Canucks Guarantee Regular-Season Success by Extending Alain Vigneault, But Playoff Glory May Remain Elusive


Canucks Guarantee Regular-Season Success by Extending Alain Vigneault, But Playoff Glory May Remain ElusiveAlain Vigneault will be sticking around Vancouver a little longer.

That's bad news for the rest of the NHL. In the regular season anyway.

No one has been better at guiding a team through the 82-game grind of the regular season over the last half dozen years than Vigneault. Over that span he's posted the best record of any coach in Canucks history, going 287-155-50.

That was good enough to earn five Northwest Division titles and a pair of Presidents' Trophies. The latter, of course, remain the crowning achievements of the Canucks to date in their 41-year Cup-less history. It was also enough to earn Vigneault a two-year extension on Wednesday that will keep him with the Canucks through the 2014-15 season.

"Alain has established himself as one of the premiere coaches in the National Hockey League," Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis said in a statement announcing the extension. "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."

Those positive results haven't been as plentiful in the postseason. Vancouver has made it out of the second round just once under Vigneault. That was last spring, when the Canucks reached the Stanley Cup Final and held leads of 2-0 and 3-2 in the series against the Bruins. But they were dominated in all three games in Boston by a combined 17-3 count, then were beaten convincingly 4-0 on home ice in Game 7.

This spring, Vigneault and the Canucks retained the vaunted Presidents' Trophy with the league's best record, but ended up much further from the only hardware that really matters as they were ousted in the opening round by the eighth-seeded Kings in five games.

That early exit, coupled with Vigneault's disappearing act as he did not address the media after the season, led to speculation that his time in Vancouver could be coming to a close. He still had one year left on his contract, but entering a season as a lame duck was never a realistic possibility. The Canucks had to either cut the cord now or commit to Vigneault. Two weeks after Gillis was given an extension of his own, he finally ended the drama by confirming that the band was staying together with Vigneault's new deal.

Now it's up to Vigneault to translate that regular-season success into postseason glory. In truth, neither his triumphs in the regular season nor his ignominious playoff defeat this spring were as dramatic as they appeared on the surface.

While the parity in the league makes back-to-back Presidents' Trophies an impressive feat, the Canucks did benefit from feasting on the weak Northwest Division. Vancouver was 18-5-1 against its division rivals. That division did not produce any other playoff teams, and no team from the Western Conference's other two divisions had a losing record against the Northwest. Even Columbus, which was a league-worst 29-46-7, finished .500 against the Northwest at 9-9-2. While Vigneault will remain in Vancouver, the division's struggles have already led to coaching changes in Calgary and Edmonton this offseason.

But while some of Vancouver's regular-season success may be a bit hollow, their upset in the opening round also may not be as embarrassing as it initially appeared. Those eighth-seeded Kings have gone on to sweep No. 2 St. Louis in four straight and ousted third-seeded Phoenix in five games in conference final to reach the Cup Final for the first time since 1993.

With that unlikely run, Los Angeles' season has proven quite a bit more successful than the Canucks', even with the Kings finishing seven spots below Vancouver in the regular season. Those regular-season accolades pale in comparison to postseason triumphs. Something Vancouver maybe should have heeded a bit more before extending its commitment to the ultimate regular-season maestro.

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