Press Round-Up - MAY.23.08
"Forget lame duck -- Alain Vigneault is a coaching lion in the eyes of new Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis."
"Vigneault received a hearty vote of confidence Thursday when Gillis extended his contract through the 2009-10 National Hockey League season."
"Gillis called it ‘an extraordinarily important’ decision, which is why he took four weeks to tap Vigneault on the shoulder and invite him to stay. Vigneault, 47, had one year left on his deal."
"‘I'm really pleased to have this accomplished and done,’ Gillis told reporters in a newser at GM Place. ‘I think Alain is a very bright, intelligent guy. I think he's direct. I think he's got a lot of courage. I see a lot of terrific features that he has and I'm really comfortable with him as a person."
"‘I feel he has all the qualities and more to become a great coach in this league.’"
"While Vigneault sailed through the review process, assistant coaches Barry Smith and Mike Kelly weren't so lucky and were dismissed. Associate coach Rick Bowness and goalie consultant Ian Clark survived the purge and will be back."
"Gillis said he intends to personally hand-pick the new assistants ‘in conjunction’ with Vigneault and assistant GM Steve Tambellini. He figures that won't be done until the team moves past next month's entry draft in Ottawa, June 20-21, and probably beyond."
"‘I never believed the head coach should have the opportunity to design the coaching staff entirely on his own,’ Gillis explained. ‘There are organizations, like New Jersey, that don't follow that protocol."
"‘I want to bring people in that I'm very comfortable with. I want to try and attract people who have won championships and have a broader base of experience.’ "
So while Vigneault adds another year, he lost two close confidants in Kelly and Smith.
"According to Vigneault, delivering the bad news to Smith and Kelly on Wednesday was not a pleasant experience."
"‘Those are two individuals I really have a high opinion on, but I also understand Mike's [Gillis] standpoint,’ Vigneault said. ‘With somebody new coming on board, we had to look at all positions within our staff. We feel to get better and move forward we had to make some adjustments.’"
"Gillis said he won't be bringing in Manitoba Moose head coach Scott Arniel or Moose assistant Brad Berry to fill one of the vacancies on Vigneault's staff."
"‘We're extremely happy with the job they're doing in Manitoba and my preference would be to have them there for another season,’ Gillis said. ‘So I don't consider them candidates at this point. A lot of candidates have already come forward.’"
"Whatever feathers the former player agent may have ruffled coming in, after being hired out of thin air by owner Francesco Aquilini with no one else having even interviewed for the job, you have to give Mike Gillis this:
"1. His Day 1 observations, while perhaps unnecessarily heavy-handed, were almost entirely accurate. The club hasn't done well at the draft table. It hasn't got anyone that could be called a surefire impact player in the system. All its most skilled forwards are soft.
"And the idea that the Canucks were not far away from being serious Cup contenders was a fantasy -- one shared by a surprising number of the ever-faithful, but a fantasy nonetheless.
"2. By retaining Vigneault, whom he clearly likes, even if the coach had to twist in the wind for 30 days awaiting a verdict, Gillis has declared coaching a non-issue, or almost. He may have insisted on a cosmetic change to appease the fans, hence the dismissal of assistants Mike Kelly and Barry Smith. Or it may be that Vigneault had to toss someone overboard to keep his own ship afloat, which would be somewhat less noble.
"Either way, Vigneault, with this contract extension, has been personally absolved of blame for the Canucks' mediocre 2007-08 campaign and late-season collapse, and Gillis has manfully taken the responsibility for providing new and better raw material.
"Sign the right players. Hire the right people to find more of them. It's on the GM now, to deliver.
"‘Personnel is my job, and it's a major issue moving forward,’ Gillis said Wednesday. ‘In trying to expand Alain's opportunities, we're going to try to provide him with as many resources as we possibly can. That is my objective.’
"Call that bravado or call it courage; the man obviously has confidence."
When talking about systems and the potential make up of next year, Vigneault and Gillis appear to be on the same page.
"Vigneault's contention, obviously shared by Gillis, is that with everybody playing the same basic defensive system, the only differences arise from the abilities of the players to do something with the puck once they get it back.
"‘The system in Pittsburgh is almost identical to ours -- and I know, because I taught it to [Penguins head coach] Michel Therrien throughout the years,’ Vigneault said, the day of his season-ending news conference.
"He was in his fourth year as head coach of the Canadiens in the fall of 2000 when he was fired after a slow start, and replaced by Therrien, who'd been coaching the Habs' farm team. Two years later, Therrien himself was fired, also by then-Habs GM Andre Savard, who's now Therrien's assistant coach in Pittsburgh. Funny old world. And now, they have the NHL's most dynamic young team in the Stanley Cup final.
"The difference is, when the Canucks' Mattias Ohlund takes the puck and looks up-ice for someone to pass to at GM Place, he's not seeing Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin or Marian Hossa cruising through centre ice.
"That's why the Canucks' system was hardly an issue with Gillis, who has in mind a more up-tempo team but seems convinced that Vigneault can adapt."
"Excuse Alain Vigneault for waving Pittsburgh pom-poms when the Stanley Cup final series opens Saturday.
"‘It could go six or seven games and Detroit obviously ... has a lot more experience. But I'm leaning toward Pittsburgh because they've got so much skill and probably because my friend is there,’ said Vigneault of Penguins bench boss Michel Therrien.
"They coached in the Montreal system and Therrien replaced Vigneault as Canadiens head coach in the 2000-01 season.
"Therrien considered his coaching confidante for an assistant's job in Pittsburgh before Vigneault was promoted from the Manitoba Moose to the Canucks. Therrien survived dark days in Pittsburgh -- he was retained when Ray Shero was hired as general manager -- and this has struck a chord with Vigneault.
"It's the same scene here: a new GM in Mike Gillis, and old coach.
"‘He [Therrien] is doing a pretty good job with a system that looks a lot like ours,’ said Vigneault. ‘Knowing how organized and passionate he his, I'm not surprised at all. We've talked before every series. He doesn't know Detroit well, so we've talked more.’"
"‘I don't really have any comment on anything at this point,’ said Linden on Thursday. ‘I'm just going through the process of determining where I'm at.’ "Linden, 38, has been expected to retire. He has been mulling his future since the end of the season in April.
"It seems unlikely that Linden would be back with the Canucks with Vigneault behind the bench and new GM Mike Gillis promising change. The coach made him a healthy scratch 23 times last season.
"Linden said he's been keeping busy working on a real-estate development project and training for the TransRockies bike race in eastern B.C. in August.
"But Linden, who's renowned for his charitable work, did have something to celebrate on Thursday. He was named co-recipient, along with Tampa Bay's Vincent "Lecavalier, of the 10th annual NHL Foundation Player Award in recognition of their commitment and service to charities in their communities.
"The NHL Foundation will present $25,000 to the Vinny Lecavalier Foundation on behalf of Lecavalier and $25,000 to Canuck Place Children's Hospice on behalf of Linden. Both players will be honoured at a special NHL awards presentation on Wednesday in Pittsburgh prior to Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final.
"Since 2004, Linden has been honourary chair of the Canadian Cancer Society's Cops for Cancer bike tours, helping to raise more than $8 million for pediatric cancer care and research.
"He was also a spokesperson for preventative cancer-care campaign with the Canadian Cancer Society throughout B.C. and will participate in a B.C. Cancer Foundation's Westside Cycling Classic fundraiser for cancer research on June 1."
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