This past summer Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault sat down at home to watch one of his favorite movies, Apollo 13, and later found himself struck by a pair of phrases from the movie as they related to his team, which reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2014 and fell one win short of reaching a second consecutive Cup Final this past spring.
The first phrase was "Failure is not an option."
"That was sort of us going into last year and that's sort of heading into this year," Vigneault told reporters Thursday afternoon on the eve of his third training camp with the Rangers. "We have a team that has the elements to win the Stanley Cup. We firmly believe that. So failure is not an option."
The second phrase was "The mission was considered a successful failure."
"From a coaching standpoint what you are trying to do is to get the most that you can out of your personnel," explained Vigneault. "You want them to play to the best of their capabilities. When we have our team with three of our top defensemen play throughout most of the playoffs (seriously hurt) and all the other little things, then they're putting it on the line for us, they're putting it on the line for the Rangers fans. They want to win."
With those pair of explanations about why those two phrases struck such a chord with him, Vigneault set the tone for training camp, which begins with on-ice conditioning tests Friday and continues with the first on-ice group workouts Saturday, and Monday's pre-season opener at The Garden against the New Jersey Devils.
In no uncertain terms, there is only one goal for the New York Rangers, a team that has reached the three of the last four Eastern Conference Finals, played for the Cup two years ago, and won the President's Trophy with a franchise record 113 points last season.
"I believe with the motivation this group has, the work ethic and competitive nature this group has, we're here to win a Cup," stated Vigneault.
That said, Vigneault emphasized that the team can not get ahead of itself. The success this group has had in Vigneault's first two years as head coach is due in large part to not looking too far down the road, focusing instead on "winning and improving each day".
It also does not mean that there are not questions to be answered during training camp--with some answers to come once the regular season begins. Vigneault listed heavy competition for roster and lineup spots among the forward group, deciding upon a new goalie to back up Henrik Lundqvist, and even battles among the seemingly-set defense corps as areas that will need to be addressed throughout camp.
As such Vigneault stated that he plans on getting a look at many players during the pre-season games, with several veterans likely not seeing too much action until, perhaps, the final two games of the pre-season. Four players who fit into that category because of off-season healing or surgeries--Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, and Mats Zuccarello--will not take part in the on-ice fitness testing Friday and instead will do so sometime next week.
"We have a lot of questions that we need answers to, but I think we're going to be able to find the right answers and we're going to be a very good team," Vigneault said.
Vigneault said matter of factly that more will be expected of the younger players on the roster--he named Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, Derek Stepan, and Derick Brassard by name, but was clearly referring to all of the team's young talent. He also was emphatic about one other goal of the team.
"We need to have a better start this year, we know that," said the head coach. "The fact that this is our third year as a staff, our guys know the system better and know the style we like to play, so it should help us have that better start."
Vigneault was upbeat on Monday, smiling often and joking with reporters; and he admitted he was ready to get going long before the official start of camp.
Now the time for work is at hand.