When I wrote this a little over a couple weeks ago, it was because I thought that it is an interesting question. The struggle between the two "poles" of hockey at the NHL level is nothing new. There have always been big teams that played big ( and some that played the skill game regardless of their size! ), and teams built more on skill.
The big mean team archtype have always kind of smirked at those of us that enjoy an up tempo game. They know what everyone is certainly seeing play out in front of their very eyes during these playoffs when it comes to what is and isn't a penalty in the regular season, as opposed to the playoffs.
But, some of us got fooled. Me, Mike Gillis, and fans of the beauty of the game ( don't get me wrong. I love the "brawn" of the game. My favorite thing to do as a youngin' playing the game was to deliver a perfect hit! I just love the beauty of the game a bit more now...) all thought that, coming out of the 2004 lockout, that the new rule changes would make for a certain type of hockey. One exemplified by the Wonder Twins, Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
The NHL, in 2004, changes how the game was being called, and rewarded speed and skill. Power plays that were successful, in part because they were getting more than a couple chances at it a game, we're becoming more important. I honestly don't remember the playoffs in the intervening years between then and now being any less entertaining as a result.
But, defensemen were getting their brains scrambled at an alarming rate, and something, rightly, had to be done. Instead of still calling the rules of interference, that one change, of allowing defensemen and forwards to slightly hold up the onrushing forechecker at the blue line again, soon became full on, both hands out checks. As each round goes forward in the playoffs, just watch what doesn't get called at the blue lines. The rest is all attitude, size, defensive zeal Skilled size guys are the new "must have players" .
Don't get me wrong. Skill is still important. It just seems that instead of highlighting Sedinery, the NHL decided that the hitting and violence should share the spotlight. I get that. I love both. But surely there is a way to call the game where they can actually call interference AND prevent the epidemic of concussions that were happening because of the out of lockout rule changes. You had a great idea NHL. The hockey was spectacular. Don't throw out the baby with the entertaining bath water.
As evidenced by our GM's comments on the game,how it is played and called, and the changes that are required, and without trying to pat myself on the back ( and ending up spraining myself somehow anyhow! )... it seems apparent that me and the boss have been thinking similar thoughts. You cannot imagine the excitement that has engendered in this fan moving forward. Why? Because it sure sounds like the Canucks are going to start playing and building with the Big Boy Hockey idea in mind. In light of the recent results, rule changes brought in and then changed, and simply the way the game is called in the second season, if you can't beat em, join em!
First up is the coach. Most of the readers here at least know that I was and am a fan of Alain Vigneault. Although I totally agree with the move yesterday, as the time had come, and the message had seemingly grown "stale" ( not to mention two first round exits. In the end, it is a results business ), I do think there might be a coach or two out there that might fit the mold better. As the "process" moves forward, we can get into that, but I imagine they will wait a bit until teams start losing out and consider dumping their own highly regarded coaches.
For now, let me just list a few of the current coaches that play "Big Boy Hockey" to some degree. Remember, it does vary. One of the most successful teams this year is the Pittsburgh Penguins, and they definitely play a hybrid of the two solitudes. ( the kind of game I want to see the Canucks play ). But, a few of the coaches that exemplify the attitude of BBH are definitely Claude Julien, Darryl Sutter, and John Tortorella, and all three of those plan on playing the game in a "hit everything, make them call everything then, pack it in around the net in your own end and block shots you pussy" style.
It varies of course. I think Joel Quenneville loves that style, but also knows he has some of the best offensive players in the NHL. Dan Bylsma, ditto. Mike Babcock. Those would be the type of coaches that I would like to see here, as opposed to the guys above.
It will be interesting as the "process" moves forward, who Mike Gillis decides on. There are guys like Lindy Ruff and Dave Tippett (maybe ) out there that seem to exemplify the former more than the latter. There are guys like Dallas Eakins possibly available, who seem to play a bit more up tempo style, while still having a defensive sensibility. Guy Boucher had some of the best offensive talent in the NHL, went on a one year wonder run, then burned out and faded away. ( I still think that if the Lightning had beat the Bruins in '11, we might not even be considering these types of changes, regardless of who won what would have been a very entertaining series. )
I have the utmost trust in Mike Gillis to pick the right guy, and to give him the kind of players that can play this kind of style. The fact that folks like Marc Spector and Damien Cox have taken to slagging the guy, instead of noticing that this is not the first time a coach lost his job for not getting playoff results, makes that trust grow even more.
Interesting times. We knew it would happen as a result of the suckage after the highs. Well, most of us did. None of it takes away from the fact that AV was the best coach statistically for the Vancouver hockey club in its history. As I close here today, I would like to thank him again for the service, the humour, and the way he seemed to genuinely be a nice man. He will have no problem getting a job. May he have success in all the games he will coach in the future, but for the ones versus the Canucks.