Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Crawford Firing

When this disastrous season ended I wasn't sure how I felt about the coaching situation. I could have gone either way. On one hand I hated the idea of letting the players off the hook by firing the coach. On the other hand missing the playoffs was unacceptable and heads should roll.

After the initial disappointment of missing the playoffs had subsided I came to the conclusion that it was probably best to fire Crawford and go in a new direction. Contrary to the popular reasoning of players tuning out Crow, there is another reason why Crawford should take the fall. Over the years this team has had many issues ranging from goaltending problems to powerplay problems, but Crawford's biggest failure as coach was his inability to improve the defensive coverage in the defensive zone. This team has always had difficulty in their own end and the abysmal defensive play down the stretch was the last straw for Crawford.

Sure it doesn't help when your two best players are absolutely atrocious defensively, but it wasn't just Bertuzzi and Naslund who contributed to the poor defensive play. This team continually missed assignments downlow, failed to win battles on the half boards, and took far too many penalties because they were flailing around in their own end. This has been a problem for as long as Crawford has been here and it has now cost him his job.

There are of course other reasons for Crawford's firing. The aforementioned "tuning out" and "shelf life" at the top of the list. But when you get right down to it this move was necessary in order for Nonis to put his stamp on the team. This team had peaked and the impact of the Bertuzzi incident was the final blow to what was once the most promising team Canuck fans have ever had.

Nonis did not want to fire Crawford, but he knew it was necessary in order for this team to move on. Firing Crawford was the first step, now he needs a coach in place before the free agent season begins...

Some Candidates:

The first coach to enter my mind was the recently fired Andy Murray. Before the Kings job, Murray was actually a candidate to join the Canucks as an assistant. Murray is probably on Nonis' list, but he's too similar to Crawford. This team probably needs more of a player's coach and not a demanding technical coach like Murray.

Predictably Pat Quinn's name has come up, but I don't believe he will be a candidate. While a lot of the Orca Bay brass has changed it's still the same ownership group that was involved in Quinn's less than amicable departure. Does Quinn want to return to Vancouver? Will he return under the same ownership? Does he even want to coach?

Current Moose head coach Alain Vigneault is likely a top candidate. Vigneault has experience, credibility and also fits the mold of a more player friendly coach. I would be surprised if Vigneault isn't in Nonis top 3 candidates.

Former Hurricane coach Paul Maurice is also a very interesting candidate. Maurice took the Canes to the finals and is known for solid defense. If Maurice isn't slated to take over the job in Toronto, Nonis will take a long look at him.

Brent Sutter... ain't gonna happen.

Dave Lewis... I don't really have a good read on Lewis. He coached a very good team in Detroit and was bounced early in the playoffs. By all accounts he's a good coach and will be strongly considered.

Mark Habscheid current coach of the Canadian National team will probably find himself with an NHL job soon. It could be in Vancouver.

Associate coach Mike Johnston is also a candidate, but I believe Nonis is looking for new blood and promoting assistant coaches rarely pays off. If he goes with Johnston he may as well have saved a million bucks and kept Crawford.

Ted Nolan... loads of baggage, hasn't coached in the NHL in for a decade... don't count on it. He might find his way back to the NHL, but it will likely be with a young team and a veteran, secure GM.

Ken Hitchcock... may be on the way out should Philly be bounced (although that would seem odd after Clarke's rant about the Quinn firing). Hitchcock is a great coach and would do wonders for the Canucks defensive play.

Some other names include Kevin Constantine, Don Hay, Stan Smyl, Mike Kitchen, Kevin Dineen, Barry Smith, Jack Bauer and I'm sure a half dozen others who will be fired.