VANCOUVER CANUCKS FIRE COACHING STAFF

As per TSN, the Vancouver Canucks yesterday announced that they have fired head coach Alain Vigneault and his assistants Rick Bowness and Newell Brown.  The news was not entirely unexpected following the Canucks’ second straight first round exit, yet it was despite their sterling record in the regular season having won their 5th straight Northwest Division title and 6th in 7 years.

Vigneault was hired as the head coach in 2006, having previously coached Montreal from 1997 to 2000, and saw immediate success by leading them to 1st in the Northwest Division and bringing a more defensive style than his forerunner Marc Crawford.  This period also saw an overhaul in the team, with long-time Canucks Ed Jovanovski and Todd Bertuzzi sent away and Willie Mitchell and Roberto Luongo brought in.  Luongo was obviously the biggest splash, regarded as one of the best goalies in the World and making the Canucks an instant Cup contender.

They lost in the playoffs that year to the eventual Cup champions Anaheim Ducks, but the future looked bright, particularly with young players like Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and Alex Edler on the rise and the Sedin twins really coming into their own in the league.

The following season was however very disappointing as they finished at the bottom of their division, but they rebounded in 2008/09 to win their first of 5 straight division titles, and their first of 2 straight 2nd round playoff exits.  By 2010/11, the team was considered to be the best in the league, icing an unbelievably strong and deep roster in all positions.  They stormed to their first ever President’s Trophy that year, and were far and away favourites for the Stanley Cup.  They finally overcame their nemesis Chicago Blackhawks in the first round in 7 games, defeated the Nashville Predators in 6, and dominated the San Jose Sharks in 5 to reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1994.

Heartbreak would rule the day though, as a back-and-forth series against the Boston Bruins ended with Tim Thomas out-dueling Roberto Luongo in net in 7 games, with many of the Canucks’ best players failing to produce at the most critical times.

Still, they were a very talented team and their window wasn’t yet shut.  They came back strong the following year to collect their second straight President’s Trophy, but were knocked back in the first round by the eventual champion LA Kings in just 5 games.  Questions were starting to be asked as to whether the team was able to perform come playoff time – slightly daft questions of course, given they had only recently been just one game away from a Championship.  Roberto Luongo was the most controversial member of the team, pertaining to his big contract and perceived lack of playoff success, and as we all know goalies can make coaches look either like geniuses or like complete fools.

In 2013, the team wasn’t quite as dominant as previous years, but still secured a 5th straight division title – perhaps slightly thanks to playing in such a bad division – and found themselves pitted against San Jose in the first round.  This was expected to be a cakewalk for the Canucks, but it was anything but.  All confidence seemed to abandon the team as they were resoundly crushed by the Sharks in a brutal 4 game sweep.

The writing was probably on the wall for Vigneault from that point on.  Despite a brilliant record in his time as coach, and coming that close to a Stanley Cup, not to mention capturing two President’s Trophies (an underrated achievement), not capturing that one crowning moment of glory is a death mark for most coaches, and GM Mike Gillis believed that the time has come for change.

Rick Bowness had been with the team as an Assistant since Vigneault was hired, whilst Newell Brown was hired in 2010.

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