The first 10 games of the season will probably determine if Alain Vigneault will sink or swim as the new coach of the New York Rangers. Vigneault has to get the Rangers through the first 10 games with a winning record, then his team will be set to enjoy a successful season which could include a trip to the Stanley Cup finals.
The Rangers are trying to play down the fact that they have their first nine games on the road because of the final phase of the three-year renovation project for Madison Square Garden. Their Thursday game with the Phoenix Coyotes to open the season was a challenging test, but it’s certainly unfair pressure on a team to have to be on the road for that long.
They’re hoping Ryan Callahan will be back from his injured shoulder for their next game, but Carl Hagelin is gone for 10 games from his wing spot. The more weapons a coach can have on the road, the better, but it’s another challenge that Vigneault has to endure.
Salary cap issues are also a concern. There’s so much that Vigneault has to worry about that if they can debut at Madison Square Garden Oct. 29 with anything close to a .500 record, he’ll be in good shape. New York is obviously a new environment from Vancouver for Vigneault, but having put in seven seasons with the Canucks gives the new Rangers coach experience to be a tough, gritty NHL coach.
He won six divisional titles in six seasons with the Canucks, and Vigneault has plenty of experience in preparing his team to successfully tackle an 82-game schedule. He was the clear choice to replace John Tortorella, who ironically has Vigneault’s old job.
But it’s not the regular season that Ranger fans are worried about, considering that Vigneault was criticized for not having his teams ready for the playoffs. Vigneault has several months to worry about the playoffs, provided his team qualifies. Making sure his team doesn’t start the season in a big hole is his main concern right now.