NHL

Canucks bench boss Vigneault in the mix for Jack Adams Award

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TSN.ca Staff
4/4/2011 11:34:20 PM
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It's not as simple as guiding your team to the best record over the course of the NHL's regular season to bring home the coach of the year award.

Fortunately then, for Alain Vigneault, that the Canucks' impressive run to the Presidents' Trophy has been anything but simple.

With much buzz now surrounding the individual year-end awards, Vigneault is as much in the mix as any other favourite in the running for the Jack Adams Award.

He is trying to become the first head coach to capture first overall in the NHL and claim the head coach of the year in the same season since 2000, when Joel Quenneville completed the feat.

The argument in handing out the award usually revolves around whether it should go to a coach who overachieves with a less than powerhouse roster, or the coach who maximizes the most out of a favourite.

"You look at a guy like Jacques Lemaire. Comes in (with the) team with the worst record and all of a sudden they're almost in the playoffs," said Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo. "That's not something that's easy to do. Alain came in, already we had a good team with high expectations, but we took it to another next level. Both I think, are equally impressive."

There have been several impressive performances this year. Aside from the aforementioned Lemaire, who took a lifeless Devils squad and pushed them back into the playoff picture, there's also been the work of Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. No one would have imagined that their top line would consist of Jordan Staal, Alex Kovalev and Chris Kunitz and they would still be in contention. But Bylsma has been able to work with a roster devoid of the NHL's best player (Sidney Crosby) and their team's second most talented player (Evgeni Malkin).

Mike Babcock has worked a similar patchwork lineup shuffle in Detroit, and was still able to claim the team's ninth division title in 10 years. Only three players on the roster have played all 79 games thus far for the Wings this season, and nine regulars (including Pavel Datsyuk, Kris Draper, Brian Rafalski and Dan Cleary) have played 65 games or less.

But Vigneault has not only faced similar flux with his roster, he's faced the most. No team has used more players than the Canucks this season - highlighted by a stretch where five regular defencemen were out of the lineup at the same time. Despite that, Vancouver has lost three games in a row in regulation just one time all season.
 
"We've had a lot of injuries this year, and he's kept the ship on course. A lot of credit goes to him," said defenceman Kevin Bieksa.

"That's what coaches try and do, you try and get your team to play the right way. You try and maximize what you have on any given night," Vigneault said. "Injuries are a huge factor of some teams having more success than others. I've said a few times with the number of injuries that we've had, I'm really impressed with how this group has responded with consistent play."

It's the kind of play that has the Canucks in a position to still finish the season 10 points better than the second-best team in the NHL - and has them one of the favourites for the Stanley Cup.

And has Vigneault in position to take home his second Jack Adams Award with Vancouver in the last five seasons.

Alain Vigneault (Photo: Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
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