Head Coach Alain Vigneault is feeling the heat from the fans due to the recent struggles of his Vancouver Canucks hockey team during the month of March. Now, the calls for the longtime Canucks coach's removal haven't come quite yet; but knowing the Vancouver fan base, they aren't far away. Last season, as Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks rapidly approached, Vigneault's job was essentially on the line if they lost the game. Vancouver won, however, and Vigneault was praised as one of the best coaches in the NHL, as the team went on to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Unfortunately for Vigneault, going all the way to the Cup Finals only to lose has caused expectations among Canucks fans, the city of Vancouver and the rest of the NHL to set the expectations for the team at an all-time high—win the Cup or go home. In the Canadian market, this recent lapse in play by the Canucks is a go-to reason to hit the panic button.
Vigneault's job is among the safest in the league. Since being hired in the offseason prior to the 2006-07 season, Vigneault has an astounding 236 regular-season victories to go along with 26 playoff victories, and he has a combined record of 262-160-41 heading into the 2011-12 campaign. It is hard to argue with numbers and the fact a Canucks team coached by AV has missed the playoffs just once in his duration as the boss, should only secure the fact that he is here to stay.
The Canucks rewarded Vigneault following the 2008-09 season with a three-year contract extension after he walked away with the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's best coach in 2007. He was again nominated in both 2008 and 2011.
In order to coach in a market like Vancouver, you have to be a special type of coach. Vigneault may have issues with certain players past and present, but most coaches do, too, and they are usually successful (see John Tortorella). The hard-nosed, but also easily humored players coach Vigneault is fits the Canucks organization very well. You would be pretty stumped to try and find an available replacement for Vigneault at this current time, let alone one that even comes close to his level of expertise and talent as a coach.
Everyone knew it was going to be a grind to return to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012, and it is no easy feat especially in an always-difficult Western Conference. The blame for the Canucks' lack of success does not solely go on the shoulders of Vigneault but also to the lack of production from the players. They have produced all season and suddenly stopped. AV is not on the ice, he can't change that in any other way than trying to motivate his players, and get them ready for the playoffs.
If Vigneault struggles this playoffs then by all means bring up the coaching change conversation, but by no means should talk off a coaching change in Vancouver be starting now. Vigneault's job is safe, and there should be no reasons why it isn't. It is a very difficult position to fill and although it is fun and games to wonder about it and stir up controversy, it is unnecessary as Vigneault is among the best in the NHL and is definitely the best for the Vancouver Canucks.
John Bain is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist
Follow him on Twitter: @JohnBainSports
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