The Vancouver Canucks may have snapped a four-game losing streak last night in Columbus, but a 2-1 shootout win over the Blue Jackets wasn’t enough to stop the presses on a column by The Province’s Tony Gallagher suggesting head coach Alain Vigneault should be fired if the team doesn’t start playing up to its abilities.
No matter how you slice it, trying to absolve the coaching staff entirely in this collapse becomes an exercise in personal public relations for Alain Vigneault and his staff.
There are simply too many good hockey players playing too poorly to put all the blame on the skaters.
Two or three guys may be stroking it or not putting forth the effort they should during this time of swoon, but really, are we to believe they all start almost every game as though they’ve just arrived at the beach on a sunny afternoon?
Granted, this is far from the first time Gallagher has unloaded on the coach (see here and here). If it were up to the longtime columnist (who, by the way, was instrumental in the hiring of current general manager Mike Gillis) Vigneault probably wouldn’t have received a two-year contract extension after the Canucks fell to the Kings in the first round of last year’s playoffs.
And to be fair to Vigneault, the absence of former Selke Trophy-winning center Ryan Kesler from all but seven of the Canucks’ 25 games hasn’t helped. Another key player, defenseman Kevin Bieksa, is currently out with a groin injury.
But despite what Vigneault said Monday — “We’re at the midpoint of the season and, in my opinion, we’re exactly where I thought we would be” — the Canucks have been underachieving. The two-time defending Presidents’ Trophy winners have a goal-differential of zero; their once-dangerous power play hasn’t scored in nine games; and their penalty killing hasn’t been much better.
In fact, almost every Canucks team statistic screams mediocrity, if not worse.
And that, it has to be noted, has been done while playing in the Northwest Division, which does not boast a single team with a positive goal differential.
Is it all on the coach? It never is.
But some of it is.