VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks have fired head coach Alain Vigneault, as well as his assistants Rick Bowness and Newell Brown, after seven seasons behind the bench of the NHL team.
The team announced the firing, nearly two hours after multiple social media reports indicated the axe had fallen on the trio.
“We have made the very difficult decision to relieve Alain Vigneault, Rick Bowness and Newell Brown of their coaching duties today,” Canucks president and general manager Mike Gillis said in a statement issued by the team. “Alain, Rick and Newell worked tirelessly to lead this team to great on-ice success. I am personally grateful to each of them and their families for their commitment to the Canucks and the city of Vancouver and wish them continued success in future.”
The most successful coach in franchise history, Vigneault won six Northwest Division titles, two Presidents Trophies, reached one Stanley Cup final and was named NHL coach of the year in 2007.
The Twitter account @strombone1, purported to be star Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, tweeted the following: “Since our 1st year when we arrived together, AV would always tell me that he'd be gone before I would. I guess he was right. Very ironic ….”
Thus ends the speculation that began almost the moment the Canucks were swept May 7 by the San Jose Sharks in the first round of playoffs.
Vigneault's departure was widely expected after a second straight quick exit from the Stanley Cup tournament. In Vigneault's last 11 playoff games, the team went 1-10.
Gillis hinted earlier that Vigneault was on thin ice during his season-ending session with reporters May 9.
“Alain is a very good hockey coach,” Gillis stated at the time. “We've had an incredible record here the last five years. Like everybody on the organization, he'll be evaluated like I'll be evaluated and decisions will be made when we present a plan to the ownership that they'll be complicit with. They may want to make changes to the plan I have. I'm not sure yet.
“We're going to treat people fairly, like we always do, and honourably. That's not going to end because we lost four hockey games.”
The 52-year-old Vigneault leaves as the most successful coach in franchise history. In seven seasons, he won six Northwest Division titles, two Presidents Trophies, reached one Stanley Cup final and was named NHL coach of the year in 2007.
His regular-season record was 313-170-57 for an outstanding winning percentage of .632 but it was not nearly the same in playoffs, where the Canucks were 33-35 under his guidance, winning six series and losing six
Vigneault established Canuck records for most games coached, both during the regular season and playoffs, and most wins, both regular season and playoffs. At various times during his tenure, the Canucks led the league in power play, penalty killing, goals for, goals against and faceoff win percentage.
Individually, his players captured two scoring titles (Henrik and Daniel Sedin), a Hart Trophy (Henrik), a Lindsay Award (Daniel), a Selke Trophy (Ryan Kesler) and the Jennings Trophy (Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider).
Henrik Sedin and Kevin Bieksa, two senior players on the team and part of the leadership group, both expressed support for Vigneault during their May 9 exit interviews, although they seemed to sense the coach might not be back.
“AV has been nothing but great for this team,” Henrik said. “So if they want to go in a different direction, that's up to them. I think our core players have really grown up here and have become better as the years went on. AV has helped us grow as players and, I think, as leaders as well. So I have nothing but good things to say. He's had our attention from Day 1 until the last game. That's never been a problem. He's been nothing but good to us.”
Added Bieksa, who also played half a season in the minors (2005-06) for Vigneault: “I've had Alain for eight years now and the core group has been with Alain for a long time. He's put his heart and soul into the team and we've had a lot of success together. But it's not my decision at all. Obviously you want to keep what you have together as long as you can. But we've made two first-round exits in a row so we'll just have to kind of wait to see what's going to happen.”
Now they know.
More to come …
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