Vigneault is not the real problem The coach is not responsible for the lack of a second-line centre - GM Mike Gillis is
Before launching into today's narrative we'll concede that, rightly or wrongly, the first man in the firing line is always the head coach.
We'll also concede that, rightly or wrongly, general managers are allowed to burn through more than one coach before they catch a bullet. Never figured out exactly what the number is - more than two, less than 38 - but it's an inescapable reality. Coaches will always bear a disproportionate amount of blame for a team's failing. General managers are given a greater margin for error.
Uh, if you've figured out where we're going with this, congratulate yourself on your grasp of the obvious.
It must come as some comfort to the faithful that, in addition to global warming and the national debt, Alain Vigneault is solely responsible for the Vancouver Canucks' recent troubles.
That simplifies things, doesn't it? Remove Vigneault, and you've removed the Canucks' problems. Remove Vigneault and the juggernaut general manager Mike Gillis has assembled will be unleashed. It's a nice, neat answer to a difficult question, and sometimes we like it that way.
In this case, it's also as credible as an Elvis sighting.
If you're honest, the Canucks, as they're currently constructed, are exactly where they should be in the Western Conference standings. They are part of a large, amorphous mass which is everyone except Chicago and Anaheim. When they get top-notch goaltending or dominating performances by the Sedins or their power play is cooking, they are probably better than most. If they slip in any of those areas, as they have recently, they struggle.
This notion that the Canucks are a powerhouse, however, is absurd and you don't have to look any farther than the depth chart at centre ice to understand why. For all but seven games this season, they've lined up with Henrik Sedin as their top pivot, a second-or third-line winger in the two-hole, a fourth-liner centring the third line and a minor-leaguer on the fourth line.
The result, and here's a shocker, is they've struggled to score goals. It's not as bad as you'd think. Before last night's games they were sixth in the West in goals. But when you've got Chris Higgins playing out of position in one spot and Max Lapierre (career high: 28 points) trying to generate offence from another, it figures scoring might be a tad difficult.
Now, who owns this one? Is it Vigneault, for not turning Lapierre or Jordan Schroeder or one of Higgins, Mason Raymond or Alex Burrows into consistently productive centres? Or do you point the finger at Gillis?
Let's explore this for a moment. To be sure, the Canucks have been unlucky with Ryan Kesler. But it was known long before the puck dropped that Kesler would be out at the start; just as it was known there was a good chance Manny Malhotra might not last the season.
Maybe Gillis thought Roberto Luongo could be turned into the centre the team needs. Maybe he thought Schroeder was really the answer. It's hard to say. What isn't hard to say is Kesler is out for another month and this problem isn't going away anytime soon.
The situation might also be alleviated if the Canucks had drafted anyone in the last five years who could step into the NHL team. But, sorry, when your best option is Jordan Schroeder, it's an indictment of the organization.
When you take a step back, in fact, this season seems like a crucial point in the Canucks' history. Owner Francesco Aquilini is now being sued by high-profile sports psychologist thingy Bruno Demichelis for backing out of a $1.1 million deal. If that lawsuit was an isolated incident, you might dismiss it. But it's not.
On the hockey side, the Canucks have drafted abysmally. Gillis's biggest moves outside the organization - Keith Ballard, David Booth and Jason Garrison - have not panned out.
And his handling of the Luon-go soap opera has been less than adroit.
At the Canucks' core is the relationship between Aquilini and Gillis. Two years ago, it looked like they were on the cutting edge of a lot of things in the game. In 2013, you can't say the same.
Vigneault is hardly blameless in all this. It's troubling to watch Alex Edler devolve. Ballard was a productive NHLer before he arrived here. The power play is a mess. That's on the coach.
But a lot of the Canucks' problems aren't. In the final analysis, it won't make any difference but look at it this way.
If Vigneault goes, it really will be easy to determine the source of the problem.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Columnist Tony Gallagher was of the exact opposite opinion as his counterpart. Check out his column from Wednesday at
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