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Rangers thriving under AV, as Torts is ‘scrutinized’ in Vancouver

Apr 1, 2014, 4:18 PM EST

New York Rangers v Florida Panthers Getty Images

It may have taken the New York Rangers some time to find themselves under new coach Alain Vigneault, but find themselves they certainly have.

Since the beginning of January, the Rangers are 22-11-2 in 35 games, during which they’ve scored an average of 3.1 goals, including blowout victories of 7-1, 7-3, and 8-4.

For context’s sake, only six teams — Anaheim, Chicago, Boston, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Colorado — have averaged more than three goals per game this season.

“We play a different system now where we play differently in our own end,” goalie Henrik Lundqvist told Yahoo Sports. “I think it gives us the ability to have more speed coming out of the zone. I think this year we create more chances and score more goals, which is huge.”

“We have a fast team, a lot of good skaters, so AV wants us to play in a straight line,” said forward Derick Brassard, per The Province newspaper. “We try and establish shots and we have a lot of guys on the back end who can join the rush. He wants us to move the puck fast.”

The Rangers are set to meet the Canucks tonight in Vancouver, where — in quite the twist — there was already no shortage of debate about the future of ex-Rangers coach John Tortorella.

A visit from the Blueshirts has only added to that debate, given Vigneault coached in the city from 2006-13, leading the Canucks to a pair of Presidents’ Trophies and to within a game of winning the Stanley Cup.

Take Brassard’s comment about Vigneault wanting his players to move the puck “fast.” In Vancouver, that rings especially loud after an unnamed scout told The Province that the disappointing Canucks “play so slow” under Tortorella.

Similarly, Lundqvist’s remark about playing “differently in our own end” and having “more speed coming out of the zone” could be viewed as a knock on Tortorella’s collapsing, shot-blocking defensive approach.

When two coaches switch jobs, the comparisons are naturally going to be made. And at this point, most of them paint Vigneault in a better light than Tortorella.

“You guys are going to make your opinions and talk about it because it’s kind of a unique thing that happened with Alain and I,” Tortorella said yesterday, per NHL.com.

“We’re losing games, so I’m the idiot, and he’s winning games, so he’s the smart guy, and rightfully so. When you lose games and you struggle, you’re going to get scrutinized.”

Related: Is Tortorella’s system to blame for Canucks’ woes?

  1. bohman88 - Apr 1, 2014 at 4:27 PM

    Win or lose I’m excited for the torts post game presser.

    • 7mantel - Apr 1, 2014 at 7:29 PM

      Miss them myself !

  2. imleftcoast - Apr 1, 2014 at 4:32 PM

    On team 1040 last night, Gurdeep Ahluwalia from tsn was on, and he was adamant that Tortorella shouldn’t join the tsn broadcast team after his behavior in New York with the media. Tortorella had done a segment with tsn, but I think this is going to be the worst-kept secret.

  3. bwayblueshirt - Apr 1, 2014 at 4:33 PM

    As I’ve said many times, Torts is a great coach, but VAN was just about the worst place he could have landed. He would’ve been a better fit in DAL. His style requires a specific roster that VAN just doesn’t boast. The problem in VAN is with management keeping one hand on the wheel.

    • stepanup - Apr 1, 2014 at 4:40 PM

      Torts coaching Seguin? No thanks. Would’ve held Benn back too. I agree with your overall point, that his style requires a certain roster, but I do not think Dallas would be it.

      • stakex - Apr 1, 2014 at 4:59 PM

        Actually, considering the reasons behind Boston trading Seguin… he could probably use a no BS coach like Torts.

      • imleftcoast - Apr 1, 2014 at 5:32 PM

        I have trouble believing a 21-year-old had such a bad attitude. He may have been out of place in Boston, but I don’t think that was the reason for the trade.

      • Moop - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:44 PM

        I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Boston trading Seguin was largely a salary dump in order to lock up more important pieces for the now (Bergeron, Rask). If they didn’t trade him they would have had to trade guys like Krejci or Lucic to free up salary. I loved Seguin while he was here, but I would never trade Krejci or Lucic if I could trade Seguin, knowing that he’d never put up the kind of season he’s having this year in Boston’s system anyways. The Boston media created the whole partying/villain story in order to rationalize the Bruins trading another young superstar.

    • pigeonbutt - Apr 1, 2014 at 4:45 PM

      While I don’t entirely disagree with your comment, a hallmark of a “great coach” is the ability to adapt. Ken Hitchcock is one of the easiest examples due to the success he has had with multiple different teams.

      Watching the Torts-led Canucks this year is like banging your head against the wall. Over. And Over.

      Never mind the personal and the ideal game style. How about being able to adapt to simple changes with what you already have. Like knowing that Edler -Bieksa has been a train wreck of a pairing EARLY in the AV days. Unfailingly they better other defencemen, unless they are together. And yet they are always together. Why was Hamhuis on the PP for most of the year? Why does Kassian have ZERO PP time in the entire year despite being their hottest forward in the last month?

      ***Why is Sestito getting regular minutes?***

      There is just so many cases of blatant failures and call it being stubborn or whatever but he has simply not shown the ability to read them and correct them.

      • hockeydon10 - Apr 1, 2014 at 5:51 PM

        Saw something about Hitch to the effect of ‘He accepts the young guys for what they are. He accepts their music, their fashions, etc. He doesn’t necessarily agree with it, but just trying to understand and accept all that helps him a lot in getting players to buy into his system.’ Can’t remember if it was an interview or what, but it seems to make sense. Torts, on the other hand, has always struck me as the old-school sort of coach that says “JUMP!” and doesn’t even want his players to ask “how high?”. He just wants them to jump.

  4. pigeonbutt - Apr 1, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    There’s obviously a lot more to the story than “AV GOOD TORTS BAD.”
    But the surface of the story is pretty telling.

    Rangers started poorly amidst defensive break downs as the team adjusted to a much different system while King Hank got past the early pressures of a new contract. The season progresses and the team comes into their own, adopting a scoring by committee approach as the new system opens offensive opportunities down the entire roster.

    Canucks start strong as the team tries the new aggressive, dump and forecheck approach applied by Torts. The defence starts weak as they get used to man on man coverage. Concerns of too much time for the top players starts to grow as the injuries climb. The offence still isn’t found. Defence still makes curiously bone headed “safe” plays that still lead to blown coverage. The coach makes one of the most blatantly near-sighted moves in recent history by starting the rookie back-up goalie during the Heritage Classic. The move directly and openly leads to the trade of the franchise’s best goalie. Roughly around New Years/Olympic Break it becomes apparent the players are not taking to the system as a number of shocking break downs occur to a “veteran” team.

    One tells the story of a coach leading his players to a new system that unlocks potential. The other tells of a coach dragging a team kicking and screaming into the coals.

    • hockeydon10 - Apr 1, 2014 at 5:54 PM

      Also saw some analysis of just how slow the Canucks are now. Not sure that’s on the coach or on the GM for ignoring speed when it comes to roster decisions.

  5. rpiotr01 - Apr 1, 2014 at 4:42 PM

    Put Torts on a young, hungry, scrappy kind of team, full of guys who maybe need to play over their heads and they’ll listen to him and succeed. Put him on a team with veterans used to playing a certain way who more or less know how to handle themselves and he becomes a burden. To echo what the poster above said, this may well have been the worst coach-roster fit possible in the league, and whoever made it happen needs to be held accountable.

    Torts isn’t a bad coach but he’s running out of chances in the NHL.

    • kaptaanamerica - Apr 2, 2014 at 1:26 AM

      ok, so let me get this straight, you want the owner to hold himself responsible? it was the owner who made the decision. it’s an open secret in Vancouver which the idiot media in the East (toronto) can’t seem to get into their pea brains.

  6. willrad00 - Apr 1, 2014 at 5:12 PM

    I’m sure calgary’s newish GM would love to have him. If theres one “truculent” coach in the league its Torts.

  7. stakex - Apr 1, 2014 at 5:15 PM

    While the Rangers have been good of late, the idea that they are “thriving” on the offensive side might be a stretch. Those three 7+ goal games help to skew the average goals per game numbers a little bit in that time frame, and they are still 18th in the league in goals scored on the season (the Rangers haven’t finished a season that low in goal scoring since 09-10). There are just still too many games in which the Rangers offense looks flat, and while generating a lot of shots, fails to generate quality scoring chances.

    The main reason the Rangers are 22-11-2 in the last 35 games is because Lundqvist has been playing really well, and their defense doesn’t look atrocious like it did to start the year. Despite being in the bottom of the league in goals scored, the Rangers have a +22 goal differential thanks to being 4th in the league in goals allowed. That’s why the Rangers are thriving…. not their on again, of again offense.

    • 7mantel - Apr 1, 2014 at 7:41 PM

      Again I agree with you ! Only if you follow the NYR would you see what you described ! Lundquist is a different goalie now than the beginning of the season . Don’t know if it was the pads or the system !

    • kaptaanamerica - Apr 2, 2014 at 1:36 AM

      did you even read the article… the team was making adjustments in the beginning of the season, getting used to a new system. f*k get a clue. if they spent 20-30 games at the beginning of the season getting up to speed, in what reality are you using the entire season’s totals to reflect the team as it is now???!!

      the team is working the way it should in the second half of the season with AV’s system. those 7 goal games should be taken into account cuz they show the team can blow out teams using this system.

      There should be an IQ test for people using the internet to post comments.

  8. bleedrangerblue - Apr 1, 2014 at 5:28 PM

    I like the way they play. It’s up tempo and fast. The Rangers were worn down defensively in past years(always defending). They seem fresher This year at this time.

  9. joey4id - Apr 1, 2014 at 5:55 PM

    Torts will fail regardless of the type of roster unless he changes his approach. There are constants and attributes every coach must have to be successful, or in other words to get buy in from the players. You need to be a good teacher, which requires patience, and understanding. Clearly you can see by his conduct behind the bench that he has niether. He’s a bitter coach that would rather confront than collaborate. His coaching career in the NHL is coming to an end.

    • 7mantel - Apr 1, 2014 at 7:28 PM

      sorry joe have to disagree with you ! When Torts gets his type of players things will turn around !

      • imleftcoast - Apr 1, 2014 at 7:35 PM

        God, I hope this isn’t a 10-year tour down ‘the league has passed you by Canucks’ lane. If Aquilini is so stupid that he doubles down on this mistake, I’m checking out until he hires a GM who tells him to just stfu and let him run the team properly.

      • joey4id - Apr 1, 2014 at 11:18 PM

        And his types of players are? Enlighten me.

      • 7mantel - Apr 2, 2014 at 7:03 AM

        If you don’t know his type of players you don’t Torts

      • joey4id - Apr 2, 2014 at 7:19 AM

        Really!

        joey4id – Sep 5, 2013 at 11:39 AM
        Torts! Burke! We’re seeing a train wreck waiting to happen in Western Canada.

        Joey knows Torts. Heck. Even Bo knows.

      • 7mantel - Apr 2, 2014 at 7:59 AM

        Bo was some kind of athlete !

      • joey4id - Apr 2, 2014 at 8:05 AM

        Ha! Me too! ;-) Up early I see. Have a good one!

  10. Wineshard - Apr 1, 2014 at 7:52 PM

    Someone said Torts needs a young scrappy team. Maybe that is the plan? Blow up the current roster and bring in young guys. Heck maybe even tank so bad in 2014/15 that you have a chance at Connor McDavid?

    I hope that isn’t the end game because it will be painful getting there, but it would be nice to have a superstar to build around.

    • kaptaanamerica - Apr 2, 2014 at 1:42 AM

      people who want to tank for a shot at a player aren’t real fans. tanking on purpose is for LOSERS (see Edmonton/ Toronto)

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