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JohnLocke

Vigneault Confident Canucks Will Make the Right Kind of Headlines

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VANCOUVER — Alain Vigneault was distributing newspapers rather than reading them Thursday. Wise decision.

In conjunction with the annual Raise-A-Reader program, the Vancouver Canucks coach stood on the corner of Granville and Georgia and spent the majority of his two-hour commitment posing for pictures and signing autographs. It kept the bench boss from flipping pages and being reminded of the frustrating NHL lockout and that main camp would have opened Friday. And all that hockey talk may have triggered the memory of when many — including this writer — wondered whether he would retain his position following a quick five-game playoff exit by the Presidents’ Trophy winners.

“I’m not a big reader, but I read what I like and I liked sports,” said Vigneault. “I read a lot of stuff like that.”

If he read all the analysis, projections and suggestions from four months ago of what the Canucks could or should do with their front-office staff, he probably doubled over in laughter at his offseason home in Gatineau, Que. After all, even before Vigneault received a two-year contract extension on May 23 — 16 days after general manager Mike Gillis was awarded an extension — he expected to return. He reasoned that once everybody caught their breath and rationally assessed the season, nobody would have to fall on a sword. The Canucks’ version of March Madness, in which the club failed to create a sense of urgency with a high playoff seed secured, was considered a mulligan. If it wasn’t, the entire coaching staff wouldn’t have remained intact.

“The day when Mike met the media, he told me I was his guy and he wanted me back,” recalled Vigneault. “From that standpoint, I was very confident that I was coming back, but he didn’t know about his situation. Until it got resolved, then mine was up in the air. It took longer than expected to get his stuff done, but when it was done it was just a matter of sorting out a few little things.

“He said: ‘If I’m back, you’re back.’ It was clear cut.”

What isn’t clear is where the Canucks go from here. While they await a new collective bargaining agreement, Vigneault was reminded that during the last NHL lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season, he was at the coaching crossroads. At the helm of the P.E.I. Rocket in the QMJHL after being interviewed but losing out to Randy Carlyle for the Manitoba Moose head-coaching position, Vigneault’s junior team failed to make the playoffs. But he got the Moose job the following season. Fast forward and Vigneault believes the bad taste of an early exit last April can be replaced by a much longer playoff run in his seventh season behind the Canucks bench. It was a common theme in exit meetings.

“We talked about the season and the disappointment of losing and using that throughout the summer to make sure we’re prepared,” he stressed. “Everybody I’ve talked to is in a great frame of mind and is highly motivated. We all want to prove that we’re winners and that we can win and that’s what we’re going to set out to do.

“Our preparation has to bring us at the right time to be in the right frame of mind and have the right execution. The last three years, we’ve been eliminated by the team that won the Cup. We’ve got some real good ideas of what it’s going to take and it’s just a matter of putting it together at the right time. We have same expectations as the fans and we take a lot of pride in the good team that we have. We’re ready for the challenge.”

But how good is this team?

Icing the league’s fourth-ranked power play and defence, fifth-rated offence and sixth-ranked penalty kill last season was impressive, but carried little weight in the postseason with a concussed Daniel Sedin unable to start the opening-round series with the Los Angeles Kings. And the road to a fifth-straight Northwest Division title will be bumpy because Minnesota and Edmonton will be better. Losing out on free agents Shane Doan and Justin Schultz didn’t help and there are other holes to fill. A third-line centre to replace the departed Samme Pahlsson and second-line help until Ryan Kesler returns from offseason shoulder and wrist surgeries are obvious needs. But Vigneault is convinced that the diminutive Jordan Schroeder deserves a serious shot after a 21-goal AHL season and that Maxim Lapierre can play a more prominent role.

“I’m a big fan of Lappy and a lot of our players are, too,” said Vigneault. “He works hard and comes to play. Obviously, he needs to adjust some things in his game and I’m real confident he’ll do well. We talk about our lineup on a daily basis. Right now we feel we’ve got a good team. Let’s get through this lockout and get to camp and then we’ll figure out what we need to do.

“If we don’t start, we’ll be able to get a good handle on the Chicago [Wolves] guys and see who can help us.”

A meaningful return in an eventual Roberto Luongo trade would help. If Jason Garrison can supplant Sami Salo and give the power play another needed dimension from the back end, that would help, too.”

In the interim, Vigneault has placed his faith that the core players he so often speaks about — especially Henrik and Daniel Sedin and Manny Malhotra — will ensure their teammates retain a level of fitness and focus.

“As coaches, we got together the second week of August and planned out training camp and the season,” said Vigneault. “We’re ready. As for the players, it’s a matter of trusting them and I do trust them. Their workout regime has to be the same so when camp starts they’ll be ready to go.”

And regardless of what the schedule could look like if the lockout wipes out a portion of it and the Canucks are resigned to mere Western Conference play, Vigneault’s summation of what could await sounded all too familiar.

“Anybody that makes the playoffs in our conference can win the Cup and No. 8 won it,” he said. “It’s going to be the same, a real strong conference.”

However, the Canucks can’t afford the same end result.

bkuzma@theprovince.com

twitter.com/benkuzma

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I don't think there's any doubt at all that Lapierre can fill a bigger role than 4th line center. The guy is fast, has decent hands, is gritty, can play defence.... I actually wouldn't mind him as our 3rd line center at all. He's been relegated to the 4th line most of his Canucks career but he's shown more than enough signs that he's superior to that role both offensively and defensively.

As for Schroeder, I haven't seen enough of him to judge. But being a 'generous' 5'9" in NHL standards (so he's probably what, 5'7"?) means he's going to have to be absolutely exceptional to make it. I'd love for him to be the next Cammalleri (except center) and pot 20-30 goals a season. Only time will tell though.

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I also don't mind lappy as our 3rd line center. but I stillI want all 4 line to be offensive. I am not sure if malhotra can return to his previous form that quickly. I think there is a chance that raymay will return to his previous form and if that happens then we are set.

with kes

Sedin- sedin- burrows

Booth-kesler-raymay(if return to previous form)

Higgins- andrew ebbett(I believe he is a center) - hansen

lappy- malhotra- dale weise

other pieces

steve pinizzotto, aaron volpatti

without kesler.

I think we should give Schroeder a shot. At least i want to see how our farm players can do in nhl league.

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I also don't mind lappy as our 3rd line center. but I stillI want all 4 line to be offensive. I am not sure if malhotra can return to his previous form that quickly. I think there is a chance that raymay will return to his previous form and if that happens then we are set.

with kes

Sedin- sedin- burrows

Booth-kesler-raymay(if return to previous form)

Higgins- andrew ebbett(I believe he is a center) - hansen

lappy- malhotra- dale weise

other pieces

steve pinizzotto, aaron volpatti

without kesler.

I think we should give Schroeder a shot. At least i want to see how our farm players can do in nhl league.

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I also don't mind lappy as our 3rd line center. but I stillI want all 4 line to be offensive. I am not sure if malhotra can return to his previous form that quickly. I think there is a chance that raymay will return to his previous form and if that happens then we are set.

with kes

Sedin- sedin- burrows

Booth-kesler-raymay(if return to previous form)

Higgins- andrew ebbett(I believe he is a center) - hansen

lappy- malhotra- dale weise

other pieces

steve pinizzotto, aaron volpatti

without kesler.

I think we should give Schroeder a shot. At least i want to see how our farm players can do in nhl league.

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i'd rather throw Gaunce right into the 3rd line role over Ebbet. But Lappy is confident he's gonna earn that spot and let's hope he does!

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good read

I'm glad AV is still the coach. The team wouldn't be the same with out him. He developed Burrows Bieska and Kesler

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good read

I'm glad AV is still the coach. The team wouldn't be the same with out him. He developed Burrows Bieska and Kesler

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Lappy is going to surprise a lot of people this year. It's going to be fantastic.

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I am 100% confident that Malhotra and Lappiere can anchor the bottom two centre positions. Schroeder needs a shot at the NHL and a couple weeks up in place of Kesler would be great for seeing how he does with skilled guys. If no Lapierre, Ebbett is good enough offensively as a 2nd line band-aid. He had 32 points in 48 games in a top 6 role with Anaheim. Last season he averaged .03 goals per minute compared to Mason Raymond's .012 goals per minute (over 2.5x more efficient) playing with worse less skilled linemates. Just to compare, Daniel scored .022 per minute.

Ebbett wouldn't keep that up over say 1000 minutes but it goes to show just how good he was last year with limited ice time.

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<p>

<br />

I know he&#39;s small, but why exactly are you making a puke face about him? In the small number of games he&#39;s played for us, he played excellently and scored some clutch goals. I&#39;d like to see more of him before we hand over 3rd line center to him obviously, but I certainly wouldn&#39;t write him off so quickly like you seem to. He put up some decent points in Anaheim as well before, and he&#39;s in his prime, so who knows. I think he deserves at least another look.<br />

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Lappy (I call him Lap Dog) was pretty damn good as 3rd line centre when Manny was out for the stretch run and 1st three rounds of the 2011 play off's!

So me personally; I'm plenty happy to pencil him into a 3rd line centre role!

Where I get concerned while Kess is out is the top 2 lines. Lappy is a great defensive centre, and when played with Hank has shown he can score off a top play maker. But while he surprises now and again, he's not a play maker. I don't see Lapierre as our 2knd line centre for any void.

I also don't feel great about Schroeder in a top 2 line role. Hank/Danny/Burr get sheltered from taking D face off's against lines like Thornton's and Kess shoulders that responsibility. Do we really think little Schneider is going to take on that role, stop big Joe then still create offense at the other end? And what if the never happened before happened; Hank gets injured??

Yip, Lappy is great! But we certainly need another centre. Arnott anyone?

(FTR, pre-July 1 dating to May I was posting Arnott as the 2knd most important signing (behind a big D, I suggested Souray) we could make!).

I don't think there's any doubt at all that Lapierre can fill a bigger role than 4th line center. The guy is fast, has decent hands, is gritty, can play defence.... I actually wouldn't mind him as our 3rd line center at all. He's been relegated to the 4th line most of his Canucks career but he's shown more than enough signs that he's superior to that role both offensively and defensively.

As for Schroeder, I haven't seen enough of him to judge. But being a 'generous' 5'9" in NHL standards (so he's probably what, 5'7"?) means he's going to have to be absolutely exceptional to make it. I'd love for him to be the next Cammalleri (except center) and pot 20-30 goals a season. Only time will tell though.

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I really like AV and appreciate his perspective.

I think alot of teams would love to have the Canucks problems.

It's pretty much consensus that they could use an extra center and/or right wing to fit into the middle of the lineup, but when you look at the depth at center -

Hank

Kesler

Schroeder / Lapierre

Malhotra

Ebbett

----------

Gaunce

Mallet

- they are certainly as well off as they were to start last season - particularly when Kesler will have additional time to heal during the lockout - and there are a couple new prospects to deepen the pool. Schroeder may not be the ideal guy to match up against Thornton as noted above, but there is no real reason he would - Hodgson wasn't an ideal third line center either, but AV managed to use him in a very optimized way, which he'll no doubt do for Schroeder as well. If Kesler misses much time, Lappy and Malhotra are stil there tol play the shut down roles. If you were to add a 2nd or 3rd line quality center, they become extremely deep imo.

Likewise, at right wing, there are

Burrows (a natural left wing)

Kassian / Raymond (a natural left wing)

Hansen

Pinnizotto/Weise

Desbiens

-----------

Jensen

Rodin

- again, there is the potential to add a 2nd line RW, but with Hansen's versatility, Raymond's potential to rebound, Kassian on the doorstep, Jensen in the system, and a number of viable gritty fourth liners, there is no real urgency to upgrade.

In either event, a Luongo deal could really solidify the lineup, but as it stands, they really have a great asset in the bank so to speak - and a couple real candidates already on the roster/in the system who could step into either of those perceived holes quite nicely.

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Lappy (I call him Lap Dog) was pretty damn good as 3rd line centre when Manny was out for the stretch run and 1st three rounds of the 2011 play off's!

So me personally; I'm plenty happy to pencil him into a 3rd line centre role!

Where I get concerned while Kess is out is the top 2 lines. Lappy is a great defensive centre, and when played with Hank has shown he can score off a top play maker. But while he surprises now and again, he's not a play maker. I don't see Lapierre as our 2knd line centre for any void.

I also don't feel great about Schroeder in a top 2 line role. Hank/Danny/Burr get sheltered from taking D face off's against lines like Thornton's and Kess shoulders that responsibility. Do we really think little Schneider is going to take on that role, stop big Joe then still create offense at the other end? And what if the never happened before happened; Hank gets injured??

Yip, Lappy is great! But we certainly need another centre. Arnott anyone?

(FTR, pre-July 1 dating to May I was posting Arnott as the 2knd most important signing (behind a big D, I suggested Souray) we could make!).

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Ebbett is a pro and very under rated.

Ditto Lappy.Lappy can move up with his grit and style.

Schroeder will be Schrow - cased for a trade.

What to do with a 5' 7" centre on a team that needs to get bigger and stronger?

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Ebbett is a pro and very under rated.

Ditto Lappy.Lappy can move up with his grit and style.

Schroeder will be Schrow - cased for a trade.

What to do with a 5' 7" centre on a team that needs to get bigger and stronger?

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Sure.No problems.

Henrik,Kes,Lappy,Manny,Ebbett,Arnott?

Where does the Schro go? Ebbett is a six year pro with pretty good hands.

6'2" ,210 lb. Gaunce expected to be possibly NHL ready in another year's time?

HF Board on Schroeder:

He is not really 5"9, more like 5'6 - 5"7. I met him in Chicago and while we talked I looked down at him. I'm 5"9.

http://hfboards.hock...=1187407&page=3

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Ebbett is a pro and very under rated.

Ditto Lappy.Lappy can move up with his grit and style.

Schroeder will be Schrow - cased for a trade.

What to do with a 5' 7" centre on a team that needs to get bigger and stronger?

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We could really use Jason Arnott, only problem is the lock out.. He will probably want to sign across seas if he doesn't have a team to play for. Unless Gillis gave him a guarantee that after the CBA situation is resolved, he would give him a conract. He'd have to have it all written up just waiting for a signature, otherwise we most likely lose out on Arnott as well.

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