Formerly published in The Other Press. June 4 2013
By Elliot Chan, Staff Writer
The argument is not whether or not Alain Vigneault’s seven years with the Vancouver Canucks was a failure. After all, he is the winning-est coach in franchise history and the recipient of the 2007 Jack Adam Award. He coached two Presidents’ Trophy teams and got the Canucks all the way to game seven of the Stanley Cup finals. He has done everything possible, except win the cup and that is why it’s his time to go.
With Vigneault’s leadership, the Canucks have become a tough team to cheer for. An undisciplined team that whines over every call and flail like soccer players at every check. “We deserve it,” felt like the mentality of the Canucks these past few seasons, instead of most other teams’, which is, “we’ll earn it.” They expected everything to be handed to them and that made them consistently lose in the playoffs despite having such an elite team. The Canucks might be straight-A students in the classroom, but out on the playground they are incompetent.
He is always diplomatic and polite, but he never had any fire. In his press conference after game four of the 2013 Stanley Cup quarterfinals against San Jose, Vigneault looked absolutely defeated as he answered questions. Meanwhile, his players were in the locker room complaining about a bad penalty against Daniel Sedin in overtime. It was a pathetic image, far worse than getting swept in the first round.
The Canucks have never been a team with killer instincts. A long history of losing to bad teams and playing well against good teams made Vancouver an incoherent group. Leadership has always been a problem with the Canucks from the days of the soft-spoken Markus Naslund to “unable to do much because he’s a goalie,” Roberto Luongo, and then to the other soft-spoken Swede Henrik Sedin. The team needs a passionate leader that doesn’t only lead by example, but also by exclaiming it. Vigneault was not the type of man that gets his team fired up, he couldn’t rock the boat and he never won a championship.
Vigneault might have squandered the best years of the Vancouver Canucks, and any coach after will be working with the remains of a first-class team, but there are a few Head Coach-calibre candidates out in the market that may be suitable for our deteriorating Canucks squad. Former Rangers bench boss, John Tortorella has a quality that might just force the team to the next level. His fiery attitude is exactly what this undisciplined team needs, and he would do wonders when it comes to short-term goals, such as winning the Stanley Cup.
Another candidate would be Lindy Ruff, who for many years has been waiting to join a competitive hockey team. Renounced as one of Canada’s top coaches year after year, it would be interesting to see what he could bring to a team that has metaphorically been colouring within the lines for so many years.
Vigneault was not GM Mike Gillis’ organic choice. He was the hand-me-down of former GM Dave Nonis, and although they had a successful six-year partnership, Gillis will now search for a coach that can lead with an iron fist and not just a courteous smile.