NEW YORK – The New York Rangers introduced Alain Vigneault as their coach at a splashy news conference Friday, but the occasion was as much about someone who was elsewhere: John Tortorella, the Rangers’ previous coach.
While the genial Vigneault was enjoying the first moments of his five-year contract, Tortorella was on a flight to Vancouver, where it was believed he would soon be hired as Canucks coach. Until last month, that job belonged to Vigneault, perhaps making this a swap of coaches.
Vigneault, the 35th coach of the Rangers, comes into the job after seven seasons in Vancouver, in which he led the Canucks to two Presidents’ Trophy seasons (for most points in the regular season) and a trip to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, won by Boston. His regular-season record with the Canucks was 313-170-57.
“When I was thinking about the opportunity to coach the New York Rangers, one of the Original Six teams, in this great city, there’s not a chance that I could pass that up,” said Vigneault, 52.
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Vigneault comes in with a reputation for being a good communicator with players and with the media, unlike the often volatile Tortorella.
“I come from a big market, a market where I understood the responsibilities that go with this job,” Vigneault, who was the coach of the Montreal Canadiens for three years, told reporters.
Many of the questions to Rangers general manager Glen Sather were about why he fired Tortorella. He said it had nothing to do with a perceived player revolt.
“There hasn’t been a player that mentioned or complained to me about Torts, so let’s get that cleared up once and for all,” Sather said. He said he liked Tortorella, 54, whom he called “beyond stubborn.”
Sather felt the need to change the Rangers’ tactics, which under Tortorella were predicated on defense and grinding forechecking.
Tortorella guided Tampa Bay to the 2004 Stanley Cup and was 171-118-30 with the Rangers.
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