- Neil Greenberg, NHL
Last week, the New York Rangers introduced Alain Vigneault as their next head coach. Vigneault led the Vancouver Canucks to six Northwest Division titles in seven seasons, back-to-back Presidents' Trophies (2011, 2012) and a Stanley Cup finals appearance in 2011.
Tuesday, former Rangers coach John Tortorella took the helm in Vancouver. Tortorella guided the Tampa Bay Lightning to a Cup in 2004 and made the playoffs four out of his five seasons in New York, including an appearance in the Eastern Conference finals in 2012.
Both are accomplished coaches, but what will their team swap mean for their new rosters?
Vigneault popularized the strategy of zone matching, which gives the most offensively gifted players the lion's share of the offensive zone starts at even strength. Zone starts are a quick measure of how often a skater is deployed in this fashion. For example, if a skater lines up for 30 faceoffs (including those in the neutral zone) and starts in the offensive zone in 10 of them, we would say he has an offensive zone start percentage (OZFO%) of 33.3 percent.
In the past two seasons, Henrik Sedin and his twin brother (and linemate) Daniel started 48.0 and 47.5 percent of their shifts in the offensive zone, respectively. If we look at every player in the NHL (minimum 1,500 even-strength minutes played over the past two seasons), we find that the Sedins and their linemate Alex Burrows have gotten their starts in the offensive zone more often than any other skater in the entire league.
It is a strategy Vigneault plans to bringi to Broadway. But how will Tortorella handle the twins?
7dScott Burnside and Craig Custance