The good news is that the New York Rangers are in a position to steal at least a few headlines in New York.
The bad news is that they’re not really making the positive headlines that you’d hope for, as Alain Vigneault probably nods sadly at the phrase “no news is good news.” With each loss – and Saturday’s defeat against the Montreal Canadiens was another tough one – the speculation about Vigneault’s job security continues to boil over.
The New York Post’s Larry Brooks penned a column with an ominous headline “Alain Vigneault may have one game left.” Brooks provides some interesting perspective therein, speculating that Lindy Ruff would take over in the short-term, while noting the Rangers’ slow starts with amusing specificity:
The Rangers have been outscored 3-0 in the first 2:00 of games; 5-1 in the first 3:00; 6-2 in the first 4:00; 8-3 in the first six minutes; 10-4 within the first 10:00; and 13-4 in the first 12:00 of the first 12 games.
That is inexcusable. The Blueshirts have been chronically unengaged both mentally and physically coming out of the room for the drop of the first puck. If the athletes believe they are working hard enough, they are delusional. They are doing the minimum, and poorly, at that.
It’s actually an earlier piece from Brooks that might be the most fascinating/tough on the heart. Vigneault put himself in the shoes of now-former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, and it felt a bit like he was going through therapy. Via Brooks:
“I can put myself in his shoes and really feel the pain he’s going through,” Vigneault said of Girardi on Friday. “But one thing I understand is the business part of it. As much as I’d like to say I don’t, I do.”
Yikes, that sure seems dismal. It’s also understandable that he’d feel some kinship to Girardi. Both have been able to enjoy success in the standings, even if their decisions are always under a microscope. Part of that is the nature of the beast while coaching in New York; some of the criticisms are, of course, also valid.
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This isn’t a matter of one beat writer railing against Vigneault. If it wasn’t enough to hear about fans booing the team – never a great vote of confidence, often a strong message to ownership – the prevailing criticisms seem to be about a perceived lack of effort.
Then again, when you charge a team with a lack of “compete,” sometimes you’re maybe ignoring other problems.
Is AV just not the right fit for a team with quite a few young players of increasing importance, from Brady Skjei to Pavel Buchnevich to J.T. Miller?
There’s also the possibility that the Rangers are merely falling off the tightrope after walking it perilously last season. Much was made about this team’s style overcoming shot metrics that didn’t always lean their way, but with Henrik Lundqvist possibly showing his age and a few key scorers coming up dry so far, maybe this team is merely facing the reality of a so-so roster?
Whether you want to place a lot or a little of the blame on Vigneault, it’s often the coach that goes when a team is in a miserable situation. Sometimes problems fester to the point where that coach might welcome the reprieve, and it wouldn’t be shocking if AV may feel some if that day comes.
Sadly for Vigneault, it feels like that threat might not be far away.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.