Every coach has a shelf life. They all know it when taking the job that one day they will be shown the door.
Today was Alain Vigneault’s turn.
You can’t blame the Rangers for the decision. Vigneault’s time just had come. The team and the coach just did not mesh. Instead of playing to the strengths of the lineup, AV just continued coach the same way he did when he got the job back in 2013.
What worked then, does not worked now.
Vigneault should be happy he lasted this long. Only because he had the goaltending on Henrik Lundqvist and the multitude of backups elevated by Benoit Allaire, the Rangers competed and made the playoffs the past few seasons.
The team got older, slower and the defense was the first thing that went.
We started seeing this early in the year, even before Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton went all Mortimer and Randolph Duke on the roster, at the trade deadline, by screaming to sell every piece possible.
At that point, it was just a matter of time. Even if they kept the team intact, the best the Blueshirts could hope for was being the sacrificial lamb for either Washington or Tampa Bay in the first round.
Nope. Everyone saw the writing on the wall and the purge was necessary. The Rangers needed to turn the page from the era and open the door to a new one.
Part of that was putting a new voice at the top.
Vigneault was the man for the job back in 2013, when a veteran team – a year off the conference championships – was looking to a more aggressive voice after being grinded down by John Tortorella. It worked with a Stanley Cup Final in 2014 and then another trip to the conference final in 2015.
However, the last three years started to bring a downturn. The defense started breaking down and only the brilliance of Lundqvist elevated the club to the spring dance.
Once Lundqvist started to show his age, the Rangers needed to look under the hood to see the driver of this vehicle didn’t know how to get the most out of its parts.
And this year you knew it was just a matter of time before Vigneault would be shown the door for a younger coach, who can relate to his players and be able to lead the club to the next era.
There are plenty of candidates out there from the college, minors and even some coaching retreads with Stanley Cup pedigrees, like Darryl Sutter and Dan Bylsma. It’s going to be up Sather and Gorton to decide what direction to go in over the next month or so.
They wasted no time to let Vigneault go, only hours after the team seemed to have no interest in playing the playoff bound Flyers. It made the club’s decision easy.
Now the hard part starts.
And a new clock starts ticking.