Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Canucks hoping Vigneault leads them to the Promised Land

Finally, the Vancouver Canucks have named their next head coach; the bench boss that they feel will take their team to where no other Canuck coach has gone before, a victory lap with the Stanley Cup.

Alain Vigneault was named as the 16th coach in Canucks history Tuesday, his task, to turn an under achieving squad into a team ready to not only challenge for, but win, Lord Stanley’s Silver Mug, a trophy that is currently in the care of the folks from Mayberry.

Vigneault takes over the Canucks after serving a stint as head coach of their AHL farm club the Manitoba Moose, ever since his hiring by the Canucks it had been thought that one day he might the guy tapped to take over from Marc Crawford, though not many expected the changing of the guard to happen so soon.

When Crawford was fired in April, many thought that the announcement of Vigneault’s promotion would only be a few short days away. But as the playoffs carried on and Vancouver fans watched the Oilers travel from eight to one win away from the Stanley Cup, the announcements from Orca Bay became fewer and far between.

Due Diligence was the buzz word, Dave Nonis apparently taking his time to make sure that he found just the right guy for the challenging job ahead. Other candidates apparently came and went, while Vigneault watched and waited from the sidelines, leaving many to wonder just what the Canucks were up to.

It seemed to be a strange way of handling an heir apparent, for surely if he wasn’t given the Canucks job he would not be returning to the farm, the denial of the big job a slap in the face for a candidate that came with such high potential. Fortunately for Vigneault and the Canucks the waiting game is over and they can all get on with planning the 2006-07 season.

Vigneault’s job won’t be an easy task, there was a serious dis-connect in the Canuck squad this year, far too many nights taken off and not enough passion in place to make a serious run for a playoff spot, this from a team that many had tapped as most likely to win the Stanley Cup!

Only two coaches have ever had a winning record with the Canucks, Pat Quinn who got them to a game seven showdown for the Stanley Cup in 1994 and Marc Crawford who had a Stanley Cup ring of his own from his Colorado days. Both ended up on the firing line, a testimony to the uncertainties of NHL coaching.

Vigneault who last ran an NHL bench in the 1999-2000 season with Montreal is described by some as a hard ass and by others as a players coach. A trait that may come in handy in Vancouver which sometimes need both in the same night. It will be interesting to see if the team that Nonis assembles for training camp, will be more disposed to get along with the new coach as opposed to the perception of the relations with the old one.

It will be interesting to see how the always voracious Vancouver media handles their newest subject. Though having spent a few years in the media hurricane that is Montreal, worrying about Tony Gallagher or Neil Macrae will probably be the least of Vigneault’s worries.

Skating, shooting and winning hockey games those should be his concerns next season, keep him away from the papers and the radio and hey it might be a good year to be a coach!

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