At last, and mercifully, the Vancouver Canucks have cleared house.
After a brutal loss on Saturday night to the Pittsburgh Penguins (which happened to include the most effective form a fan protest, it seems, with a sweater being hucked onto the ice from over the glass), head coach Travis Green and general manager Jim Benning did not survive the weekend.
News first leaked on social media late Sunday evening and was eventually confirmed by the team with a statement that thanked Green and Benning as well as assistant general manager John Weisbrod and assistant coach Nolan Baumgartner, who were also let go.
Francesco Aquilini, Chairman and Governor NHL, Vancouver Canucks, announced today significant changes to the team’s front office and coaching staff, and confirmed a search for new Hockey Operations leadership is underway.
DETAILS | https://t.co/J3rbN9Rmp3 pic.twitter.com/AGCKoS58wO
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) December 6, 2021
Making his way to Vancouver to replace Green on a modest two-year contract is veteran NHL coach Bruce Boudreau, a well-respected hockey mind with a deep history of success in the league. There were no such assurances made to Stan Smyl, who will step into the role as general manager on an interim basis as the organization starts its search for Benning's successor.
For Vancouver, arriving at this point was far overdue. It's long been abundantly clear that Benning's best efforts to construct a winning roster had failed. There was also this obvious and intensifying disconnect between the head coach and his roster, with many of Vancouver's top-end players knocking against the lowest points of their performance ranges for Green this season.
Yet, despite the clear need for change, this step was always going to be a tricky one. That's because the root of the problem was never simply one thing. Benning and Green each failed in their own distinct ways, and it's exceedingly possible that the organization doesn't have a clear handle on how those issues intersected.
By firing both, it's possible that management has tacitly admitted that reality, and that it's more likely it uncovers the root of the problem.
What's also possible is that Boudreau manages to keep it shrouded in secrecy.
Boudreau is one of the winningest coaches in the history of hockey, and has routinely extracted the most from his rosters — at least in the regular season. The legendary Scotty Bowman is the only NHL coach with 900 plus games with a better record than Boudreau. While on the surface that's a boon and an incredibly positive thing that fans should be encouraged by, it's possible that this is an organization that shouldn't be trying to paper over issues, and might be better off having them laid bare.
More than that though, the term — or lack thereof — seems like a tell, and is hardly befitting of a coach with Boudreau's resume. Committing just 18 months to the former Capitals, Ducks, and Wild coach suggests the organization sees him as merely a calming, stopgap solution brought on to make the best of a bad scenario, help the players feel good about themselves again, and to provide meaningful feedback while brass searches for its next general manager.
That's because no matter how powerful Boudreau's influence is, this season is lost. This leaves Boudreau, who turns 67 in January, with one season to make a meaningful impact, and it's possible by then that Vancouver has already started into a teardown with a new regime.
Unfortunately, hiring Boudreau seems to be a move rooted in public relations, not sustained success.
While that's demonstrably better than the alternative, it's worth wondering if this strategy is more self-serving than it is poised to set the organization up for future success.
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