Reports surfaced Friday that Mark Messier had indeed interviewed for the Rangers head coaching vacancy and that the Blueshirts had permission to speak to Los Angeles Kings assistant John Stevens as well. Later in the day, news broke that former Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault had taken himself out of the running for the Dallas Stars coaching vacancy.
Now we know why.
After meeting with Rangers brass in La Quinta, California during their organizational meetings last week and reportedly spending time with Rangers owner James Dolan in New York on Friday, it appears that Vigneault will succeed John Tortorella as the thirty-fourth head coach in the franchise’s history. While there has been no official announcement from the Rangers, multiple outlets reported Saturday that the two sides had agreed in principle to a deal.
As Tortorella was hired in part because he was the “Anti Tom Renney” – a no-nonsense guy following someone with a reputation as a player’s coach – Vigneault comes in as the “Anti Tortorella”, a coach who gives his players freer rein in the lockerroom and on the ice that they did not appear to have under his predecessor. He’ll likely be a breath of fresh air for the New York media as well. Vigneault comes in with a mixed bag of a track record, leading the Canucks to Northwest Division titles 6 of the last 7 seasons, two Presidents Trophies (2011 and 2012). He himself earned a Jack Adams Award in 2007 as the NHL’s coach of the year. Despite all that success in the regular season, he has yet to lead a team to the Stanley Cup, coming within one victory of it in 2011. His team being swept this season in the first round of the playoffs by the San Jose Sharks led to his dismissal.
There is no word yet as to who would be joining Vigneault’s coaching staff. Not surprisingly, Messier’s name is coming up again – this time as a potential assistant coach. Would Vigneault actually add him to his bench, and have the specter of a Rangers icon and legend (and possibly his replacement when his time is up) working right beside him? I know what what I would (or wouldn’t) do if it were me. Assistant Coach Mike Sullivan was not dismissed when Tortorella was. He’s likely to learn his fate in the coming days as well.
The clock is ticking on a decision about Brad Richards – does he get bought out prior to the start of free agency, or does he return, hoping he bounces back and gets a new lease on his Rangers career under a new coach and a new style of play? What other changes will they make – either through trades or free agency this summer to give Vigneault the team he feels he needs to be successful? When the ink is finally dry and the hands have shaken,coach and management can get down to the brass tacks of working on the answers to those questions.
About the Author: Likes: Hockey, the New York Rangers, King Henrik, singing the Rangers goal song, "The Save", the sound skates make against ice, heckling Marty Brodeur. Dislikes: 3-point games, front-office mismanagement, Denis Potvin, overpriced arena beer. Interested? Follow me on Twitter: @CC_927