When Alain Vigneault took over as head coach of the New York Rangers this summer everyone kept talking about his system. He was going to open it up more than former coach John Tortorella. He was going to let his players use their skill to make plays. Now that the Rangers are playing so well you can see the players using their talent, but no one has opened their game up more than Ryan McDonagh.
McDonagh is enjoying a career season offensively and has catapulted himself into the Norris Trophy conversation. It is no coincidence that McDonagh has played so well offensively since Vigneault has taken over. He has allowed McDonagh the chance to showcase his offensive talents.
McDonagh now plays on the power play something that he hadn’t done in his young career. Tortorella put McDonagh on the power play late in the playoffs but even admitted it was too late. He had messed up not putting him out there earlier. The Rangers’ power play has had a resurgent year and one of the main parts is because of McDonagh.
But it isn’t just the power play. When McDonagh touches the puck he doesn’t look to pass anymore. He carries it up the ice if he is given a skating lane. He doesn’t sit back on odd man rushes anymore. He is flying up the ice giving the Rangers a trailer who can rifle the puck. He isn’t trying to dump the puck in deep anymore when he gets it at the point. He winds up and just lets it rip.
Coaching is such an important tool in the NHL. Under Tortorella we saw McDonagh develop into a great shutdown defender. But now under Vigneault we have seen McDonagh develop into one of the best two way defenseman in the game. McDonagh’s offensive development has been fascinating to watch and he has Vigneault to thank for it.