Alain Vigneault and Tanking: The 2017-18 New York Rangers
Folks, let’s talk New York Rangers. The opinions of this article will be unpopular, but there are so many Rangers hot takes out there, I might as well share my own. Between the post-deadline team, Alain Vigneault and the “tank”, it seems like at every turn a ‘stupid’ decision happens. Let’s get to it folks.
Post Trade Deadline
Personally, I was pro-sell, admittedly for I hath too much pride. Trading away rentals for picks/prospects I was all in; the big trade of Miller/McDonagh? It took a while to buy into.
However, let’s address the elephant in the room. Selling and acquiring Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestikov doesn’t really ensure “tank”. Both are top-six players in the NHL and it has shown.
Even post-deadline, the Rangers still had nine bona fide NHL caliber players. Three full lines to put out on the ice. The team has “succeeded” since the deadline by winning 17 points in 17 games. Apparently, as a fan, this is a big sin.
Look, the Rangers were not good enough to make the playoffs and not bad enough to go full tank. Like a college student on a Sunday morning, one day Jeff Gorton and Co. looked in the mirror and wondered where it all went wrong, and what are they doing?
Before I get pinned as a pro AV guy, I am not. Before this season I had the unpopular opinion, at the time at least, of him being accountable of them coming up short. He has made plenty of decisions in his tenure that have really hurt the team. My points against him were realistic and there was proof.
Now it seems AV is to blame because, well it’s obviously him. The reality is that Alain Vigneault generally succeeded as a Rangers head coach but plenty of his choices cost him the highest level of success, a championship.
It is not on Alain Vigneault that this season the team wanted Filip Chytil to be NHL ready at 18 because of a shortage down the middle of the ice. It’s not his fault that Kevin Shattenkirk and Brendan Smith were expected to produce greater than they did. It’s not AV’s fault that Mika Zibanejad got concussed and David Desharnais had to play top-line center’s minutes. It’s not on AV that Brady Skjei is young and still needs to mature on the ice.
He is at fault for potentially stunting the growth of players like Pavel Buchnevich. However, he can be praised for getting the most out of players like Kevin Hayes, Michael Grabner, and Mats Zuccarello. Under former head coach John Tortorella, Kreider was unliked and Zuccarello never got a shake until AV came in.
AV is at fault for MANY parts of the team falling short. Just not for what the fans want to blame him for.
#NYR head coach Alain Vigneault on the final six games of the regular season, what he expects from his team tonight and the condition of Lindy Ruff before tonight's tilt in Washington. pic.twitter.com/NXLrvEIlA9
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) March 28, 2018
Believing the Rangers were a playoff team is a crazy, insanely wrong take by AV. Even so, a coach that believes in his team will never let that falter. I agree with AV saying after the letter came out that strong goaltending is the remedy for the team’s struggles. That’s what made them borderline at one point this season.
OFFICIAL: #NYR Head Coach Alain Vigneault has been relieved of his coaching duties.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) April 8, 2018
This final result had already been written on the wall. I do believe Jeff Gorton when he says he believed AV was the right coach at the deadline. I also think that AV was put in a bad position in the media. Even when the fans were calling for youth, he started Georgiev and that hurt the team in fans eyes.
The fact of the matter is that a coach’s inability to take credit for success AND failure hurts the players and team. This was Vigneault’s biggest detriment, not his system or style, but his refusal to take all the blame is why he was let go.
The front end of the Rangers has stepped up their game to make up for the abysmal back end. How this is met with anything other than pure optimism is baffling. The team had five 40 point players, one of which, Chris Kreider, missed significant time. Jesper Fast had 33 points. If your third or fourth line winger had 33 points, the team is in a good spot.
The goal at the deadline was to start a rebuild, not clean house a la Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins. The team would have had to go basically pointless to end up with the best draft lottery ODDS. IF they only managed ten points from the deadline-end of the season, they would have fifth best ODDS.
Ironically, the fan base that wanted nothing but success, immediately wanted the team to fail for extra ping pong balls. Disagree if you want, but there is literally no true reason to tank in the NHL. All 15 teams that miss out on the playoffs have a chance to move up and to move down. Last year, the Devils had 22 points more than the worst team in the league and got the top pick. Philadelphia was the 12th worst team and got the second.
The point here is that everything is left to luck, to chance. If the NHL did a draft like the NFL, then tanking is an argument. They don’t they use a lottery where the worst team in the league isn’t guaranteed a top three pick, let alone a top pick. Nor a team that is in between bad and really bad is not completely without hope.
Not saying that the Rangers will luck out, just saying when nothing is guaranteed then why would a fan base prefer seeing their team lose?
Summer to remember
This is the most important summer in recent memory for the Rangers. Every day, a report comes out with more and more intriguing news. There’s a boatload of questions, a boatload of moves and a boatload of pressure on the front office. Finding a team that will keep them competitive for the future is the objective. How they go about that will remain to be seen.
One thing is for certain: this season, while being a down year, was still productive. The season took a lot out of Henrik Lundqvist. Asking this guy to tank is like asking a fish not to swim. Impossible.
Disappointing 2nd half of the season. Came up short and it will hurt for a while. We all have different opinions on how, why and what if..
— Henrik Lundqvist (@HLundqvist30) April 10, 2018
The 2017-18 New York Rangers, disappointing but promising.