Spector on Canucks: Time to let go of Vigneault

Alan Vigneault.
May 22, 2013, 11:52 AM

Try to think of a reason why Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis hasn’t addressed his coaching situation yet.

Is it:

A – Because he’s not going to fire Alain Vigneault after all, but instead give him another vote of confidence and opt for status quo in Vancouver?

B – Gillis is trying to live up to a stated promise from within the organization that the Canucks would take their time after being swept by the San Jose Sharks, assuring that any decisions made were taken with cool heads.

C – Vigneault is so fired that the mundane task of actually announcing the transaction has slipped into the cracks of Gillis’ day timer. It now lies somewhere between getting his daughter to her field hockey practice, and picking up milk on the way home.

The answers to all three scenarios, of course, are identical.

It is time to either put Vigneault (read: us) out of his (our) misery, not to mention a couple of assistant coaches who would be networking for their next job already, if what we suspect to be pending was actually announced as fact.

Penned beat man Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Province: “Like a carton of sour milk, the expiration date on Vigneault has passed. Move on.”

We’re not so sure that analogy isn’t a tad harsh, as we’ve always found Vigneault to be anything but sour. Guarded around playoff time, yes. Sour? No, he’s usually good for a laugh or two.

But after seven seasons at the helm in Vancouver there is no doubt: The Big West Coast problem might not be Vigneault’s fault entirely, but it is his problem.

We’ve seen this picture paint itself many times over the years, and the canvas in Vancouver is no different. It is for every writer as it is for every painter: Eventually the editing process becomes detrimental, and the column gets worse, not better; after a while, each additional brush stroke detracts from the big picture rather than augmenting it.

The harder Vigneault worked on his Canucks team during the 2012-13 season, the worse it looked. Eventually, as Craig MacTavish said upon walking away from the Edmonton Oilers after the 2008-09 season, “The patients need a new doctor, and the doctor needs new patients.”

In the end, the same coach who presided over a Canucks powerplay that had not operated below 19.8 per cent for the previous three seasons, was responsible for a 15.8 per cent unit that ranked 22nd in 2012-13.

Make no mistake — the blame for the Canucks growing stale falls only secondarily on the head coach.

When Vigneault required new blood in his lineup his GM gave him names like Keith Ballard, David Booth and Derek Roy. When injuries beset centres Ryan Kesler and Manny Malhotra, Gillis did not deliver adequate replacements, though the task of replacing both those players at the top of their games would be nigh impossible.

And in the end, The Big Asset — Roberto Luongo — was still wearing that same Canucks ball cap at season’s end that he had donned back in January, testimony to a GM who simply did not deliver for his head coach in Year 7 of Vigneault’s tenure.

Now, Gillis owes Vigneault an answer.

Normally in these things, a GM won’t hold a press conference to say, “We’re retaining Alain as our head coach.” But this is different.

There isn’t a talking head in the game of hockey that doesn’t think Vigneault’s time is over in Vancouver. Nor is there one who doesn’t believe he’ll soon work for another NHL team.

Heads have cooled — the Canucks were eliminated on May 7, and it was clear after their Game 3 loss on May 5 that their series against San Jose was not going to end well.

Yes, Vigneault is believed to have two years remaining on the contract he signed after last season. But this project in Vancouver has hit a wall, and if it has been decided that the preferred solution is to replace Vigneault and assistants Rick Bowness and Newell Brown, then so be it.

Hold the press conference. Make the announcement. Move on.

It is time, Mike.

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