Remember that scene in Pirates of the Caribbean where the ship is being sucked into the giant whirlpool and Jack Sparrow looks at his compass and it's just spinning wildly? Sometimes I think that's what's happening to Alain Vigneault when he goes into his office after losses since December.
On the bench he's lost his calm demeanor, often getting snippy with officials and no longer sporting that poker face we've seen the past two and a half years.
In that same vein, the old Vigneault is sort of leaving by the day. Vigneault is changing, and not the type of changing a coach does when things aren't working and he's adjusting his systems; Vigneault is changing the way he's acting. Traditionally calling out players publicly is last on Vigneault's list of things to do. It was one of the major differences between him and his predecessor John Tortorella. Torts took things public because he thought the room should be aired out and open. Vigneault never subscribed to such a strategy.
But we've seen him do it twice in two weeks; first with Kevin Hayes and now with Henrik Lundqvist:
More AV: "We need Hank to re-become the Hank that he’s used to, for us, and from there, I think everything else should fall into place."— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) January 4, 2016
Here's the deal with that Lundqvist quote: It's not wrong at all for Vigneault to highlight Lundqvist's struggles as being an issue. Lundqvist had a disastrous December that certainty helped the Rangers current free-fall in the standings. But it's not the first part of the quote I have an issue with, it's the second part. The "from there, I think everything else should fall back into place."
That is not at all a good ideology to have in this situation. Demanding Lundqvist play God long enough to keep the team's horrific defense and possession issues afloat is not a strategy for success. And it's also not fair to assume that once Hank does start getting back to his normal numbers (although he's at his career save percentage now) if nothing gets fixed on the back end.
What's worse, after Vigneault makes the above comment he says the below:
More AV, for context: 'No doubt we have a few players playing sub-par, not naming anyone, it’s pretty evident 4 those who follow us closely'— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) January 4, 2016
I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why some players deserve absolute protection from public scorn while others gets roasted over the open fire. If the above is a way of protecting Dan Girardi and Marc Staal (and really, who else would he be talking about here?) it sends a horrible message to the team. Especially when both of the above get chance after chance despite their continued struggles.
And again: How must Emerson Etem feel watching this while he's most likely going to be a healthy scratch for Hartford call up Jayson Megna tonight?
Etem has not gotten a fair shake from the beginning. He didn't make the team (over Tanner Glass no less) out of camp, didn't get into action until the 7th game of the year and hasn't at all been given constant playing time with consistent linemates. In fact, the most consistent playing time Etem is getting is on the fourth line. And people are confused he's not putting up numbers.
The coaching staff seems to be of the opinion they've given Etem a chance, which I disagree with. Vigneault has given Etem an opportunity the same way you were "given an opportunity" to clean your room as a kid. You looked at the mess, didn't know what to do, threw a few things into the hamper and left it as is. You didn't really try and your mother rolled her eyes and cleaned the rest for you eventually.
That's pretty much what's happening here, although Vigneault is throwing his hands up and basically giving up on Etem rather than trying to fix the problem. This treatment, by the way, has a lingering impact on the team, since Etem's trade value is at an all-time low and his confidence is even lower. So not only has the team taken away a potentially good player from themselves, they've ensured they won't be able to get anything in return for him.
To sit Etem for a Hartford call up essentially means the Rangers have given up on him. And it also means the Rangers didn't do their due diligence last summer when they acquired him and traded away Carl Hagelin for what is now just the 41st overall pick in the 2015 draft. Hagelin had more value than that, and Etem was the centerpiece of the deal when it was made. Granted the move allowed the Rangers to get out of the way of Hagelin's massive extension, but to get so little in return is disappointing. Especially when the Rangers dissolved their own asset for no reason.
The Etem situation will likely be glossed over. Vigneault will talk about how it's the right thing to do and that he needs more time or didn't do enough with his chances. But at the end of the day all he's done is allow a potentially valuable asset to be nothing more than a mess of a situation.
Which he doesn't seem too inclined to clean up.