Sometimes NHL teams with coaching vacancies surprise you with an outside-the-box choice. Like, for example, if the Vancouver Canucks had hired former Edmonton Oilers coach and World Cup Team Europe darling Ralph Krueger as their new head coach, provided he wanted that to happen. And apparently he didn’t.
Other times, NHL teams follow an expected line of succession when their coach is fired. Like, for example, the news on Tuesday that the Canucks’ next head coach is Travis Green of their AHL affiliate Utica Comets, who had been groomed for the job for the last four years.
Bob McKenzie reports that the Canucks are finalizing his contract and the official announcement could come in the next couple of days.
Now, being the obvious choice doesn’t make Travis Green the wrong choice, at all.
He played 970 games in the NHL, mostly with the New York Islanders. He’s been a head coach for five years, including one with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. His Comets went to the Calder Cup Final in 2015, a team that featured Sven Baertschi, the 24-year-old winger who had 18 goals in 68 games last season for the Canucks.
As Ben Kuzma notes, Green built up Baertschi after his career trajectory went off course and was in the process of doing the same with Jake Virtanen last season. He’s got a knack for working with young players and, well, the Canucks figure to have more than a few on next year’s roster.
From The Province, speaking with team president Trevor Linden:
“He communicates well with young players,” Linden continued. “You just have to talk to (Canucks goaltending coach) Dan Cloutier and (director of player development) Ryan Johnson about the work he’s done in Utica to know that. (Green) has a program and a level of accountability. Relating to young players is so important in today’s game. I think the coaching game has changed.”
Green was courted by the Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche last season, and is generally considered one of the rising stars in the coaching ranks.
The plan for the Canucks has been a mess for the last three seasons. Willie Desjardins made them a playoff team in 2015, and that delayed the inevitable, which is the deep rebuild they’re going into now. Like Nucks Misconduct wrote:
“That success really doomed the changeover to a new team as management and ownership never really could settle on a direction. Re-build…re-tool….it was all [expletive] up.”
We’re still not sold on Linden and GM Jim Benning as the stewards of the franchise, but hiring Green as the guy to grow with the team is one of their smartest decisions. Now comes the hard part: Getting him those young players with whom to grow.
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