Did Alain Vigneault really say the 2014 Rangers were closer than the 2011 Canucks?

After watching his opponent hoist the Stanley Cup right in front of him for the second time in his pro career, Alain Vigneault returned to Madison Square Garden with his Rangers not to play a Game 6, as hoped, but to clean out their lockers for the summer.

Naturally, with two Final losses now weighing heavily on his mind, the head coach couldn’t help but conflate both experiences, and in trying to explain a Stanley Cup Final series that felt a great deal more competitive than most that end in five, he took the approach of contrasting it with the Canucks’ loss.

Then, according to Rangers beat writer Andrew Gross, he said a truly wacko thing: that the 2014 Rangers were closer.

Naturally, Canucks fans balked at Vigneault’s comparison, and for good reason: it’s crazy talk. You get the sense that 2010 Alain Vigneault would have responded to 2014 Alain Vigneault’s comparison the same way he responded to a question about Kyle Wellwood playing like a man possessed, or Vernon Fiddler’s Kevin Bieksa impression.

The 2011 Canucks, a modern-day NHL juggernaut until they came apart at the end, fell one win short. The Rangers, meanwhile, were lucky to be there, and equally lucky not to get swept.

The only thing these two teams have in common, to my mind, is that neither could beat the Boston Bruins. Fortunately, the Rangers didn’t have to, since Montreal eliminated them this time around, which is why they were in the Cup Final at all. How could Vigneault say they were closer?

Simply, he couldn’t. And, despite a few stories — all built around Gross’s tweet and not Vigneault’s quote — reporting that he did, well, he didn’t. Here’s Vigneault’s full quote, from the  the New York Daily News:

“I think we really put our best foot forward. For me it’s my second opportunity to compete in the Final. Both were very different,” Vigneault said at the Rangers’ breakup day in Greenburgh. “You might want to believe that going to Game 7 we were closer then, but if I look at that experience, when we got to Game 7 . . . we had so many injuries and there wasn’t much left in our tank. And if you look at that series, the three games we played in Boston, we had no chance. We got blown out all three times.

“I look at this team here and what this group did, our best game that we played was the game we lost, 3-0, at home. Every game (in Los Angeles) there we led, we played hard, we tried our best, but we lost in five.”

This is, I think we can agree, a far cry from what Gross’s tweet suggested he said.

At most, Vigneault was suggesting the Rangers looked, to him, more like a team capable of winning four Cup Final games, and that’s not unreasonable.

The 2014 Final was a weird one, with two massive LA comebacks and three overtime games. In the end, the Kings got all the big goals and breaks, which is what’ll happen when you’re the better team, but you can understand how many, Vigneault included, viewed this series as close. While it could have ended in a sweep, the Rangers could just as easily have been playing Monday night with a chance to close it out in their favour.

The Canucks, meanwhile, fell apart completely after Dan Hamhuis got hurt in Game 1, and while Roberto Luongo was able to steal Game 2 for them, it was clear the team was out of gas when the series moved to Boston for Game 3. Luongo did it again in Game 5, which is why the Final went seven, but the Canucks probably only deserved to win one game, where is where Vigneault’s Rangers ended up.

Vigneault is hardly saying these Rangers came closer than those Canucks. They obviously and quantifiably didn’t. He’s just saying, while the circumstances of both teams and Finals were very different, the Rangers felt similarly close.

That doesn’t make for much of a headline, however, so let’s just pretend he said the more incendiary thing. It’s more fun that way.

16 comments

  1. Steven Ray Orr
    June 17, 2014

    Thanks for going and finding the full quote. It does not make this season any better, but it is nice to know that AV is not out there slagging on the Canucks.

    Watching him take the Rangers that far, though? Like an ex- that broke up with you and is much happier with their new relation. And you have to watch it on live television.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +22 (from 22 votes)
    • peanutflower
      June 17, 2014

      no kidding. and AV looked like he was enjoying it more too. Makes it even worse.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
    • Lemming
      June 17, 2014

      Slagging of his old teams just doesn’t seem like AV’s style in any way, shape, or form. I just can’t really picture it. He’s such a calm and analytical guy that anything he said about his old team would (like that quote up there) be well thought out and articulated.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +4 (from 4 votes)
  2. Lia
    June 17, 2014

    This Rangers team was light years better than the Canucks of old.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: -32 (from 36 votes)
    • iain
      June 17, 2014

      um…you think? why?

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +7 (from 9 votes)
    • Max
      June 17, 2014

      I think the president’s trophy we had going into the playoffs along with the fact we were one, not three wins away from the cup suggests otherwise.

      In all seriousness I think the 2011 Canucks were one of the best teams in the NHL we’ve seen in the last 10 or 15 years. If we didn’t run into bad luck with all the debilitating injuries and the Aaron Rome controversy I think we would’ve been able to take ether bruins in 5 or 6

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +14 (from 14 votes)
  3. Crocket
    June 17, 2014

    “lucky to be there and lucky they didn’t get swept.” Well, they had 3 OT games and 2 were double OT. It doesn’t get much closer, whereas the Canucks got whipped badly when they lost to Boston, in fact they got lucky in there wins while the Rangers got unlucky in their losses. So yes, the rangers were way closer by any measure.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: -24 (from 28 votes)
    • Harrison Mooney
      June 17, 2014

      Any measure, except for, like, games won, which seems to be the most pertinent one here.

      VN:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +33 (from 35 votes)
  4. Ash
    June 17, 2014

    Gotta love yellow journalism…

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: -1 (from 3 votes)
  5. Chris the Curmudgeon
    June 17, 2014

    The shots were pretty even in games 2 and 5 back in 2011, (61-58 combined for Boston, though they also had more power play time in both games). Tim Thomas was equally good all series long, while Luongo was excellent in the wins but subpar in the losses. I don’t like this assertion that somehow the 4-3 series tally favoured the Canucks. Our team was broken down, sure, but they put in a very solid effort falling short at the end, and were full value for their wins. It was disappointing, but I don’t need to hear any more revisionist history to further insult what was still the best team we Canucks fans have to look back upon.

    The flip side of the coin is that one could argue that it only took the Kings about one solid period per game to erase all of the effort the Rangers put in to build their leads.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +16 (from 18 votes)
    • Iceman
      June 17, 2014

      … and unconditional love from Hockey God.

      There’s no doubt Kings played well enough (after G3 vs SJ) to earn their right to hoist the cup for the second time. If you watched the games closely, however, you wouldn’t believe the favorable bounces / calls / opponent’s mishap (falling down, broken stick etc) / whatever else they got at the right moment in just about every series. After all these years of watching playoff hockey I’ve never witnessed one team amassing such a lopsided puck luck throughout.

      People can talk about how “resilient” this Kings team was all they want, and they are probably right looking at only the end result. But the fact is so may times they were mere one bounce against them away from elimination and somehow it ALWAYS went the other way.

      Putting it in a twisted way, you don’t win three G7s in the PO and three OT in SCF by simply playing hard / well / right whatever. All the Kings’ men could be a little more humble and religious in light of the premise.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +4 (from 8 votes)
  6. DK
    June 17, 2014

    It makes sense, when you think about it.

    First off, mind what AV actually said: “The Rangers were closer to the cup.” That’s not the same thing as saying “The Rangers were a better team.”

    If you acknowledge that games that reach OT are essentially a coin toss, the Rangers were actually remarkably competitive, even though they’d been written off long before they reached the SCF. Three of their losses were in OT, and could have gone the other way; only in one game (Game 3) were they decisively beaten, and even then they dominated the shot clock by an almost 2:1 margin. Switch a few of the bounces and it could have been Rangers in 5 instead of Kings. You could even make the case that the Rangers deserved a better fate, as they outshot and outplayed LA for long stretches of Games 1-3, and only Quick’s brilliance was the difference maker. Final score differential of the series was 15-9.

    Contrast this with the 2011 SCF. The Canucks’ three victories were all by a goal, one of which was an OT game. They won, but not decisively in any of the three contests. By contrast, the Bruins victories were by 8, 4, 3, and 4 goals. The Bruins absolutely dominated the games they won, on the ice as much as on the scoreboard, and were not badly outplayed in any of the games they lost. The score differential in the 2011 series was an eye-popping 23-8. Just for reference, this years Rangers managed to score more goals in 5 games than the Canucks did in 7.

    In retrospect, it’s actually somewhat remarkable the Canucks were able to take the Bruins to 7. They were scoring at an anemic 1.1 goals a game and the Bruins were one goal away from scoring THREE TIMES as many goals over the series as the Canucks.

    The 2011 Canucks were unquestionably a better team than the 2014 Rangers. They were better in the regular season and better in Rounds 1-3 of their respective playoff runs. But none of that relates to what AV said. He said that the Rangers were closer to the cup, and closer analysis reveals that the 2014 Rangers were, indeed, much more competitive in the SCF than the 2011 Canucks.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +6 (from 8 votes)
  7. akidd
    June 17, 2014

    the kings took that final on cruise control after three consecutive gruelling 7- game series against the best teams in the nhl. the rangers certainly were never close. but AV’s gotta say something positive. that’s his job.

    the canucks and lou played great jumping out to a 2-0 lead. then lou stunk up the gardens with a .778 save %. not much any team can do about that, injuries and empty tank or not.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: -1 (from 9 votes)
  8. Angry Canadian
    June 17, 2014

    If it’s all the same to you, can we please, please stop talking about 2011.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +9 (from 11 votes)
    • JoeTory
      June 21, 2014

      Has history taught us nothing? We’re still talking about 1994 never mind 2011. Frustration in this market is just masked anguish the result of coming tantalizingly close to winning Lord Stanley’s chalice, not once now, but twice. Notice that the 1982 squad barely ever gets mentioned as a comparable to ’94 and now ’11? Because in ’82 we were just happy to be in the dance. We even single-handedly invented the now ubiquitous “towel-power” (as opposed to the “loser-riots” that followed our subsequent defeats.) If we spent less time lamenting past heart-break, we might be better prepared as a city for any outcome following a Championship Series. Win or lose.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
  9. steveB
    June 18, 2014

    I don’t recall the 2011 Canucks losing 3 OT games.
    But for a bit of puck luck (and finding a way to score after 40 minutes), AV’s name could well be engraved on this season’s Stanley Cup.

    Compare the goals scored against the Canucks and Rangers, the Rangers were far closer.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +1 (from 3 votes)