Expectations are a funny thing. Take a coach who was a Jack Adams Award finalist, won the President’s Trophy, led his team to within a single game of their first ever Stanley Cup and you’d think he had a little job security.
That’s not the case in Vancouver these days.
It’s not like Alain Vigneault’s success during the regular season or playoffs last year were a fluke. In five seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, Vigneault has a 236-133-41 record and a Jack Adams Trophy for the work he did in the 2006-07 season. In the “what have you done for me lately” department, he led the Canucks to their best season in franchise history. Over the course of the 82 game schedule, the Canucks were the best offensive and best defensive team in the league. They had the best power play and up until the final week of the season, they had the best penalty kill as well. Talent is one thing—but to have 20 guys to be that dominant for an entire season takes above average coaching.
So when Mike Brophy of SportsNet puts together a list of coaches who are potential on the hot seat next season, should fans be surprised to see Vigneault’s name show up on the list? Here’s Brophy’s explanation:
“The Canucks’ failure to win the Stanley Cup after taking a 2-0 series lead in the final against the Boston Bruins has Vigneault on thin ice. It didn’t help matters that the Canucks lost Game 7 on home ice. Sometimes a team has to experience such failure before it emerges as a champion. In any case, expectation for the Canucks will be at an all-time high this season and Vigneault cannot afford for his team to start slowly.”
It sounds like Vigneault is an impossible position next season. If he doesn’t continue winning at a historic pace and exceed last year’s standards, he’ll be on the unemployment line? Let’s put the Canucks year in perspective: even if you ignore their 15 wins in the playoffs, they still had more wins (54) than the Edmonton Oilers have had in the last two seasons combined (52). If Tom Renney won 54 games next season, they’d name a street after him. In Vancouver expectations are so ridiculously high, if the Canucks don’t get off to a white-hot start, they would seriously consider throwing their head man out onto the street.
It’s important for the Canucks and their fans to remember the alternatives on the market. Each coach that would be available is a guy who was passed over by six different teams this offseason. Before they even contemplate firing Vigneault, they should think long and hard about who will come in and replace him.
It may not be a popular notion, but perhaps Vigneault is a good coach who gets the very most out of an extremely talented team? The major downfall of the team had nothing to do with coaching—it was injuries. If the Canucks defense stays healthy throughout the course of the playoffs, there’s a good chance things are different in the Finals. Regardless, they were a single game away from the Stanley Cup. There are 28 other teams in the league that would have killed for that kind of season.
What do you think? Do you think Vigneault has earned a little bit of security or is it imperative that the Canucks take the next step and win the Cup next season? Let us know what you think in the comments.