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|
|Harry Neale||1978–82, 84-85,||407|
|Pat Quinn||1991–1994, 1996||280|
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%|
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 Wins||Playoff Losses||Postseason Win %|
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.