VANCOUVER — Lindy Ruff and Scott Arniel both wish to be a head coach in the National Hockey League next season but only one was talking Thursday, at least about the new job opening behind Vancouver’s bench.
By now, you've probably guessed that Arniel was the chatty one. The Canucks are in the market for a head coach after Wednesday's sacking of Alain Vigneault.
“Definitely I am interested,” said Arniel, who is already family as coach of the Canucks' AHL affiliate. “Obviously being part of the organization, I know for a fact I'll get a phone call.”
Ruff will likely get a phone call, too. When it comes to available coaches, none has his experience. He's logged 14 full campaigns with the Buffalo Sabres plus 17 games this year before getting the boot. He’s posted two 50-plus win seasons and another four at 40-plus. He was also a member of Canada's gold-medal winning team at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“My plans are to get back into it but, right now, I have no short-term plans,” the 53-year-old Ruff responded when asked if the Canuck position held any intrigue for him. “I don't really think it's fair to comment on that situation right now. I only saw yesterday that they let the staff go there. Personally, I think Alain has done a heck of a job but the last couple of playoff years have been disappointing.”
Arniel, 50, has had three separate stints with the Canuck organization, first as a minor-league assistant with the Manitoba Moose, then head coach of the Moose and, finally, head coach this past season with the Chicago Wolves. He is under contract for two more seasons as AHL coach.
He also had one unsuccessful stint as a head coach in the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets. In his only full season, 2010-11, the Jackets finished with 81 points and missed the playoffs. He lasted 41 games into the next campaign and was fired with the team sitting at a lowly 11-25-5.
“You know what?” said Arniel. “Columbus, for me, was an experience. Whether it's good or it's bad, you learn from the good and you learn from the bad. It gave me a chance to be a head coach in the NHL so, that part of it, I don't have to worry about going through the first-time things again.
“The last year and a half, I've learned an awful lot about the NHL,” he added. “I've made a conscious effort to really watch a lot of teams, whether I was on the road scouting them, or watching on TV. I watched coaches and I watched players, probably more so than I had ever done in the past. So whenever that next opportunity comes, I want to make sure that I'm ready and I've been doing everything possible.”
Arniel conceded that he has no NHL playoff resume as a head coach but noted neither did Paul MacLean when he was hired by the Ottawa Senators. Dan Bylsma won a Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh as a mid-season replacement and with zero NHL head coaching experience.
“Whether you have experience or not, it has an awful lot to do with your players and the team that's on the ice,” Arniel said. “Whether you've been to Stanley Cups, or won Stanley Cups, every year is a new challenge and that team in front of you is really going to determine how much success you're going to have.”
Arniel is certainly familiar with the current Canuck roster. He coached some of the players in the minors and has attended a number of Canucks training camps in his capacity as minor-league coach. Cory Schneider was his goalie in Manitoba for three seasons, including 2008-09 when the Moose reached the American League final.
“I think I have an idea what works and what would help the Canucks be better,” he said. “I knew this (coaching change) was kind of on the horizon a little bit so once management has their ducks in a row after Wednesday, I'm expecting we'll be able to sit down and talk and take it from there.”
Canuck GM Mike Gillis, appearing Thursday on the team's flagship radio station Team 1040, confirmed that Arniel would be a candidate to succeed Vigneault.
“Absolutely Scott will be considered,” Gillis said. “He's got great experience. He's had tremendous success at the minor-league level and it seems that coaches learn an awful lot going through a negative experience and getting fired. They get introspective and they learn what that can do better.”
Gillis also said he hoped to have an announcement next week on a new home for the Canucks' farm team. It's believed that will be Utica, N.Y.
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