Alain Vigneault's return to the NHL was capped off in grand style Thursday night when he captured the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.
The 46-year-old Quebec City native became the second Vancouver Canucks coach in team history to win the honour, following Pat Quinn in 1992. It's only the fourth major piece of hardware for the Canucks in their history, joining Pavel Bure's Calder Trophy in '92, Quinn's Jack Adams the same year, and Markus Naslund's
Lester B. Pearson Award in 2003.
Vigneault barely beat out last year's winner, Lindy Ruff of the Buffalo Sabres, with 134 voting points to 126. Michel Therrien of the Pittsburgh Penguins was third with 91 voting points.
"I really am surprised," said Vigneault. "The other two were great candidates, especially I thought Michel with the tremendous improvement of the Penguins."
It wasn't even a year ago that Vigneault was hired as Canucks coach, plucked from the AHL's Manitoba Moose, and he would never imagined taking home the Jack Adams less then 12 months later.
"It certainly wasn't my goal," Vigneault said. "My goal when I was named with the Canucks was to put the team back on track and them in the direction they needed."
Vigneault coached the Canucks to a franchise-record 49 wins and to a fifth division title.
"Vancouver is a great place to be and a great place to coach and I just want to try and be there as long as I can," said Vigneault.
Vigneault was nominated for the award in 2000 while with Montreal. Both Vigneault and Therrien had turns behind the Canadiens' bench and both were fired.
"You learn a lot coaching the Montreal Canadiens," Therrien said Thursday. "Especially that Alain was there at 36 years old and I had just turned 36 or 37. We were arrived there young. And that allowed us to learn a lot - and fast. You better learn fast."
They're both back in the high life now.
"And if you look at how both of us got back into the NHL after being fired by Montreal it was nearly identical," said Therrien. "He went back to junior and then the AHL and I went to the AHL. Then you wait for your next chance, I'm happy for Alain that it's worked out for him."