A Test of Ownership
Ben Kuzma thinks Alain Vigneault should be fired for all the usual silly reasons. Nobody will have to hold a tag day for Alain if he is let go – he will be immediately snapped up by a team that wants to employ one of the elite coaches in the game – but I find this type of “opinion” from a hack to be incredibly galling. Vigneault is the best coach the Canucks have ever had. He is a far, far better coach than Kuzma is a reporter. What kind of a person wants a clearly competent employee unfairly fired?
Vigneault doesn’t deserve it from a reporter and he doesn’t deserve it from the Canucks. Mike Gillis did give AV a big vote of confidence, but this has gone on for far too long. It may be that Vigneault himself wants out and the Canucks might have a reason for playing the divorce this way, but I can’t really see that either.
That leaves us with the owner. It is not good news if Vigneault is in limbo pending an Aquilini decision. Here’s Kuzma:
Regardless of your take on the optics of the situation — Vigneault can only coach what Gillis provides and the GM did construct a roster that authored the league’s fifth-ranked offence and fourth-ranked defence — something has to give. Francesco Aquilini is an emotional owner. He is a fan but beyond all, he’s a businessman. An early exit will grate on him and I find it hard to believe that he would simply allow a sufficient amount of time to pass and accept the status quo. Yes, the core is intact and the Canucks will continue to contend but the window to win it all is closing. And when it slammed shut so quickly last month, it probably didn’t play out well in the owner’s box. There’s a mea-culpa card to be played here and Aquilini could very well be the dealer and toss it in Vigneault’s direction. And if Gillis feels that strongly about the coach, he could contest the decision and put his own job in jeopardy but I believe he has unfinished business here. He wants to win. Badly.
I’m sure that the early exit did indeed grate. Aquilini will surely notice that the team profits are down at least $20 MM this season. That, however, is no reason to fire Vigneault. If Aquilini doesn’t understand that wild swings in results, revenues and returns are normal in hockey, he’s in the wrong business. If Aquilini really believes in things like windows and mea culpa cards, he does not understand the business of putting a good team on the ice. If he thinks he is qualified to decide the team will have better options than Vigneault, I worry about the team in the long run.
So far, Aguilini has been a nearly perfect owner. I did not like his decision to fire Dave Nonis, but he did well to replace him with Mike Gillis. Thereafter he has given Gillis an unlimited budget and stayed out of his way. The results speak for themselves.
The owner’s only choice should be whether to fire Mike Gillis. That would not be very bright, but at least is a decision that belongs at his level. Few organizations are successful when the owner tries to do more than that. The least thing any hockey team needs is a rich fan making the decisions.
I see this as a test of ownership. Let’s hope Aguilini passes.