Could Alain Vigneault become the next coach of the Canadiens?

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Now that Marc Bergevin’s been named the new general manager of the Canadiens, the next big question in Montreal is, who will he choose to coach? Because it won’t be Randy Cunneyworth.

Bergevin says that decision will be made “sooner than later.” And with no word out of Vancouver regarding Alain Vigneault’s future, it’s easy to understand the speculation that the coach of the Canucks could be back behind the bench of the Habs.

Yes, back behind the bench, for those who may have forgotten that Vigneault’s first head-coaching job was with the Canadiens, hired prior to the 1997-98 season and fired after 20 games of the 2000-01 campaign.

While Vigneault only led the Habs to the playoffs once, he really didn’t have much to work with. In fact, he was nominated for coach of the year in 2000 after salvaging a 35-34-9-4 record despite his team being decimated by injuries.

In Vancouver, Vigneault’s made the playoffs in five of his six seasons as coach and took the Canucks to Game 7 of the 2001 Stanley Cup final. In his first season with the club, 2006-07, he won the Jack Adams Award. He was also a finalist for coach of the year in 2010 and 2011.

Oh, and he speaks French.

Of course, should Bergevin feel Vigneault’s the right man for the job, Vigneault would have to leave the Canucks first.

What are the chances of that?

From The Province, the case to fire Vigneault:

As much as Vigneault nearly directed the franchise to its first league championship and has a year remaining on his contract, he has also missed the post-season and been ousted on three occasions in the second round. Against the Los Angeles Kings, the Canucks talked of how the experience of enduring a playoff marathon was going to benefit another long run this spring, how they were tailored to play any kind of game and would be just as happy to win 1-0. But they were never really ready and dropped the first two games on home ice. Players are paid handsomely to be prepared but it’s the coach’s mandate to ensure they are. The season-ending 2-1 overtime loss in Game 5 left the disturbing impression that outside of a failed Mason Raymond wraparound attempt in the extra session, the Canucks were trying not to lose the game rather than pressing to win it.

From the Vancouver Sun, the case to keep him:

If the Canucks can get better by firing easily the best coach they’ve had, by all means pass the blindfold and cigarettes. But unless the Detroit Red Wings are going to punt Mike Babcock – and why wouldn’t they because they lost in the first round, too? – it’s hard to imagine any of the small handful of coaches in Vigneault’s class being available as a potential upgrade.

Ultimately the decision may be Vigneault’s to make. Canucks GM Mike Gillis has voiced his support for the coach, and there’s even talk Gillis could quit if ownership forces him to fire Vigneault.

That said, it’s not preposterous to wonder if Vigneault would prefer coaching in Montreal over Vancouver. After all, it’s not every year the Habs job becomes available.

OK, lately it has, but you get my point.