VANCOUVER — Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis is in no rush to name a replacement for fired coach Alain Vigneault.
“I don’t have a timeframe,” said Gillis during a news conference Wednesday after Vigneault’s dismissal was confirmed. “We just are focused on getting the right person, moving ahead and executing a plan that we have that is going to get us back to the level that we expect.”
Despite guiding the team to many unprecedented achievements, Vigneault paid the price for his NHL team’s early exit from the playoffs the past two seasons.
“I am proud of many of the things we accomplished as a group these past seven seasons in Vancouver and only wish we were able to win the Canucks’ first Stanley Cup,” said Vigneault in a statement. “I am a career coach, and it is what I love to do. I hope to coach again in this league and will always have good memories of my time and the fans in Vancouver.”
The club also fired assistants Rick Bowness and Newell Brown as the expected fallout from the Canucks’ first-round sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks finally came to pass.
Gillis said he was responsible for the dismissals, and that the ownership group, headed by Francesco Aquilini, did not pressure him to make the moves. The GM said he wants a coach who emphasizes the upbeat, offensive style of play — like Vigneault did. But it’s clear that Vigneault will be extremely hard to replace.
The Canucks’ all-time leader in coaching wins — he led the club to six Northwest Division titles, two Presidents’ Trophy titles and an appearance in the 2011 Stanley Cup final. But Vancouver was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in the last two seasons despite having home-ice advantage, including the four-game loss to the Sharks. It was the first time in 12 years that the Canucks were swept in the post-season.
“We’re in a results-oriented business and if you look at the last two playoffs we’ve been in, we were the higher-seeded team but lost the first two games at home,” said Gillis.
“We lost consecutive games in the last two playoff years, and there comes a point in time where the message has to change and we have to be better. And we simply didn’t get the result we expected.”
Vigneault leaves with a 313-170-57 regular-season record over seven seasons in Vancouver, but a 33-32 record in the playoffs.
It’s a bitter end to a largely positive tenure in Vancouver for Vigneault, who skillfully guided his team through the demands of this year’s lockout-shortened season.