Canucks and Beyond

Speculating on a New Coach in Vancouver

01/21/2009 at 5:54pm EST

I was working on my job application letter this morning—applying for the soon-to-be-available position of head coach of the Vancouver Canucks—but I got stuck early. (After all, when you start with “Dear Dumbasses…” there’s really nowhere to go with it that’s going to salvage that job application). So with me out of the mix, I’ve opted to focus my energy on second-best choices.

First off, will there in fact be a coaching change? They played better last night but is it too little, too late? My feeling is that it is, but I could be wrong. This is the Canucks, after all, a team which gave Vigneault an extension last season, rather than just let him play out this final year on his previous contract to see how things go. And given that the team missed the playoffs last year, you’ll have a hard time explaining the logic of that move to me.

But let’s assume that Mike Gillis is ready to pull the trigger and knock Vigneault off his bench. If so, this 7 day break over the All Star weekend is the ideal time to do it—so if it does happen, who are your favorite options?

While I normally abhor making predictions, today seems like the right time to make a few uneducated guesses.

To start, I keep hearing speculation about John Tortorella, but that idea doesn’t seem logical on its face. While he’s got the creds and motivation to whip this team into shape, I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to fire one player-unfriendly coach only to hire one who’s infamously even more player-unfriendly. (“Player-unfriendly.” I just made that up if you can’t tell. Hopefully you get my meaning. I’m sure both Torts and Viggy are both super-friendly guys to have over for brunch…)

Second option (if we’re thinking the coach were to come from outside the organization) would be Pat Quinn. And he’s who I’m betting on.

imageA lot of people don’t seem to like Quinn but they can’t deny he’s had a lot of success, both in the NHL and with Hockey Canada. After all, how often did his teams miss the playoffs during his years in Vancouver and Toronto? Just once. And the Leafs promptly fired him. He’s also got strong connections to Vancouver and its hockey fans. He’s lives in this city, he’s one of the owners of the Vancouver Giants, and he was the man at the helm the last time the Canucks went to finals.

Quinn makes a ton of sense to me, regardless of what the critics have to say. But there may well be other good options out there, even some from the minor leagues. Anyone have any suggestions?

The other direction this could go is that Gillis decides to promote from within—and that means either Rick Bowness or Ryan Walter. Either one is a good bet, though I’d be more likely to pick Walter myself, providing a totally new approach to coaching the team. But I’m not sure how well that would work, either; so, you decide. I’m on board with whatever the smarter hockey fans have to say.

Any other options? Or do you dispute the entire basis of this post and think Vigneault deserves a chance to finish out this season?

Either way, AV surely won’t be sleeping easy over the next week, as Jason Botchford of Canucks Nation put it:

Don’t expect Vancouver’s 2-1 OT loss to inject a lot of confidence in the Canucks’ front office.

In an effort to breakout of a five-game losing slide, the Canucks turned to the trap and that’s not exactly GM Mike Gillis’s preferred way of playing hockey.

Earlier in the season, the Canucks were a pressuring, puck possession team. On Tuesday, they applied no pressure and rarely had the puck.

It shows how Alain Vigneault plans to get out of the current mess as much as it reveals his desperation.

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