The Vancouver Canucks said they wanted to go in a new direction this offseason and apparently that begins with their head coach.
On Wednesday the Canucks fired coach Alain Vigneault as well as assistants Rick Bowness and Newell Brown, the team announced.
“We have made the very difficult decision to relieve Alain Vigneault, Rick Bowness and Newell Brown of their coaching duties today,” Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said in a team 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.”
This news has been expected for a while, really ever since the Canucks were swept out of the playoffs by the San Jose Sharks. It marked the second straight season in which the Canucks had a very disappointing early exit after they lost in five games to the Kings last year. In total, Vancouver is just 1-10 in its last 11 playoff games going back to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. With the regular-season success the team has had in recent years, the playoff success was expected to match. Clearly it hasn't in the past two years.
It reeks a bit of Vigneault being the scapegoat in Vancouver here; I'm not sure he was really the problem. GM Mike Gillis was pretty honest and open in his postseason wrap with reporters in Vancouver, saying the team wasn't really built to win in the NHL right now and that it was going to make some dramatic moves this offseason. Even if it doesn't sound like the blame was on the coach, Vigneault would still take the first fall.
That said, it was probably the right call and surprising it took this long to make. We all know NHL coaches have short shelf lives outside of the rare few like Barry Trotz and Mike Babcock. Vigneault had a long run in Vancouver but with the franchise taking a turn in another direction, the timing seemed right to bid Vigneault adieu.
As for his boss, at least for now it looks like Gillis is going to stick around and hire the next coach as well as lead the Canucks into this minor makeover to supplement the core of talent they do still have.
Vigneault is the type of coach you expect to catch on with another team in short order, get thrown into the recycle bin of NHL coaches. He is one of the more attentive coaches to such things as offensive- and defensive-zone starts, putting his best players on the ice in all the right situations.
Overall Vigneault was 313-170-57 in seven seasons with the Canucks, winning six division titles in that time.