|Immediately after retiring as a player, Crawford became a head coach in the OHL with the Cornwall Royals, whom he had previously played for in the QMJHL. After two less-than-stellar seasons with Cornwall, Crawford moved to the AHL, and in his first season with the St. John's Maple Leafs, he took his team to the 1992 Calder Cup finals, losing to the Adirondack Red Wings. The following season, Crawford was awarded the Louis A. R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL's coach of the year. In 1994–95, Crawford broke into the NHL with the Quebec Nordiques and achieved immediate success. As a result, he won the NHL's Jack Adams Award as coach of the year. Furthermore, he is currently the youngest NHL coach in history to be distinguished with the Jack Adams. The next season, the Nordiques franchise was relocated to Colorado as the Avalanche, and Crawford won his first and only championship thus far as a player or coach in 1996, defeating the Florida Panthers in four games. Crawford would continue to post successful regular season with the Avalanche in the next two seasons, but after an early first-round exit in the 1998 playoffs, Crawford resigned on May 27, 1998. Despite reportedly being offered a one-year contract extension by general manger Pierre Lacroix, Crawford decided to "move on and accept a new challenge." Before his resignation with the Avalanche, Crawford was also the head coach of the 1998 Canadian Olympic hockey team where they finished a disappointing fourth. Many fans questioned his choice of players to take part in the semi-final shootout with the Czech Republic, in which they lost, electing not to use future Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky or Steve Yzerman. After a brief stint as an analyst on Hockey Night in Canada, Crawford replaced Mike Keenan as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks midway through the 1998–99 season. Joining Vancouver in the midst of a rebuilding period for the franchise, Crawford slowly developed the Canucks into a successful regular season team, playing a fast-paced and offensively emphasized style of play. After one-and-a-half seasons, Crawford led Vancouver back to the playoffs, however, was defeated in the first round by his former team, Colorado.