It's not easy coaching in New York. Consider this: A year after taking his team to the Eastern Conference Final, John Tortorella led the New York Rangers to the second round of the playoffs this year. A step back? The Rangers thought so, as they fired him a few days after the season ended.
But the performance during the season—which was inconsistent at best— didn't stop the Rangers from renewing their faith in Tortorella. According to Katie Strang of ESPN NY, Tortorella signed a three-year contract extension during the season. The team will still be on the hook for three years salary for the former coach.
And yet, a hasty second-round exit and Tortorella is on the unemployment line.
Now, Alain Vigneault is set to take over the reins in New York, and according to Louis Jean of TVA Sports in Canada, the deal will reward the new coach quite handsomely:
How long, then, does Vigneault have to win a Stanley Cup? Will he be afforded all five years? Or will he be dismissed after a few years of playoff disappointment?
If the Rangers' treatment of Tortorella is any indication, then Vigneault will only get a few years. If he doesn't win a Stanley Cup after the second season—or, at least come quite close—then the Rangers will rip up the contract and start fresh.
Why the short leash? It's simple. This is a team with sky high expectations. With one of the best goaltenders in hockey in Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers will always be in contention. Add a young and impressive defense, and the Rangers already are amongst the best in the Eastern Conference.
That's not to mention a team with plenty of offensive talent. It was never consistent under Tortorella's reign, despite the likes of Rick Nash, Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan and more.
In other words, the talent is there for a Cup run. With a few tweaks to the third and fourth lines, the Rangers could easily make a deep run next season.
Tortorella couldn't get it done, and now he's looking for work. The Rangers have proven that they don't mind paying to fire someone—they'll pay Tortorella for three years to not be the head coach. Money is not an object for this team. If Vigneault can't get it done in two years, or doesn't come close, then he too will be looking for a new gig. So yes, Vigneault is being offered a Stanley Cup ultimatum. The huge contract may have just been a way to entice the coach to New York. He did, according to Katie Strang, turn down an offer to coach in Dallas:
Vigneault was never able to take a talented Vancouver squad to a Stanley Cup victory. After two disappointing first-round exits, followed by a Game 7 loss at home in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, his time was up.
In New York, it's all about winning. Tortorella wasn't able to get it done, and he got the boot. It may have been a rash decision to fire Tortorella after two relatively successful seasons. But if it's not a ring, then it's not good enough.
The new coach will get at least a year—he needs time to implement his system. But without a Stanley Cup in the first two, at the most three, years, then just like Tortorella, the Rangers will not hesitate to fire him.