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Vigneault behind bench in Big Apple

Edges Messier for Rangers' top job

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NEW YORK -- Alain Vigneault brought a whole lot of experience and success into his interview with New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather.

However, his most appealing attribute might be that he is so different than former coach John Tortorella -- on and off the ice.

That was clearly evident Friday when Vigneault was named as the feisty Tortorella's replacement during a news conference at Radio City Music Hall. In the short window of time in which he met with media members, Vigneault smiled and joked more times than anyone could remember his predecessor doing in 4 1/2 seasons with the Rangers.

Vigneault brings a welcoming demeanour away from the rink and a more offensive philosophy on it -- in contrast with Tortorella's way of working in the defensive zone and putting a premium on blocking shots in front of star goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

'Given the opportunity to come here, it was just something that I couldn't turn down. I did find out, though, that it is a lot easier to negotiate yourself a contract when you've got two teams that are after you than just one'

-- Alain Vigneault

That often left many players dealing with multiple ailments.

"We needed a change in style," Sather said. "You look at the injuries... we needed to move the puck out quick. That style was perfect for a couple of years, but it started to wear our team out."

Just more than four weeks after he was fired by the Vancouver Canucks, Vigneault has a job. He edged out former Rangers captain Mark Messier, longtime former Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff and others.

Vigneault was given a five-year deal, and his first day featured his name on the famous marquee outside of Radio City.

"I was thinking about the opportunity to coach the New York Rangers, one of the Original Six teams," the 52-year-old Vigneault said. "There is not a chance I could pass that up. Honoured and privileged I feel."

In 11 seasons as an NHL head coach with Montreal and Vancouver, Vigneault is 422-288-35-61 in 806 games.

"I'm going into this with an open mind," he said. "I think (players) should be too. I'm going in with a clean slate. Let's see what we can write on that slate."

Vigneault was interviewed last week during the Rangers' organizational meetings in California and then met with team owner James Dolan in New York.

"We had a list of 13 candidates and I narrowed it down to nine," Sather said. "I interviewed two in person and four over the phone. It wasn't just between A.V. and Mark."

Vigneault and Sather will now work on filling out the coaching staff.

"I want to win," Vigneault said. "Given the opportunity to come here, it was just something that I couldn't turn down. I did find out, though, that it is a lot easier to negotiate yourself a contract when you've got two teams that are after you than just one."

It is unknown if Messier, now a special assistant to Sather, will remain with the Rangers. Messier, a Hall of Fame player, lacks the coaching experience that Vigneault has.

"It was a difficult decision. We've both grown up with each other," Sather said of passing on Messier.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 22, 2013 C4

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