On Wednesday, Alain Vigneault signed a two-year contract extension with the Canucks, which means that he is slated to be with the team for the next three years. Or, as some fans might put it, the Canucks are stuck with him for three years. Harrison basically summed up my opinion on the contract yesterday, but here it is again: Vigneault good. Winning good. Fire bad.
But the contract extension brought up a few other thoughts on the most successful coach in Canucks history.
1. Extending Vigneault puts the ball back in the player’s court, to crossover my sports metaphors.
One of the main arguments against extending Vigneault is that players tend to tune out coaches over time. It’s an understandable argument: hearing the same message season after season from the same coach could certainly end up tiresome. Some particularly abrasive coaches tend to wear thin on their players especially quickly. Vigneault doesn’t strike me as that kind of coach, however, and he has shown a capability of adjusting the team’s style of play over time, from the ultra-defensive years when Luongo first arrived to the more offensive teams of the last couple years.
More than that, it seems to me that an extension would have the opposite effect and counteract that tendency to tune out. Essentially, this re-signing lets the players know that Vigneault is here to stay and that what he says, goes. It would be easier to tune out a coach when you know that he could be fired at any moment and a new voice could be brought in to the locker room. It’s a lot harder to do that when you know that the coach isn’t going anywhere.
2. Showcasing Hodgson for the trade market wasn’t really that big a deal.
At the most basic level, a general manager’s job is to acquire the best possible players he can find and the coach’s job is to take the players he is given and put them in the best possible position to succeed. Vigneault has done this to an unheard of degree, deploying Manny Malhotra almost exclusively in the defensive zone and the Sedins almost exclusively in the offensive zone. He hasn’t done a perfect job, of course. This last season, he wasn’t able to find a good partner for Edler from among the 8 other defencemen who were on the roster at various times, though that could be seen as falling under Gillis’s responsibility.
But, for the most part, Vigneault has put his players in a position to best utilize their individual skills to help the team.So when Gillis pointed out that they put Cody Hodgson in a position to score points and look good for a potential trade, Vigneault was doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing: putting Hodgson in a position to succeed. Last season, the best possible position for Hodgson to use his talents was to start him in the offensive zone against weak competition. He put Hodgson in the best possible position to help the team. It just so happens that was also the best way to showcase Hodgson for the trade market.
3. Alain Vigneault, like most humans, likes some people more than he likes others.
Does Alain Vigneault play favourites? Of course. Every coach does. In Vigneault’s case, however, I believe that his subjective opinion is frequently overruled by objective analysis when it comes to picking favourites. There’s a reason that Keith Ballard doesn’t get a lot of ice time and it has to do with the number of scoring chances the opposition gets when he’s on the ice compared to the number that the Canucks get. The same was true of Hodgson.
Some will argue that Vigneault hasn’t given players like Ballard and Hodgson a chance to play more minutes and show that they can succeed in those types of situations, but that’s not how Vigneault operates. We have repeatedly seen that players need to prove that they deserve more minutes. Ballard has yet to do that. His Relative Corsi rating was second worst among Canucks defencemen this season, ahead of only Andrew Alberts, who started more frequently in the defensive zone against tougher competition.
Ballard wasn’t able to push possession into the offensive zone against weaker competition; why would he improve against tougher competition? The opposite would likely be the case. The Canucks track their own data, which doesn’t map exactly to Corsi, but it’s not far off either. It’s likely that Vigneault’s favourites are informed more by this data than who didn’t pass him the salt at the dinner table.Tags: Alain Vigneault, Blogs are for lists, fire vigneault