Alain Vigneault and the New York Rangers are in Vancouver to face the Canucks on Tuesday. So, naturally, the return of Vigneault, the head coach of the Canucks for seven seasons until last spring, has brought a lot of memories back.
Take Alex Burrows for instance. He not only played for Vigneault as a member of the Canucks, but also with the former Manitoba Moose in the American Hockey League for a season. Burrows made the jump from the minors, which included stops in the ECHL as well, to the NHL, and he gives Vigneault credit for helping him with achievement.
He also gives Vigneault credit for helping turn the Canucks into an elite team not that long ago.
“As a player, that’s what you want — somebody to guide you in a direction and give you challenges that you can succeed at, and he did that with me,” Burrows told The Province newspaper on Monday.
“You didn’t hear from him until training camp, but once it started he was well prepared. He had his opening-day speech and it wasn’t just written on a napkin.
“We were tough to play against away from the puck and once we got it we had the freedom to do things in the offensive zone. He liked high-percentage plays, that’s the biggest thing. To not give the other team easy goals.”
Vigneault was fired last May, after the Canucks were swept in the first round of the playoffs. They were only two years removed from making it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
But Tuesday’s match-up features two teams going in opposite directions. Vigneault and the Rangers are fifth in the Eastern Conference and in good shape to make the playoffs. The Canucks are 10th in the West. Their playoff hopes are hanging on by a thread, five points back of the eighth-place Phoenix Coyotes.
Vancouver’s struggles have meant a great deal of criticism toward head coach John Tortorella and general manager Mike Gillis.
“You guys are going to make your opinions and talk about it because it’s kind of a unique thing,” Tortorella told reporters on Monday.
“We’re losing games, so I’m the idiot. Alain’s winning games, so he’s the smart guy. Rightfully so. When you lose games and you struggle, you’re going to get scrutinized. That’s part of the business and I should be scrutinized.
“But how you think about … style of play and all that, I think sometimes there’s not a true understanding of what’s going on. But as far as the records concerned, I get that.”