All summer long, Mike Gillis kept saying that he was discussing a contract extension with coach Alain Vigneault. With summer almost over, said extension still hasn’t materialized.
I bring this up now because Tony Gallagher (Vancouver Province) brought up a good point:
And how do they accomplish what general manager Mike Gillis is expecting when he talks about aiming for the most productive blueline in the league this season?
The pressure to make this happen is squarely on the shoulders of coach Alain Vigneault, whose team was successful when it played an offensive brand of hockey last year and pretty dreadful when they lost a couple in a row and then got conservative.
It happened during the slump at Christmas and it happened in the Chicago series and hideously in St. Louis in Game 4 when the beloved dump-it-out mentality almost cost them an easy fourth win. It reached its disgusting pinnacle in Game 4 of the Chicago series.
When the team sunk back into its shell and cowered waiting for the Hawks to come in waves after leading much of the way by a goal from Darcy Hordichuk of all people, Gillis didn’t point the finger at his coach, but said that was the way the game evolved.
That’s enough to make any atheist a creationist.
Such “evolution” cannot be the case again this year. These five defencemen need to be in the rush, and often. Nobody is saying defensive responsibilities are not important or that defence doesn’t come first, but Vigneault will have to fight his instincts and make sure he consistently reworks his traditional emphasis to that more upbeat approach.
Gillis wants his team to play that way, they’re successful when they do, and pretty hideous when they don’t. Now it has been underlined by all this firepower at the back and if Vigneault doesn’t make it happen it’s his head that is likely to roll.
I’m not saying a contract extension for Vigneault (and the coaching staff for that matter) won’t happen, especially knowing now how patiently Gillis operates. I do wonder though if Gillis would like to see first if Vigneault can be as effective with more offensive players at his disposal before he commits to him long-term.