Nonis and Vigneault separately addressed players after a 4-0 loss to Edmonton on Dec. 4. The theme was that they needn't play scared, that players had to find a way to relax and just enjoy the games.
Vigneault, himself, never stopped enjoying his job.
Players were unsure initially what to make of him. But he backed up his promise to treat everyone "fairly, not equally." He benched Brendan Morrison and Jan Bulis, scratched free-agent bust Marc Chouinard from the lineup, used his grinders when he felt they were better than the top-six forwards, and even called on Luongo in November to be better.
Defenceman Kevin Bieksa said Vigneault's message never wavered, nor did he "lose it" with players, despite the slump that had everyone on edge. They may not always like the coach as much as the media does, but they respect and believe in him.
After the December summits, the Canucks began using their aggressive four-man press more often, and almost immediately the team started scoring. After Christmas, catapulted by back-to-back wins against the Calgary Flames, the Canucks began winning, too.
I was one of the people who was condemning the Canucks to finish in 9th place this season because I thought that they were not going to be able to score enough to win. That would have been the case had it not been for Luongo's stellar play and Vigneault's excellent system that he brought in. It's amazing that the Canucks coach brought in a rigid defensive system and then corrected the scoring issue in December without losing the teams' ability to play well in front of Louie.
It is a feat worthy of a Jack Adams trophy nomination and in my opinion, a 'Coach of the Year' crown.
Unfortunately, the scoring issue presented itself again in the playoffs, and now it is front and center in our minds. I can't wait to see some of the deals Nonis strikes in the summer.
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