By Steve Silverman
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The New York Rangers laid an egg last night in Raleigh, as they put forth a no-show effort and lost to the Carolina Hurricanes for the first time in three years.
The Rangers were taken to task by Alain Vigneault after the game, but not in the way their former coach John Tortorella would have done it. If Tortorella would have been behind the bench, he would have been firing daggers and critiques at the players he considered most responsible.
Vigneault fully admitted after the game that his players were not engaged the way they should have been, but he was not interested in roasting individuals and sucking the life out of his team. He knows the Rangers are in the most crucial part of the season and if they are going to make the playoffs and have a chance to succeed, his team has to build to a crescendo.
Obviously, Vigneault wanted that to have happened already and he wishes his team was starting to peak. There have been some good signs – the Rangers were coming off back-to-back wins – but they did not play to that level against the Hurricanes. They will have a chance to get back on track in two tough road games against Minnesota and Winnipeg.
While Vigneault has not gotten everything out of his team that he would have wanted to by such a crucial point in the season, it is clear that he has done a lot better with the Rangers than Tortorella has done with the Vancouver Canucks.
Vigneault’s former team is in shambles and this former Western Conference powerhouse is not going to make the playoffs.
It also appears that Tortorella is going to be a one-and-done head coach with the Canucks. While general manager Mike Gillis has done a miserable job of taking care of the roster – he traded away both Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo, yet failed in his efforts to move Ryan Kesler and Alex Edler – Tortorella’s old-school ways have not gotten through to his players.
There is the same misery on his current players’ faces that there was on the Rangers when he didn’t like the way they were playing.
Tortorella had some success in New York getting his players to buy in to his defensive system because he had players like Ryan Callahan, Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi who were capable of playing the grinding, hard-nosed style that he demanded during his five-year tenure.
Vancouver has players like Henrik and Daniel Sedin as its headliners. The only thing they are going to grind is Romano cheese for their pasta.
The Canucks are likely going to clean house at the end of the year and Tortorella is not going to figure into a new general manager’s plans. The game is not about intimidating your players and limiting them with a defense-first system that stifles creativity.
That’s why Glen Sather fired Tortorella last year and brought in a more offensive-minded bench boss in Vigneault. It has taken the Rangers players some time to get used to a more creative and exciting way of playing the offensive game and there have been some hiccups along the way, but it is working.
Maybe not as fast or proficiently as some Rangers fans or even Vigneault would want to see, but the team has responded from its early-season horrors and has shown that it can play competitively most nights.
The acquisition of Martin St. Louis has yet to pay real dividends, but anyone who has seen the former Lightning star over the whole of his career knows that he is just the kind of player who can carry a team in a playoff series due to his explosive scoring and ability to rise to the occasion.
Vigneault has worked well with this kind of player in the past. The Sedin brothers thrived under his system, and St. Louis should also.
The Rangers still have a long way to go and it would be an upset to see them survive the Eastern Conference, but they at least have some reasonable hope with Vigneault behind the bench.
The Canucks have none of that with Tortorella, whose head coaching career is almost certainly in its final weeks.
It’s a victory for the Rangers, and they will take it.
Follow Steve on Twitter at @ProFootballBoy
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