The New York Rangers held a press conference at Radio City Music Hall on Friday, they like the sound of Alain Vigneault as their head coach so much.
Rangers general manager Glen Sather called Vigneault a "perfect fit" in an earlier press release and added at the media event that the new hire can lead a team with the type of adaptable but entertaining style seen on display right now in the Stanley Cup final between Boston and Chicago.
Sather said Vigneault is coming to the team on a five-year deal.
"I was thinking about the opportunity to coach the New York Rangers, one of the Original Six teams," said the 52-year-old Vigneault, who replaces the fired John Tortorella. "There is not a chance I could pass that up. Honoured and privileged I feel at this moment."
Vigneault was let go last month after seven seasons in Vancouver. He compiled a sterling regular season record as the Canucks won their division six out of seven seasons and reached the Stanley Cup final in 2011, but the club was eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs the past two seasons .
In 11 seasons as an NHL head coach with Montreal and Vancouver, Vigneault is 422-288-35-61 in 806 games.
The Dallas Stars had also been interested in his services.
"I did find out … that it's a lot easier to negotiate yourself a contract when you've got two teams that are after you than just one," Vigneault quipped, to much laughter.
"I didn't particularly enjoy that remark," Sather retorted.
Vigneault was interviewed last week during the Rangers' organizational meetings in California and then met with team owner James Dolan in New York. Messier also had an interview during the club meetings out West.
"We had a list of 13 candidates and I narrowed it down to nine," said Glen Sather, Rangers president and general manager. "I interviewed two in person and four over the phone. It wasn't just between A.V. and Mark."
It is unknown if Messier will remain with the Rangers. He is currently a special assistant to Sather. Messier, a Hockey Hall of Fame player, lacks the coaching experience that Vigneault is loaded with.
Tortorella was fired after 4 1/2 seasons with New York on May 29, four days after the Rangers were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by Boston in five games. A year ago, the Rangers reached the Eastern Conference finals before bowing out against New Jersey.
In an ironic twist, Tortorella was reportedly offered the job on Friday to replace Vigneault in Vancouver.
The Rangers were first in the Eastern Conference in 2011-12, but dropped to sixth the past season. New York beat Washington in seven games in the opening round, but were then swept by Boston.
"I believe your top skilled players have to be given a little more latitude," Vigneault said of his coaching style. "They have to understand the game, they have to understand the time in the game where you need to play higher percentage but they also have to be given that latitude to make something out of nothing … "
The Quebec City native admitted he'd have to familiarize himself with the staff and players, as the Canucks last played the Rangers in October 2011.
Vigneault led Vancouver to two Presidents' Trophy titles (2011, 2012) and was the 2007 Jack Adams Award as the NHL's coach of the year.
He guided the Canucks to the third Stanley Cup final appearance in franchise history, but the club couldn't capitalize on a 2-0 series lead, losing in seven games to Boston. That was the last of Vancouver's playoff success in his tenure, with the Canucks losing 10 of their last 11 post-season games.
Vigneault previously spent over three seasons as coach of the Montreal Canadiens, as well as jobs leading teams in the American and Quebec Major Junior hockey leagues.
The book on Vigneault
- Age: 52
- Born: Quebec City
- Years as coach: 24
- Years as NHL coach: 11
- Previous NHL coaching stops: Ottawa, assistant (1992-96); Montreal (1997-2001); Vancouver (2006-2013)
- NHL coaching record: 422-288-96
- NHL coaching awards: Three Jack Adams Award nominations (coach of the year), won in 2006-07 season Other coaching experience: Manitoba Moose (American Hockey League) 2005-06; Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, 13 seasons (Trois-Rivieres, Hull Beauport, PEI)
- Achievements: Reached Stanley Cup finals with Vancouver in 2011; Guided Canucks to Presidents’ Trophy (most points, regular season) in 2011 and 2012; Six Northwest Division titles in Vancouver; named Canadian Hockey League coach of the year, 1998; Five seasons with 100-plus points; Eighth-fastest coach in NHL history to reach 400 wins; Canadian assistant coach, world junior champions, 1991
- NHL playing career: Two seasons (St. Louis) 1981-83 ... Drafted: 8th round (167th overall) in 1981 ... NHL stats: Two goals, seven points, minus-5 in 42 games (regular season); One assist, 26 penalty minutes in four games (playoffs).
The vacancy arose when the Rangers fired head coach of five years John Tortorella on May 29. Tortorella amassed a 171-115-29 record with New York in the regular season.
But the Rangers went just 19-25 in post-season play during his tenure, never reaching the Stanley Cup Final. In addition to the unrealized expectations on the ice, Tortorella clashed frequently with reporters due to his terse and confrontational style.
The Rangers haven't won the Stanley Cup since 1994, which ended a 54-year championship drought.
Sather came to the organization in 2000, after being a part of five championships as coach and general manager with the Edmonton Oilers.
Sather said he had a list of nine candidates for the opening. He interviewed four over the phone and two in person.
Mark Messier, who captained New York's 1994 Cup team, expressed his interest in the head coaching job. Messier, however, has only served as a head coach in short-term tournament situations.
Sather said he expects to talk to Messier, who had an organizational position with the Rangers, in the coming days.