Hoffman: Vigneault the right fit in NYC

Vigneault was fired last month after the Canucks were swept in the first round of the playoffs by San Jose. CP/Darryl Dyck

One of the top priorities going into this off-season for the New York Rangers was finding someone to replace former head coach John Tortorella behind the bench.

That mission was accomplished today when the Rangers announced that they hired former Canucks bench boss Alain Vigneault to be the organizations next bench boss.

While the Rangers had some interesting candidates, including former Rangers captain Mark Messier, the team decided to take the safe route and hire a coach that has had both plenty of experience and success in this league.

For starters, Vigneault knows what it takes to win. As the head coach of the Canucks, Vigneualt led his team to six Northwest Division titles, two Presidents’ Trophies and in 2011, got the team to within one win of the franchise’s first Stanley Cup as they lost in seven games to the Boston Bruins.

Vigneault has also racked up awards and award nominations for his work behind the bench. As head coach of the Montreal Canadiens during the 1999-2000 season, Vigneualt was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as the league’s coach of the year because despite various long-term injuries to some of his club’s best players, he was able to keep the team above .500.

In 2007, Vigneault won the Jack Adams for leading the Canucks to their first division title as they won a then franchise record 49 games and got to the second round of the post-season before being eliminated by the eventual Cup champion Anaheim Ducks. Four years later, Vigneualt was a finalist for the award as he led the club to their first President’s Trophy and second trip to the Cup final.

Secondly, Vigneault knows how to deal with offensive players. While in Vancouver, Vigneault had the likes of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Alexandre Burrows, and Mason Raymond.

Under the tutelage and offensive style of play that Vigneault implemented, these Canucks’ forwards were able to excel in a big way. They scored a lot of goals, were creative with the puck, generated a lot of scoring chances and came through at big points in the game.

With the Rangers having the likes of Rick Nash, Brad Richards (for now), Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard, and Mats Zuccarello, Vigneault has a lot of offence that he can work with and get going. What’s more, Vigneault is apparently the kind of head coach that gives the players a lot of ownership whether it was on the ice or in the locker room, something that Tortorella did not seem to do.

Rick Bowness, Vigneault’s assistant in Vancouver for seven seasons, told Daily News Rangers beat writer Pat Leonard that Vigneualt respected the players and respected the way they could handle themselves.

“Alain gave the players a lot of ownership for what was going on, and the players absolutely had to respect that,” said Rick Bowness, a former Islanders coach and Vigneault’s assistant for seven years in Vancouver. “Whether you like him or any of us – (coaches are) never the most popular guys around – but he always gave players ownership of what was happening, on the ice, in the locker room, the whole thing, so they always respected that.”

Vigneault’s style of coaching and play is one that should keep Rangers star netminder Henrik Lundqvist happy. Vigneault is someone that likes to play his starter as often as a possible while also utilizing a style that should lead the Rangers to putting more pucks in the net, helping to take off the constant pressure that Lundqvist feels that he has to be perfect in every game.

It is more than apparent that the Rangers need a new voice and a new leader behind the bench in order to get this team playing the way they should be every single game. For the Rangers, that man appears to be and should be Vigneault.

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