We touched on this a couple of days ago, but the topic is worth revisiting after Alain Vigneault was introduced as the new head coach of the New York Rangers Friday morning at Radio City Music Hall.
Before we get to what was said today, let’s first read what was written about Vigneault, right after the Canucks fired him last month, by undoubtedly his biggest media critic during his time in Vancouver, The Province’s Tony Gallagher:
AV’s roots are in defensive hockey, while the team he coached was built to attack. At times he fought his instincts and the team did well, but at other times, particularly when the club had injury problems, he would revert to his comfort zone of dump-it-in, dump-it-out hockey. That’s fine with bigger, lesser skilled teams. Not with this roster. And when the Canucks tried to play that way the past two seasons when it counted, in the playoffs, it’s been hideous.
This change is long, long overdue.
Now, it should be noted that not everyone agrees with Gallagher all the time. But when Rangers GM Glen Sather says this morning that he made the hiring decision in large part because Vigneault “loves the offensive game,” well, it sort of stands out. Because it almost makes it sound like Vigneault is the philosophical opposite of the last Rangers coach, John Tortorella, who Sather said he fired because the “game has changed” and teams don’t win with dump-and-chase hockey anymore.
Vigneault, not surprisingly, met the issue in the middle, explaining it’s important to “play well at both ends of the rink.” If there’s space to get creative, get creative. If not, make the “high-percentage play,” i.e. dump it in (or out, if you’re defending).
He also said — and this is probably the key part — that a team has to “put a system in place that maximizes the talent you have.” For example, when he first came to Vancouver in 2006, the “skill level wasn’t as high” as it was later in his tenure when the Canucks ranked among the highest-scoring teams in the NHL.
So here’s the big question — what does Vigneault think of the current Rangers roster?
“I feel in New York our skill base is pretty solid,” he said.