WWYDW Summer Debates: Who is the best coach in Canucks history?

Photo credit:© Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
8 months ago
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Welcome back to WWYDW, the only hockey column on the internet that refuses to change.
Speaking of standing pat, last week, fans of the Vancouver Canucks sure stood by Pat when we asked them who they thought was the greatest GM in franchise history. Though there was some debate to be had, the result was a landslide victory for Pat Quinn.
It wasn’t the victory that caught us off-guard, it was the soundliness of the victory.
This week, we’re hoping for a bit more of a back-and-forth with what we hope is a more difficult question to answer.
The Canucks have hade 21 different head coaches in their 50+ years, ranging from Hal Laycoe to Rick Tocchet. Again, we already know who the worst was — Mike Keenan, easily — but naming the very best is a trickier endeavour.
At least, we think it is. Maybe it’ll be Quinn in a walk, again.
Either way, it’s up to you.
These are the Summer Debates, and this week we’re debating:

Who is the best coach in Vancouver Canucks history?

Make your case in the comment section.
As we mentioned, last week we asked:

Who is the best general manager in Vancouver Canucks history?

Your Quinn-heavy responses are below!
Not a sympathy vote, if anyone thinks it, but Pat Quinn.
Drafted Bure.
Trade Stojanov for Markus Naslund ( 1/3 of the WCE).
…Although he did draft Stojanov.
I just liked the “get your work boots on and grab your lunchpail and get to work” attitude he seemed to exude through the organization. Didn’t hurt he was a rather big, fiery Irishman.
Quinn brought respectability back to the organization, however, IMO Burke was the best GM this team has ever had.
Many will suggest Gillis, forgetting that he inherited a team ready to take the next step.
I would vote for Pat Quinn. He was the first GM to finally make the Canucks respectable, transforming them from a perennial joke into a team that came within a hair of winning a Stanley Cup in 1994. He mainly did it through trades, notably the Sundstrom trade that brought Kirk McLean and Greg Adams, the second-round pick for Jyrki Lumme, the Garth Butcher trade that brought Geoff Courtnall, Robert Dirk, and Cliff Ronning, Robert Kron for Murray Craven, the transaction that ultimately sent Nedved to St. Louis and Brett Hedican, Jeff Brown and Nathan Lafayette to Vancouver. And then there was the ultimate highway robbery: Alex Stojanov for Markus Naslund. Pat Quinn wasn’t as successful at drafting, and that may be what ultimately prevented a good Vancouver team from becoming a championship team. But he did pull off the Pavel Bure draft in 1989 with a sixth round pick, giving Vancouver its first real superstar. Not bad at all.
Honorable mention should go to Brian Burke, and to some degree Mike Gillis, whose moves together built the 2011 team that almost won the Cup. But Quinn is the guy.
I agree with early consensus — Pat Quinn. The franchise had almost 20 years of poor management and he brought credibility over the course of his tenure. He started with nothing and brought them within one game of winning the Cup. His trades were legendary, but he also built through the draft.
Mike Gillis shepherded the most successful terms in franchise history, but he inherited many of the pieces. He did make some shrewd moves, but the draft record was dismal.
Brian Burke could have won this hands down if he could have found a goalie to play with the West Coast Express Canucks. That team should had more success in the playoffs.
Those are my top-three. Don’t really think there are any other choices.
FV Fan:
Quinn hands down.
Yes, great moves but most of all he brought immediate respect to the Canucks in the league for the first time.
Hired Brian Burke, and the team developed a no-nonsense approach taking crap from no one.
Last, his trade with the Blues leading up to the ‘94 playoffs brought a host of core players for this team including Cliff Ronning, Geoff Courtnall, Robert Dirk, and Sergio Momesso. Adding speed and size that were so key in getting to the finals.
I recall seeing video of a practice with Quinn on the ice yelling at his team, convincing them they were the best team in that league and to start believing it.
Was very moving, even for the casual hockey fan.
Killer Marmot:
Brian Burke (1998-2004).
He dragged a bottom-dwelling team into respectability, and made some draft picks (Sedins, Kesler, Bieksa) and trades (Salo, Jovanovski) that would lay the foundation for future success. Drafting both the Sedins was one of the greatest pieces of engineering in NHL history.
(Winner of the author’s weekly award for eloquence)
Consensus seems to be Pat Quinn, and I will not differ from that. Quinn was able to make a lot of bold trades that really helped the team and built a powerhouse. This, from a team that perennially were in the running for the Smythe Division bottom playoff spot. Minus a Cinderella run in 1982, this was the first real glimmer of legitimate success that the franchise had seen in its 20 years or so of existence. Quinn built a team that was able to have a period of sustained success. The icing on the cake were the characters his teams had. These guys were tough, big, fast, and could score. Linden, Courtnall, Murzyn, Captain Kirk, Sergio, Gino, Pavel…what a legendary lineup!
Some consideration to Brian Burke, but honestly Burke’s personality landed him in a lot of trouble in the market, which detracts from his success as a GM. I would argue that Burke was the best at the draft table, but that is not the same as being the best GM. Without Burke there would be no Sedins, maybe just Sedin. No KB3, Edler, and other legends of the era; but when it comes right down to being the best GM, Burke couldn’t hold Quinn’s stogey.
Tim Noble:
Pat Quinn and it’s not close. Thanks go to him for making the franchise respectable, swinging some magical trades, and taking us down an exhilarating road to a hair’s breadth of the ’94 Stanley Cup against long odds. He even groomed a whole generation of league executives, including Brian Burke and George McPhee. Nobody deserves more respect than the Big Irishman.
Hands down no brainer. Pat Quinn.
Jim Benning and it’s not even close.
Pat Quinn. GM and coach. Was clever enough to steal Pavel Bure from all the other GMs. The 1994 Cup run was when I first fell in love with hockey and the Canucks. Quinn made a lot of smart trades that set up the Canucks future.
Credit to Brian Burke for landing the Sedin Twins in a legendary set of trades.
Credit to Mike Gillis for creating a Presidents’ Trophy team that was feared for many years in the league.
I think Patty Quinn would be #1, but just by a bit. I also thought Nonis did some good work and so did Brian Burke. I may have given Burke #1 if he didn’t rely on Cloutier so much and brought in an actual NHL goalie.
The Canucks are a mediocre franchise but these GMs made some noise.
Jean-Daniel Gagnon:
I’m going to go with Burke just because he brought us the Sedins!
Gino 3C:
In my opinion, it’s Pat Quinn by a large margin for a lot of the reasons already listed by fellow commenters. He pieced that ‘94 team together through drafting/trading/developing and they had an identity the city could get behind. If Burke/Nonis counted as one GM, I’d put them second. Gillis built a strong team but is maligned by his draft record and sacrificing the future of the team. This isn’t an excuse for Benning, but he inherited a barren prospect cupboard and an aging core. For every good move Benning made, he couldn’t help but make two or three that set the team back.
Craig Gowan:
Phil Maloney had a couple of good years in the ‘70s, but the only real candidates here are Pat Quinn, Brian Burke, and Mike Gillis, in my opinion. I think Pat Quinn was the best GM in Canucks’ history and it isn’t particularly close. For example, he acquired all of the players on the Canucks’ first two lines (probably the Canucks’ best ever): G. Courtnall-Ronning-Linden and Adams-Larionov-Bure. He acquired Sergio Momesso and Gino Odjick for toughness. He acquired Jyrki Lumme, Dana Murzyn, Dave Babych, Gerald Diduck, Brett Hedican, and Jeff Brown on D and Kirk McLean in goal. He acquired Naslund for peanuts. He acquired Mogilny.
It goes on and on. He converted a lousy team into a very good team in a management tour-de-force in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. He also hired good managerial talent under him, such as Brian Burke and George McPhee. Brian Burke made many good moves, the most prominent of which was drafting the Sedin twins, but never found a goalie and never build a team that could compete in the playoffs. Gills did a good job of acquiring support pieces to surround the elite talent inherited from Burke and Dave Nonis (Sedins, Kesler, Burrows, Luongo etc.) but didn’t acquire elite talent himself, drafted terribly, and signed numerus anchor contracts.
Hard to argue against Pat Quinn, but “stand Pat” at the deadlines hurt us and I will throw the argument out there for Mike Gillis. What always impressed me at the time and in hindsight was the fact that he questioned everything. GMs including Pat Quinn fell in love with players and made moves based on a lot of emotion. Peca for Mogilny, as an example. Who would you rather have in your lineup for the playoffs? Gillis came out and said “maybe the Sedins are not front-line players,” realized that he was wrong, and signed them. Same with AV. A GM that can realize he is wrong and pivot while eating crow because it was better for the team is very, very rare. Because of being able to admit he was wrong. Yes, I am forgetting some absurd things he did like putting the ‘C’ on Luongo, offering a crazy contract to Sundin, but even then you can not fault a GM for trying to make some bold moves and win. I liked what he did at trade deadlines to make the team better and how he put together a team around the Sedins and Luongo.
Gillis. He presided over the only era in Canucks history where other fan bases and teams hated the Canucks, because they knew the Canucks were the best team.
The NHL even hated the Canucks for finding loopholes in their CBA so much that they retroactively punished the Luongo contract.
Pat Quinn made me proud to be a Canuck fan. Other Canuck teams have (WCE and Sedin years) but only one GM did.
If results matter, how can it be anyone other than Gillis? Gillis oversaw the most successful five-year period in Canuck history. Vancouver won five division titles, two Presidents’ Trophies, made it to Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, and had a frickin’ “mind room.”
The internet has spoken.
Tony Verhaaf:
Gotta go with Pat Quinn. He managed to take a club with almost ZERO to offer and turned it into a real contender.
I would, however, give Brian Burke an honorable mention though. He did give us the Sedin twins.
Bud Poile, obviously, for claiming Dennis Kearns in the 1971 Intra-League Draft.
Great move!!
Neal Larter:
There is a reason Pat Quinn’s statue is in front of Rogers Arena.


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