New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is reportedly on the hot seat amid his team's 3-7-2 start to the season.
However, Rangers alternated captain Marc Staal spoke out in defence of his head coach to the New York Daily News, putting the blame for the team's poor start on the players.
“It’s not a coaching issue. It’s everyone,” the 30-year-old defenceman said. “Everyone needs to be better. We’re 3-7-2. We’ve got to find a way to win games together, and if you’re not gonna do that together, you’re not gonna turn it around. So we’re all on the same page in that regard of trying to turn this thing around.”
The Rangers have failed to win back-to-back games this season, while both Henrik Lundqvist (.900) and Onrej Pavelec (.887) have posted save percentages of .900 or lower between the pipes.
Staal said Monday that he believes Vigneault’s coaching is still getting through to the players, but the team simply hasn't been ready to start games. The Rangers were down 3-0 to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night less than 15 minutes into the game.
“We have the same pre-scout before every game. (Vigneault’s) done it the same way since he’s been here. It’s not anything new to us,” Staal said. “I don’t think it’s lost on anybody when we get on the ice. I think it’s just being in the right mental frame to have that intensity and emotion right at the start of the game. The Xs and Os stuff takes care of itself.”
Vigneault seemed to agree with Staal's assessment on Monday, pointing back to the team's start against the Canadiens.
“Obviously we’re giving them all that information. At the end of the day, players have the responsibility to get themselves ready to compete and execute,” Vigneault told the Daily News. “That’s in any sport. Not just in this sport, but in any sport. We give them the information we feel is important, and they’ve got to go out and execute. And obviously in the last game, that execution and that compete-level was not nearly good enough in that first period.”
Larry Brooks of the New York Post wrote Sunday there was "considerable chatter" that Tuesday's matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights could be Vigneault’s last behind the Rangers' bench. Vigneault said Monday he's approaching the contest with the same mindset he brings to every game.
“Every game my staff and I prepare ourselves, prepare the team. Love the competition. That’s why we’re in this game,” he said. “There’s some good times in a season, there’s some more challenging times. This is more challenging. I’ve been through a few of these before, and it only makes you better and it only makes the team better. We’re gonna continue to work and control the areas that we can control.”
Vigneault, 56, is in his fifth season as Rangers head coach and has reached the postseason in each of the previous four years.