The 2017-2018 season has been abysmal for the New York Rangers. Highlighted by injuries, poor player performance, and, for lack of a better word, abhorrent coaching, the Rangers have missed the playoffs for the second time in the Henrik-Lundqvist-era.
Yet, the most glaring of shortcomings for 2017-2018 has easily been coaching. Alain Vigneault, who has been the head coach of the Rangers since the 2013-2014 season, has made questionable decisions throughout his tenure. While he has led the Rangers to a great amount of success through the use of speed, skill, and offense, he has consistently made counterintuitive decisions regarding his coaching style. For example, how do you deploy a skilled lineup with Tanner Glass as your depth winger instead of, say, Pavel Buchnevich?
Vigneault’s issue with playing the right players has outraged Rangers twitter all season long. A recent example:
AV is almost gone. Shhhhhh, Shhhhhhh, it's OK. It's almost over. https://t.co/N5Xmlp6HuZ
— Joe Fortunato (@JoeFortunatoBSB) April 4, 2018
This is one of the more notable poor decisions Vigneault has made throughout his time in New York. While boasting of a “skilled” and “speedy” lineup, he would contradict himself through playing outdated enforcers with no skill-set, such as a Tanner Glass or a Cody McLeod in the forward corps.
Another example of this frequent contradiction of coaching ideology would be playing older, and slower veterans Dan Girardi, and Nick Holden, on the top defensive pairing. Even though his system allegedly supports puck-moving, and speedy, defensemen, he deploys “stay-at-home” defensemen with very little skating ability and very little offensive offensive skill. This was his FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE!
While continuously contradicting his own coaching schematic, Vigneault has also been notorious for his decisions regarding young, and skilled players. Typically, the grizzly, tough, and unskilled veteran often draws more playing time than the skilled, fast, and up-and-coming young player.
Not only has Vigneault incessantly contradicted his own coaching formula, but he has hindered the development of young players. He believes deploying unskilled enforcers, in the place of young skill players, actually helps the team!
Listen, I’m all for fighting in hockey. But the Donald Brashears and the Colton Orrs are an outdated commodity in the NHL. With skilled players being deployed throughout four lines, it is detrimental to a team’s success to deploy a player with no skill in the game of ice hockey. Give me a Brandon Prust five or six years ago, and I’d be happy. There, you have an enforcer that can contribute in all facets of the game, not just one. But, I digress.
Vigneault has done a lot of good for the Rangers in his time in New York, but he is not infallible. He has overstayed his welcome. Vigneault is a coach for a group of skilled veterans with one or two good young players. His success was with experienced, and skilled, Canucks and Rangers teams. His expertise lies nowhere near a rebuilding team. To be terse, Vigneault is not, and should be, the coach of the future.
Now, with all the frustration and anguish that Vigneault has elicited from us fans, it would be ideal to just dump him and move on. Sadly, it is not that simple.
There is one thing that is more important than the 2018 NHL Entry Draft for the Rangers this summer, and that is moving on from Vigneault AND finding a quality replacement.
Looking for the “experienced” coach with a track of winning, believe it or not, is not the course that this team needs to take. So no, Darryl Sutter or Dave Tippet are not the ideal choices, in my opinion.
The Rangers need a young coach with a fresh outlook on the game. This coach must also be willing to play young players, let them make mistakes, and allow the Rangers to rebuild properly.
If Sutter were to ameliorate his outdated dump-and-chase system, and deploy young players, of course he’d be the ideal option considering his ability to run a possession driven system. But, not every veteran coach modifies his philosophy so easily, like John Torterella did in Columbus. We see this stubborn behavior and lack of accountability from Vigneault. While both of the aforementioned candidates would be upgrades over Vigneault, not much would change.
There is one young coach the Rangers must endeavor to hire. This individual’s name is Sheldon Keefe.
Keefe, an AHL coach for the Toronto Marlies, is widely recognized as being one of the best young minds in all of hockey. Despite being only 37 years old, Keefe is considered and up-and-comer that could help the Rangers’ chances greatly.
Keefe is hailed for his modern hockey mind and his desire to deploy young players, and to allow them to make mistakes.
A fresh, young mind would be perfect for the New York Rangers. It fits the rebuilding process perfectly, and it is necessary for the development of vital future pieces such as Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson, Pavel Buchnevich, and many others coming through the system.
Keefe and the Rangers would be a match made in heaven. They could rebuild together, make mistakes together, and develop into a contender all over again!
Vigneault would continue to stymie development and make poor decisions. Jeopardizing the future has grown to be Vigneault’s undisputed speciality.
Thus, hiring a good, young, and compatible coach for the Rangers is the most important aspect of the summer. Hiring the right coach could change the trajectory of this organization.
Hiring the wrong coach, or keeping the current one, would pile-drive the Rangers into the abyss of ineptitude for years.
For more statistical information, take a look at the link below for Keefe’s coaching record.