If you care to remember, there was a time when fans were screaming for Alain Vigneault's head ... in October. You read that sentence correctly. There was a time when fans regretted John Tortorella being fired for Vigneault before 10 games of the season had even been played. Not everyone, mind you, but New York has a big enough fanbase that sometimes even the smallest minorities can raise their voices to something of a fever pitch.
New York has always been one of the toughest rooms to play. People expect (and in most cases demand) success the way they want it; which is usually right now. Often times it doesn't play out the way they envision, and when things happen people didn't expect or didn't want they voice their displeasure. Loudly.
Through the first season of Vigneault's marriage to the New York Rangers people questioned him at every turn. I blatantly questioned Vigneault when the Rangers brought in Dan Carcillo:
[The Carcillo trade] is not a true solution, or at least not a solution to help the Rangers' real issues. Obviously the Rangers' brass (and Vigneault is a part of this too) thought the Rangers needed more toughness. So they made a move for Carcillo to play on the fourth line. This wasn't a move to replace Derek Dorsett, who was injured against the Pittsburgh Penguins, this wasn't a move to bring in a player who could provide an offensive spark and this wasn't a move to alleviate the Rangers' issues with consistency.
Obviously I was quite wrong about the above. Vigneault not only used Carcillo in a way that utilized his strengths, but he helped turn Carcillo into a true factor that helped the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Final. How many of you would have thrown money on that number at the roulette table the day the trade way made? Not many, if any at all.
We started learning our lesson around the beginning of the playoffs. We watched Vigneault mix and match, hit different buttons, examine what worked and what didn't and started shutting our mouths even if we didn't agree. When he moved Carcillo up to the top line for a game we mumbled and grumbled but watched it turn out OK. When he inserted Raphael Diaz to try and ignite the slumping power play we did the same thing.
Simply put, he earned the benefit of the doubt, which speaks volumes about the type of coach he is. It takes a lot to appease the fine folks of New York, and he did it in less than a year.
A lot of those feelings changed when the Rangers signed Tanner Glass to a three-year, $4.35-million contract. And when people found out all the signs pointed towards Vigneault personally requesting Sather go after Glass this summer, people turned on him yet again.
This year's free agency was different for the New York Rangers. For the first time in a long time fans watched more players walk out the door than came in it. Not to say that was the wrong decision -- it wasn't -- but it does represent sweeping change from the Rangers' brass.
The Rangers refused to overpay for the marquee name. They didn't try to fit a square peg into a round hole because of a veteran player's past accomplishments. What they did do was bring in a power play quarterback they desperately needed, AHL depth to help keep the Hartford Wolf Pack a place where prospects can continue to develop and re-signed one of last year's more important players in Dominic Moore. Outside of those moves it was quiet. And quiet isn't something we're used to when it comes to the Rangers and free agency.
So people turned on Sather and company. They were mad that he wasn't able to keep last year's team together -- despite the overwhelming evidence that Sather might have had his hands tied with some of the moves -- and they turned their frustrations into a loud argument against Glass.
I get the fancy stats argument. I really do. Glass has horrific possession numbers that didn't improve all that much (or at all) when he was paired with guys like Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby. That's a red flag and at least one alarm ringing for sure. His possession numbers were the worst in the NHL last year. Not kind of the worst, THE worst. And if Crosby and Malkin can't help you there's nothing the Rangers can offer you short of tying Zuccarello and Martin St. Louis to each leg (they're small it would work) and having them sort of play for you.
But keep in mind Vigneault is not a coach who throws these stats out the window. Remember, Vigneault and his staff not only accept advanced statistics but they also keep their own stats internally which they analyse as they move through the season. Vigneault is very, very aware of the numbers Glass possesses, which means he has a plan for him.
Just because we can't see it doesn't mean it isn't there. I am not in the camp that believes Glass was brought in to be strictly a face puncher. I made that mistake when the Rangers traded for a Mr. Dan Carcillo (see above). For what it's worth, Glass did kill penalties in Pittsburgh (1:38 per game last year) and averaged close to 12 minutes a game. Some of that might have to do with the Penguins' remarkably weak bottom six, but through his career he has been a player to average around 11 minutes a game -- playing close to 14 in Winnipeg a couple of years ago.
Understand something, I agree with most of you. I don't think this move makes much sense for the Rangers. They had a player who filled Glass' role in Derek Dorsett and he proved he could do it, too. The Rangers traded him away in a move that was labeled as "clearing cap space" and then brought Glass in for just $200K less. On the surface it doesn't make sense.
But I've questioned Vigneault before and been proven wrong just about every time. And to be honest with you, if anyone has deserved the benefit of the doubt after an inaugural season it's Vigneault. He took this team and this fanbase kicking and screaming all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. And if not for three overtime goals that all went to the Los Angeles Kings, we might be signing a different tune.
So hate the signing all you want. Hate the player all you want. But give it a chance, if for nothing else because Vigneault wanted it.
And he's earned that right, like it or not.