Alain Vigneault has been the Vancouver Canucks’ bench boss for six seasons.
In six years, he’s reached heights that, truthfully, no head coach in Canucks’ history had reached before. He’s won more games. He’s had the most playoff success. He’s scored two Presidents’ trophies in a row – when no other Canucks coach had ever secured one. The list of Canucks coaches is, in essence, a list highlighting mediocrity.
Vigneault jumps out from the list. He’s not a mediocre coach. He’s been voted the best in the game once, and was a runner-up two other times.
But in light of the Canucks’ shocking first-round playoff exit, and the foreboding sense that something’s up with Vigneault, we thought we should make a couple of arguments.
Province Sports’ Gord McIntyre argues that Vigneault should stay in Vancouver.
McIntyre’s colleague, Ben Kuzma, argues that Vigneault needs to go.
He was still eligible to play junior hockey this season, and - including Team Canada - the Canucks became the sixth team Zack Kassian has suited up for since the 2011 world junior championship. Province Sports' Gord McIntyre sat down with the 21-year-old power forward a few days ago.
McIntyre: I'm curious, just how nervous you were when that penalty shot was called? (Twenty-six seconds into his second game with Vancouver, vs. Dallas, on March 3) It was so early in the game.
Kassian: So nervous. The guys on the bench were telling me it's just another hockey play, but it was my third home game and to get a penalty shot on your first shift is definitely out of the ordinary. That doesn't happen every day in hockey. With the new surroundings, all the fans, it was nerve-racking.
M: That's your go-to move, I understand [a deke to his backhand, which he muffed].
K: I don't know. After I...
From being unable to crack the lineup with an 11th-place team, to quarterbacking the power play on a Presidents Trophy contender, it's been a strange trip for Marc-Andre Gragnani.
"It's funny how things can work out," Alain Vigneault said of his experiment with Gragnani alongside Alex Edler on the Canucks' No. 1 power-play defence pairing.
"In certain places a player can play in an organization and have a tough time getting in the lineup.
"Or he can be on the ice for 19 or 20 minutes a game, then come to another organization and have a tough time even get-ting into the lineup."
So that's it, Gragnani is the Bizarro World Keith Ballard.
"In [Gragnani's] case, our scouts felt, with us losing Christian [Ehrhoff, to Buffalo as a free agent] that this young man has offensive spark to know when to jump into the play.
"He's a very young player, we'll give him some time here to see exactly what we've got."
NASHVILLE - Here's how good Chris Tanev has been in his latest stint with the Canucks: You barely notice him out there.
That's because the 6-foot-2 22-year-old is usually so poised and usually makes the right decision, he rarely stands out.
"Yeah, and that's a great thing to say about a young defence-man," Kevin Bieksa said. "He goes out there and the coaches have confidence in him against pretty much every line out there.
"We're comfortable with him and it seems like nothing fazes him."
Bieksa famously said last sea-son Tanev should have a smoke dangling from his lips, so cool is his demeanour on the ice.
He played 29 regular-season games with the Canucks last season, then five more in the playoffs.
This season, with Keith Bal-lard out with a concussion, he's bumped Andrew Alberts to the healthy scratch list beside Alex Sulzer, pairing with Aaron Rome. Playing with Rome, it must be said, is more of a challenge than it...
However they do things in Florida, it isn't like they do things in Canuckland.
David Booth is still in the pro-cess of discovering that.
Booth has a dozen games as a Canuck under his belt now and there hasn't been a lot of progress, even though his numbers are better than the wet noodles he put up in six games with the Panthers this season.
Still, as a Canuck he's scoring at a pace that would give him 13 or 14 goals over an 82-game sea-son.
That might be fine for Jannik Hansen; it would be lights-out for Dale Weise. But for Booth that would mean the Aquilinis were dishing out $310,975.60 per goal.
Nice money if you can earn (or not earn) it.
"Every day when I come to the rink, I'm just working on things to make me better," Booth said. "It's a process.
"It's easy to get frustrated, but you can't worry about the externals. It's something I have to...
McINTYRE: Tell me about your first NHL game, last December against the Flyers. You had a goal that didn't count and you got in a fight with Daniel Carcillo, didn't you?
WEISE: Yep. It was a real whirlwind for me. We [Connecticut Whale] had a morning skate and the coach asked me to hang around, which I thought was a little weird - normally when he wants to see you, it's not good. He brought me into his office and said I was getting called up. I flew to Philly, it was an 11 a.m. game the next day, a Saturday, I didn't have a lot of time to think about it, just hopped in and played pretty well. I hit a post on a partial break, scored one that should have counted as a goal, then had the fight with Carcillo.
McINTYRE: Why wasn't the goal allowed?
WEISE: They said I kicked it in. I mean, on one...
Look up his career stats, 15 goals in 107 NHL games entering this season, and you might think 'Hmmph, not much of a player.'
Raffi Torres did when Canucks general manager Mike Gillis told him, after signing the free-agent winger last summer, that he'd be playing with Jannik Hansen on the other side, with Manny Malhotra in the middle.
"In the summer, when I was talking to Mike about coming here, he mentioned it might be me, Jannik and Manny playing together," Torres said Monday. "I knew Manny, obviously, but I didn't know much about Jannik, very little.
"So I looked up his stats and it scared me a little bit when I saw his numbers."
Torres was chuckling, but it's understandable he didn't know what he was getting into.
Like most players who arrive to play in Vancouver, however, there's a lot to appreciate about the quiet Dane once you see him in action up close and personal.
"Playing with him...
By Gord McIntyre
Wearing Michael Grabner's old No. 40, Maxim Lapierre hopes to be the straw that stirs things up down the stretch and in the playoffs. He sat down with our very own Gord McIntyre to talk about his role.
GMc: You were born in Saint-Leonard, Roberto Luongo's neighbourhood.
ML: I was born there, but I didn't grow up there. I was there for maybe one year. I grew up in the North Shore.
GMc: Oh, because I'd wondered if you'd played any hockey against Lui's younger brothers, Leo and Fabio.
ML: They're goalies, too, right? They were nearby, the same association, and I played against one of them in minor hockey and the other in junior, I think, with Bathurst.
GMc: I read once something Luongo's mom said, that guys like her son and nearby neighbour Marty Brodeur were good goalies because they saw so much rubber, there was no defence.
ML: I remember we had some big wins against them [teams...
Aaron Volpatti went 26 games without a goal with the Manitoba Moose this season, but scored in his second NHL game after being called up by the Canucks. Gord McIntyre sat down to talk with the Revelstoke native before the team left for its current road trip.
Q: Our readers have come up with a nickname for you: "Peppermint" Volpatti. Have you seen that?
A: Yeah, everyone asks me about that. Is it a Charlie Brown character?
Q: Peppermint Patty, yeah.
A: It's funny, the only person to ever call me that before was my assistant coach when I was 16, but I didn't know what it meant back then. I haven't heard it since then. It's fine with me, any nickname ... well, not any nickname, but I'll go with it.
Q: Have you heard of Bruce Holloway, the first guy from Revelstoke to play for the Canucks?
A: I heard his name the other night, I hadn't heard of him before.
Q: Well, you've broken a...
If you Google Keith Ballard and hip, you'll come across dozens of stories and YouTube clips of the defenceman sending opponents head over heels -- and often having to drop his gloves immediately afterward.
What you don't find are stories about hip surgery he had in May in Vail, Colo., a procedure that required two months of putting no weight on the joint, a procedure that might explain the poor preseason Ballard's undergoing.
"It hasn't been very good," Ballard said Monday when asked to sum up his camp so far. "In the two exhibition games I've played I feel a little rusty, I'm just a bit hesitant with the decision-making.
"You have to get to a point where everything you're doing is automatic, where you're making the reads and you're comfortable with the guys you're out there with, with the system here, all that stuff.
"That takes time, that's why we have the preseason and play these exhibition games."
Q: You never even got to practice with the Canucks before your first game, just a short pregame morning skate. And you had to face the Blackhawks juggernaut, of all the teams, in your debut. Did you have butterflies?
A: I was nervous in the flight over from Charlotte. And I didn't sleep a whole lot the first two nights.
Q: Both the Blackhawks and your new teammates think the two will meet again in the playoffs. How does Chicago compare to Washington and Pittsburgh as far as fast, high-octane offences?
A: Absolutely. I'd say they compare to Washington. The Capitals have so much firepower and so do the Blackhawks.
Q: Cory Schneider let you know you'd been traded to Vancouver. You were teammates for a couple of seasons at Boston College. Did you two talk about how ironic it was that you were moved and he wasn't?
A: Cory's a great kid, a buddy of mine. We see each other...