On Wednesday night, during the Coaches Corner segment in the first intermission of CBC’s broadcast of Pittsburgh’s dismantling of the Ottawa Senaotrs, the always colourful and confusing Don Cherry addressed Alain Vigneault’s recent dismissal. Needless to say, Grapes’s assessment of the playoff performances of the Sedin twins and the management skills of Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis wasn’t altogether charitable.
We’ve embedded the video above for your viewing pleasure, or you can watch it over at the CBC’s website. Alternatively, you can click past the jump where we’ve transcribed Cherry’s comments and also parsed his arguments because that’s how we do.
Here are Don Cherry’s comments on the firing of Alain Vigneault, Newell Brown and Rick Bowness, which I’ve transcribed verbatim:
"Now let me tell you about this: three good guys thrown under the bus. Uh… Neville Brown, isn’t it? (Ron MacLean interjection: "Newell") Newell Brown, Rick Bowness and Vigneault – I just learned how to do his (Vigneault’s) name, and he gets fired!
Think about this folks, these guys get fired, let’s lay the cards on the table – what they’ve done over the years – Sedin twins, and I hate to say it, but the Sedin twins in the seven games they played they got two goals they were minus. So far in the playoffs this year: no goals, they were minus-12.
He is the guy who kept them around, he’s the guy – the General Manager – is the guy who had the controversy with the goaltenders and got through it… and three good guys go down the drain for him.
As far as I’m concerned the General Manager threw three good guys down the drain. His fault all the way."
Okay so there’s a good deal for us to unpack here. Let’s start with the Sedin twins, I suppose, who Mike GIllis made the critical mistake of keeping around following the 2010-11 Stanley Cup Final. Since that series, Henrik and Daniel Sedin have combined to play 249 games, racking up 233 points and 67 goals in the regular season. In the postseason they’ve played 15 games compiling 13 points and two goals. The twins also just turned in their most impressive two-way campaign this past season.
In the San Jose Sharks series the twins combined for zero playoff goals, that’s true, but Henrik Sedin had an even rating and Daniel Sedin was only a -2, so I’m not really sure where Don Cherry gets his dramatic minus twelve number…
Anyway the performance of the Sedin twins, and Mike Gillis’ decision to keep them – surely the easiest decision he’s ever made – doesn’t really seem to be "the problem" in Vancouver the past couple of years…
As for the "seven games they played" where the twins "got two goals" and "were minus," I presume that Cherry is referring to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Certainly the inability of the Sedins to produce offensively in that series, and on the power-play in particular, wasn’t the finest moment of their illustrious careers. But check out the head-to-head scoring chance data from that series, because they pretty much crushed the David Krejci line and the Zdeno Chara pairing in terms of generating quality looks. They just couldn’t beat Tim Thomas…
As for the point about Mike Gillis being at fault for making a mess of the goaltending situation, yeah, Don Cherry nails that one. That’s definitely on Mike Gillis. And so is a sizable chunk of the team’s playoff failure the past two seasons.
Still the coaching staff made some pretty baffling choices in the playoffs. Like splitting up Bieksa and Hamhuis (one of the best defensive pairings in the league the past few years). Or making Hamhuis and Garrison the team’s second pairing (just why?). Or when they played Alex Burrows on the first power-play unit (about that…), then started Cory Schneider in game three, and also got a bit too cute in trying out different combinations of players together over the last ten games of the regular season…
Ultimately Vancouver probably didn’t have the horses to win a Stanley Cup this past season, which is on Mike Gillis. But they certainly had the personnel to make their first round series against the San Jose Sharks competitive. That the team underachieved to the extent that they were swept – that’s on Alain Vigneault.