Canucks fire coach Vigneault after seven seasons

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Vancouver Canucks fired coach Alain Vigneault on Wednesday.

The Canucks also fired assistants Rick Bowness and Newell Brown.

Vigneault, the Canucks’ all-time leader in coaching wins, led the club to six Northwest Division titles, two Presidents’ Trophy titles and an appearance in the 2011 Stanley Cup final.

But Vancouver was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in the past two seasons, including getting swept by the San Jose Sharks this year.

It was the first time in 12 years that the Canucks were swept in the postseason.

Vigneault has a 313-170-57 record over seven seasons in Vancouver, and a 33-32 record in the playoffs.

“We’re in a results-oriented business and if you look at the last two playoffs we’ve been in, we were the higher-seeded team but lost the first two games at home,” Canucks president and general manager Mike Gillis said at a news conference Wednesday.

“We lost consecutive games in the last two playoff years, and there comes a point in time where the message has to change and we have to be better. And we simply didn’t get the result we expected.”

Gillis wouldn’t reveal the names of any coaches in the running to replace Vigneault, but said the team would have no problem attracting suitable candidates.

“We’re in a competitive business, but I think this is a stable, profitable organization that is in a hockey market,” he said. “I think it would be a very attractive place for a coach to come and coach.”

The move had been expected since the Canucks were eliminated from the playoffs, but Gillis said he wanted to take time and ensure he was free of any emotion before making the decision.

It’s a tough end to a largely positive tenure in Vancouver for Vigneault, who guided his team through the demands of a lockout-shortened season in 2012-13.

“I am proud of many of the things we accomplished as a group these past seven seasons in Vancouver and only wish we were able to win the Canucks’ first Stanley Cup,” Vigneault said in a statement.

“I am a career coach, and it is what I love to do. I hope to coach again in this league and will always have good memories of my time and the fans in Vancouver.”

Vigneault kept a difficult goaltending situation from becoming a major distraction and secured home-ice advantage in the playoffs for the fifth straight season.

But the Canucks struggled this season with getting goals from secondary players.

Vigneault leaves after transforming the Canucks from a struggling club into a perennial contender. He was also recognized for his role in turning the Canucks around when he was awarded the 2007 Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s coach of the year.

Vigneault thanked Gillis, the Aquilini family, other Canucks executives and players as well as former GM Dave Nonis, who hired him, and former Canucks executive Steve Tambellini.

“The past seven years have been an honor for me to coach and work for a great franchise in a wonderful Canadian city,” Vigneault said. “To work in a city with such passionate and loyal fans is a privilege — I enjoyed every moment of it.”

When he arrived in 2006-07 after a season with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, the Canucks were looking to regroup after missing the playoffs. He was also looking to prove himself after being fired from his first NHL head coaching job with the Montreal Canadiens in 2000-01.

In his first season, he guided the Canucks to a division title and a spot in the second round of the playoffs before they were eliminated by the Anaheim Ducks in five games — with four decided by one goal.

Although the Canucks missed the playoffs the following season due to a collapse down the stretch, they rebounded in 2009-10, again reaching the second round before losing a tough six-game series to Chicago.

The next season, he guided the Canucks to their third Stanley Cup final berth in franchise history. They took a 2-0 series lead at home but eventually lost in seven games to the Boston Bruins. The Game 7 loss at home sparked a riot in city streets.

The Stanley Cup final foreshadowed a shift in goaltending that would become a headache for Vigneault. Cory Schneider periodically replaced struggling starter Roberto Luongo in the series.

Vigneault managed to prevent any potential rifts between Luongo and Schneider and limited distractions to the team.

He answered endless questions about his goaltenders, especially after Schneider displaced Luongo in the first round of the 2011-12 playoffs as the Canucks lost in five games to the Los Angeles Kings.

The situation was supposed to be resolved after Luongo agreed to waive his no-trade clause prior to the 2012-13 season, but Gillis was not able to get the deal he wanted prior to the lockout that shortened the regular season to 48 games.

When the season started, the Canucks struggled at times with the compressed schedule and had numerous injuries. But they managed to pull away from the Minnesota Wild in the race for the Northwest crown and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Vigneault guided his club to eight wins in its last nine home games, including a 3-1 victory over first-place Chicago that secured the Canucks’ fifth straight Northwest title.

But Schneider was injured in the Chicago game and didn’t come back until after the first two games of the San Jose series.

Luongo was solid in the first two losses in Vancouver, but Vigneault went with Schneider when the series switched to San Jose.

Schneider struggled in the third period of Game 3, allowing three quick goals, and mishandled the decisive shot in Game 4 in overtime before Patrick Marleau poked home the loose puck for the series-clinching goal.

Notes: Canucks center Jordan Schroeder underwent offseason shoulder surgery and is expected to recover by the start of the 2013-14 season. Gillis said no other players should require surgery. … Goaltending coach Rollie Melanson was retained. “I think Rollie works very well with Cory Schneider,” Gillis said. “He gets results in there.” … Gillis indicated management, along with the new coach, will have input in the hiring of the next assistant coaches.

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