Canucks want coach who can ‘get guys excited about what they’re doing’

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The Vancouver Canucks still don’t have a head coach hired for next season. But whether it’s Willie Desjardins, Mike Johnston, Marc Crawford, or any other candidate behind the bench next season, president of hockey operations Trevor Linden says he’ll need to do a better job of stoking the players’ enthusiasm than John Tortorella did last season.

“I think we’re looking for someone who can recapture our people who were so off last year,” Linden said this morning on TEAM 1040 radio in Vancouver (audio).

“I think, in doing that, you need to sell a program that guys can get excited about, and want to be a part of. I think the lack of excitement showed up in our play last year. It kind of permeated in all areas of the club.

“Certainly, you want someone who can get guys excited about what they’re doing, and excited about the style of play.”

That theme is not unique to Vancouver’s situation. The Nashville Predators, for example, hired Peter Laviolette to replace Barry Trotz in part because general manager David Poile thought a more “fun way to play” might strike a chord with his players.

Now, granted, the Canucks didn’t just miss the playoffs because Tortorella’s hockey philosophy didn’t mesh with the roster. Ditto for the Preds and Trotz. But remember that NHL teams are also in the entertainment business, and exciting, free-flowing hockey is a heck of a lot easier to sell than “slow” hockey.

When Tortorella was fired, Linden wrote in a note to season-ticket holders that he was “committed to making it exciting to watch Canucks games throughout the season,” and that he wants to “put a team on the ice that creates buzz and anticipation in the city on game days.”

That’s what the Canucks used to do a short time ago, when they not only won a lot of games, they played an up-tempo style that was pleasing to watch.

Whether they still have the personnel to win that way is a major question for Linden and new general manager Jim Benning. Clearly, though, the Canucks are hoping to kill two birds with one stone with whoever they hire as coach: Stop losing. And stop losing ugly.