You have to give the Canucks some credit. In just two short seasons, they’ve managed to reduce the Presidents’ Trophy to nothing. Last year, this team proved that clinching it doesn’t guarantee a Stanley Cup win; this year they’re on the brink of proving that neither does it guarantee even a single playoff win. That’s impressive.
But Canuck fans are not impressed, and with the number one seed in danger of being swept by the LA Kings, you can understand why they’re looking for somebody to blame right now.
I’d blame Duncan Keith, who knocked Daniel Sedin, Vancouver’s only true elite winger, out of the lineup on a dirty, predatory hit in the season’s final stretch. Considering what it did to the team’s line combinations, powerplay, and overall identity, I’d say Keith is a pretty good target for derision.
But to hear Canuck fans tell it, the real problem in this series is that Alain Vigneault is being outcoached as usual. I am gobsmacked by the thoughtlessness behind this line of rhetoric.
First, let’s go backwards, because I fail to see which recent playoff elimination you could pin on coaching.
Most point at the losses to the Blackhawks, which were somehow the result of Vigneault being outcoached despite the fact that those Chicago teams had arguably the deepest and most talented rosters of any group since the lockout. But nope, it had nothing to do with an imbalance of talent, even though when the depth swung the other way in 2011 the Canucks took the series. Vancouver would have won all 3 matchups if Vigneault wasn’t outcoached.
Just like the Stanley Cup Final last season. Nevermind that the Canucks went up against a fabulously underrated and mostly healthy hockey team with superior forward depth. Nevermind that Vancouver lost pretty much everyone important to injuries along the way, including their entire second line and three of their top four defencemen (although Ryan Kesler, Christian Ehrhoff and Alex Edler shot themselves up with enough painkillers to play through their crazy injuries).
Nevermind that Claude Julien basically had a full chessboard, and Alain Vigneault had his rooks, a bishop and several pawns. Vigneault was the problem there.
They say hindsight is 20/20. For Canuck fans, it isn’t.
But we don’t look at the present all that well either. Is coaching really the issue in the LA series?
I mean, granted, it was a terrible coaching decision to allow Daniel to get tracked and elbowed in the face by Keith. Vigneault should have known better than to expose his best winger to a concussion and, I suspect, unreported neck problems. That’s on Vigneault. And Vigneault should never have built the powerplay around players that could get hurt. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
If Daniel Sedin’s in this series, the Canucks win at least one of the three games, maybe two. I’d argue for different outcomes in games 1 and 3, and talking to Greg Wyshynski, he felt Game 2 stood out as one that would have gone the Canucks’ way with Daniel in the lineup.
I know you’re not supposed to use injuries as an excuse, but that too is among the most nonsensical lines of rhetoric in sports. You build a team, and when players are removed from that team, it gets weaker. Is that not how it works? Apparently not in the playoffs, where common sense is abandoned.
It’s a completely different series with Daniel Sedin, and unless Vigneault can somehow use coach magic to make Jannik Hansen or Mason Raymond into some kind of surrogate, he’s stuck running his team with a gaping deficit.
And Vigneault really can’t prevent Alex Edler from serving up unforced errors at will, can he? Sure, you could take him out of the lineup, but he’s a pretty integral part of the core. You sort of need him to play well.
I know that many are still upset over trading Cody Hodgson, and there’s this bizarre argument that this was entirely Vigneault’s decision and he strong-armed everyone into it because he hated Cody’s offence for not being defence. This is, of course, crazy talk. Mike Gillis made that deal in consultation with his staff. He wasn’t bullied into it by some crazed coach with an agenda and the fact that it’s been tacitly spun this way is little more than irresponsible reporting. From the sounds of it, nearly everyone in the room approved of the trade.
Sure, it would be nice to have Cody Hodgson’s “clutch” goal scoring in this series, but one wonders if the games would even be as close as they’ve been with Cody in the lineup, considering the Kings forecheck and transition, as well as Cody’s weaknesses in that regard — weaknesses that people seem to think no opposing coach would ever notice or exploit. (Amazingly, Vigneault’s recognition of these weaknesses has been considered bad coaching.)
But even if Vigneault’s not to blame for these playoff eliminations, many feel he should still be fired because, in effect, he hasn’t been fired yet. Fire Vigneault just because. That’s a good way to run a team. That’s basically what you’re saying when you claim a coach should go just because he’s “reached his expiry date” after 7 years behind the Canucks’ bench despite coming off his two best seasons here.
Who, praytell, will replace him? Who’s the upgrade?
In pretty much every other case, Vigneault’s the upgrade. Even the people running the campaign to rid him from the city will be quick to admit that he’ll be back in employment within a week or so. Montreal is the destination most name, largely because Vigneault speaks French and his haters seem to think so little of him that it will be his bilingualism, not his standout coaching ability, that keeps him at the NHL level.
If Mike Gillis does indeed choose to make a coaching change (and I hope to heaven he doesn’t), Vigneault will be snatched up immediately for the same reason you snatch up a $20 bill when you see it on the ground. Because you can’t believe someone was thoughtless enough to drop it.Tags: Alain Vigneault, being reasonable, Canucks, Daniel Sedin, duncan keith, Kings, playoffs, why you crazy people gotta act so crazy