Monday, June 17, 2013

Rangers Could Announce Alain Vigneault As New Head Coach Today

The New York Rangers agreed to terms with Alain Vigneault to become the 34th head coach in franchise history on Saturday, and according to Larry Brooks of The New York Post the team could put out a press release to announce the hiring of Vigneault as soon as today. Brooks notes, however, that the Rangers likely will not formally introduce him to the media at a press conference until Thursday. Rangers GM Glen Sather is currently at his home in California and will not be back on the east coast until Wednesday when NHL general managers meet for their yearly meetings in Boston. With Madison Square Garden currently unusable while its undergoing construction, the Rangers will need to find another location to hold Vigneault's press conference. I would guess that they'll just do it at the team's practice facility in Greenburgh, but that remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Brooks also reports that Sather and Vigneault have already begun discussing names to add to his coaching staff. Mike Sullivan, thankfully, will not be retained and Jim Schoenfeld will only remain with the organization as assistant GM to Sather. Benoit Allaire, as we all assumed, will remain with the organization as goalie/assistant coach and Henrik Lundqvist's right-hand man. I would assume Mark Messier is a possibility, although it could be a major distraction to have Messier on the coaching staff if the team gets off to a slow start and fans overreact and start calling for Vigneault's head. Brooks mentioned over the weekend that Messier could possibly be reassigned to a coaching position with the Hartford Wolf Pack if he really wants to embark on a coaching career. Either way, he'll most likely remain with the organization next year.

One name being floated around is former Rangers defenseman and current head coach of MODO of the Swedish Elite League, Ulf Samuelsson. Samuelsson apparently reached out to the Rangers when hearing about the team's vacant head coaching position following the firing of John Tortorella, so there's definitely some level of interest there already. Whether he'd be willing to leave a head coaching job to become an assistant in the NHL remains to be seen. I think Samuelsson would be a nice addition to the coaching staff and could add an interesting element to coaching the power play.

As for the hiring of Vigneault, I have to admit that I wasn't initially thrilled when hearing a few weeks ago that he was a top candidate for the Rangers' head coaching job, but the more I read about him the more he's grown on me. I admittedly do not know a lot about Vigneault as far as a head coach beyond the handful of Vancouver Canucks games I'd see every year, mostly coming in the playoffs. The biggest knock on Vigneault has been that he wasn't able to lead the Canucks to a Stanley Cup victory despite having immense amounts of talent on the team in Roberto Luongo, the Sedin twins and Ryan Kessler, amongst other big names. He did come within one win of winning a Cup, though, which a lot of people forget about. I distinctly remember several games in which Roberto Luongo failed to show up for the Canucks, though, which led to a lot of the Canucks' failures in recent years.

The biggest positive that I've read about Alain Vigneault is that he's the opposite type of coach to John Tortorella. He coaches an up-tempo offensive system that the team desperately needs, while also relying on his role players to play to their strengths. The Rangers desperately need that type of change. This means Vigneault won't be asking Rick Nash to block shots and will instead allow him to play his game in the offensive zone where he should be. One of Torts' biggest downfalls was his stubbornness to change his system and insisting that all his players adjust to playing one specific way, and this won't be the case with Vigneault in charge.

More to come within the next few days as we get more information about Vigneault's hiring and how the rest of his coaching staff will fill out.