Team of Rivals: Canucks Coaching Search Edition

Photoshop courtesy @MHenderson95 and @HarrisonMooney

We all know the story. The Canucks were eliminated from the postseason six weeks ago, and took sixteen days to fire Alain Vigneault (who has subsequently been hired by Glen Sather and the New York Rangers). In the four weeks since Vigneault’s firing the Canucks have interviewed no fewer than seven potential bench bosses that we know about, including:

While the Canucks have appeared indecisive at times during this process, it really does make good sense for the organization to cast a wide net in their search. First of all, the head hunting excercise can be – and probably has been – used as a fact finding tool. Secondly, it’s always possible that additional coaches come on the market (like Tortorella did, like Bylsma didn’t, and like Dave Tippett might). Thirdly, the team has three vacant positions on their coaching staff. Maybe it makes sense to build your coaching staff along the lines of Lincoln’s "Team of Rivals" (as outlined by Dorris Kearns Goodwin).

Read past the jump.

"Of all I have said in commendation of your ability and fidelity, I have nothing to unsay. And yet you and I have reached a point of mutual embarrassment in our official relation, which it seems cannot be overcome or longer sustained." – Abraham Lincoln to to Salmon Chase upon the latter’s resignation.

Honestly, I was flipping through Team of Rivals the other day when I came upon that quote. I feel like it could be attributed as credibly to Abraham Lincoln, or to Mike Gillis upon the firing of Alain Vigneault.

That’s the tenuous connection which forms the impetus for this post, but it got me thinking along the lines of how Vancouver’s coaching search intersects with popular perception. In an excellent article on the prospect of a Vancouver Canucks/New York Rangers offseason exchange of head cooaches, Jason Botchford made a salient point over the weekend about the tricky optics that Mike Gillis and the team face in their search:

…The one thing Gillis is never going to accomplish with his coaching hire is winning over public opinion.

John Stevens will be framed as too underwhelming. John Tortorella, too overwhelming. Dave Tippett, too defensive. Glen Gulutzan, too WTF? It goes down steeply from there among the dozen candidates.

One way to combat the inevitable firestorm of criticism might be to select a handful of smart, experienced hockey men, and challenge them to work together on the Canucks coaching staff next season. And before you throw up your hands in exasperation and tell me that perception doesn’t matter to the Canucks when it comes to picking a new bench boss, check out this nugget from Elliotte Friedman’s thirty thoughts column today:

Former Rangers head coach John Tortorella is going to Vancouver this week for a second interview. Information about his first one is not exactly flowing across the atmosphere, but it sounds like a lot of time was spent discussing media interaction. The Canucks don’t want daily craziness and Tortorella apparently understands he will have to be different. Vancouver is the hardest English market in the NHL. There is no doubt the man can coach, but Gillis’ toughest decision may be whether or not he truly believes Tortorella can handle it.

Friedman also drops that another candidate, believed to be John Stevens, will have a second interview at some point this week.

If the Canucks do hire John Tortorella, concerns about whether or not his brusque style might alienate a veteran group of players will surface immediately. There will also be questions about his ability to interact in a more professional manner with the press, and the public than he managed in New York. As it turns out, the Canucks appear to be more conscious of their brand than a Jimmy Dolan owned club (a high bar to limbo under, surely).

On both fronts, saddling Tortorella with another veteran coach could prove beneficial. A veteran assistant could serve as a buffer to help insulate Tortorella from the press, and also to act as a check on Tortorella’s Red Foreman teaching style. Tortorella is a damn fine hockey coach, but perhaps his bad cop act would go down easier if he was given a good cop foil.

With Tortorella and a mystery candidate set to interview again this week, it seems likely that Mike Gillis’s Tolstoy length candidates list is beginning to get whittled down. At this point in the process, many observers expect a decision on a new head coach for the Canucks sooner rather than later. Regardless of whether it’s John Tortorella, or John Stevens, or someone else who succeeds Alain Vigneault, I wonder if he’ll be given veteran assistants (veteran assistance?). Frankly, I suspect he will.

As for my take? Well seeing as how no one seems to want the Dallas job, I figure the Canucks can afford to wait a bit longer. Which is worth doing if only to see how Dave Tippett’s situation unfolds…