10 Head Coaches the Vancouver Should Probably Consider (Or Not, Do What You Want)

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by Kolby Solinsky

Editor, White Cover Magazine

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He may have been on his way out since the first faceoff between the Canucks and Sharks only a few weeks ago, but Alain Vigneault leaves a large wake. In seven seasons with the Canucks, all he did was become the winningest coach in franchise history and grab two Presidents’ Trophies, a Jack Adams Award, and a ticket to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

It was Vancouver’s inability to win that Cup – and then win only one playoff game in two years since then – that spelled the code for his dismissal, but that doesn’t mean Vigneault’s firing was an easy or obvious one.

Now, it’s general manager Mike Gillis who wears the dunce hat. If the Canucks can’t win at least one playoff series in 2014 – which isn’t as easy at it looks – he’ll be thrown under the bus at the next stop.

So, the Canucks have to find a new head coach. They’ll turn toward a consortium of ex-bosses and fresh new faces. Some have won Stanley Cups, some have been around for a long time (even too long), and others are AHL sprites looking for their first kick in at the big league can.

There is no rhyme or rhythm to this thing. Since 2009, two teams have won Stanley Cups with coaches they picked up mid-season (Dan Bylsma in Pittsburgh and Darryl Sutter in Los Angeles). Before that, only one ever.

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Lindy Ruff

Fired after 16 years as the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres, Ruff enters this offseason as the Andy Reid of the NHL – a longtime coach with one team, respected by all, but he’s never won a championship.

Ruff joined the Sabres in 1997, and his best years were early. That culminated in a six-game loss in the 1999 Stanley Cup Final against Dallas, an ending known more for its controversy than anything else.

Since then, Ruff has had some success with the Sabres (they went to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2006 and 2007, but lost both times), but the team has never been as good as it was when Dominik Hasek was between the pipes. (Hasek left Buffalo for Detroit after the 2001 season.)

Ruff will be the most talked-about replacement for Vigneault – because he’s the highest profile name available – but the Canucks will have to decide whether Ruff is their coach or just a great one.

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Dallas Eakins

When you say “fresh”, Eakins is the guy. His Toronto Marlies have been a farm phenomenon for their big league club, the Maple Leafs, and Eakins seems able to get more out of younger players than anyone else who jumps to mind.

The Canucks have had good enough players for some time now. They need a motivator, and they need someone who cares about winning a Cup as much as they players say they do.

Eakins is that guy.

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John Tortorella

Okay, so his Rangers are still in the playoffs, but that door is closing awfully fast and Torts is much a sure-thing to be fired as Vigneault was.

He’s loud-mouthed and outspoken, but don’t forget that Tortorella won a Stanley Cup in 2004 with Tampa Bay, and with a team he was able to squeeze everything from. Imagine the Sedin Twins and Ryan Kesler under a drill sergeant. Imagine Alex Burrows and Max Lapierre on a team coach by Torts. Imagine just how crazy the goalie situation would get with a coach that’s even crazier.

But, again… he’s won a Stanley Cup, and that’s more than anyone else available can claim, including Alain Vigneault.

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Scott Arniel

His name should be included because he’s the current coach of Vancouver’s farm team, the Chicago Wolves, and he was the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets one time not so long ago.

But, really, Arniel would be a loyalty pick. His selection would come with a very lengthy and defensive explanation from Mike Gillis, and the general manager just can’t afford more questions right now.

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Dave Tippett

The defensive wunderkind is still with the Phoenix Coyotes, but talks of an extension or negotiation have slowed and some are saying he could be on the free agent market quite soon.

If he can bring Shane Doan with him, he’s probably worth the hire.

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Paul Maurice

Maurice has worked his way through a couple high-profile positions, not including his occasional appearances as a panel star on TSN. Maurice took the 2002 Carolina Hurricanes to a surprise Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings (they lost in five games) and then tried and failed to light any kind of a fire under the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Don’t let that history bum you out, though. Maurice is a good coach and one who knows what he’s doing. It just depends whether he’s available or whether anyone knows it.

Maurice most recently coached in Russia, with KHL club Metallurg Magnitogorsk.

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Mark Reeds

No idea who this guy is, but the dudes at NBC’s ProHockeyTalk included him, so I figured he was worth the attention. Read more about him at the link in this paragraph…

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Guy Boucher

What ever happened to this guy? He took Tampa Bay to Game 7 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals – where they would have faced the Vancouver Canucks – and now he’s nowhere to be found.

Truth is, the Lightning have only made the playoffs in Steven Stamkos’s career, and they’ve had both Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier for all those years. If Boucher could temporarily fix that rabbit hole, he’ll no doubt have something to say (or do) about the Vancouver Canucks.

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Marc Crawford

Cue the eye roll, right?

Well, nothing’s as clear as a second chance, and Crawford’s tenure with the Canucks was no joke, even if it ended with an awful and legendary slide out of the playoffs in 2006.

He has also won a Stanley Cup (Colorado in 1996), a feat that’s getting rarer and rarer as more coaches are tipped overboard every year.

Then again, Crawford’s wallet might want to invite any memories of this

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Trevor Linden

Why the Hell not, right?

Linden may be spending more time at Club 16 right now than he is on the ice or near ice (I have no inside information of his personal schedule), but he’s the greatest “Canuck” of all-time and he knows this group. He’d certainly be welcomed.

Then again, what more does he have left to conquer? Linden taking a head coaching gig right now would be like when John F. Kennedy Jr. started that magazine in the 90’s – at what point to you just turned your hands up and say, “Screw success. I was born successful”?

Linden is not actually being talked about as a possible replacement for AV, and he probably wouldn’t want to ruin the reputation he already has in Vancouver, and a head coaching gig with no prior experience is certainly an easy way to do that.