The Vancouver Canucks announced on Wednesday that Alain Vigneault has signed a two-year contract extension. He has one year remaining on his current deal, so that will keep him behind the bench at Rogers Arena for the next three years.
Vigneault has already spent six years in Vancouver, well above the average tenure of 2.86 years for an NHL head coach. He's fourth in the league in longevity, behind Nashville's Barry Trotz, Buffalo's Lindy Ruff and Detroit's Mike Babcock.
Originally hired by former general manager Dave Nonis, Vigneault's position probably faced its biggest threat when Mike Gillis took over as GM back in 2008. With the team's success since that time, it's clear that the two feel that they work well together and can still do more for the franchise.
Vigneault told a conference call on Wednesday that even though there was speculation that his job might be on the line after the Canucks' first-round playoff elimination by Los Angeles, he knew that he had Gillis's support. From Jim Jamieson of the Vancouver Province:
“Mike told me that in his mind I had done the best job coaching the Canucks in the four years that we had been together,” said Vigneault.
“But he couldn’t tell me what was happening with our future because he wasn’t sure what was happening with his.
“There might have been speculation, but I’ve known since the first day they wanted me back.”
According to the numbers, Vigneault is the most successful coach the Canucks have ever had. In 492 games, the team has amassed a 287-155-50 record and a .634 winning percentage—the highest in franchise history.
They've also made the playoffs for five of six seasons and won five Northwest Division titles and two Presidents' Trophies, not to mention reaching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2011.
Still, Vigneault is not without his flaws.
He admitted in the conference call that he had misjudged the situation with Daniel Sedin's concussion going into the playoffs, assuming that Sedin would be ready for the start of postseason. Vigneault concedes that he may have wasted the opportunity to prepare a more effective alternative for the top line and the power play, based on the idea that Sedin wouldn't be ready to go. From The Province's Jason Botchford:
“All of a sudden, I find myself — I think there’s two games left to the regular season — and then we’re getting a sense there that there might be a possibility that (Daniel) might not be there,” Vigneault said. “For me, it’s a lesson. It’s a lesson that with head injuries, you never know.”
“It’s something moving forward I’m going to deal better with.
“If there’s one thing I could have a do-over again where I believe I made a mistake and I’m fully responsible for it, it’s Daniel Sedin’s case."
Vigneault remained vague about whether or not a style change was in order for the Canucks after the success of so many defense-first teams in this year's playoff:
“Without a doubt, (the Kings) were a big team, they were a physical team, and they were a defensive-oriented team,” Vigneault said. “It certainly paved the way for them to have quite a bit of success.
“We’re sort of debating right now. Debating may not be the right word. We’re exchanging, and we’re trying to look at our best options moving forward.”
He also hinted that Cory Schneider would be the Canucks' top goalie going forward:
“I think what happened in the playoffs is an indication of what might happen moving forward.”
When the Canucks lost to the Kings in the first round this year, speculation was flying from all sides that heads must roll. A little time has allowed for a calmer approach, and the playoff success of Los Angeles has also probably eased the pain a little—the Canucks just happened to run into a very good team that was peaking at the right time.
In the end, ownership has determined that it's better to stay the course than to institute change for the sake of change. Can Gillis and Vigneault guide the Canucks to even greater heights in the years to come?