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Is it now or never for Alain Vigneault?

Aug 18, 2011, 9:00 AM EDT

Vancouver Canucks v Boston Bruins - Game Six Getty Images

Expectations are a funny thing. Take a coach who was a Jack Adams Trophy finalist, won the President’s Trophy, led his team to within a single game of their first ever Stanley Cup and you’d think he had a little job security.

That’s not the case in Vancouver these days.

It’s not like Alain Vigneault’s success during the regular season or playoffs last year were a fluke. In five seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, Vigneault has a 236-133-41 record and a Jack Adams Trophy for the work he did in the 2006-07 season.  In the “what have you done for me lately” department, he led the Canucks to their best season in franchise history. Over the course of the 82 game schedule, the Canucks were the best offensive and best defensive team in the league. They had the best power play and up until the final week of the season, they had the best penalty kill as well. Talent is one thing—but to have 20 guys to be that dominant for an entire season takes above average coaching.

So when Mike Brophy of SportsNet puts together a list of coaches who are potential on the hot seat next season, should fans be surprised to see Vigneault’s name show up on the list? Here’s Brophy’s explanation:

“The Canucks’ failure to win the Stanley Cup after taking a 2-0 series lead in the final against the Boston Bruins has Vigneault on thin ice. It didn’t help matters that the Canucks lost Game 7 on home ice. Sometimes a team has to experience such failure before it emerges as a champion. In any case, expectation for the Canucks will be at an all-time high this season and Vigneault cannot afford for his team to start slowly.”

It sounds like Vigneault is an impossible position next season. If he doesn’t continue winning at a historic pace and exceed last year’s standards, he’ll be on the unemployment line? Let’s put the Canucks year in perspective: even if you ignore their 15 wins in the playoffs, they still had more wins (54) than the Edmonton Oilers have had in the last two seasons combined (52). If Tom Renney won 54 games next season, they’d name a street after him. In Vancouver expectations are so ridiculously high, if the Canucks don’t get off to a white-hot start, they would seriously consider throwing their head man out onto the street.

It’s important for the Canucks and their fans to remember the alternatives on the market. Each coach that would be available is a guy who was passed over by six different teams this offseason. Before they even contemplate firing Vigneault, they should think long and hard about who will come in and replace him.

It may not be a popular notion, but perhaps Vigneault is a good coach who gets the very most out of an extremely talented team? The major downfall of the team had nothing to do with coaching—it was injuries. If the Canucks defense stays healthy throughout the course of the playoffs, there’s a good chance things are different in the Finals. Regardless, they were a single game away from the Stanley Cup. There are 28 other teams in the league that would have killed for that kind of season.

What do you think? Do you think Vigneault has earned a little bit of security or is it imperative that the Canucks take the next step and win the Cup next season? Let us know what you think in the comments.

  1. t16rich - Aug 18, 2011 at 11:44 AM

    I will tell you what I think. Mike Brophy is an idiot. I can hear that man spit more than i can hear him speak. As a Canucks fan I am expecting another slow start. But not a early or mid season coach change. It’s not like the coaches out there are head and shoulders above Vigneault. And the guy did just take his team to a final. If Canucks don’t win their division and have an early playoff exit, than sure. Vigneault will get the axe. But to say a slow start will have him fired is nuts. He has always had slow starts in Vancouver and usually wins the division. Gillis knows that and will wait to see the result of this season before somthing drastic happens. I have plenty of criticisms of Vigneault, especially asking your goalie if he wants to be pulled. His decision making can make you scratch your head. But the man deserves the job this year.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:17 PM

      I tend to avoid anything to do with Sporstnet (or Rogers for that matter) at all costs, with the exception of the Jays. Brophy is just one of the countless idiots employed there and Sportsnet Connected looks like amateur hour compared to TSN or The Score

  2. matty11kat - Aug 18, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    I don’t think Vigneault is that great of a coach. When you’ve got two 40+ goalscorers with Daniel Sedin & Ryan Kesler, and another guy with 94 points (Henrik), one of the best goalies in the league (looking past the finals, of course), an amazing offensive defenseman in Christian Ehrhoff, and so on, it’s pretty hard NOT to do great, especially when you share a division with Edmonton, Colorado, Calgary, and Minnesota. Vancouver is about the 2nd or 3rd most talented team in the league. They make Vigneault look a lot better than he is.

  3. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:12 PM

    I think he’s done and is going to continue to do as much as you can expect out of a coach. It’s in the players hands, but unfortunately in pro sports it’s easier to fire a coach then to start messing with the roster

  4. tommytd - Aug 19, 2011 at 2:03 AM

    They don’t have a “killer instinct” to put away teams when they have them down nor do they have the “heart of a champion.” The Blackhawks pushed them to the edge last year after V had them down early and they let Boston come in and spank them in a Game 7 in their own building after having Boston down early. It also seems to me they’re hung up about statistics and awards but who cares about all that? Do you have a ring or don’t you? The Sedin sisters are not gamers and they went to sleep in the playoffs and let their team down BIG TIME when it counted most. Back up the truck and pack up the head coach, it all starts with him.

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