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Vigneault has 'calming influence' on Rangers

Players still adjusting to coaching change

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NEW YORK -- When the New York Rangers changed coaches in the off-season in an unusual "swap" with the Vancouver Canucks, many thought deposing the old leader would simply free up the NHL team to do greater things.

But while John Tortorella was viewed to be awfully hard on the whip, just handing the controls to Alain Vigneault (while Tortorella was later hired by the Canucks) has not rocketed the Rangers to the top of the league.

Perception is one thing, reality another regarding this coaching change, Rangers veteran Brad Richards said this week.

The move may turn out for the better, but right now, it's simply different.

"Everything, especially in this market, but also all across the league, gets blown out of proportion and gets run with, but it is a different attitude here, a different way of looking at things and a different mentality, a different way of approaching things," Richards said.

"I haven't had many coaches but I haven't had any that are exactly the same. Didn't matter if it was Alain or anybody coming in, he was going to be different than Torts."

Those in the know in New York say one of the biggest differences this season, one that the team hopes will pay dividends in the long run, is that now, things are no longer so harshly personal when it comes to the coach and players.

As a method in the past, that served to alienate some players and prevent the cohesiveness required for great things.

"I just think the way they teach is just different but you'd have to be here day-to-day to see that stuff," Richards said. "There's a bigger staff with Alain, and a lot more individual meetings and one-on-ones.

"I think we're still trying to learn and figure out what he wants on the ice. With the start we had (3-7 with the first nine games on the road), well, I'm not saying I know what other coaches would have done but with that start and tough road trips, he was very calm, a calming influence over the group the whole time. It really helped us get through and he trusted us and believed in us that we'd get it figured out."

TRAVEL TEAM: The Jets are in the middle of their six-game road trip with the next action Thursday, visiting the Florida Panthers.

Among the teams that were not in playoff positions on Tuesday morning, the Jets' 13 road games so far is the lowest number.

The Jets were heavy at home early, with eight of the first 10 at the MTS Centre. By Christmas, this tally will be more even, at 20 home and 19 road.

The team held an optional practice in Florida on Tuesday and plans to return to a full workout today.

Leftover factoids from Monday's win at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers included the Jets blocking eight shots in the third period, when they pulled away from the 2-2 tie, and Dustin Byfuglien playing nearly half of the final period (9 minutes 50 seconds), ending the game with 28:38 of ice time.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 4, 2013 C2

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