New Rangers coach says fighters better be able to play, too

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If the New York Rangers are going to engage in line brawls like they did against the New Jersey Devils in March 2012, then the guys dropping the gloves better be good at more than just fighting.

That’s the message the Blueshirts’ new head coach Alain Vigneault sent to the New York Post on Tuesday.

“You’ve got to be able to play; you’ve got to be able to skate and get in on the forecheck,” Vigneault said. “Because you’re a physical presence out there, sometimes you have to stand up for yourself but you have to be able to play. That type of [enforcer], not a lot of teams have that type of player anymore.”

Vigneault employed a similar strategy with the Vancouver Canucks, so this shouldn’t be a huge surprise.

It’s not as if Vigneault’s Canucks totally shied away from fighting, as they actually fought more often in 2013 than the Rangers did, according to Hockey Fights. (The Rangers have typically fought far more frequently in recent years, though.)

If you’re wondering which Rangers player might suffer the most from this policy, one might guess it would be an already marginalized tougher guy like Stu Bickel (three fights in 2013). Arron Asham and Derek Dorsett also come to mind, although it’s likely that Vigneault will put them in the “viable” category; both have scored at least 12 goals in a season before.

Vigneault’s is indeed correct in saying fight-only enforcers are going the way of the NFL fullback, which might be disappointing for fans of local rivalry-fueled bouts.