Alain Vigneault, Alain Vigneault, where do I start. I think one guy who hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as he should have this year (for good reasons) is the Canucks bench boss. Vigneault through the lowest of lows this season never panicked, made use of what he had (which at certain points was equivalent to a roster identical to the Manitoba Moose), and here we sit some 12 games before the playoffs and he’s in a position to break a Canucks record that he set in the first year with the franchise for wins in a season.
It wasn’t that long ago that Vigneault took this club to a record number 49 wins on the year, but it was a different team he had in front of him and he had an invincible Luongo in net. That year his highest point getter was Daniel Sedin with 84 points, he had one 30 goal scorer (Daniel – 36) and only four 20 goal scorers (Daniel – 36, Naslund – 24, Pyatt – 23, Morrisson – 20). He has four 50 point getters, Brian Smolinksi was in the Canucks top 5 for +/- with a +7 and Josh Green, Tommi Santala and Marc Chouinard all played over 30 games for the Canucks. The team featured PIM getter Jeff Cowan, they had a defence that relied on 22 games of a called up Edler, Brent Sopel, Lukas Krajicek and Rory Fitzpatrick. Jan Bulis was on the team and oh, in 81 games Burrows had 3 goals and 9 points with 93 PIMs.
Exit Nonis 2008. Enter Gillis.
Flash forward to today. Vigneault’s highest point getter Henrik Sedin has 94 points and counting, Luongo is a lot less invincible, but he has five 20 goal scorers (soon to be six, Daniel has 19), and a team on which nearly half have hit career highs. He has soon to be six 50 point getters (Raymond has 47) and soon to be five 60 point getters (Burrows has 59 points, Samuelsson has 53 – That being said, Samuelsson’s injury basically prevents this). Burrows leads the team in goals, Henrik’s in the race for the Art Ross, and the Canucks depth is absurd.
Pretty big contrast eh? Almost makes you wonder how he did it back in 2006-07 because when you look at that line up and some of those numbers in comparison it really puts into perspective just how good Luongo must have been for that team to win 49 games.
The key difference that I’ve noticed has revolved around Vigneault’s style. It’s something that’s impressed me the most about him on top of all the miracles he’s managed to pull off with the roster he’s had. The 06-07 season saw Vigneault emulate the trap better than Jacques Lemaire did with the Minnesota Wild. It was painful to watch the Canucks get a lead because the game got boring. Fast foward to today and the Canucks are one of the most exciting teams to watch. When they have a lead they don’t shut down, and when they’re down, they don’t play it safe and conservative, they go for broke and it’s paid off.
Vigneault’s managed to create a team that’s an offensive juggernaut while not giving up the defensive aspect of the game (last night’s game notwithstanding and a healthy defense present). When the Canucks are playing with the lead he’s amended his style to result in an offense that (for the most part is defensively responsible) takes care of business at both ends of the ice. He’s got 12 games to pick up 6 wins to tie his franchise record, and if he goes 7-5 the Canucks will reach 50 wins in a year for the first time in franchise history. “Filet Mignon” certainly hasn’t been given nearly as much credit as he should have in part due to the overshadowing side stories that have surrounded the Canucks season, but also because so many of the Canucks players are having such good years.
What gets forgotten is what Vigneault did to keep the Canucks afloat at the beginning of the season and that in itself is the sole reason the Canucks are where they are today. The Canucks turn around since returning from the injury abyss can be largely attributed to Burrows, Henrik Sedin, Samuelsson, Kesler and all the other players having outstanding years, but AV has gone rather unsung this year.