Alain Vigneault was a polarizing figure during his time in Vancouver. And I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t question some of his decisions over the years, but there’s absolutely no question that he’s the best coach this underachieving franchise has ever had.
After Vigneault was hired, the Canucks went from not qualifying for the playoffs the season before to winning the Northwest Division (which admittedly was shit the last three seasons, but was a fucking shark tank during his first three here) in six of his seven years behind the bench. He was a three time Jack Adams finalist, winning the award for coach of the year in 2007. And he led the team pictured above to one win from the Stanley Cup.
But most importantly, he presided over teams that made it fun to be a Canucks fan again.
After 94-95, it was a shitty time to cheer on this franchise. Pavel Bure left town, the Mogilny experiment flopped, a supremely stupid management misstep cost them the chance to sign Gretzky, Linden gave up his captaincy to Messier before getting traded away, Keenan came in, and somewhere in there were four, sad playoff-less seasons (which might as well have been five, because they got stomped by the Avs in 2001). Even the West Coast Express years, while entertaining, always felt like the team was on the outside looking in.
Under Vigneault, this team was a contender. A perennial one.
The last two playoffs were undeniable flops and, one day (like, statistically speaking, it’s gotta happen one day), the Canucks will finally win a Cup, which will obviously overshadow his tenure. But, in spite of all the ups and downs, for most of the last seven years, for the first time I can remember, it’s felt like every October, there was something to look forward to: it really could be “our” year.
That might not sound like a whole lot, but when you cheer for a franchise that’s spent four decades vainly chasing the hardest trophy in sports to win, it’s not such a bad time when that feeling that hope springs eternal isn’t so crazy, especially when it was for so long.