Vigneault’s Franchise Mark In Context

With last night’s shutout road win over the Colorado Avalanche, Canucks head-coach Alain Vigneault moved into sole possession of the franchise’s all-time head-coaching wins mark. But what does Vigneault’s team record mean in the context of Canucks history, and where does he rank in the pantheon of the "best" all time Vancouver Canucks coaches?

One thing to keep in mind when discussing previous Canucks head-coaches, is that until this past decade, the franchise lacked any semblance of coaching stability. In the team’s first thirty years of existence (1970-2000) they had fifteen different coaches, and made seventeen coaching changes (Harry Neale and Pat Quinn each had two tours of duty). Which, means that until the most recent decade, the average term-expectancy of any particular Canucks head-coach was less than two seasons. Here are the Canucks all-time longest tenured head-coaches, sorted by the number of games-coached:

Coaches Years Coached # of Games Coached
Marc Crawford 1999-2006 529
Alain Vigneault 2006–present 425
Harry Neale 1978–82, 84-85, 407
Bob McCammon 1987–1991 294
Pat Quinn 1991–1994, 1996 280
Phil Maloney 1974–1977 232
Tom Watt 1985–1987 160
Hal Laycoe 1970–1972 156
Roger Neilson 1982–1984 133
Orland Kurtenbach 1977–1978 125
Rick Ley 1994–1996 124
Mike Keenan 1997–1999 108
Tom Renney 1996–1997 101
Vic Stasiuk 1972–1973 78
Bill McCreary 1973–1974 41
Bill LaForge* 1984 20

Not only did the franchise switch head-coaches more often than the Philadelphia Flyers change goalies, but they also racked up the losses at an impressive rate. Obviously a lack of coaching stability is par for the course for a perennial cellar dweller. It’s one of those "the chicken or the egg" scenarios.

The Canucks all-time regular season win-loss record is an embarrassing 1303-1432-391-40-33, which is good for a franchise winning percentage of.407. In fact, the Canucks have only two coaches in team history who can boast a winning percentage better than five-hundred: Pat Quinn and Alain Vigneault. Here’s every Canucks coach in team history sorted by winning percentage:

Coaches Wins Losses Ties Loser Point Games Winning%
Alain Vigneault 247 142 42 0.573
Pat Quinn 141 111 28 0.503
Marc Crawford 246 189 62 32 0.465
Phil Maloney* 95 105 32 0.409
Tom Renney 39 53 9 0.386
Roger Neilson 51 61 21 0.383
Rick Ley 47 50 27 0.379
Harry Neale 142 189 76 0.349
Bob McCammon 102 156 36 0.347
Mike Keenan 36 54 18 0.333
Tom Watt 52 87 21 0.325
Orland Kurtenbach* 36 62 27 0.288
Hal Laycoe 44 96 16 0.282
Vic Stasiuk 22 47 9 0.282
Bill McCreary 9 25 7 0.219
Bill LaForge* 4 14 2 0.200

Now I’m not one to over-emphasize the impact of coaching, after all, the coaches don’t play the games. Pat Quinn’s Canucks teams and Alain Vigneault’s current core group were/are far and away the most talented team’s that we’ve seen in Vancouver. The fact that these two coaches possess the best winning percentage is as much a reflection of the talent they’ve been lucky to have had on their rosters, as it is their level of skill as head coaches. 

Nonetheless, Vigneault occupies a lofty place in Canucks history, and his winning percentage is so far above that of the other Canucks coaches, that Pat Quinn would need a beanstalk to reach it. While Vigneault often takes unfair flack for losses, when you look at what he’s accomplished in his time with the Canucks, it’s very impressive. 

Finally, lets take a look at postseason success, since that’s what Vigneault gets criticized for the most (despite having a 6-4 record in playoff series all-time with the Canucks). 


Playoff Games

Playoff Wins Playoff Losses Postseason Win %
Roger Neilson 21 12 9 .571
Alain Vigneault 59 32 27 .542
Pat Quinn 61 31 30 .508
Marc Crawford 27 12 15 .444
Bob McCammon 7 3 4 .428
Rick Ley 11 4 7 .363
Harry Neale 14 3 11 .214
Phil Maloney* 7 1 6 .143
Tom Watt 3 0 3 .000

So Vigneault is second all-time in postseason win percentage behind only Roger Nielsen, whose numbers are somewhat skewed by the fact that he coached the Canucks in 38 fewer postseason games than Vigneault has.

Really, the only Vancouver coach who has had more postseason success than Vigneault is Frank Patrick, who coached the 1915 Vancouver Millionaires to the cities only ever Stanley Cup victory. Of course, Patrick’s team had nothing to do with the Canucks franchise, and also included a grand total of 9 players (a goalie and eight skaters) and he was one of them, but we’ll mention him here because of that awesome bowler hat (front row left).

Anyway you stack it, it’s pretty clear that Vigneault’s franchise wins mark is not smoke and mirrors. The "all time winningest" mark he set last night actually does reflect a larger reality – that in his time with the Vancouver Canucks, Alain Vigneault has established himself as the best the head-coach in franchise history. While that may say more about the sordid history of the Canuck franchise, and while some of Vigneault’s habits and line-combos may frustrate fans on occasion, it’s just not even close at this point.