Sep 132009
 
Kevin Bieksa

Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com

I’ll be going to training camp today so keep an eye out on my Twitter feed. In the meantime, here are some Canucks-related links on the Interweb:

Sep 112009
 
Alain Vigneault and Mike Gillis

Photo credit: Vancouver Sun

I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m lukewarm on Alain Vigneault as Canucks coach. Maybe it’s because I don’t quite understand his decision-making process – and we all know he’s made some horrible decisions *cough* sitting on a one-goal lead in the playoffs *cough* – or maybe it’s because I don’t like the constant line-juggling. Needless to say, when reports came out yesterday that the Canucks are on the verge of giving him a three-year contract extension, I wasn’t jumping up and down for joy.

To be fair, Vigneault’s stats as Canucks coach are impressive. In only three seasons behind the Canucks’ bench, he has 133 wins, which makes him the 4th winningest coach in franchise history; his 10th win this regular season will make him the 2nd winningest coach behind only Marc Crawford’s 246 wins. He’s also one playoff win behind Crawford’s and Roger Neilson’s 12 playoff wins for 2nd all-time in Canucks history.

A couple of weeks ago, I wondered if Gillis was waiting to see first how Vigneault can be as effective with more offensive players; a three-year contract extension tells me Gillis is convinced he can be. And if he’s right and Vigneault guides this team to the Stanley Cup, I’ll gladly – ecstatically – eat my words.

Sep 012009
 

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.

May 132009
 
Apr 242009
 

I agree with what Brian from Canucks Corner had to say about the Canucks’ four-game sweep of the St. Louis Blues.

First, this:

I have to say, that was the most stress free series I think I’ve watched the Canucks play. Not at any point did I feel like the series was in jeopardy of slipping away. The Blues fought hard, but were clearly over matched in key areas of the game. In fact the only area you could say the Canucks could improve would be staying out of the penalty box. This will be imperative in the next round and beyond if the Canucks hope to keep this ball rolling.

And then, this:

You’ve heard it said a million times, but there is something special about this team, and the way it conducts it’s business. They celebrate the highs for a few hours, then it’s back to the task at hand, game by game, day by day, as they have said all season. Players like Mason Raymond, Steve Bernier and Kyle Wellwood have shown sides to their game not seen often. It would seem this team is playing as one, and that is a key ingredient to any championship team.

Quiet confidence is what this team has, and I think for the first time perhaps in their history, their fans have it too.

Of course, full credit goes to the entire team for this; however, one guy who doesn’t get enough credit is Alain Vigneault. He faced a lot of criticism during the Canucks’ January swoon. Likewise, we should acknowledge what he’s done to take this team to the second round of the playoffs.

Especially when the playoffs started, he never panicked and stuck to his game plan. He made sure his players didn’t retaliate when the Blues tried to rough them up, and instead, they made them pay on the powerplay. Likewise, he refused to get into a pissing match with Andy Murray even when Murray was going ballistic at him near the end of game 2. Like a good leader, he remained calm behind the bench and I have no doubt this filtered down to his players. When the boss isn’t freaking out, it’s that much easier to just focus and do what you’re supposed to do.

Feb 242009
 
Feb 042009
 
Jan 302009
 
Jan 302009
 

The Crazy CanucksIt’s a roller coaster ride. There’s no other way to explain this season, and fans are jumping off the bus left and right. But don’t fret! The season isn’t over just yet, and you shouldn’t be getting out of your seats and leaving before the second intermission. There’s still plenty of Canucks hockey to be played, and we are doing our best to stay away from the complaints department. We won’t claim to know all the answers, but the situation frustrates us just as much as you probably are.

Click here to listen to the episode.

Jan 192009
 

If you’re thinking of jumping off the Patullo Bridge after the Canucks’ record 7th consecutive home loss, think again; it’s closed after a massive fire on Sunday morning.

The numbers aren’t pretty:

  • In their last 7 home games, the Canucks gained just 2 points, including 1 point in their just-concluded 5-game home stand
  • They were outscored 30-19.
  • The powerplay connected on only 4 of 22 opportunities (18.2%).
  • Conversely, their penalty kill allowed their opponents to connect on a combined 7 of 22 chances against (31.8%).
  • During this 7-game home losing streak, the Canucks only held the lead a combined 78 minutes and 19 seconds.
  • Even when they scored first – they did in 3 of those 7 games – they obviously couldn’t hang on and the Canucks now have the 9th worst record in the NHL when scoring first.
  • They’ve lost a lot of ground to the other Western Conference teams. They’re only 1 point up on 9th place Colorado, 2 points up on 10th place Columbus and 3 points up on 11th place Minnesota. And all those teams have games in hand on Vancouver.

A couple of seasons ago, we were at least able to find some consolation in a lot of their losses. Early in the 2006/2007 season, the Canucks lost a few games, but at least outworked, outshot and outchanced their opponents. Back then, we lauded Alain Vigneault for changing the team’s culture. Recently, we’ve only seen that work ethic in spurts. In very short spurts.

In fact, the Canucks have been horribly inconsistent for the last year or so. From January 2008 to April 2008, they put together a 17-19-6 record, including the 1-7 meltdown in the last 8 games of the season. So far this season, they’ve only had one really good month (November, when they put together an 8-3-2 record) and a bunch of less than stellar months (a combined 14-16-4 in October, December and January). More importantly however, it’s not just the fact that they’ve lost a bunch of games, but also how they’ve looked losing them. Especially in the last two weeks during this record slump, they’ve looked lost, disorganized and defeated.

Over the last week, the Canucks blogosphere has been trying to figure out what has happened to our beloved team; Alanah, Mike and Sean all have posts on the subject and they all revolve around the same guy: Alain Vigneault.

Here’s Mike:

In an effort to find some semblance of identity in 2008 alone, the Canucks booted their old captain (two if you count Linden’s treatment), shed the vestiges of the past (Morrison) and canned the old GM for not getting it done when he had a chance to make a difference. In their place they took the unorthodox steps of naming an agent their GM and a goalie their captain and actually brought in high priced free agents (in Demitra and Sundin).

New look, same result.

Well, not exactly the same result. In the summer, Vigneault was adamant that he ran the system he did last year because of the personnel he had. In response, Gillis brought in Sundin, Demitra and Bernier to improve the scoring lines and brought in Johnson and Hordichuk to improve the 4th line. The result is that the Canucks have 5 points less after 47 games than they did last year. (And yes, I realize that Luongo was injured for more than half of those games, but then again, how many of the teams they lost to had Luongo or a goalie of Luongo’s stature?)

Here’s Alanah:

For some reason, the default position of Vigneault’s coaching philosophy is to fall back to the mentality that he’s coaching a junior team full of precocious children who have no idea what they’re doing and no awareness of how serious this situation is.

At the AHL level, that might fly, but at the NHL level and with this team? It didn’t fly well last year and it’s not working so well now.

And it’s not that I give a toss about insulting players of “calibre” either—they’re grown ups and they can take it—but I don’t think it’s very effective. Stuffing a player like Pavol Demitra on a line with Darcy Hordichuk says more about a childish coaching staff having a temper tantrum than it does about Demitra’s recent performance.

His regular and public calling out of these players surely may have had an impact as well. Calling them into the coach’s office and showing them their missed plays or missed assignments is one thing; letting the entire world know how much they sucked is another. And doing the latter on a regular basis just doesn’t seem like good management practice. In this week’s The Crazy Canucks episode, I used the analogy of a nagging wife and her husband. The first couple of nags might get a positive reaction, but after a constant stream of nagging, the poor husband would more likely just tune her out. I wonder if the Canucks are at that point where they’re tuning out the coach.

When Mike Gillis was named the Canucks GM this summer, he said that his most important decision was regarding the future of his head coach, and of course, he chose to stick with Vigneault. I’m wondering now if he made the right choice. I don’t want to sit myself firmly on the “Fire Alain Vigneault” bandwagon just yet, though I do wonder how much of the Canucks’ play is a result of his system and coaching methods.

Now, I’ll admit that there were some positives from tonight’s game. Forgetting that they actually led by 2 goals with only 3 minutes left in the second period, it was nice to see them come back from a third period, 2-goal deficit to get the loser point. Surely, the team can draw on this to turn their season around. At least I hope they do or we might see a horde of Canucks fans heading for the Alex Fraser.

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