Speedy forwards who generate offence? No, sir!

When it comes to Alain Vigneault’s performance behind the Canucks’ bench, there is not much to complain about.

The team plays with more grit than it has in many years, it adheres to a system of strict defensive responsibility, the players are held to stringent standards of accountability, Vigneault himself is loathe to make excuses when the game plan goes awry, and, the results (overall team record and Vigneault’s Jack Adams award last season) generally speak volumes about his contribution to the team’s recent success.

That said, there is one aspect of his coaching philosophy I consistently find difficult to fathom. Namely, his unwillingness to be patient with offensively-gifted youngsters.

The most recent evidence of this is the decision to send speedster Mason Raymond back down to Manitoba and to call up gritty Rick Rypien to replace him on the roster.

A couple of comments, for context. First, I understand that Raymond has struggled a bit in recent games, after his explosive performances in his first few games up. Second, I acknowledge that Raymond is lacking in the defensive responsibility department.

Still, the problem, as I see it, is this. The Canucks already have an extensive array of forwards on the roster who are sound defensive players. Burrows, Kesler, Cooke, Ritchie, Linden, etc. What they are woefully short of, however, are forwards who generate a lot of offensive opportunities off of the rush. (For all their offensive talents, the Sedin’s thrive mainly in situations where the puck is already in the opposing teams’ zone.)

Note the emphasis on offensive opportunities; I am suggesting only that it is important for the Canucks to generate more offensive play, not that they necessarily score signficanly more goals. Though, I suspect more will come, in doing so.

Raymond is an example of the type of player the Canucks are sorely lacking; Rypien one they have in relative abundance.

To be sure, Raymond needs to learn to play with more responsibility without the puck and in his own end. But this is something he needs to learn and be taught. Who better for the task than Vigneault? With all due respect to Manitoba Moose coach Scott Arniel, I think the answer is obvious.

Unfortunately, Vigneault has often demonstrated a propensity to be tougher on offensively-gifted players who might, on occasion, make mistakes in play without the puck. He seems to have little time for taking the time to help these players improve in their defensive play.

Whereas, he seems to be much more patient with players who, though offensively-limited, are sound defensive players. (Consider how often players like Burrows, Ritchie, Rypien, Cowan, Cooke, etc. take ridiculous and selfish penlaties yet seldom face the harsh judgement of the coach for doing so.) 

Ultimately, with the Canucks desperately crying out for more offence from their forwards, it makes little sense to me that this decision was made.

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2 Responses to “Speedy forwards who generate offence? No, sir!”


  1. 1 Emmett January 14, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    I strongly agree. I’ve been watching Canucks games with incredible regularity on NHL Centre Ice. Why? I’m not sure. Aside from my Habs and Avs, the ‘nucks have been one of my favourite teams to watch for the last couple of years. (while I have a general disdain for the Flames and Oilers, and a deep hatred for the Leafs, I have a soft spot for the Sens and nucks – in terms of Canadian teams…).

    At any rate, for a couple of consecutive games a while back, Raymond really stood out there. In fact, I vividly remember a game against the Flames that I caught when I was up north for the holidays. Raymond was exactly the offensive sparkplug you’re talking about (I think they even chased Kiprusoff). He was exciting to watch…


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