more
different in their outward appearance. While both are clearly smart hockey
minds and dedicated to their craft, each has opposite approaches to how they go
about their business.
fiery rough presence with an obvious chip on his shoulder, likes in your face
management of his teams with accountability and no frills efforts. Vigneault, a
mild mannered executive-type who has shown stability through each phase of his
career, is more calculated, calm and technical in his coaching style.
The Rangers have
somewhat embodied the culture their coach has preached following the 2004
lockout when former head coach Tom Renney was at the helm. In a similar mode to
Vigneault, Renney was eloquent, media-friendly and even-tempered. He was the
right fit for a group of developing NHLers and a new franchise goaltender.
However, as the
team became more veteran with the likes of Scott Gomez and Chris Drury, the
Rangers went into a direction of proven winner with the ability to light a fire
under the underachieving group.
For the most
part, Tortorella succeeded. He made a Conference Final appearance and multiple
playoff appearances, but he lacked the finesse to take the Blueshirts to the
next level. He was unable to cultivate any semblance of a power play and his
in-your-face style started to cross lines as he publicly ostracized players in
the media. The act got old and the Rangers had to make a change. The act may
have gotten just as old, but much quicker in Vancouver after only one season.
current day and you have two opposite coaches that literally swapped franchises
and are having drastically different impacts.
both his credit and detriment, has been maddeningly even-keeled in a season
that has dramatically wavered until these final 20 games. Fans and media alike
were waiting for some emotional outburst to rile and stir an overall lax and
uninspired team. But Vigneault has stayed the course, insisting that the system
would work once the team got healthy and adapted to it.
Even during his
struggles, Vigneault has been able to implement a formidable power play and
utilize scorers on the penalty kill that has resulted in multiple short-handed
goals. And as the Rangers have gotten healthy and contract distractions have
fallen by the way side, things have begun looking up. The team is solidly
entrenched in the playoff picture, Lundqvist has returned to his elite level,
Ryan McDonagh has garnered Norris Trophy suggestions, Benoit Pouliot is looking
like a true first round pick and more.
In many ways,
Vigneault’s long-term outlook is succeeding. Whether it translates into
postseason success will be another story, but there is a professional demeanor
being exhibited by the Rangers, much more so than the rag-tag, “black and
Blueshirts” of years past.
While it may not
be as emotionally charged, it is winning and Vigneault might just have unlocked
the key to bringing home a championship.
Remember to get your tickets to Beyond the Ice featuring Nick Fotiu and Ron Greschner!