After a 5-0 shut out in Philadelphia, the season had finally and painfully come to an end. The New York Rangers found themselves in a position they had not been in for quite some time now, out of the playoffs, and on the way to a rebuild, but there was one lingering issue, who would be the leader of it?
Immediately after the game, Alain Vigneault defended himself in the presser with a long drawn out speech. Vigneault said, “at the end of the day, you know, you have to coach the team that you have in front of you, and you have to try to put a system in place that maximizes their talent level, and you try or mask or hide the weaknesses, and you work on both areas so that your team can improve.” Sure, there were injuries, and a directional change the organization decided to take, but there was very little accountability here. Vigneault, in what looked like a last-minute pitch to save his job said, “at the end of the day, my answer to you is a coach coaches what you have in front of you.”
The writing had been on the wall for several weeks that Alain would likely not be returning as head coach, but what transpired hours after the game was truly shocking. Jeff Gorton, who in recent interviews refused to support the man in charge, decided to rip the band aid off and avoid the drawn-out circus that was sure to come. Wasting no time, Jeff was quick to the punch. Perhaps he has a coach in mind already (Sheldon Keefe) and doesn’t want any other teams getting the drop, or perhaps it was Alain Vigneault’s unwillingness to look in the mirror and take some of the blame for what has transpired over the last few seasons. Either way you write the narrative, the call was made, and the organization will move forward with a new voice.
Alain Vigneault, who has brought this team as close to hoisting up Lord Stanley’s prized possession as it’s been since Mark Messier in 1994, has accomplished some great things here. A Cup Finals appearance, an Eastern Conference Championship, a President’s Trophy, and some of the best playoff moments in Rangers history are things to cherish. But all things do come to and end, and all coaches, even the greats have a shelf life. Vigneault’s, for the Rangers at least, has come and gone.
As Joe Fortunato of Blueshirt Banter eloquently pointed out in his recent article, “Welcome to Jeff Gorton’s team.” Vigneault was hired by the former General Manager Glen Sather, and now Jeff can officially put his stamp on this franchise and this rebuild with his own vision and philosophy. Who is the replacement? That is yet to be seen, but this will clearly be Jeff’s team moving forward.