Saturday, October 25th, 2014

On Alain Vigneault

7

Ed Willes defends Alain Vigneault in this column published a few days ago, an action that any reasonable person would surely see as unnecessary. That it is both necessary and timely reflects more on the expectations in a crazy market than the qualities he actually brings to his work.

There persists, in some corners of this always interesting market, the vague, unsubstantiated view that Vigneault isn’t a championship coach, that he lacks that certain something that can lead this team to a Stanley Cup. That’s valid in so far as Vigneault, along with 23 other coaches currently employed in the NHL, has never won a Stanley Cup

I wish Willes had pointed out that fellow Province columnist Tony Gallagher has – subtly and not so subtly – been promoting this “vague and unsubstantiated view” for at least a year. Unless Vigneault and the Canucks win a Cup this season – an unlikely outcome, as always – the knives will really come out.

This is – and will be – silly, every bit as silly as the Roberto Luongo nonsense that plagued us earlier in the season. I don’t understand the thinking at all. The Canucks had their best ever season last year and they are tracking to have another one that is nearly as good. In fact, Canuck fans can look forward to having a very good team for as far as the hockey eye can see – three or four years, anyway. There is no window about to snap shut.

To me this is more important than a Championship. Putting together an excellent hockey team – a team with a real chance to win – is the hard part. The rest is patience while waiting for the hockey gods to smile. I can’t criticise Vigneault if he doesn’t get enough luck to win. While we wait to find out whether Alain will get enough breaks, Canuck fans will enjoy the hockey. The best thing about following an outstanding team is that we see so many great games.

The entire Canuck management team including Vigneault has done a terrific job. I like the fact that Vigneault keeps his distance from the team. I like the fact that the Canucks have a system very well suited to the personnel. I like the fact that Vigneault pays more attention to what produces the result than the result itself. I like the fact that the players are committed to the system and the process. Mostly, I like the fact that the team wins.

A different coach will do better? Please.

Postscript: I don’t think Vigneault gets any credit for being an innovator, but he does three things I’ve never seen done consistently before:

1) The math says teams when down a goal should pull the goalie with about 90 seconds left in the game. Most coaches pull the goalie in the last minute because, well, because. The Canucks pull the goalie with 90 seconds left.

2) When the Canucks are reduced to three skaters on the penalty kill, Vigneault always uses two forwards and one defenseman.

3) He does not match lines. He sends outs players based on the situation. The Sedins are the choice in the offensive end no matter who is out against them. Malhotra almost always gets the defensive end no matter what the other coach does.

I like all three strategies.

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Comments

7 Responses to “On Alain Vigneault”
  1. Thomas Pratt says:

    This is a crazy market at the moment. A very, very small part of me misses when it was me and 8,000 fellow diehards at the games, even if the team was 25-cents away from relocation. I wish more people shared your perspective that having a quality team brings a host of pleasures, whether they win a Cup or not.

    I agree with you about AV. To me he’s also proven his worth through his versatility. When he first got here, the team was essentially Luongo, so they played a tight checking game. After Gillis got the job, AV changed his approach, and the team went uptempo. One of your points above is that AV doesn’t line match. I can recall him being accused of slavishly line matching in the first part of his tenure.

    It seems to me many coaches cling to a particular style no matter what. It says something good about him that he’s able to adapt to new personnel and changing organizational philosophy.

  2. Rajeev says:

    Agree with everything you wrote but I think that most NHL coaches at this point follow 1) and 2). I know the post lockout coaches that I’ve watched the most – Renney and Boudreau – did.

    I’ll also note that the Vigneault Canucks were one of the first NHL teams – I think Detroit was another early adopter, I think they may have been the first actuially – of the power play entry that many if not most teams use. You know, the one where the initial puck carrier skates up to the redline and then drops it back to the last man back who gains the zone. I didn’t like the strategy when I first noticed it, but it’s definitely won me over. It gives the attacking team more space to gain speed to gain the zone. the Bouadreau Caps never used it, but the Hunter Caps do with Johansson in the Kesler/Zetterberg role. It doesn’t matter much as the Hunter Caps are never on the powerplay, but it’s a great tactic.

    • Tom says:

      Agree with everything you wrote but I think that most NHL coaches at this point follow 1) and 2). I know the post lockout coaches that I’ve watched the most – Renney and Boudreau – did.

      Really? I’ll have to watch for it more closely. Most of the time the non-Canuck announcers are surprised to see the Canucks use two forwards on 5 on 3′s and 4 on 3′s.

      I think the Canucks were the first team to use that drop pass, but I think that was the Canucks PP coach Newell Brown. It worked a lot better before teams started looking for it.

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  1. [...] CANUCKS CORNER: Tom Benjamin defends Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault, who continues to do a fine job with the Canucks. [...]

  2. [...] Tom Benjamin wrote a while ago on the innovations that Vigneault has brought to hockey: [...]

  3. [...] Vigneault is an innovator, and has been a successful regular season coach with the Canucks, winning five division titles in his six seasons, including two Presidents’ Trophies as the league’s best team. [...]

  4. [...] Vigneault is an innovator, and has been a successful regular season coach with the Canucks, winning five division titles in his six seasons, including two Presidents’ Trophies as the league’s best team. [...]



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