The expected wave of criticism surrounding the Canucks and their disappointing early exit from the playoffs this season is in full force. Critics and fans alike have heeded every opportunity to lay the blame and find reasons for why a team favoured to win it all this year was eliminated just five games into the post-season. Everyone from the likes of General Manager, Mike Gillis, to players including Ryan Kesler, David Booth, Chris Higgins, and Alexandre Burrows have been targeted for the team’s inability to advance past the first round. Scrutiny following the team’s elimination by the LA Kings has not escaped Head Coach Alain Vigneault either, despite him having lead the team to two back-to-back President’s trophies and its fifth North-West division title in six years.
Frustrated fans have criticized Vigneault for everything from his constant line juggling to benching certain players, and allotting excessive ice time to underachievers. While he may be a scapegoat for those looking to incriminate someone for the Canucks’ disheartening end to the season, Mike Gillis recognizes just how valuable Vigneault is to the team. Gillis assures that he is proud of what the Canucks have accomplished in the the last few years under Vigneault and is confident in wanting to keep him behind the bench. Gillis explains, “I feel very comfortable with Alain as a coach…He’s done an excellent job, and I don’t know why you wouldn’t want somebody back that has done an excellent job and has the results to show for it” (x). Gillis, who won General Manager of the Year at the 2011 NHL Awards, has nothing but praise for Vigneault, who became the Canucks’ winningest coach in franchise history early this season after recording his 247th win.
Vigneault’s biggest critics never fail to point out that he has yet to bring a Stanley Cup to Vancouver, but tend to overlook the simple fact that he has shown that he has what it takes to win. In his six years as Head Coach, Vigneault has brought five North-West division titles, two President’s trophies, and a Western Conference championship to Vancouver. Vigneault has also been a finalist for the Jack Adam’s award as, NHL Coach of the Year, three times in his career, winning the award in 2007. The Quebec City native’s winning ways are also reflected in the individual successes of certain Canucks such as Ryan Kesler (Selke Trophy), Henrik Sedin (Art Ross and Hart trophies), Daniel Sedin (Art Ross and Ted Lindsay trophies), Roberto Luongo, and Cory Schneider (William Jenning’s Trophy) who have excelled under his coaching system.
Although Vigneault’s system and methods may be unconventional, his track record of success speaks for itself. After all, it was Vigneault, amidst his line-juggling, that placed Alexandre Burrows, a hard-nosed, grinder on a line with offensive minded, Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Since then the unexpected trio has been proven to be one of the best top lines in the NHL. In Vigneault, the team has a coach that thinks outside of the box and will not hesitate to conjure up new strategies to assure victory. His atypical coaching style also keeps the opposition guessing and envious of what he may think of next. So with just one year remaining on Vigneault’s current deal, it is no surprise that Mike Gillis has said that securing AV’s spot behind the Canucks bench for years to come is “the first thing on [his] agenda” this off-season (x). Gillis also confirms that Vigneault would like to stay the Canucks’ bench boss, having “made every indication that he does want to come back and coach this team” (x).
In the end, Alain Vigneault can not solely be held responsible for the Canucks pre-mature exit from a playoffs that has been far from convention, having seen both teams from the previous year’s finals eliminated in the first round. The Canucks abrupt end to the season is also not a reflection of AV’s coaching ability, having shown last June, after taking his team to within one win of a Stanley Cup, that he is equipped to go the distance. Gillis stands by Vigneault and notes that “having a good head coach is one reason [other teams are] envious” (x) of the Canucks. Gillis goes on to credit Vigneault’s accomplishments with the team and stresses the importance of maintaining him as Head Coach, explaining, “we [have] accomplished 98 percent of what we set out to do, and in those circumstances most people continue on and continue with the plan…to finish off the last two percent” (x). Clearly, with reason, that plan includes Alain Vigneault as Head Coach.
Fans should be reassured by the confidence Mike Gillis, the NHL’s reigning General Manager of the Year, has in Vigneault. They should keep faith in the fact that it is only a matter of time before the Canucks most winningest coach in franchise history rallies his troops and leads them to only thing left for him to win, the Stanley Cup. Remember Canucks fans, patience is a virtue.