Canucks didn’t have right stuff on the power play: ousted coach
Man-advantage specialist Newell Brown says too many left-handed shots hurt Vancouver when team went on the PP
Vancouver Canucks assistant coach Newell Brown talks to Canucks stars Daniel (left) and Henrik Sedin during an April 22, 2013 National Hockey League game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Arena. Brown, head coach Alain Vigneault and associate coach Rick Bowness were fired on Wednesday, May 22, 2013.
Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, NHLI via Getty Images files
VANCOUVER — Fired Vancouver Canucks assistant coach Newell Brown was far from the unhappiest person on the planet Thursday, a day after the axe fell upon him, fellow assistant Rick Bowness and head man Alain Vigneault.
Brown, 51, has been through it before, most recently in 2010 when the Anaheim Ducks bid him farewell.
“People act like it's the end of the world or something,” said Brown, who spent three seasons with the Canucks organization. “Of course, as coaches, we'd like to continue on and complete the mission but when you miss the playoffs, or have high expectations and you don't measure up, something is going to happen. From a coaching standpoint, it's kind of a norm in the business, unfortunately.
“So when these things come up, we get excited about new opportunities. We love coaching hockey and we just want to get back in and start coaching again somewhere else as soon as possible.”
Brown, whose primary responsibility was the power play, enjoyed great success his first season with the team in 2010-11. The power play was No. 1 in the NHL and so were the Canucks, who won the first of two straight Presidents’ Trophies. In 2011-12, the power play slipped to fourth and then plummeted to 22nd this past season. At one point, it went 11 straight games without producing a single goal.
Brown knew things weren't right when he had too many left shots.
“You have to look at the pieces of the puzzle that are necessary and we had great chemistry that first year,” he explained. “Everything gelled. This year, we were forced through injury and whatnot and changes in personnel to try and build a new group.
“When you're trying to run a power play with five left shots, which we were forced to do a lot this year, you're really swimming upstream. Seventy-seven per cent of the power-play goals are scored with at least two right shots, so that tells you a lot right there. Not to say there are exceptions to the rule, but when you have five left shots, or even four, your chances of scoring are diminished.
“Teams are so fast to get into the shot lanes these days,” Brown continued, “that if you can't take one-timers, if you aren't in position to take one-touch passes and move the puck quickly to shooters and shoot off the pass, you're at a big disadvantage. That was something we were dealing with this year.”
During the 2010-11 campaign, Brown had righties Sami Salo, Mikael Samuelsson and a healthy Ryan Kesler plus heavy-shooting lefty Christian Ehrhoff. Salo, Samuelsson and Ehrhoff were not around this season and Kesler was hurt for most of it.
“You know, it's funny,” Brown said. “When Ryan Kesler was in the lineup, our power play was at 22 per cent. I'm sure if we would have stayed healthy, we would have finished in the top 10. That's what makes these types of seasons a real challenge. So there are lots of things we can look at but the bottom line, and you hear it repeatedly, is it's a results-oriented business. That's why we're in the situation we're in right now.”
Brown insisted he'll take nothing but good memories with him as he moves to his next stop on the coaching carousel. At the NHL level, he's already worked for Chicago, Columbus and Anaheim.
“I just feel really fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach in a fantastic city like Vancouver with great hockey fans and to have worked with the people I got to know,” he concluded. “It's a great business because everywhere you go, you have a chance to meet quality people. We've made a lot of friendships here and learned a tremendous amount that we can bring to the next opportunity.”
Bowness, meanwhile, was busy Thursday fielding calls from Halifax, his off-season home, and probably making a few, too. He has every intention of seeking a position in the league next season.
“I still love coaching,” said the 58-year-old. “I still love the day-to-day grind and I still love dealing with the players. So absolutely I want to coach again. I'll be making some calls. You don't sit back in this business. There are a lot of good hockey people out of work who are looking for work. So I'll be pro-active.”
Bowness cited 2010-11 as the obvious highlight of his seven seasons in Vancouver — “oh, yeah, for sure” — but was quick to note that off-ice friendships made were equally important to him.
“We met a lot of great people and it was a great organization to work in,” he said. “I just loved the passionate following of the city and the province for the team. Those things were just as important as the on-ice success. The scrutiny? That's a healthy pressure on everyone. I've been in Phoenix where you're dying for someone to notice your team and the success, or non-success, that you're having. So I'd much prefer what we had in Vancouver, for sure.
“I always thought that was a big thing.”
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