There haven’t been a lot of good days over at Rogers Arena lately.
The best recently was the day after Alain Vigneault was fired.
With closure came a sense of opportunity — and relief — as the Canucks management started moving past The Breakup with some excitement.
You never would have guessed it the day Vigneault was relieved of his duties. With the mood Vancouver GM Mike Gillis was in during his press conference, he looked closer to an end than any new beginning. That was not Gillis at his best. In hindsight, he probably should have kept his Q and A to 10 minutes, instead of 25.
His already challenging day was soured the minute his phone started blowing up with messages early on during a meeting with the Aquilinis.
Word was already out this was going to be the day Vigneault was fired. The general manager hadn’t even finished the paperwork. He had to understand then he had been shown up.
There weren’t hundreds of people who knew the final meeting was taking place. The news broke in the Montreal, where Vigneault once was a head coach. If you’re into connecting dots, this one isn’t a Brian Trainer.
Of course, it should have ended better.
But what’s important now is it’s over, and with that, the Canucks have countless possibilities.
It starts with coaching, but doesn’t end there.
Two of the hot candidates underscore a couple of different avenues the Canucks can take. On one side is Dallas Eakins, the promising AHL head who has been lathered in praise by the young Toronto Maple Leafs prospects he coached, some of whom were impactful in that first-round series with the Boston Bruins.
On the other is John Stevens, a failed head coach in Philadelphia, but also someone who won a Calder Cup as a head coach and a Stanley Cup as an assistant with the L.A. Kings.
Both share a quality that will be extremely important during this process. They have reputations for being great communicators.
The reactions to Vigneault being fired from players came off as cold and detached, because that was the tone of the relationships they had.
This isn’t to say Vigneault’s approach can’t work. And you can make the argument it did.
But if you’re going to change direction — and the Canucks are in desperate need of that — this search has to be more than about what system they’re going to play. They have to find someone who can get through to some of the players.
This two who should come immediately to mind are Zack Kassian and Alex Edler. If Edler isn’t traded, and the Canucks aren’t planning to do that, these two just may be the most important on the team, because of all the returning players, they have the most to gain.
Each has the talent to play exponentially better than what they put out this past season. But you watch their inconsistency and mental lapses enough and you wonder if they have the had space for it.
That’s what makes Stevens such an intriguing candidate. When he arrived in L.A., people were saying things about Doughty similar to what you’ve heard about Edler, and even Kassian. His commitment was questioned, and so was his roller-coaster play.
Just one example was what happened before the gold-medal showdown at the 2010 Olympics. Doughty missed both team buses and was nearly late for the game. There were all sorts of obvious speculation about why he slept in.
Stevens and Doughty infamously clashed early on when they began their relationship in L.A., but over time they developed a terrific and close working relationship after Doughty realized Stevens was helping him, not picking on him.
The tough love has helped make Doughty a much better all-around defencemen, less prone to the wild highs and lows which once marred his game.
Stevens oversees the Kings defence, and it’s a blueline which has been the NHL’s most fundamentally sound the past two post-seasons.
For all the concern about the Canucks’ scoring, it often gets lost that the Vigneault era is as much about the meltdown games and firedrills as it is about the lack of goal scoring.
The idea of Edler working with Stevens has to be a captivating one for the Rogers Arena brain trust.
Many may also be thinking now about Keith Ballard, but he just makes too much money for the Canucks to gamble on again. They have to move on.
There are those, including me, who think trading Edler is a great concept the Canucks have to explore. But it’s not their only option if you believe a new coach could do wonders for him.
This idea the Canucks are paralyzed by the no-trade clauses they’ve given to nine players is nonsense.
Players with no-trade clauses are dealt all the time. Before this past trade deadline, Jarome Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester, Brenden Morrow, and Ryane Clowe all moved, and they all had to waive no-trade clauses.
The Canucks have lots of possibilities here. Despite opinions in some corners of the the media, the clouds have lifted over this team. They haven’t crashed down on it.
Not yet, anyway.
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