It is inevitable that Alain Vigneault, who formally assumed the reins of the Rangers Friday under a five-year contract reportedly worth $10 million, will be compared with John Tortorella, whose reign included a trip to the Eastern Conference finals and a trail of combustible dealings with the media.
Based on his track record of 10 years behind the bench with Montreal and Vancouver, Vigneault's demeanor is unlikely to ever mimic Tortorella's.
At his introduction during an event at Radio City Music Hall, Vigneault, 52, said he understands his responsibility to be professional and respectful to everyone from the front office to the players to the team's staff to reporters and fans.
But in the end, it's a results business. The Quebec City native, who has been a coach since he was 23, was brought to New York to win and win often, especially in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"I'm going into this with an open mind," Vigneault said. "I think [players] should be, too . . . I'm going in with a clean slate; let's see what we can write on that slate."
With Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather's blessing, Vigneault will attempt to transform his inherited squad. He'll have a fresh approach with puck possession, movement on the power play, activating the defense to join the rush, employing different assistant coaches and using advanced stats for deploying players and fatigue studies to help energy levels.
"We needed a change in style," said Sather, who prefers an attacking style and believes the game has evolved in that direction. "There were a number of guys who were getting the crap kicked out of them in our end. We needed to move the puck out quick. [Our defensive] style was perfect for a couple of years, but it started to wear our team out . . . The injuries we had this year, it started to take a toll on our club."
Having coached a Western Conference team in the Canucks for the past seven seasons, Vigneault confessed little understanding of the Rangers' pluses and minuses but will watch their 12 playoff games on his laptop as a jumping-off point.
From a distance, he believes the Rangers have "the potential to have two real solid offensive lines, and after that, Glen feels we've got a couple of good young kids who are close."
Rick Nash, he said, "is an elite player . . . He's been through one year here. He's going to be even better this year."
Henrik Lundqvist, Vigneault said, is "one of the best goalies in the world."
On defense, he wants players to join the rush and create more three-on-twos and four-on-threes. "There's real good balance,'' he said. "We've got the potential to join the rush a little more. I think the skill level is there."
Ryan Callahan likely will remain captain, Vigneault said. He declined comment on the future of Brad Richards, whose contract could be bought out.
Vigneault, who is fine with being called A.V., will have at least two assistants, "one guy taking care a little more of the PP and another guy a little more on the PK. They will be guys that have NHL experience and I want guys that are upbeat and positive. I can't do that by myself."
The Dolan family owns
controlling interests in the
Rangers, Madison Square
Garden and Cablevision.
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