Thursday, May 22, 2008

Alain Vigneault gets an extra year, his (now former) assistants get a kick in the rear..

The Vancouver Canucks have clearly set their eyes on a goal for the off season, that of a potential rival to the Toronto Maple Leafs for title to the world of dysfunction.

With the Canuck's off season now more than a few weeks on, the Canucks finally got around to some housecleaning, as new GM Mike Gillis finally took head coach Alain Vigneault off the rack and ponied up for a one year contract extension.

A move that at least takes one bit of uncertainty out of the spotlight in Vancouver, unless of course your Barry Smith or Mike Kelly, Vigneault's two former assistants who were thrown under the bus on Wednesday, perhaps part of the quid pro quo for Vigneault's extension.

With the Canucks bunkered down in Vegas this past week, Vigneault seems to have come up lucky at the poker table, gaining an extra year while his former assitants crapped out and now will seek out new opportunities. Rick Bowness, Vigneaults other assistant is just holding his cards, waiting to see how the rest of the game shakes out, though it seems that he may survive the latest round of downsizing at GM Place.

While Gillis has decided that he and Vigneault might be able to turn around the Canucks woeful 2007-08 season, there are still many unanswered questions out of the Vancouver camp to be answered.

Will Markus Naslund be returning to the Canucks, staking one more year on the coast under the watchful eye of his former agent? With Gillis now starting to put more of his stamp on the team one wonders if Trevor Linden is finished as the heart, soul and face of the Canucks, he and Gillis reportedly didn't get along particularly well at times during the last lock out season and Gillis let a golden opportunity to move Linden into the front office (if he would want to work with the new GM) when he picked up former NHLer Scott Mellanby as his special consultant on player personnel, a position many though would be a natural fit for Linden.

Settling the head coaching position at least shows that a sense of normalcy is starting to creep back into GM Place these days, which has been rumour central over the last number of weeks since Vancouver missed out on the last playoff spot.

Canuck fans were getting anxious about rumblings that the latest participant in the Canucks goaltending carousel, Roberto Lunongo might be getting anxious to get out of Vancouver such was the concern over the pending changes under Gillis.

With Vigneault at least a little more secure (as secure as coach can be we guess) the next move will be to reassure Luongo that these Canucks are closer to a playoff round than his former team the Panthers...

For all his stellar play in the regular seasons over the years, Luongo has been busy but once in a playoff round, last years Canuck spring. Some were whispering that he was getting worried that the Canucks were going in the wrong direction and he might be better served with an exit strategy despite the status of his current contract.

That would be a move that might make Gillis' years in Vancouver a rather unpleasant experience, needless to say we're pretty sure he'll be working to reassure his franchise goaltender that he'll be working hard to make sure that Canuck's the future is going to be a bright one.

Hopefully for Canuck fans some of that same sentiment can be directed their way, fearful as they are of a major step backwards from where they were a few short years ago and getting a little worried after Gillis' first month on the job.

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