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Columnist: If Canucks can’t come back, fire Vigneault

Apr 17, 2012, 12:20 PM EDT

Vancouver Canucks v Boston Bruins - Game Six Getty Images

Given the pitchforks are already out in Vancouver, no surprise scalpels are being brandished now too.

With the top-seeded Canucks down 3-0 in their opening-round series to No. 8 Los Angeles, the Vancouver media has already begun looking past the idea of a comeback (and hey, fair enough — teams up 3-0 go on to win 98 percent of the time).

Instead, they’ve started conducting the autopsy.

There have been healthy debates about personnel decisions, trade ideas, who should be the starting netminder and today, Tony Gallagher of the Vancouver Province added another topic to the list:

Who the next head coach should be.

Because of his long tenure enjoyed as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks, it might be a useful exercise to mount something of a defence for Alain Vigneault after another season whereby it looks all but certain his team is going to come to another crashing, miserable end in the NHL playoffs.

Granted this agent may not be the most qualified for this, but those who worship the ground the man spits on will doubtless come out of their boots trying to keep him around because he’s an easy man with which to work…

…“I’ve been on teams where the coach has been fired a couple of times but it’s not decisions we make,” said Samuel Pahlsson, who was on hand when Scott Arniel was fired by Columbus in January this season. “We didn’t think it was the coach’s fault there.

When asked about here in Vancouver should the team lose this series he thought for at least two seconds and finally said: “It’s the same here.”

Players at this level always take the blame, publicly at least. Barring a recovery of historic proportions in this series however, it says here this group, however comprised next year, deserves to hear a different voice.

Some notes:

— Vigneault’s the most decorated (and arguably best) coach in Canucks franchise history, though his chief competition is Pat Quinn, Marc Crawford and two seasons of Roger Neilson. AV won a Jack Adams, was nominated for another, captured the club’s first-ever Presidents’ Trophies and got to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. Very healthy resume.

— There’s heavy speculation that Vigneault’s in the “fired at sunset, hired by sunrise” category of NHL head coaches. Ergo, if Vancouver cuts him loose there’s a good chance he ends up behind a bench at the start of next season (and given his ability to speak French, you can see where this is going…)

— To put Gallagher’s work in context, he wrote this in March after the Canucks went 5-6-2 over a 13-game stretch. The team then proceeded to win eight of its next 10 and finish first overall in the NHL.

  1. bergeronforselke - Apr 17, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    Hmmm, two straight President’s trophies and one Stanley Cup appearance…bit of overreaction me thinks. The guy isn’t my cup of tea as a coach but the results are there regardless.

  2. philly4lyfe - Apr 17, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    If the Canucks can’t come back, riot.

    • wingsdjy - Apr 17, 2012 at 12:36 PM

      and if they do come back, riot.

      • davebabychreturns - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:14 PM

        All these jokes are a real.. riot.

    • elvispocomo - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:56 PM

      Well, we don’t have decorated war heros walking around in Rangers jerseys to beat up, so I can see how you’d think we’d opt for the riot instead.

  3. bigbadbruins1968 - Apr 17, 2012 at 12:43 PM

    Sounds like a great candidate to coach the Canadiens.

    And while there at it, maybe it is time to unload Lebrongo.

  4. itsallniceonice - Apr 17, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    I hate Vigneault but don’t understand how Gillis can’t come under fire here as well. He’s been a solid GM obviously but he put this team together. After a shaky couple of series last year, losing the cup, and now especially after witnessing this series it’s very obvious this team can have their confidence shattered very easily when it matters most. He should have added a gritty veteran presence a la Dr. Recchi to keep his team’s head on straight.

  5. somekat - Apr 17, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    Could be a situation where it is a very good coach, and a very good team. They jsut need to hear a different voice to take that last step. But I won’t pretend to know what is going on in Vancouver enough to say I have an opinion one way or the other on that

    • odj810 - Apr 17, 2012 at 2:21 PM

      thats what everyone was saying about boston to. Theres so much parody in NHL only one team wins. The top teams are so close. I think he’s a pretty good coach.

  6. homelanddefense - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:11 PM

    the problem isnt the coach, its the make up of the team and the personalities of the team. The Bruins gave a blueprint on how to beat them. Instead of learning from it Vancouver’s GM and coach complained to the media. What they should have done was address the toughness they dont have on the roster, and the classless they do have.

    Its not all about talent in the NHL playoffs.

    • davebabychreturns - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:19 PM

      It amazes me to see people buy into the toughness narrative time and time again.

      You realize that before the Bruins and the Kings beat the Canucks in consecutive series, the San Jose Sharks tried the exact same approach and the Canucks turned the other cheek and dismantled them on special teams?

      The book on the Canucks is to play suffocating defense, take away the area in front of your goaltender and give them the perimeter. Oh yeah and having their most dynamic players injured (Daniel this year, a whole laundry list in the finals last year) goes a long way too.

      Vancouver can’t win line brawls with a number of teams, but they don’t keep track of those victories and losses on the scoreboard. When the Canucks turn away from that crap they can usually focus on finding a way to win games but when they bite (ha ha) on it they seem to lose focus and let their opponent grind them into oblivion.

      • homelanddefense - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:21 PM

        Oh so they are the only ones who play with injuries I guess?

      • elvispocomo - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:59 PM

        Nope, but they clearly played with more injuries than Boston in the SCFs last year. And for a team losing 1-0 last game, it definitely would make a difference having their leading scorer in the lineup.

      • davebabychreturns - Apr 17, 2012 at 2:03 PM

        @homelanddefense, your complete refusal to acknowledge my main point – that the way to defeat the Canucks is to keep them on the perimeter, not to try to rough them up – is noted.

      • odj810 - Apr 17, 2012 at 2:24 PM

        Injuries aren’t an excuse they happen.Its a shame sedin isn’t in and I hope he comes back. But your forgetting that boston missed there Best offensive player in Savard. Injuries happen and its a crying shame but It can’t be used as an excuse for under performance. The players on the ice have to do the job.

      • davebabychreturns - Apr 17, 2012 at 3:16 PM

        Yeah, they do, and they’ve failed to do the job twice – not against teams full of agitators but against suffocating defenses that control the middle of the ice in their own zone.

        Not sure why people can’t respond to that instead of an aside about injuries..

      • homelanddefense - Apr 18, 2012 at 10:07 AM

        for the record the Bruins played the SCF last year without 2/3 of their top line. Well horton missed the last 4.5 games anyway.

        I didnt address your comment about the suffocating defense because its a laughable argument against toughness. How do you take away the area in front of your goal? How do you “grind an opponent into oblivion”. Im pretty sure toughness has a lot to do with it.

      • davebabychreturns - Apr 18, 2012 at 10:27 AM

        Where did I say the two are mutually exclusive?

        Here is the point: the Edmonton Oilers can play “tough,” the San Jose Sharks can play “tough,” the Ottawa Senators can play “tough” and so can most of the league – and the Canucks can obliterate those teams on the scoreboard, because those teams can’t control key areas of their own zone.

        It takes a tight defensive system executed by a well-prepared group of players to give the Canucks trouble – and no amount of body-checking or facewashing or fistfighting will make up for the lack of that.

      • homelanddefense - Apr 18, 2012 at 10:53 AM

        Anyone can play tough occasionally, its entirely different to have tough players who do it night in and night out. If Vancouver had some “tough” players they could park themselves in front of the net if they wanted to do so.

        And its not just physical toughness, its mental toughness as well. Luongo acted like a head case last SCF. Vancouver was a different team in Boston. To me, a lot of that has to do with a lack of mental and physical toughness.

        Vancouver is more talented than Boston. I admit that, but I dont think the match up well against Boston either. Same reason I wouldnt like their chances against the Rangers. Heck, they even realized it later in the season when the traded Hodgson for Kassian. They need more guys committed to grinding. Just my opinion.

      • davebabychreturns - Apr 18, 2012 at 11:31 AM

        You can pick and choose who plays tough occasionally and who does it every night I guess, but the NYR are yet another stingy defensive group so I’m not sure how bringing them up does anything other than further support my point.

        The Canucks need to be able to crack these kinds of teams and I agree it’s the players and not the coach that needs to change – and the Pahlsson/Kassian deals show the GM knows it.

        Luongo is a completely different matter. Don’t get me started.

      • homelanddefense - Apr 18, 2012 at 12:09 PM

        I bring up NY because they are another BIG, strong, physical team. Im pretty sure we are arguing the same point, but you just take exception to my anti Canucks tone.

        You admit the GM makes moves in line with what I am saying, and you admit the players need to change. Im not sure where we disagree. haha

  7. jmbates10 - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    Anybody heard of a guy named Jonathan “Tim Thomas” Quick. Just in case not he is an impenetrable goalie. Like last year, he is a big reason for the 3-0 deficit at the moment.

    • davebabychreturns - Apr 17, 2012 at 2:05 PM

      Strongly disagree.

      Quick has been good, sure, but no way has he turned in a .980 performance in these games. The Canucks have utterly failed to generate high percentage opportunities – chances off the rush, second chances with the goalie down and out, chances on the powerplay..

      • davebabychreturns - Apr 17, 2012 at 2:08 PM

        Sorry, he is .965 – not .980.

        But to put this in perspective, Quick’s even strength save percentage is within ten points of five other goalies: Henrik Lundqvist, Roberto Luongo, Jaroslav Halak, Antti Niemi.

  8. imleftcoast - Apr 17, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    Gallagher was absolutely correct in March that the ream had gotten into bad habits and was going to pay for it, “As it is now, talk of a Stanley Cup in this environment is delusional.” To put it in context, the Canucks went on a run against the Oilers, Wild and Flames.

    The team didn’t show up prepared for Games 1 and 2, and the powerplay is 1-40 and 5 shorthanded goals in the last 6 playoff games. The problem last year was secondary, and yet Gillis traded Hodgson for more toughness and a third line that could shut down the other team – freeing up Kesler to score (in theory).

  9. whatswellydoing - Apr 17, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    Tony Gallagher said that? Give AV an extension!

  10. emperorzero - Apr 17, 2012 at 6:55 PM

    Missing a Sedin is killing the Canucks, but maybe we should go look back at the Hodgson trade. I don’t see a lot of the Canucks, but they seem to have lost the mojo after that deal. I could be wrong though.

  11. blomfeld - Apr 17, 2012 at 10:07 PM

    NO NO NO ! …

    Sorry friends, but you all appear to simply not get it ? The problem with the Canucks “starts and stops” with big man Luongo ! … you know, that guy who said once that the only important thing for him was that “he” wins a Stanley Cup … and that the team he plays for doing it was completely immaterial. This clown has had his ass kissed in every conceivable way from the day he got here, whether that’s being showered with millions of $$$, being given the captaincy of the team, or dictating the terms of his seasonal play. Yet what have the Canucks received in return ? The absolute quintessential “choke artist” who’s managed to let his team down “year after year” when it really counted. I will submit to you people here and now, that had Schneider started all three games in this series so far, then things would likely have been quite different at this point in time. As it is, it’s now a given that Schneider plays tomorrow … and it’s now a given that Luongo gets traded back east this summer … just as I predicted months ago.

    As for Vigneault, Gilles doesn’t like him and he never did. You’ll recall how Gilles interviewed him for 3 straight days in a Vegas hotel room, when he first came on the scene. The bottom line is that AV is a good guy and therefore he’s going to be the scapegoat … that’s how it always works. Gilles on the other hand is an “over-weight” rat, who has the ear of the King rat … and so we already know the outcome here. But no tears from me, as I think Vigneault will be the “perfect” coach in Montreal ! … and he’ll be so much happier for it too ! :)

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