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Hartnett: AV Is Just The Guy Needed To Get Rangers Out Of Their Funk

By Sean Hartnett
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Alain Vigneault is one cool customer. The 54-year-old head coach of the Rangers exudes calmness and confidence – and his level-headed persona always rubs off on his team.

The Rangers don't get too high after victories or too low after a string of losses. They are a team focused on the larger picture of raising the execution level to where it needs to be.

So don't think for a second that anyone is pushing the panic button because this team has dropped six of its last eight games.

"One of his strengths is that he's pretty even-keeled and focuses game to game on improvement whether or not the team wins or loses," veteran forward Dominic Moore recently told WFAN.com. "I think that's the right approach."

Well into his third season at the Rangers' helm, Vigneault has ushered in an era of high-aiming stability. The Blueshirts have stood alongside the NHL's elite under his watch, making one Stanley Cup Final appearance, winning last season's Presidents' Trophy and earning back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference finals.

Aside from Mike Keenan's single season behind the bench in 1993-94, which ended with the club's first Stanley Cup championship in 54 years, no coach in franchise history holds a higher regular-season points percentage than Vigneault's mark of .642 (through 193 games).

On Friday night in Edmonton, AV will coach his 1,000th career NHL game. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there's only one coach who has won more games than Vigneault's 538 at this stage of his career and that's the legendary Scotty Bowman. The nine-time Stanley Cup champion as a coach earned 598 through his first 1,000.

Trust is a big key to Vigneault's success. He expects his players to study their shifts at home and come prepared to break down specific plays with the coaching staff the next day. Film study is a huge part of what the Rangers do and Vigneault implemented a culture of players reviewing shifts on an iPad app. It helps them gain a better handle on decision-making and enables productive dialogue with the staff.

"If you look at his track record, AV is obviously a guy who knows how to win and knows how to get the best out of his players," defenseman Keith Yandle told WFAN.com. "For us as a group – doing what the coaches tell us to do, watching the video and them helping us out, it really gives us the edge to win games. They maximize their coaching and do everything they can to help us out and help us win. It's a nice thing to have."

Again, it's about respect and trust. Vigneault and his coaching staff will occasionally leave the talking to the players to allow them the chance to work things out among themselves.

"I think you want to put some of the onus on the players to figure things out both in games and game to game," Moore said. "It's good to sometimes put that responsibility on the team and have the team get used to managing those kind of situations. It can't always be the coaching staff."

Experienced forward Jarret Stoll knows a winner when he sees one. Having twice lifted the Stanley Cup under Darryl Sutter in Los Angeles, Stoll compared the differences of playing for two of the league's most successful coaches.

"As far as personalities go, AV is a little more quieter," the first-year Ranger told WFAN.com. "He just goes about his business and gets us prepared very well. Darryl was in the dressing room all the time. He has a coach's office, but he's usually in the locker room. Both guys really know the details of the game and what it takes to win. They're both very good hockey minds and have been around for a long time. It's no surprise."

Sutter's grinding approach is without question effective, but it also led to the Kings sending him a clear message after a road game in Tampa last Feb. 7. His players reportedly locked him out of the visiting dressing room, enlisting the help of three large trash receptacles as barricades. No matter how successful a coach is, you can't be on top of your players all the time. You have to give them space and let them breathe.

Vigneault is doing things his way -- the calm way -- and it's paying off for the Rangers.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey

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