Earlier this afternoon, the Vancouver Canucks extended head coach Alain Vigneault for at least one more season. And while Vigneault may have his detractors among the 'Nucks faithful, choosing to give him more time behind the bench was an easy, and smart, decision.
Vigneault led the Canucks to a fourth consecutive Northwest Division title. His 267 puts him atop of the team's win column, making him the club's most successful coach. Vigneault also set the franchise record for regular season wins with 54 while capturing the President's Trophy-- awarded to the best team in the season -- two years in a row. Simply put, Vigneault is a winner and the best guy for the job.
"Alain has established himself as one of the premiere coaches in the National Hockey League," said Canucks GM Gillis in the team's press release. "He has demonstrated a commitment to winning that has led to back-to-back Presidents' Trophies and we are confident his dedication and hard work will continue to yield positive results. Alain has built a foundation of winning with this franchise and I feel he can continue to build on that foundation to achieve our ultimate goal."
Right now the Canucks are in win-now mode. They were able to dominate the regular season not only because they were the best team in the league, but also because they face weaker, inter-division teams six times each. Beating on the Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild may sound laughable, but the window to pick up easy wins, and contend for the Stanley Cup for that matter, is shrinking by the day. Gillis and company seem fully aware of their situation which is why re-signing Vigneault was not only a sound decision, it was imperative.
Moreover, Vigneault himself understands the urgency to advance back to the Stanley Cup Finals. In such a demanding city with a passionate, if not raucous fan base, Vigneault understands the need to elevate his team and give Canada another championship.
"I look forward to taking the next step with this franchise in bringing the Stanley Cup to Vancouver. I feel fortunate to be able to work with such a dedicated group of management, coaches and players in this great city I love."
Following last season's disappointment of a Final, it made sense for Vigneault to become the scapegoat. Luckily, Roberto Luongo's internal meltdown provided enough of a goat to divert everyone's focus away from Vigneault. And this season, there really was no one to blame for the Canucks' early, five-game exit in the postseason; Luongo still wound up being blamed.
The Canucks ran into a red-hot Los Angeles Kings team, just like the St. Louis Blues in round two, and the Phoenix Coyotes last night. It doesn't look like anything can stop the Kings as they try to win their first Cup in franchise history. But I digress.
Next season should be a challenging one for the Canucks. Daniel Sedin battled a late-season concussion, and even though he played the final two games of the year, it remains to be seen if he's back at full strength. In addition, it looks like Ryan Kesler will miss significant playing time due to offseason surgery. And to top things off, Cory Schneider is expected to take over between the pipes, presumably providing the final piece to get this group over the hump.
Those talented players are, well, talented. However, their change in circumstances should provide a multitude of variables for the Canucks heading into the regular season. In the midst of all that turmoil, Vigneault will provide the constant: winning.
Keeping the team's second longest-tenured coach around remains a very sound decision for a club desperately looking for stability. Can this group make it back to the Stanley Cup? They certainly have the talent to do so, and now, they have the man who helped take them there in the first place.
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