Slump will be Vigneault's to solve
Head coach is on the hot seat again as Vancouver hits doldrums
Here's something almost as exciting as the Canucks' power play, the Monday morning musings and meditations on the world of sports:
? Before this season there have been two major crises in Alain Vigneault's tenure with the Canucks. The first was in the final two weeks of '07-'08 when the team finished the campaign 1-7 and missed the playoffs. Vigneault survived that calamity - largely because GM Dave Nonis took the bullet - but the next season found himself in the soup again before the Canucks caught fire in February in the heyday of the Mats Sundin era.
Since then, the Canucks have always responded to Vigneault, always played hard for the coach, always delivered results. But three weeks ago they hit the skids and they now find themselves in the kind of slump that gets people fired.
There's no point in belabouring this. The Canucks have three wins in their last 12 games, might have touched bottom in St. Paul on Sunday and have lost control of the Northwest Division. Vigneault's work here has likely bought him the rest of this season to drag the team out of its malaise but this one is on him, largely because it's always on the coach.
There will be time enough to apply a more comprehensive analysis of the Canucks' shortcomings down the road. But in the here and now, it's Vigneault's responsibility to get this thing turned around.
? Query: Who's been the Vancouver Canucks' MVP over the first half of the season?
If you're going by stats, it's probably Henrik Sedin, who leads the team lead in scoring and is plus-14. But you wouldn't say Henrik lit it up in the first half.
You could also make a case for Roberto Luongo, whose first-half numbers were distorted by the 8-3 loss in Detroit. But Lui is basically the team's backup goalie. Dan Ham-huis has been his usual solid self, but he hasn't exactly been an MVP. Kevin Bieksa was off to a good start but then ran into the injury bug.
Beyond those players, there are two Canucks who've surpassed expectations this season: Jannik Hansen and Chris Tanev. Some, like Mason Raymond and Chris Higgins, have been OK. Most have been below par. When you consider that's about two-thirds of the lineup on most nights - and we're throwing the twins into that group - it begins to explain the Canucks' record.
? More exciting news for Canucks fans. Now that the Ryan O'Reilly soap opera has been settled, the Colorado Avalanche will be a force in the second half of this season. Don't know how close the Avs ever were to trading O'Reilly before Flames GM Jay Feaster made the offer sheet. Do know that, with Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and O'Reilly down the middle, the Avs are a dangerous team.
? Pat Quinn was in his first full season as an NHL head coach in '79-'80 when the Philadelphia Flyers went on their record 35-game unbeaten streak. He was asked how closely he was watching the Chicago Blackhawks' 24-game unbeaten streak, which came to an end Friday night in Denver.
"In one way you're cheering for them," Quinn said. "I like the way they play. They're an exciting team to watch.
"But if it would have gone to that 35th game I might have been pulling for someone from the other team to do something special. I'm glad I didn't get there."
? TSN and the CFL have agreed in principle to a new TV deal and, while details haven't been released, sources say the league has hit a massive home run with the new contract.
How massive, you ask? The deal that just expired was worth a reported $75 million over five years. The new one is more than double that, which will give CFL teams a level of security they haven't experienced since the '70s.
? And finally, you can't say Tiger Woods is all the way back until he wins a major, but if he wasn't the pre-train-wreck, pre-knee-surgery Tiger at the Cadillac Championship, you'd have a hard time proving it by the scorecard.
No matter what you think of him personally, the game is more interesting when Woods is in the Darth Vader mode and next month's Masters is already shaping up as appointment viewing.
Woods is now 37. Enjoy this because if he makes it all the way back, it will be the most compelling chapter of his legendary career.
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You could make a case for Roberto Luongo, whose first-half numbers were distorted by the 8-3 loss in Detroit, as a front-runner for the Canucks' most valuable player, but he is basically the club's backup goalie.
Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG Files, The Province