Alain Vigneault has everything but a Stanley Cup
Since 2008-09, Alain Vigneault's teams have won the Presidents' Trophy three times, twice with Vancouver and now with the Rangers. He guided the Canucks and Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final.
It's reminiscent of the expression: "Just because I make it look easy, doesn't mean it is." Trust us, it's not.
Vigneault, who is 19th on the all-time list with 520 NHL victories, has yet to sip from the Cup.
For Vigneault and the No. 1 Stanley Cup playoff seed Rangers, another quest for hockey's grail begins Thursday night at Madison Square Garden against the Penguins. Vigneault and the Rangers have been in the crosshairs after losing to the Kings in last year's Final.
"I believe we've been hunted since Day 1," Vigneault said Wednesday of this Rangers season. "Any time you've got the Stanley Cup champions or the Cup finalist -- I used to do the same thing -- you tell your team you've got to use them as a benchmark. I'm sure that's what the other teams were doing. We're used to being hunted. We've reacted well under that pressure."
So has Vigneault. During a question about his NHL coaching career, which began as an assistant in Ottawa in 1992-93, he smiled and jumped in with: "Am I getting that old?"
Not really. Vigneault, who turns 54 next month, has dealt admirably with that pressure and a team that has evolved since last spring's run, players say.
"The first thing that stands out is his demeanor," said defenseman Matt Hunwick, who has played in Boston and Colorado. "Early in the season we were kind of down, but he was steadfast in his approach. I've had coaches where if you had a couple bad stretches, the practices changed, the mood in the room changed; here, it's pretty consistent. I think he knew what kind of group he had and that we'd kind of pull through. There's been times in the past where you're kind of waiting to go in and get chewed out; here it was: 'Let's focus on the next game, let's prepare for the next game.' "
Vigneault, who makes his offseason home in Gatineau, Quebec, was fired from his first head coaching job in Montreal, and worked his way back from behind the benches in juniors to Vancouver, where a more successful approach began.
"He's very straightforward," said Tanner Glass, who played for Vigneault's Canucks. "He holds everyone to the same standards, whether you're Rick Nash or Jesper Fast or Marty St. Louis, and I think guys appreciate that. In some places, it's not the same for every guy. It's important for the room that every guy is held accountable . . . He lets his coaches run their part of the game plan, but it's his ship, make no mistake."
Vigneault, who shouts instructions from the bench during games, has been preparing for a long series. "I think both teams want to start on the right foot," he said. "But it's Game 1. Afterward you break down the tapes, look for areas you can exploit. It's a race to four [wins]."
That's Vigneault's measured style: You learn, you move on. "He coaches on a day-to-day basis, there's no lack of preparation," said Dan Boyle, who played in Tampa for John Tortorella and then in San Jose. "Even-keeled, not too many highs or lows. I've had guys scream more -- obviously, the ex-coach here -- but that's not always the best way to communicate."