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.