"Let me breathe. Let me get through this. I'll figure this out. I'll sleep on it," he said.
But the message wasn't his to give on Thursday. It was sent in a letter by Rangers president Glen Sather and general manager Jeff Gorton, officially raising the white flag of surrender on the season and signaling to the fans that painful roster adjustments were forthcoming.
A Message from Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton. pic.twitter.com/Q56CXS8vDc
- New York Rangers (@NYRangers) February 8, 2018
"As we approach the trade deadline later this month and into the summer, we will be focused on adding young, competitive players that combine speed, skill and character," they wrote, "This may mean we lose some familiar faces, guys we all care about and respect. While this is part of the game, it's never easy."
(This of course does not mean any discounts on Rangers tickets for what is now officially a lost season, but we digress.)
It was, without question, one of the most dizzying 24 hours in recent memory for an NHL franchise: entering Wednesday night with 55 points, three back of the wild card; ending the night having been thoroughly humiliated by the hottest team in hockey; beginning Thursday by waiving a player signed to a four-year extension last summer, on his birthday, no less; and then getting the kind of letter from management that one expects to read when a coach is fired, which Alain Vigneault very much wasn't.
What the heck happened here?
Sources tell ESPN that the decision to issue the letter came after the Rangers returned from the road on Feb. 5, after three straight losses -- to the Toronto Maple Leafs at MSG and then to the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars on the road -- during which New York was outscored 11-3. In other words, before the Boston game.