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Vigneault can’t escape blame for Canucks failings

Apr 22, 2012, 11:46 PM EDT

Alain Vigneault Getty Images

Fresh off their second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy, the Vancouver Canucks could only manage one victory in the playoffs, falling in five games to Los Angeles in the first round.

Perhaps they were worn out, mentally and physically, from last year’s grueling Stanley Cup run.

And the Kings are a good team that nobody would be shocked to see in the final.

But there will still be calls for the coach’s head.

In fact, the calls have already come. When the Canucks were trailing the Kings, 3-0, The Province’s Tony Gallagher, a long-time critic of Alain Vigneault, wrote that losing in the first round would be yet another “ridiculous conclusion” to the season in Vancouver.

Looking back, Gallagher makes a legitimate point.

In 2008, there was a “hideous collapse down the stretch whereby the team missed the playoffs.”

In 2009, the Canucks “had the Chicago Blackhawks down 2-1 with the lead in the third period of game four only to lose those next three and drop a series they should have won.”

In 2010, “the season ended miserably with Chicago humiliating Vancouver in one-sided home games.”

Of course, Vigneault took Vancouver all the way to final last year. “But not before it almost blew a 3-0 series advantage in the first round, ridiculously poor efforts in games four and five the main reason.”

And we’d add the Canucks didn’t exactly fall to the Boston Bruins in the most commendable manner, losing their composure and getting outscored an incredible 21-3 in their four defeats.

Sorry, but some of that has to fall on the man in charge.

Now, many will say it’s insane to get rid of a coach that’s won so many games. They’ll bring up all manner of statistics, comparing Vigneault’s win-loss record to other NHL coaches, and reach the oh-so-obvious conclusion he should be back next season.

But management’s analysis will go far beyond wins and losses, as it should. You don’t and can’t run a team based on numbers alone, though so many Moneyball devotees would like to think you can.

The Canucks took a step back this season, and Vigneault will have to answer in some form for that. Maybe it’ll cost him his job, maybe not. But it’s a discussion that’s worth having.

Related: And then there were 12: Presidents’ Trophy-winning Canucks bounced in Round 1

  1. islandersfan - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:10 AM

    Part of the answer to whether keeping AV is a good idea or not is “Can they get someone better?”

    He is not a bad coach, but a common theme in all those letdowns outlined above is that teams who do have good coaches AND good players can beat the ‘Nucks. I’ve argued for awhile his W/L record over that time is inflated by playing in a pathetically weak division.

    All that aside he has gotten a lot of points and wins, he has developed the Sedin’s into good players and has (aside from ’08 letdown) managed to keep the ‘Nucks as one of the more consistent teams over the last three years without resorting to “boring hockey”

    Now look at the people available for hire or promotion … are any of them better? If the answer is yes… then pull the trigger. If no – then keep him.

    • dolphincult - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:36 AM

      well some could offer a “yes” with Craig Mctavish running the farm team.

      • seahawkbias - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:59 AM

        AV has his faults, but the GM built this roster “for the playoffs”. Gilles traded our best depth scorer is Hodson for a guy that I didn’t even see on the ice last night. Great. On a night where we are up 1-0 and one more goal puts it away, we have no scoring or toughness. Super.
        We sorely missed Erhoff this year (FA). Its pretty clear the GM could have made a goalie decision last offseason and spent Loungo’s cap space on goal scoring & our own FA’s.
        Terrible playoff roster Gilles.

    • polegojim - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:21 AM

      To whom much is given, much will be demanded… Mr. V should go.

      I agree – with Daniel for the entire series, it ‘may’ have gone differently…. but face it, he’s been there for all of them BUT this one…. and the results aren’t too different…. No Championship Stanley Cup…. and it pains me to see it.

      My Red Wings weren’t strong enough this year, so getting bounced by the Preds isn’t a surprise. However, the Canucks should have been strong enough, but failed. That starts at the top.

      When everyone surrounding the situation stops believing, it’s time to change the boss. If for no other reason, a fresh start is warranted. A changing of the guard.

    • geostrophically - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:43 AM

      President’s Trophy doesn’t necessarily mean Stanley Cup. The beauty of the playoffs is that it makes teams solve one that they may not often face in the regular season.

      The fact that the Canucks play in a weak division, one that doesn’t have strong teams like Chicago Blackhawks in it, could be why the Canucks can’t reach their potential.

      If that is the crux, can a new coach fix that?

      • miketoasty - Apr 23, 2012 at 7:29 AM

        Kind of funny that President’s trophy usually means a loss in the first or second round of the playoffs as only 7 out of 27 teams (Only been giving out the President’s trophy for 28 years) have gone on to win the cup, and only 10 teams have made it to the Finals after winning the Presidents trophy.

      • polegojim - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:43 AM

        The Canucks played MANY other teams throughout the season who weren’t in their Division and still won the most games, so I’m not buying the ‘weak division’ thing.

        Something in their approach and game plan has left them perennially empty. That’s on the HC

        They have the talent, but can’t pull it off down the stretch.
        That’s on the HC

        It’s not a matter of finding a ‘better’ HC… it’s finding a HC that can get the MOST from a very talented the playoffs. V is not.

      • micasa81 - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:54 AM

        Let’s evaluate the “weak division” argument, shall we? I’ll use the Canucks as an example, but the logic applies to any team in a similar position. This year the Canucks had a 77% record against the NW, collecting 37 of 48 points. They had a 63% record against the central division teams, collecting 25 of 40 points. Total points against the two divisions: 62. Putting the Canucks in the central division and keeping the points % the same would have meant getting 30 points against the central division and 31 against the NW. Total points against the two divisions: 61 – in other words, a one point difference. Bottom line: they would have a great regular season record no matter what division they played in.

        Not that this changes anything in the playoffs.

  2. blomfeld - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:32 AM

    Let us offer dignity to our defeated, yet “worthy” foe …

    Right now, we LA Kings fans are literally “on top of the moon” because of our glorious victory tonight ! … no two ways about that. Yet we must see to it that our euphoria is tempered by the fact that we’ve attained this victory by defeating the “very best” which the NHL has to offer. The Vancouver Canucks are an excellent team and therefore the joy of our victory must be accompanied with a healthy measure of respect and humility. Canuck fans will surely know that we LA Kings didn’t chose this fight, nor did we ever wish them any ill will. We’re both worthy contenders for the Cup and despite the superhuman efforts which both sides gave in this series, in the end, it was we LA Kings whom the Goddess of Victory happened to smile upon.

    Take care Canucks Nation and God speed …

  3. sabatimus - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:43 AM

    Look Elaine, don’t gimme that “not from where I’m sitting” shet.

  4. cowboys282 - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:48 AM

    Canucks are gutless. They proved that last year. When there backs are against the wall they fold. Hey at least the fans don’t have to have a riot this year.

  5. howardforvezina - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:48 AM

    No coach is much better than him of the fired and upcoming. The Islanders could get AV if fired.

  6. stakex - Apr 23, 2012 at 12:57 AM

    It doesn’t matter how many games a coach wins, if they can’t win the big ones. Vigneault might have great stats, but stats are what losers cling to when all else is lost.

  7. blueblood86 - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:03 AM

    It’s not fair no other team has 2 sisters and he does that’s a HUGE disadvantage!

  8. jimw81 - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:05 AM

    Kings should be thanking Duncan Keith for destroying the canucks. They went down hill mentally after the second Sedin went down. Congrats to Kings though, their goaltender won them all 4 games.

    • comeonnowguys - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:29 AM

      You’re totally right. The Canucks have never imploded in the postseason before Keith hit Daniel.

      Whatever makes you feel better.

      • jimw81 - Apr 24, 2012 at 12:54 AM

        i could careless about canucks, I’m a flyers fan, but watching that team games after the hit, you can see the meltdown coming.

    • micasa81 - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:56 AM

      Give it up man. You can hate Keith for what he did (I do), but the Kings took care of business, and it wasn’t just Quick’s doing.

  9. mgspike - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:23 AM

    Gillis needs some heat too. That Hodgson trade was absolutely horrible for the Canucks this year. Trading away depth scoring which they desperately needed last year as well in the playoffs and getting absolutely nothing in return (playoffs-wise) this year.

  10. elvispocomo - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:27 AM

    Each series the Canucks have lost under AV have been to a better possession team. The series they’ve won, they were the better possession team. They did beat a couple of teams that were better at possesion, but for the most part, that formula holds true and it’s not the fault of coaching.

    The Kings, for all their scoring woes most of the season, are a strong possession team. They were the better team, so they won.

    Having said that, the shelf life of a coach is valid. I’m not sure if that’s the case here, although it’s possible, or if there is a better option out there.

  11. rainyday56 - Apr 23, 2012 at 2:13 AM

    Marc Crawford’s available . . .

  12. neelyisgod - Apr 23, 2012 at 5:02 AM

    How about Pat Quinn. Oh wait…

  13. daniel10017 - Apr 23, 2012 at 6:05 AM

    Both Vigneault and Luango will go. Vingneault has taken the Canucks as far as he can go. The run is over. Time for new blood.

  14. jmbates10 - Apr 23, 2012 at 6:40 AM

    Disagree with all of you who say to can AV> Not his fault, he can’t score on Quick and neither could anyone else. Trade one of the goalies, Luongo for salary cap reasons and go get Rick Nash. His 35 plus goals playing with the likes of a Kessler etc will be the difference.

    The teams that win have long term stability in management and coaches.

  15. tommytd - Apr 23, 2012 at 7:36 AM

    Canukleheads can’t win when the bright lights are on and that’s what a head coach is hired to do. Time to dump the guy along with his overpaid and over rated netminder. Probably time to back up the truck and dump the sisters too because they’re not getting it done at crunch time either.

  16. bigbadbruins1968 - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:13 AM

    Maybe Vancouver should move to the English Premier League – the regular season champion is the league champion.

    • ballistictrajectory - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:24 AM

      And their diving would fit right in.

    • micasa81 - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:10 AM

      Bruins didn’t exactly look like playoff juggernauts prior to last season’s win. In the past 3 years, they managed to get swept in the first round, lose a second round series everyone thought they should have won, and become the 3rd team in history to give up a 3-0 series lead. I’m not dissing the Bs – that’d be kinda dumb given they’re the current cup champions. In fact, that’s my point. It’s a hard trophy to win, teams nowadays are incredibly close in skill, and failing is actually pretty normal, even for really good teams. Not getting it done when it matters – even multiple years in a row – doesn’t mean your team doesn’t have heart.

  17. comeonnowguys - Apr 23, 2012 at 9:54 AM

    Actually, I don’t think he’s been given enough credit. I mean, look at the picture, he’s CLEARLY giving his team its postseason marching orders, and his team followed them.

  18. homelanddefense - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    Not a Nucks fan, but I still have a hard time blaming the coach because I still feel the GM let the team down by not addressing its most glaring needs. He tried at the trade deadline but failed miserably. I know they were close last year, but they dont have the makeup to win.

    Also it was one of the most lopsided 7 game series in playoff history, as noted by the article (Bruins outscored them 21-3 in 4 defeats)

  19. micasa81 - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    He’s good at developing sound strategies based on the players he has. People say he’s always had a talented team to work with, but I’ve seen teams with more raw talent do much worse.

    He’s bad at bringing along young talent (good luck in Buffalo Cody).

    He’s bad at shifting tactics when up against a tough playoff opponent.

    I don’t presume to know whether they’d be better off with a different coach. My gut says, probably not. He couldn’t have been completely inept having gotten them within a game of winning it all last year.

  20. cba77 - Apr 23, 2012 at 10:59 AM

    ….I tend to look at the positive…at least that D Bag Burrows didnt bite anyone this series. Ba Bye Nucks…you are a loathsome team

  21. homelanddefense - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    Cannucks fans wont like this one, but I have to pass it along

  22. drewsylvania - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    Serious question: what do the Canucks and Indianapolis Colts (before Peyton injury) have in common that causes them to dominate the regular season but then fall apart at the end?

    • homelanddefense - Apr 23, 2012 at 2:10 PM

      all offense

      • homelanddefense - Apr 23, 2012 at 2:11 PM

        and greatly reliant on a few stars

  23. lordstanley65 - Apr 24, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    Should they whack AV…I don’t know. Look at the San Diego Chargers. Monsters during the regular season then got beaten in the first round multiple times in the playoffs, so they axed Schottenhymer. End result? No difference…still haven’t done anything of note in the NFL.

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