The New York Rangers have always been a high profile team playing in the biggest city in the world and the world’s most famous arena. This kind of spotlight calls for some big personalities to be part of the team. Throughout the years the Rangers have seen their fair share of big personalities with the likes of Mark Messier, Sean Avery, Mike Keenan, John Tortorella and the list goes on. However, no matter how you slice it, in today’s media dominated age the Rangers have found success when they have a big time personality on the ice or behind the bench.
In the Rangers’ only Stanley Cup Championship season since the media began to dominate the sports world, the Rangers had arguably their biggest personality they have ever seen behind the bench in Mike Keenan. He had a reputation of being a tough coach with a big personality; his tough coaching style and attitude towards his players earned him the nickname “Iron Mike.” His tough style and huge personality went a long way in inspiring his team to do well in his only season as the Rangers’ head coach as he led them to one of their best seasons in franchise history and their first Stanley Cup victory in over 50 years.
The only other Rangers head coach who has ever been close to matching the intensity and personality of Keenan has been John Tortorella, who received much criticism for his antics on and off the ice. However, Tortorella led the 2011-12 Rangers back to the conference finals for the first time since Keenan’s team won the cup in ’94.
While both Tortorella and Keenan have been criticized for their intense coaching style and larger than life personalities, it cannot be denied that they have found success through their coaching styles.
However, thus far, Rangers newest head coach Alain Vigneault does not seem to share the same intensity and large personality that both Keenan and Tortorella had. At this point in the season the Rangers have found success, but not nearly as much success as Keenan’s 1993-94 Rangers that won the President’s Trophy nor Tortorella’s 2011-12 squad that had 51 regular season wins and finished second for the President’s Trophy. While Vigneault may deserve some additional respect because the beginning of the season was spent teaching his new philosophy of gameplay, his success will ultimately be determined with the depth of the Rangers’ playoff run this season.
Vigneault has big shoes to fill and a lot to prove to the NHL community. Can his coaching style garner success in a city where thus far only intense, larger than life coaching styles and personalities have seen the results fans are looking for? While Vigneault has seen some success thus far, odds are that he cannot win a Stanley Cup nor take the Rangers deep into the playoffs.