The Rangers kicked off a new era in their history Friday morning, officially naming Alain Vigneault to be the club’s new head coach. Vigneault, who becomes the 35th head coach in franchise history, was introduced at a press conference held at New York’s famed Radio City Music Hall.
"First of all I'd like to thank Mr. Dolan and Glen (Sather) for their votes of confidence, and I don't plan to let them down," Vigneault stated in his opening remarks after being introduced by Sather. "Thinking about the opportunity to coach the New York Rangers, and Original Six team, in this great city, there's not a chance I could pass that up. Honored and privileged is how I feel at this moment."
A three-time Jack Adams Award finalist, and the 2007 winner of the award presented to the NHL’s top coach, Vigneault joins the Rangers after spending the past seven seasons guiding the Vancouver Canucks to much success. Vigneault coached the Canucks to a pair of President’s Trophies---in 2010-11 and 2011-12---six Northwest Division titles, five seasons with 100 or more points, and an appearance in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, where Vancouver lost in seven games to the Boston Bruins.
The 52 year-old Vigneault is Vancouver’s all-time leader in coaching victories with 313, and he has amassed a career coaching record of 422-288-35-61 in 806 games over all or parts of eleven seasons with the Canucks and Montreal Canadiens.
"I think we got the right guy," stated Sather, who also confirmed that he had interviewed two candidates in person and four others on the phone before deciding to hire Vigneault. "I think in picking any coach it's got to be a gut feeling, whether or not you and he can get along, whether his ideas mesh with everyone's in the organization, make sure he has the right attitude. So, yeah, I think we have the right guy."
After being a successful head coach in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League---where, among others, he coached current Rangers goalie Martin Biron for parts of two seasons in Beauport---and as an assistant with the Ottawa Senators, Vigneault earned his first NHL head coaching job with the Canadiens in 1997-98. Vigneault led the Canadiens to the second round of the playoffs that season, before missing out on the post-season the next two years---although he still earned a Jack Adams nomination for his outstanding work in 1999-2000.
After being relieved of his duties by Montreal 20 games into the 2000-01 campaign, Vigneault coached once again in the QMJHL and then in the minor leagues for Vancouver before becoming the Canucks head coach prior to the 2006-07 season. Excluding the lockout-shortened 48-game season in 2013, Vigneault’s Canucks teams never failed to win fewer than 39 games in a single season. His most successful season behind the bench in Vancouver was 2010-11 when the Canucks won 54 games, totaled 117 points, captured the Presidents Trophy as the top team in the league over the regular season, and then fell just one victory shy of winning the Stanley Cup.
Ironically a year later Vigneault’s Canucks edged the Rangers by just two points, 111 to 109, to win the President’s Trophy. It will be many of those same players wearing the Blueshirt whom Vigneault now will try and lead to a Stanley Cup as the new bench boss on Broadway.
"This is one of the best places to coach, to play, and the atmosphere, and the fans are so passionate," Vigneault told a group of reporters following the press conference. "I have been so fortunate to have coached in great markets where hockey is really important and fans really support the team and want their team to win. I feel so privileged and fortunate, and I am really looking forward to this opportunity."
Vigneault said that he will meet with Sather in the next couple of days to discuss the makeup of his coaching staff. Ideally he stated that he would like two assistants on the bench with him during games and another one or two upstairs.
Though he would not name names as to potential candidates, Vigneault did explain the type of assistants he is seeking to work with him in New York.
"I need guys that are knowledgable, and it will be guys who have NHL experience," explained the Rangers new bench boss. "And I want guys who are upbeat and positive. That's my job as head coach to create that positive environment, where guys want to come to the rink, they want to work, they want to get better. I can't do it by myself. I have to have the right people surrounding me."
Vigneault admitted that he was unfamiliar with most of the Rangers roster---having faced the Blueshirts only once in the past two years---but he did call goaltender Henrik Lundqvist "one of the best in the world..everyone knows that" and said of Rick Nash "he's an elite player...and he's going to be even better next year". Of team captain Ryan Callahan, Vigneault stated "everything I hear about him is what a quality individual he is."
The new coach plans to reach out to some of his players in the coming week or so, and the rest of the roster over the next few weeks.
"Everyone comes in with a clean slate," explained Vigneault. "I want to get to know them all on an individual basis. It's then my job to get the best out of them."
With training camp less than three months away Alain Vigneault and the organization have much to do to prepare, and by the sounds of it Friday afternoon, it's safe to say the Blueshirts new coach is ready to get right to work.
Follow BlueshirtsUnited.com throughout the day Friday for updated Alain Vigneault stories, videos, interviews, photo albums and more, with on-site coverage from the press conference and much more!