At this weekend’s NHL Draft, we were able to catch up briefly with Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault. We didn’t have the time for a full-length interview but we got a few thoughts from him on zone starts, along with two young players in the Canucks’ system in Zack Kassian and Nicklas Jensen. Questions and answers are edited for grammar.
Cam Charron: You deploy your players so much differently than any other coach in the league. How involved do you get in the player selection process?
Alain Vigneault: Not at all. This is all the amateurs [scouts]. I don’t see any of the games as far as the potential players that come to our organization so we’ve got a great amateur scouting staff that do a great job and it’s all up to them.
CC: When you get a guy into your line up like Manny Malhotra, do you know from the pro scouting staff that he’s a guy that can start, say, 90% of his shifts in the defensive zone?
AV: Well, the guys that are pro obviously I know a little bit more and I feel certain guys are better suited for different situations. I like my offensive players to, if I can, start them in the offensive zone and my more defence-oriented guys I’d start in the defensive zone. I just feel it gives us a better chance in such a competitive league.
CC: Is that your own individual belief? Because in the organization, it seemed that Scott Arniel and Claude Noel were doing the same things when they got their NHL jobs.
AV: I think each guy has his own mindset and really, what his team can do the best. And then you just got to put the players in situations where they can succeed if that’s the case guys have confidence and they go out and they do their jobs.
CC: What’s your opinion on big-body guys from the OHL because the team is seeming to collect a whole bunch of them?
AV: As far as the kids you’re talking about right now? Yeah, I haven’t seen any of them, but our guys this year felt they were the best guys to help the Canucks become a Stanley Cup team and I’ve got full confidence and full trust in them.
CC: Well you’ve seen Nicklas Jensen and Zack Kassian.
AV: I have, yeah. In that case, those guys are – in my mind – going to be great players in this league. I’m confident that with a lot of work on their part with us, we’ll get them to that next level.
CC: Where do you see Kassian in the lineup next season?
AV: I think he’s got a legitimate chance of becoming a top-six forward. So where exactly is he going to fit in on which line I’m not quite sure but I’ve been hearing that he’s working real hard and that’s why we go to training camp.
CC: Last one, Jensen’s kind of at odds with his OHL club, it’s either the NHL or Sweden for him, do you see him coming up?
AV: You know I heard that from through Mike [Gillis] and Laurence [Gilman] that he was thinking of other avenues. I really like that kid. This is my seventh year, he’s probably one of the best players that I’ve seen come through our organization. I loved his training camp last year, I heard when he went to Chicago and I’m talking to Mac-T [former Wolves coach Craig MacTavish] he had a real good stint there and I’m really looking forward to see what he can do with our team next year.