Seven seasons. Two Presidents’ Trophies. Six Northwest Division titles. One Jack Adams Trophy for coach of the year. One trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Those are the crops Alain Vigneault has sown as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks. However, GM Mike Gillis announced Wednesday that the man who holds the most victories by a head coach in franchise history (313-170-57) has been relieved, along with assistants Rick Bowness and Newell Brown.
Originally hired on June 20, 2006, by former GM Dave Nonis, Vigneault led the Canucks all the way to game seven of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals – but the team has underachieved ever since, having been knocked out of the playoffs by the LA Kings in round one in 2012 and swept by the San Jose Sharks in round one this season. With an aging team that values its core players, time has ran out for Vigneault to send his team on another long Stanley Cup run and Gillis looks to begin a new era for the Canucks with a brand new coaching staff; the two that remain with the organization are assistant coach Darryl Williams and goaltending coach Roland Melanson.
Brown, who was in charge of the Canucks’ recently failed power play, is remaining positive about the situation.
“People act like it’s the end of the world or something,” Brown told the Vancouver Sun. “Of course, as coaches, we’d like to continue on and complete the mission but when you miss the playoffs, or have high expectations and you don’t measure up, something is going to happen. From a coaching standpoint, it’s kind of a norm in the business, unfortunately.”
Their unsuccessful power play largely impacted the Canucks’ chances to win, and Brown stated that part of that was because of the amount of left shots on the roster.
“When you’re trying to run a power play with five left shots, which we were forced to do a lot this year, you’re really swimming upstream. Seventy-seven per cent of the power-play goals are scored with at least two right shots, so that tells you a lot right there. Not to say there are exceptions to the rule, but when you have five left shots, or even four, your chances of scoring are diminished.”
Brown has been with the Canucks for three years and was a major factor behind their number one ranked power play in 2011. Now, only two seasons later, the power play finished ranked 22nd.
“There comes a point in time where the message has to change and we have to be better,” Gillis told canucks.com. “We simply didn’t get the result we expected and in this business, you have to get results.” It could be seen as ironic – or maybe just unfortunate – that the Canucks’ most winningest coach has been fired for not winning the right games.
Vigneault did have his faults. There were times when his decisions of who to play in net or when to pull the goalie were questionable and some argue that he was not vocal enough. While he was forced to struggle with a constantly changing lineup because of injuries, Vigneault did make ongoing mistakes and failed to find line combinations that would work for the Canucks in the post season. However, faults aside, Vigneault has still been one of the best coaches in Canucks history.
“I know some people out there think this is an easy, simple decision to make,” said Gillis. “It’s not.”
Now the Canucks are severely lacking in the coaching department, something Gillis has no timeline for, and the possibilities are endless. Gillis wants a coach who can lead a team with an upbeat, offensive style of play that is sound defensively. But is Gillis’ time almost over? The person he selects for the position of the Canucks’ new head coach could determine his future as GM of the Canucks. As he failed to make the right moves at this year’s trade deadline, has handed Newell Brown too many left shots for the power play and still has goalie Roberto Luongo on the roster, the selection of a proper new head coach is crucial, not just for Gillis to remain in his position, but for the Canucks as well.
While for some teams a new coach may answer their questions and clean up their mess, reliving Vigneault, Brown and Bowness has only created more questions as to what type of team the Canucks will be come September without them.
“The past seven years have been an honour for me to coach and work for a great franchise in a wonderful Canadian city. To work in a city with such passionate and loyal fans is a privilege – I enjoyed every moment of it,” Vigneault said in a statement released on canucks.com.
“I am grateful to the players and their families for the sacrifice and dedication they showed in an effort to be the best they could be. Watching as many of our players started families, became fathers and grew as men, on and off of the ice, was equally rewarding…I am proud of many of the things we accomplished as a group these past seven seasons in Vancouver and only wish we were able to win the Canucks first Stanley Cup. I am a career coach and it is what I love to do. I hope to coach again in this League and will always have good memories of my time and the fans in Vancouver.“