With his team on top of the northwest division and by default, placing among the top-3 in the west, Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault is here to stay.
Just like his never-ending cough issues, “A.V” has resiliently proven his critics wrong year after year with next to nothing sort of praise.
It must, however, be humbling for any coach to see Lindy Ruff terminated from his position in Buffalo. Even though Ruff had admitted two seasons ago that he felt his days were numbered, it’s a huge cultural shift in that organization to let go of the man who patrolled the bench for the better part of 15 seasons.
While his numbers pale in comparison to Ruff’s, Vigneault has nearly the same sort of accolades. Both coaches were short of one win from a Stanley Cup and both have won a Jack Adams trophy. Coincidentally, Vigneault won his a year after Ruff did in 2007. Both coaches representing a club that stepped into the NHL in the 1970-1971 season.
But that’s where the similarities end.
At the time of this article, Vigneault has already become the winningest head coach in Canucks history and seems to be locked in for the long haul.
Of course, nothing is permanent in the world of professional sports, and that could change one day, but for now it seems A.V is here to stay.
If Mike Gillis really felt that Vigneault had been tuned out by the players, there would have been no better example than to examine the Canucks’ first round exit in last year’s playoffs to the eventual cup winners, the Kings.
After finishing in the Stanley Cup Finals the previous year, it was a sour way to dash the hopes of an entire city, anguishing for a chance to be champion.
During the lockout-repressed off-season, more than a handful of teams made dramatic changes to their coaching staff. It seemed Vancouver was a rarity in the league by locking up who they think is their man for another two years instead of parting ways and finding another.
Montreal hired Michel Therrien, Calgary found Bob Hartley in Europe, and Edmonton gave the reigns over to first-timer Ralph Kruger just to name a few.
Among the coaches who were rewarded with extensions, Vigneault joins a much smaller list including Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis, Claude Julien in Boston and Todd Richards in Columbus (who was an interim coach last season).
In truth, there’s very little argument as to why the Canucks should let go of Vigneault at this point. On paper, the team’s success in the past few years have been a coach’s dream. Before finishing as President’s Trophy winners the past couple of seasons, the Canucks still finished top in their division in 2009 and 2010.
Vigneault’s coaching style has ranged from the boring to the unpredictable.
When he first arrived here in 2007, Vigneault had very little to work with. The club was faced with key personnel decisions with an aging Markus Naslund, Trevor Linden and many others who were paid to score but failed to do so. So instead, he brought forth a defensive-focused strategy revolving around the team’s newest and prized acquisition, Roberto Luongo.
That was the year Vigneault won the Jack Adams.
Since that time, and with the development of the Sedins into world-class players, A.V has cranked up the offense by consistently producing a top powerplay and penalty kill unit. And with the players he developed during his first few years in Vancouver, most of them retained their defensive awareness as highlighted by Ryan Kesler’s Selke trophy in 2011.
It’s easy for fans to call for a change behind the bench because we see a product on the ice that at times, makes it look too easy. But make no mistake; this team has been a project in the making for the better part of 6 years.
His decisions with lines and defensive pairings are to many, a shot in the dark but have largely paid off. Even Aaron Rome managed to find a payday in Dallas during the summer after going through the A.V Defense Clinic for the past two years.
With a team willing and able to play at both ends of the ice, Roberto Luongo has become the Canucks all-time leader in goaltending wins, although his own contributions were huge.
It seems very unlikely indeed that Vigneault has to worry about looking over his shoulder.
But make no mistake, this team is far from perfect.
After 19 games so far this season, the team still has to rise to the occasion and has failed to do so on important nights.
But while A.V is working out just how to jumpstart his club, his experience with the core players warrants protection until the year is over.
You could make an argument that if Vigneault was ever to leave Vancouver, it might be of his own accord.
The criticism the Canucks’ bench staff receives compounds on a daily basis. Through it all, however, Rick Bowness has loyally stood by Vigneault’s side.
It’s not as if the coaching staff hasn’t seen changes during his tenure here.
Ryan Walter was replaced by Newell Brown in 2010 and goalie guru Roland "Rollie" Melanson has joined the Canucks as well.
But there’s a suspicion to this writer that Vigneault won’t quit until the job is done. It is likely however that there will be meetings concluding the NHL season every year between Gillis and himself.
As the window on the team’s chance for glory closes, so does Vigneault’s.
But for now, the Canucks head coach and his insatiable coughs are here to stay.
(The Orca Zone is a nonprofit Canucks.com fan blog, written by Canorcas)
Edited by Canorcas, 28 February 2013 - 09:09 PM.