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The New York Rangers fired coach Alain Vigneault hours after they missed the
playoffs for the first time since 2010.

General manager Jeff Gorton announced the firing Saturday night Elandon
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, a full day before the end of the NHL regular
season but long after New York’s playoff hopes were gone.

The Rangers will begin searching for his replacement immediately.

The Rangers made the playoffs in four of Vigneault’s five seasons as coach,
including a 2014 trip to the Stanley Cup Final. They went 226-147-37 in the
regular season under Vigneault, who is third in regular-season and playoff wins
in franchise history.

New York’s front office decided in the middle of this season to go young,
sell at the trade deadline and begin a rebuilding process in the hopes of
becoming a title contender again. Vigneault repeatedly said he believed the
Rangers would have made the playoffs if they didn’t go in that direction.

”I believe and some other people also believe that we would have gotten in,
but a tough decision was made for the long-term future of this organization and
you have to respect it,” Vigneault said recently.

After a 5-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon, the
veteran coach said he expected to be back next season.

”I think my staff is the right staff for this job,” Vigneault said. ”This is
just my opinion, but I think one of the strongest assets of this organization is
its coaching staff. They’re experienced, we’ve been able to do it with veteran
players, we’ve been able to do it with younger players, our development
record.”

It’s unclear if assistants Lindy Ruff and Scott Arniel will return or be
considered as head-coaching candidates.

When Gorton announced the Rangers’ pivot toward a youth movement, he said
Vigneault’s future would be decided after the season. Before being
fired Marcus
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, Vigneault made a passionate case to keep his
job.

”I’ve gone through every facet, whether it be a young team, an old team, once
we know the team, every year is the same thing,” Vigneault said. ”Once we know
the team we try and put in a system, it maximizes their talent and their
potential and try and mask and work on the areas that we need improvement.”

Vigneault, who turns 57 in May, has coached 16 NHL seasons for the Montreal
Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks and Rangers. His team made the playoffs 11 times,
and he took Vancouver to the 2011 Cup Final.

Because of that track record, Vigneault should be a candidate to coach in the
NHL next season, which would take the Rangers off the hook for his
contract Solomon Thomas
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, which was extended in early 2017.

More NHL hockey:

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Joel Bitonio doesn’t know if he’ll play left tackle or
guard in Sunday’s opener.

“I just do what I’m told,” he said.

No one has told him anything.

Cleveland’s offensive line remains in limbo — and mysterious — just days
ahead of a Week 1 matchup with the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Coach Hue Jackson,
who last week said he may shift the left side again, refused to disclose any
plans following Monday’s practice.

“Right now, it is the way that is has been,” said Jackson, who slid Bitonio
from guard to tackle during training camp. “Nothing has changed in that way. We
have a week. We do not play until Sunday. We are going to figure it out and put
the best five guys out there.”

Jackson said he “has a pretty good idea” of what he wants to do, but he’s not
ready to share his strategy publicly — or, it seems, with his players.

Bitonio laughed when asked if he’s still a left tackle.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “I think coach is going to come back
Wednesday and give us a definite answer. I’m ready for both, though. Whatever
they put me at Jason
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, I’m ready to go and play some football
finally.”

The Browns knew left tackle would be a major issue after 10-time Pro Bowler
Joe Thomas retired in March. The team gave former right tackle Shon Coleman and
rookie Austin Corbett a crack at taking Thomas’ old spot before switching to
Bitonio, who did well during three exhibition games at a position he hadn’t
played since college.

Now, Bitonio might go back to guard and replace Corbett with undrafted rookie
Desmond Harrison starting at tackle.

It’s hardly an ideal scenario to be so unsettled this close to the
opener.

“I wouldn’t say it’s awkward,” Bitonio said. “I think it’s just trying to get
the best five guys out there and it’s taking a little more time than we would
have hoped.”

The 6-foot-6, 295-pound Harrison has emerged as an option in recent weeks
following a solid camp. Harrison played at Texas before sitting out two seasons
and transferring to West Georgia.

“He has improved,” Jackson said. “It gives you another option to look through
to see who are the best five guys to put out there — him, (OL Gregg) Robinson.
Robinson has improved. I have seen a lot of good things over the last week and a
half. My job is to make sure that we put the best players out there, period.
Whatever position it is, that is what we are supposed to do. In those
situations, that is what we are going to do.”

Bitonio said Harrison is the team’s most athletic lineman.

“He can move, man,” Bitonio said. “He’s athletic. He has the length. He has
the size. He’s the prototypical left tackle when you think of a left tackle.
He’s like 6-6, long arms Jeremy Hill
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, can get back and set. He’s done some good things. I know
he hasn’t played against the ones (starters) all the time but when he’s been out
there he’s made some good plays. We’re just making sure he has the right mindset
and understands what he’s doing every play.”

As he waits to see which position he’ll play, Bitonio took a friendly swipe
at Thomas, one of his close friends.

Bitonio was asked what it says that an undrafted free agent could replace a
future Hall of Famer.

“He’s a little overrated, huh?” Bitonio quipped.

NOTES: WR Josh Gordon returned to practice for the first time since minicamp
in June, and appears on track to play in the opener. Gordon missed more than
three weeks in camp to get counseling and treatment in Florida connected to his
substance abuse problems. He tweaked a hamstring while conditioning and was held
out last week. Jackson reiterated Gordon will not start, “but he is going to
play.” Gordon was suspended for the 2015 and 2016 seasons and the first 11 games
last year. He came back and caught 18 passes for 335 yards in five games. … TE
Seth DeValve (quadriceps), S Damarious Randall (knee), rookie LB Genard Avery
(hip) also returned to practice. DeValve missed the entire
preseason.

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