Canucks fire Vigneault as coach

Associated Press  |  Last updated May 22, 2013
The Vancouver Canucks fired coach Alain Vigneault on Wednesday. The Canucks also fired assistants Rick Bowness and Newell Browne. Vigneault, the Canucks' all-time leader in coaching wins, led the club to six Northwest Division titles, two Presidents' Trophy titles and an appearance in the 2011 Stanley Cup final. But Vancouver was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in the past two seasons, including getting swept by the San Jose Sharks this year. It was the first time in 12 years that the Canucks were swept in the postseason. Vigneault has a 313-170-57 record over seven seasons in Vancouver. ''We have made the very difficult decision to relieve Alain Vigneault, Rick Bowness and Newell Brown of their coaching duties today,'' Canucks president and general manager Mike Gillis said in a statement. ''Alain, Rick and Newell worked tirelessly to lead this team to great on-ice success. I am personally grateful to each of them and their families for their commitment to the Canucks and the city of Vancouver and wish them continued success in future.'' It's a tough end to a largely positive tenure in Vancouver for Vigneault, who guided his team through the demands of a lockout-shortened season in 2012-13. He kept a difficult goaltending situation from becoming a major distraction and secured home-ice advantage in the playoffs for the fifth straight season. But the Canucks struggled this season with getting goals from secondary players. Vigneault leaves after transforming the Canucks from a struggling club into a perennial contender. He was also recognized for his role in turning the Canucks around when he was awarded the 2007 Jack Adams Award as the NHL's coach of the year. When he arrived in 2006-07 after a season with the AHL's Manitoba Moose, the Canucks were looking to regroup after missing the playoffs. He was also looking to prove himself after being fired from his first NHL head coaching job with the Montreal Canadiens in 2000-01. In his first season, he guided the Canucks to a division title and a spot in the second round of the playoffs before they were eliminated by the Anaheim Ducks in five games - with four decided by one goal. Although the Canucks missed the playoffs the following season due to a collapse down the stretch, they rebounded in 2009-10, again reaching the second round before losing a tough six-game series to Chicago. The next season, he guided the Canucks to their third Stanley Cup final berth in franchise history. They took a 2-0 series lead at home but eventually lost in seven games to the Boston Bruins. The Game 7 loss at home sparked a riot in city streets. The Stanley Cup final foreshadowed a shift in goaltending that would become a headache for Vigneault. Cory Schneider periodically replaced struggling starter Roberto Luongo in the series. Vigneault managed to prevent any potential rifts between Luongo and Schneider and limited distractions to the team. He answered endless questions about his goaltenders, especially after Schneider displaced Luongo in the first round of the 2011-12 playoffs as the Canucks lost in five games to the Los Angeles Kings. The situation was supposed to be resolved after Luongo agreed to waive his no-trade clause prior to the 2012-13 season, but Gillis was not able to get the deal he wanted prior to the lockout that shortened the regular season to 48 games. When the season started, the Canucks struggled at times with the compressed schedule and had numerous injuries. But they managed to pull away from the Minnesota Wild in the race for the Northwest crown and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Vigneault guided his club to eight wins in its last nine home games, including a 3-1 victory over first-place Chicago that secured the Canucks' fifth straight Northwest title. But Schneider was injured in the Chicago game and didn't come back until after the first two games of the San Jose series. Luongo was solid in the first two losses in Vancouver, but Vigneault went with Schneider when the series switched to San Jose. Schneider struggled in the third period of Game 3, allowing three quick goals, and mishandled the decisive shot in Game 4 in overtime before Patrick Marleau poked home the loose puck for the series-clinching goal.
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