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A Tale of Two Cities
Vigneault and Tortorella going different directions

The Playoff Push is On!

The Playoff Push is On!

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. 

Canucks Head 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. 

Tortorella, a 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.

Fast-forward to current day and you have two opposite coaches that literally swapped franchises and are having drastically different impacts.

Vigneault, to 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!

Posted by Dan Akeson | April 2, 2014 at 02:04 pm

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New York Rangers VS Boston Bruins
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

  1 2 3 OT F
Rangers 0 2 1 - 3
Bruins 1 0 1 - 2

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