If you follow me on twitter, you are already well aware as to how I feel about the way Alain vigneault has been steering the ship that is the Canucks over his tenure, but more specifically the last year and a half. Today I received this gem, which sums it up perfectly. I honestly could not have better expressed how I feel about the job Vigneault is doing any better myself. So kick back, crack open a pack of your favourite lozenges and enjoy the hell out of this guest article written by Kirk Paul.
IT’S ALL PART OF THE PROCESS…I think…
By Kirk Paul.
“It’s all part of the plan.” Uttered famously by the late Heath Ledger’s iconic Joker in “The Dark Knight”, this phrase could be applied to the Vancouver Canucks – if you swapped the word “Plan” for “process”. Yes, it was the mantra during that magical 2010-2011 season, one that brought the team within a game of winning it all. But since that gut-wrenching loss to the Bruins, that “process” has become less and less apparent to those not employed by the Vancouver Canucks.
Let me be clear: I am a die hard Canuck fan – have been since I watched Pavel Bure score that legendary breakaway goal against Mike Vernon and the Calgary Flames that spearheaded the run to the 94’ cup final. Beyond my own personal aspirations, I have wanted nothing more than to witness The Canucks hoist Lord Stanley’s mug. This is not a smear campaign, rather an impassioned plea by a fan that can no longer sit idly by, and silent, while my team squanders their last few chances to finally reach the Promised Land.
I have tweeted relentlessly on twitter my disdain for Alain Vigneault, and have made no secret of my desire to see someone else behind the bench. A great many have taken me to task on this, rubbing my nose in stats, and that seemingly answerless question (to them) of who could possibly replace the most successful coach in Vancouver Canucks history. My answer? Anybody. I don’t mean you just flip a coin (although that would be ironic) to select the next coach, but you bring in the best candidate available and go from there.
I’m not going to re-hash the history of new coaches who have come in late, taken a team on the verge of greatness, and given them that one last nudge across the finish line. You know what, screw it, I am. Larry Robinson and last year’s cup winning coach Darryl Sutter being the best examples of this, and I’m probably overlooking a few more. I’m not suggesting the Canucks simply axe AV, and bring in, “a closer”, but would that be the worst thing that could happen?
Look, The Canucks may not have a pure “country club” atmosphere in the dressing room, but it may have an even worse affliction: Inmates running the asylum. During that 2011 season, AV and his coaching staff handed the keys to the dressing room over to the players. Nobody questioned this at the time because the team was virtually infallible during that season.
Unfortunately, like a Dad allowing their sixteen year old to drive his Ferrari, eventually they develop an air of invincibility, and after a year of no hiccups, they wrap it around a tree. I’m not suggesting The Canuck players have wrapped the car around a tree, but it’s getting close. When your coach has relinquished authority, inevitably, the inmates take over the asylum completely. Think about it, if your boss empowered you at work, telling you, you had complete autonomy, then tried to persuade you to do things “his way” once again, would you be receptive? An element of respect has been lost. You no longer view this person as an authority figure. That barrier has been breached and there is no going back.
Even without this, I believe Coach V’s act has worn thin in that dressing room. Well-documented spats with various players are well known to any fan of this team. From Shane O’brien, to Willie Mitchell, Cody Hogdson, not to mention the alleged (or outright) feud with Ryan Kesler, these are not isolated incidents. There’s always some issue with some player, and when that occurs over a span of years, I think it’s clear that there is one constant in all of this, and its “Mr. Gant”. Speaking of arrogant, if that’s not Vigneault’s middle name, he should have it legally changed because it would suit him better than just about anything else.
In fact, arrogance has become a corner stone of the entire Canuck’s organization. Increasing, I feel like a child being condescended to on a regular basis by this regime. Not even during the Burke era did I come to feel this way. For all of his bluster, and arrogance, Burke never took the paying customers for granted. Yes, his battles with the media are well known, but he never made it seem as though he disregards the fans as this regime appears to.
The amount of incredulity that Gillis conveys whenever he or his staff is questioned on the many unorthodox, and frankly, ridiculous seeming methods this team employs is infuriating. You are sports franchise – not the CIA. Drop the smug attitude and start recognizing faults. Remember those? Oh, that’s right, it’s all part of “the process”. When did mediocrity become part of that process? When did the status quo of indifference become an acceptable practice?
It’s a good thing Vigneault is not forced to sit down during games, because if he did he would be in great discomfort due to the horseshoes he has crammed up his ass. Has AV’s success been a product of his coaching methods, or luck? I’m not diluted enough to suggest he isn't a good coach, because no one garners that much success if he is inept, but make no mistake about it, luck has played major role during his time in Van.
During his first season behind the Canucks bench, Vigneault wasn't even required to show up. Let’s face it; neither was the rest of the team because Roberto Luongo was the team. He was that good. The following year the Canucks missed the playoffs entirely – due to injuries and the delicate pregnancy of Lu’s wife. Dave Nonis lost his job over this, but incoming GM gave AV a stay of execution. I don’t know if that decision came on a Sunday, but it was black indeed.
The next two years the Canucks proceeded to go on all fat diet as the Blackhawks crammed enough humble pie down Vancouver's throat to choke King Kong and Jay Feaster combined, during the 09’ and 2010 playoffs. Joel Quenville took AV to school, as “the greatest coach in Canucks history” failed to adjust his style on both occasions to defeat Coach Q. Of course, there were a few Luongo bed-wettings and defensive crumbling’s mixed in there to be sure, but this isn’t about those.
Which brings me to that infamous opening round series with the Blackhawks during the 2011 run. In first three game’s, the tables had turned. The Canucks were on the verge of going cowboy on those Indian’s – gun to the heads of the natives, finger on the trigger, ready blast when – BAM. Before Vigneault was able to finish sucking on his latest lozenge, the series was tied and going to a seventh and deciding game.
How does this happen? How can a presidents trophy, Jack Adam’s winning coach fail to prepare his Stanley cup contending team on THREE occasions to eliminate their stripped down greatest rival in the first round? Was it arrogance? Oh - There’s that word again – or did Coach Q just adjust accordingly and devise a new game plan, like a Stanley cup winning coach should?
Game 7’s are always a crapshoot, but of course, as this franchise is known to do, it did things the absolute hardest way possible, giving up a late shorthanded goal to Toews, and ultimately winning it in OT. But not before Luongo made a job-saving stop on Patrick Sharp to facilitate this, which just counts as another time Lu directly saved AV from the chopping block.
I’m not going to summarize the Stanley Cup final and what happened, but it stands to reason when a team gets blown out on the road on three occasions, and the coach fails to adjust (once again) that it underscores a fundamental flaw that Coach V has yet to prove he can correct.
Last year was much of the same. Being confident (not arrogant) they would have D.Sedin back for the playoffs saw the Canucks completely unprepared for the defensive-minded Kings, and red-hot Jonathan Quick. You can argue that Quick, an opposing goalie spared AV this time, as Quick’s performance, and ensuing play during the Kings run was the perfect built-in excuse to bring that happy-go lucky Coach V back into the fold.
This season we have seen much of the same. A coach who calls out players on the limp, that makes a mockery of his goaltending decisions, and is virtually mute behind the bench. I’m tired of the status quo, and I know I’m not the vocal minority. I’m becoming increasingly disillusioned by this franchise, and the way it does business. Again, I know I am not alone.
I’ve had enough of the excuses and the rhetoric, which pollutes radio airwaves and kills trees to sell papers. Mostly, I’m just sad that a franchise I have been a fan of for 25 years is flushing their best chances to win a cup down the toilet. Fans deserve better. Hell, the players deserve better. Unfortunately, whether this franchise ever wins a cup or not is up in the air – along with AV’s coin. It’s anyone’s guess which side it will land on.
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