When Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis signed his contract extension earlier this month, the conversation turned to the future of coach Alain Vigneault.
His return was never a guarantee, given the team's President's Trophy-to-first-round-exit performance and the fact that Vingeault has been on and off the hot seat since 2008. But Gillis gave him an endorsement:
"He has done an excellent job and I don't know why you wouldn't want somebody back who has done an excellent job and has the results to show for it," said the GM.
On Wednesday, the Canucks made a most excellent decision: Signing Vigneault, 51 to a contract extension. From the Canucks:
"Alain has established himself as one of the premiere coaches in the National Hockey League," said Gillis. "He has demonstrated a commitment to winning that has led to back-to-back Presidents' Trophies and we are confident his dedication and hard work will continue to yield positive results. Alain has built a foundation of winning with this franchise and I feel he can continue to build on that foundation to achieve our ultimate goal."
"I am pleased to be signing this extension to continue as the Head Coach of such an outstanding organization," said Vigneault. "I look forward to taking the next step with this franchise in bringing the Stanley Cup to Vancouver. I feel fortunate to be able to work with such a dedicated group of management, coaches and players in this great city I love."
Vigneault had one more season left on his current deal. Had the Canucks severed ties with him, heavy speculation had him potentially returning to the Montreal Canadiens to fill that vacancy.
Are the Canucks preserving the status quo? Gillis is back, Vigneault is back — will Luongo return?
Bottom line: There's no real argument at this point with Vigneault's results in Vancouver. Almost any other coach would have been a downgrade or a question mark. And it's not as if the players have tuned him out yet.
The irony is that the people claiming the Presidents' Trophy is meaningless are the ones whose reason is blinded by their intense desire to see the team win. Little do they know that Presidents' Trophy is awarded to teams that win with a standout measure of frequency. Someone should tell them.
Here's the thing: the Canucks' regression this past season was cause for concern, as was their slow start in the Conference quarterfinals, but it was hardly cause for firing the best coach the team has ever had, a coach that led his team to the best record in the league, is regarded around the league as one of the best, and has already proven his ability to get this team to the Stanley Cup Final.
If the team regresses further next season, then maybe you consider making a change. But for right now, Vigneault remains the right choice to run the Canucks, which is why he will continue to do so.
The only argument for getting rid of him that makes any sense at all, given his track record, is that Vigneault — despite racking up more wins over the past two seasons than any other coach in the NHL, despite a Jack Adams award and two further nominations, despite back-to-back President's Trophies and taking the Canucks to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final last season — has nothing left to offer.
That his well has run dry, that the players have turned him off. But, unless they're lying, the leadership core have been unanimous in their support for Vigneault's return. He's simply the best coach the Canucks have ever had.
Even better than Orland Kurtenbach? Yes, ever better than Orland Kurtenbach.