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Press Round-Up: MAY.14.08

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks

The fate of Alain Vigneault will be determined by the end of this week in the most ironic of locations -- the gambling mecca of Las Vegas.

With Canucks management and scouts assembling in Nevada for their annual meetings, new general manager Mike Gillis acknowledged Tuesday that coach Vigneault has been summoned from his home in Gatineau, Que., to face further scrutiny over the next two days.

While Gillis doesn't consider himself a gambler, it's a safe bet he hasn't decided to go all in or fold his cards on Vigneault. After five lengthy meetings in Vancouver to see if the pair share a similar philosophy, the GM still hasn't offered the coach a contract extension.

"No," Gillis said from Las Vegas. "I don't think you can read anything into this at this point. We'd like to reach a conclusion around the weekend and in the next couple of days have a much firmer idea."

With a year left on his contract, it's not a stretch to suggest that Vigneault would want more security if retained by Gillis. As coaching vacancies crop up -- Colorado and San Jose join a list that includes Toronto, Ottawa and Florida -- it would be in Vigneault's interest to be in the hunt as soon as possible if he's no longer with the Canucks.

Vigneault has said he won't comment on the process until a conclusion is reached. Gillis hinted there's much ground to cover with Vigneault and that he's no closer to a decision than he was a week ago.

"Absolutely -- of course we want to resolve it, but I don't want to rush to make a mistake," said Gillis. "There are a lot of factors and it's complicated. We're well along in the process and I'm very comfortable that the process will play itself out."

If money is a factor, Gillis could opt for AHL coaches Kevin Dineen or Scott Arniel, or former NHL coach Craig Hartsburg. They'd come cheaper than Joel Quenneville, the Avalanche coach who was asked to take a pay cut before stepping down Friday.

Another factor is the defence-first system Vigneault has coached and his ability to adapt to a more up-tempo approach.

In his season-ending address, Vigneault defended his style as common in the NHL. Still, the Canucks finished 24th in offence with 213 goals, down nine on the previous season, and the power play was 18th at 17.1 per cent efficiency. It was 17.2 per cent in '06-'07. As much as injuries hurt, maybe the players just weren't good enough. The Canucks didn't even ice a 30-goal scorer.

"The system in Pittsburgh is almost identical to ours," Vigneault said at season's end. "I know because I taught it to Michel [Penguins coach Therrien] throughout the years [in the Montreal Canadiens systems] and we've discussed it, tweaked it and analyzed it. Our system enables players, when they don't have the puck, to get it back quickly. Once they have it, it depends on the individual skill level and the makeup of the team."

Beset by injuries, the Canucks went from playing for the Northwest Division lead on March 21 to dropping seven of their last eight games, missing the postseason for the second time in three seasons.

He's a Canuck through and true
With the changes and additions currently happening in the Canucks organization, there's been little mention of the existing elements. Iain Macintyre talks to assistant General Manager, Steve Tambellini, about the events that went down while he was in Russia and his future with a team he grew up with, literally.

"He refused Thursday to discuss his emotions regarding Nonis's dismissal, saying it serves no purpose and the Canucks must move forward from it."

"Nonis and Tambellini met each other as kids through the friendship of their parents. They may not have been as tight in management as were Nonis and Burke, but it was close. Tambellini would scarcely have been human had he not been devastated by news, delivered by text message while he was scouting in Russia, that his friend had been fired."

"Yet, when Gillis asked Tambellini to stay on, there was no hesitation."

"'The Canucks represent many things," Tambellini said from Halifax, where he is scouting the world championship. 'It represents the people in the past, the alumni. It represents the people who are here now, the players who are here. It's bigger than just [the present].'"

"'There's so much equity in this organization. And not just from the last five years, but from when it started. People care about the Vancouver Canucks and there's a responsibility to do the right thing for the organization.'"

For Tambellini, he needs to provide the leadership and experience of a man in his position to someone who is new to the role.

"Gillis, a former player agent who has never worked in management, was accustomed to running in privacy a company of three people. Now he's a senior manager and frontman for a company with more than 100 employees and one of the most recognizable brands in the province."

"Tambellini knows the people and the players."

"He has the ability to help Gillis up the learning curve, while also reassuring employees skittish about possible further changes."

"'I think the most important thing that Mike's doing right now is learning our staff,' Tambellini said. 'My job is to provide leadership from the assistant general manager's position. I know people look for leadership not only when times are great but maybe, more importantly, at a time like this when we're going through a transition.'"

Canucks' Vigneault on the hot seat
Another person in question at the Canucks and who's been garnering a lot of attention is the head coach, Alain Vigneault. Jason Botchford gives the details (or lack thereof) about the many meetings between the GM and Coach V.

"For a week now, Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault has spent his days at GM Place on the hot seat."

"For a couple hours, sometimes more, each day, he's been brought in to informally defend, dissect and rehash a season most are trying to forget. He's not done yet."

"Vigneault's future is still solidly in limbo, where it will likely remain for a couple more weeks. Vigneault said he doesn't want to publicly comment on the situation until a final decision is made."

"To some, it seems unfair, maybe even cruel, to leave the engaging Vigneault, a year removed from winning the Jack Adams Trophy, dangling in the wind for weeks without a clear future."

"To Gillis, it's right on schedule."

"'I'm not in a real hurry to escalate it in a way where I make a poor decision or an inappropriate decision, so it's moving along at a pace I'm comfortable with,' he said."

Botchford's got a list of potential candidates for a new bench boss, if need be.

"Gillis is not about to make a move like the Leafs just did, firing a coach without someone in line to replace him."

"On the available list, there is Pat Burns, a winner but one who is a potentially risky short-term solution. There are the unwanted, including Pat Quinn, who probably has too much baggage to return here. There are the unproven -- Scott Arniel, Peter DeBoer and Dale Hunter, who would have to learn on the job."

But it may not need to come to that - just look at an example that's not doing too bad.

"Keeping Vigneault could serve Gillis's purpose on several fronts."

"One, Vigneault could be the next Michel Therrien."

"Both here and in Montreal, Vigneault has been saddled with the offensively inept, forced to try to prod hustle and defence from teams filled with grinders. His success in that area is part of the reason he's won one coach of the year award and been nominated for another."

"He's been great with checkers, but has done little to get the most from skilled players. In his five full seasons as a head coach, Vigneault's teams have had just two 30-goal scorers."

"But there was a similar knock on the outspoken Therrien, the Penguins head coach who, like Vigneault, struggled to extract offence from skill-deficient teams before he found himself at the helm of The Spirit of Edmonton."

"When Ray Shero took over as general manager in Pittsburgh, there was speculation Therrien would go. Shero gave him a stay of execution and right now, that non-move looks like a masterstroke."
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