Coaching in the NHL is not an easy task. Coaching the New York Rangers is no easier. It could be just as hard to coach in the NHL as it is to play in the league. Not only do you have to prove yourself to the organization and the fans, but you also need a group of players to buy into your system.
When all is going well for a team in the NHL, it all has to do with the players. New York Rangers’ coach Alain Vigneault knows this all too well. Most the time it is the players are all clicking with each other. However, once the team starts losing, it always falls on the coach. Everyone calls for the coaches head or just their jobs.
The New York Rangers franchised turned around following the 2004-05 lockout. Starting with Tom Renney, then John Tortorella in 2009, and finally Alain Vigneault at the outset of the 2013-14 season.
Since joining the team in 2013, Vigneault has gone through some struggles, along with positives. So today we are going to look at the top five moments during Vigneault’s stint.
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
5. First Playoff Win
Vigneault took over the Rangers when the team was starting to make runs in the playoffs. Losing to the Devils in Game 6 of the Conference Finals in 2012, then an early exit in 2013 when the Boston Bruins bounced them in the Conference Semifinals.
When Vigneault took over for the 2013-14 season, there was hope that he could use his success from Vancouver, and make the Rangers the top team in the East.
Vigneault’s first playoff win, with the Rangers, came against the Philadelphia Flyers. It took just one game in the 2013 playoffs for him to get the win. April 17, 2013, a 4-1 win.
As well as getting his first playoff win, he also led the team to the series win. Of course, in Rangers fashion, a good old seven game series. It was a hope that Vigneault’s offensive system would lead to fewer game sevens. However, you can’t always have nice things.
Numerous times in the last few years the Rangers have put themselves in a hole in the playoffs (3-1). In 2013-14, the Rangers came back from the deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins to move onto the Conference Finals.
The Rangers won the Presidents’ Trophy in the 2014-15 season and beat the Penguins in five games of the first round. In the second round, the Rangers faced the Washington Capitals. A team that the Rangers have a rich playoff history with.
After an upsetting 2-1 loss on home ice in Game One, the Rangers came back to win Game Two 3-2. However, after this the Capitals would go on to win the next two, taking a three game to one lead.
In the two back-to-back losing efforts, the team looked flat, to the point where Tanner Glass was the most noticeable player on the ice.
With their backs to the wall, the Rangers came out and forced a Game 6 by winning Game 5 in overtime, and then forced a Game 7 at the Garden. Another game that we saw go to overtime.
Derek Stepan won an offensive zone faceoff and went to the net and put in the rebound, sending the Rangers to the Conference Finals for the third time in four years.
In just his second season, Vigneault was able to take a team that lost a heartbreaking Stanley Cup Final series and compete in the regular season to change the ending.
Throughout the regular season, the Rangers looked to be unstoppable. Even after losing netminder Henrik Lundqvist to a strained blood vessel in his throat, Cam Talbot stepped in and played outstanding.
Talbot’s effort didn’t go unnoticed, as he would end up winning the Stepan McDonald Extra Effort award.
Vigneault was also able to take the team and break the single-season points record. The Rangers went on to win 53 games and set the franchise record, 113 points.
Despite the regular season dominance, the Rangers would lose in the Conference Finals to the Tampa Bay Lighting, in seven games. Even more shocking it was on home ice, where the Rangers were unbeatable in Game 7s.
Jun 4, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault speaks at a press conference after game one of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
2. Stanley Cup Final Appearance
Despite the horrible start to the 2013-14 season, where the Rangers lost 9-2 to the Sharks and followed that up by a 6-0 loss to the Ducks, a lot of people were concerned if Vigneault was the right choice for the coaching spot.
However, the Rangers and Vigneault were about to do something no one would have thought possible at the start of the season, make a run in the playoffs.
The 2013-14 season marked the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Stanley Cup win for the Rangers. After beating the Flyers in seven games, the Rangers found themselves in a hole (3-1) against the Penguins. But the team fought back and made it a series, and then finished the comeback.
After completing the comeback, the Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens in six games and were on the way to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 20 years.
The NHL is one of the toughest leagues in the world. As a player, if you are lucky enough to get into the league you better make a lasting impression. Just as fast as your opportunity came, it can be gone.
Coaching in the league could be just as hard. The minute something starts the go wrong the fans are calling for your head and wants you fired.
For Vigneault, his playing career didn’t last long, yet his coaching career has been close to spectacular.
On Tuesday night, Alain Vigneault collected his 600th win as a coach. Vigneault joins former Rangers coach Mike Keenan along with Lindy Ruff, Al Arbour and Scotty Bowman on the list of coaches with 600+ wins.
While it may not have been the most exciting moment for the fans, it was a tremendous achievement for Vigneault, and deserves to be treated as such.