The Dallas Stars have yet to formally make a decision on the future of Glen Gulutzan as the team's head coach, as the team holds an option for next season of what was essentially a two-year contract. New general manager Jim Nill is still within the two-week period he's set for himself to analyze the coaching situation in Dallas, although it seems that an actual decision could be coming soon.
Nill, who will be in Austin on Thursday to watch the Texas Stars take on the Oklahoma City Barons, inherits a franchise that has become noticeably younger in recent years and must decide whether Gulutzan is the right coach to move forward with the team. The rookie NHL coach had some rough patches along the way the past two seasons, yet had his team on the cusp of the postseason each year. Some would say that's not near good enough; others would contend the Stars overachieved to get there.
The general consensus is that Gulutzan will not return next season, however, as Nill moves forward into building the Stars into the organization he envisions and part of that will involve hiring his own head coach. It's very rare for a new GM to retain the coach he inherited and after the struggles of the past few seasons, it's easy to say that change is needed in Dallas.
With disappointment and failure comes the need for change, and such measures in Vancouver could lead to Nill getting a chance to hire perhaps the best option available for the Stars next head coach.
For the second year in a row the Vancouver Canucks fell flat on their face in the first round, after being a top team in the Western Conference during the regular season. The Canucks lost Game Six of the Stanley Cup Final in 2011 and went on to lose the series; since that loss, the Canucks are just 1-10 in the postseason and have experience two straight first round exists.
After two seasons of utter dissapointment, it is clear that change is coming in Vancouver. There's speculation that GM Mike Gillis could be in danger of losing his job, but more than anything it seems almost inevitable that coach Alain Vigneault will be fired. Vigneault was hired in 2006 and aside for a hiccup in 2007-08, has led an incredibly successful team with six division titles and a Stanley Cup Final appearance.
Yet this is a league that is more concerned about the latest results, and the Canucks have looked absolutely miserable once the postseason began the past two years. Who should shoulder the blame? The easiest way to enact instant culture change in the organization is to change the head coach, as it's easier to fire one coach than it is to fire an entire hockey team.
There is something to be said that most of the struggles of the Canucks the past few seasons can be laid at the feet Gillis. The Vancouver GM wanted to built a speedy and skilled team and essentially wanted a style of play that did not fit what Vigneault was best at as a coach. Vigneault's system is built on defense first and the players that Gillis assembled did not work hard enough to make certain that system worked.
Tony Gallagher of the Province has a good story up on the situation and says that Vigneault certainly holds his share of the blame, the clash of styles between Gillis and his coach was what ultimately doomed the team.
If you are going to put the emphasis on defence you can't have legions of tiny forwards with great speed, as the Canucks have generally had. Gillis built the team on speed and skill, with a view to playing a little more offensively - having been told by one and all that the game was going to speed, and at times everyone was on board.
When the game changed - and you can almost, almost put a day on it, that seventh game of the Tampa-Boston Eastern Conference final in 2011, when the Lightning's great power play suddenly got no opportunities and the era of the big banging teams was back - Vancouver was in trouble.
Despite the Canucks being the much better team, the Bruins beat them up and won the Cup and the downhill post-season slide has accelerated in dramatic fashion. Instead of forging ahead and still trying to play offensively with the talent they have - which is really all they can do - the defensive emphasis with such a finesse roster has simply accelerated the downturn to the point where it's clear these guys aren't playing hard enough for Vigneault. How else do you lose so much to teams that finished lower in the standings?
Vigneault is a coach that demands hard work and energy from his teams, who works best with a larger and "grittier" team. The team, for whatever reason no matter who is to blame, is no longer responding to their coach when the stakes are at their highest and that is what must change. The Canucks don't have much room to change the roster -- they're already at next season's cap with just 17 players signed -- so the only logical step is that Alain Vigneault will be let go by the Canucks.
Mike Gillis has called a 12 p.m. PT press conference on Thursday and instantly speculation ran rampant that Vigneault was set to be fired. While that's still a possibility, cooler heads state the decision won't be handed down until next week.
For those wondering, Vancouver GM Mike Gillis will NOT fire Alain Vigneault tmw. He may yet, but not at Thursday press conference.— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) May 9, 2013
No less than four separate articles in four separate Canadian publications state that Vigneault is likely on his way out so while Vigneault may not be fired just yet, that conclusion certainly seems inevitable.
Now that Vigneault's firing is an all-but-happened certainty, speculation then moves to his next destination. As has been mentioned several times on Vancouver sports radio, as well as on TSN on Wednesday night, the Dallas Stars would appear to be the logical destination for Vigneault's services.
This is all an extremely detailed What If game being played right now in the Vancouver media, as there's zero hint that Vigneault has actually been fired just yet. There has also been zero indication that Jim Nill has decided that Gulutzan should not return. That being said, this connection between Vigneault and the Stars makes a ton of sense.
The biggest connection to be made is Tom Gaglardi's interest in the Canucks. He's exceptionally knowledgeable about that organization and reportedly has a good relationship with Vigneault. Remember, Gaglardi nearly purchased the Canucks back in 2006. Jim Nill and Vigneault also spent time together, briefly, as teammates with the St. Louis Blues before Nill worked as a pro scout and Vigneault an assistant coach for the Ottawa Senators.
Vigneault would also be the perfect compliment to the sort of team -- we're assuming -- Jim Nill will want on the ice. The Stars are a team that may have lacked size last season but will certainly be getting bigger as a number of prospects move up to the NHL. While the current team might not exactly resemble the best team for Vigneault, there is a good foundation of powerful forwards and a mix of offense and size on defense in place; still, there would certainly be some tough work ahead.
More than anything, this could be fairly similar to the situation that brought Nill to Dallas. As Gaglardi mentioned that the chance of getting the top "free agent" on the market in a general manager was too good to not take advantage of, the Stars would be wise to pursue the top free agent on the coaching market if Vigneault is indeed let go.There's no doubt that the moment he is fired, a handful of teams will instantly be contacting Vigneault to inquire of his services. Things might have gone wrong in Vancouver, but he won't be out of a job for long.
Glen Gulutzan should be respected for what he accomplished, but if Vigneault does become available then you have to do your best to get him.
There's also the fact Vigneault could laugh as much as he wants at "Bieksa Face."